An Open Letter in Defense of Democracy
Diverse coalition sounds the alarm
You rarely see all these folks on the same page or united about about… anything. But I’m delighted to be able to add my name to this remarkable declaration, which is being released today,
[This open letter is being published simultaneously by The Bulwark and The New Republic.]
We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.
Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.
But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.
Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.
The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump’s defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.
So we, who have differed on so much in the past—and who continue to differ on much today—have come together to say:
We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to change state election laws to limit voter participation.
We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to empower state legislatures to override duly appointed election officials and interfere with the proper certification of election results, thereby substituting their own political preferences for those expressed by citizens at the polls.
We vigorously oppose the relentless and unending promotion of unprofessional and phony “election audits” that waste public money, jeopardize public electoral data and voting machines, and generate paranoia about the legitimacy of elections.
We urge the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass effective, national legislation to protect the vote and our elections, and if necessary to override the Senate filibuster rule.
And we urge all responsible citizens who care about democracy—public officials, journalists, educators, activists, ordinary citizens—to make the defense of democracy an urgent priority now.
Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the Republic.
Professor of Journalism, Sociology and Communications
Jeffrey C. Isaac
James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science
Indiana University, Bloomington
Editor at Large, The Bulwark
Director, Defending Democracy Together
Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.
Professor of Political Science
Council on Foreign Relations
Assistant to the President
American Federation of Teachers
Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics Emeritus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor of Journalism
Eliot A. Cohen
Robert E. Osgood Professor
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
National Legal Director
American Civil Liberties Union
Laura K. Field
Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
William A. Galston
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb
Michael E. Gellert Professor Emeritus
New School for Social Research
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Professor of Political Science
Director, SNF Agora Institute
Johns Hopkins University
Author and poet
Fellow, Davenport College, Yale University
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History
Professor of History
Michael R. Klein Professor of Law
Steven R. Levitsky
Professor of Government
Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.
Professor of Journalism
New York University
Charles F. Adams Professor, Emerita
Harvard Kennedy School
Editor in Chief
The New Republic
Professor of Linguistics
Professor of Politics and Liberal Studies
New School for Social Research
Nell Irvin Painter
Edwards Professor of American History Emerita
Professor of History
New School for Social Research
William S. Beinecke Professor of Law
Emeritus Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania
Kim Lane Scheppele
Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs
Founder and Editor at Large
Burnet C. Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions
Claremont McKenna College
Editor, The New Republic
Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Jeffrey K. Tulis
Professor of Government and Law
University of Texas
Dorian T. Warren
Professor Emeritus of Social Science
Institute for Advanced Study
Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the American Revolutionary Era
Your Word of the Day
Happy Wednesday. It seems like a good day to add to your political vocabulary. Today’s word: dingleberry as in Tim Miller’s piece today: “Political Speech For Human Dingleberries Has Never Been More Robust.”
This is pure fire (and arguably the most important thing you’ll read this morning):
Never in the history of the world have more human dingleberries had larger platforms to spew deranged nonsense about politics than they do right now, at this moment. We are in a golden age for fools with political views outside the mainstream.
If you bookmark this page and come back to it in a week, or a month, or a year, the dingleberry maxim will be as true then as it is today. There seems to be a Moore’s Law for the dispersion of idiotic content and no matter what the cEnSorS do to slow it down, the takes transistors still find a way to double capacity every year.
The breadth and depth of this speech is so vast that someone who hasn’t engrossed themselves in internet political culture might have no idea of its reach. If you are over the age of 35, there are people on YouTube and Twitch and TikTok that you have never heard of who have significantly larger audiences for their radical political ravings than the most preeminent policy journals had during your formative years.
Morning Shots endorses this
Reality check on “Defund the Police”
Amid mounting public concern about violent crime in the United States, Americans’ attitudes about police funding in their own community have shifted significantly.
The share of adults who say spending on policing in their area should be increased now stands at 47%, up from 31% in June 2020. That includes 21% who say funding for their local police should be increased a lot, up from 11% who said this last summer.
Support for reducing spending on police has fallen significantly: 15% of adults now say spending should be decreased, down from 25% in 2020. And only 6% now advocate decreasing spending a lot, down from 12% who said this last year. At the same time, 37% of adults now say spending on police should stay about the same, down from 42% in 2020.
Wait for it…
Because, of course...
Everything Facebook: It's Worse Than You Thought
ICYMI: JVL provides an overview of the Facebook meltdown.
People are starting to dig through the trove of documents known as the “Facebook Papers” and what they are finding is both shocking and totally unsurprising.1
Let’s start with the shocking stuff.
Facebook is used to facilitate human trafficking:
Facebook has for years struggled to crack down on content related to what it calls domestic servitude: "a form of trafficking of people for the purpose of working inside private homes through the use of force, fraud, coercion or deception," according to internal Facebook documents reviewed by CNN.
Facebook is used by parties stoking political violence:
Facebook employees repeatedly sounded the alarm on the company's failure to curb the spread of posts inciting violence in "at risk" countries like Ethiopia, where a civil war has raged for the past year, internal documents seen by CNN show.
The social media giant ranks Ethiopia in its highest priority tier for countries at risk of conflict, but the documents reveal that Facebook's moderation efforts were no match for the flood of inflammatory content on its platform.
And how is this not a “smoking gun”?
Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content — including content likely to make them angry. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than “likes,” internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business.
While I applaud the sentiments expressed and the efforts of those who signed, it still amounts to an appeal to a 50-50 Democratic Senate Majority to get rid of the filibuster to pass federal voting rights legislation. You may as well appeal to voters to give the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the upcoming midterms, because neither is going to happen and we all know it.
What I want to know is what are any of the signators, or anyone, doing to bring together professionals from a myriad of fields to develop a cohesive, national and workable strategy to fight this threat to our democracy before it is too late. There are millions of Americans who will be happy to join the fight if provided the leadership to do so.
While the GOP is marching towards Authoritarianism they are all on the same page, implementing their strategy state by state, and they are mounting up victory after victory. How do we successfully counter the lies and misinformation? What messaging should we be using from all quarters to reach everyday Americans and make them care about what we're about to lose?
Where are the experts from academia, journalism, media, social media, advertising, marketing, the legal profession, national security experts, government, former politicians from any party, and a whole host of other fields?
Noble sentiments will not save us, and once today's GOP retakes the House, the Senate and the White House in the next 3+ years, they will turn every institution into their own weaponry. They will go far beyond trump's first term in using the levers of government to consolidate their power,. We will see the free press and political enemies attacked and jailed. The military and armed militias will be used against peaceful protesters. Americans will be afraid to say anything at some point because it will mean risking personal freedom, livelihood, and even death. And who will stop them then? SCOTUS? Doubtful.
This moment in our history is as dire as any I've ever seen in my long lifetime, but we need so much more than noble words and sentiments. We need a cohesive strategy and national leadership.
Who is willing to roll up their sleeves and do that work?
I would be more than happy to sign as well. Attorney, political blogger, former college poli sci instructor and Republican activist who has held several positions in the party.
Since voting rights comes up in the letter and several comments, I wanted to add my two cents.
Democrats are railing against "voter suppression" laws passed by GOP-dominated state legislatures. Things like cutting back on earlier voting, elimination or reduction in ballot drop boxes, shortened times for asking for absentee ballots, a requirement that voters provide more identifying information to vote absentee, etc.
In reality those are tweaks to voting procedures that will have a miniscule impact on turnout, if that. The fact is in virtually every jurisdiction of the country it is much, much easier to get registered and vote than it was 20 years ago. These most recent changes do not come close to reversing that trend. Some of the changes even have turned out to be positive. Georgia, for example, ended up expanding early voting and adding a requirement that lines at polling places be monitored so that additional equipment be sent out to aid voters. Unfortunately, most of the reporting of Georgia's law was based on proposals that were not included in the final bill.
The whole debate over voting reminds me of the magician who encourages the audience to look at one hand while he is doing the trick with the other hand. Elections involve two distinct players: voters and vote counters. While everyone is focused on how these changes affect voters, they are ignoring changes to how votes are counted and certified. And I'm not just talking about changes in the law. I'm also talking about personnel changes. When the ballots come in you have teams of Democratic and Republican workers who count the ballots and confirm the results. Then you have elected officials who certify the work of these vote counters.
The whole system depends on people doing their jobs honestly, regardless of party affiliation. Trump's 2020 post-election coup attempt failed because there were a cadre of GOP officials who stood up to him and wouldn't engage in fraud to tip the election to Trump. Those people have been targeted by Trump and his minions. Most won't be around in 2024. The electoral guardrails have been removed.
The number one priority of Democrats in Congress should be fixing the Electoral Count Act which currently will allow a Republican Congress to override the will of the voters and hand the 2024 presidential election to Donald Trump. They need to fix the problems with the ECA and block state efforts to enact legislation to override the will of the voters. While I'm reluctant to deep six the filibuster on all matters, this is an area where I think a carve out is needed.