Autocrat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon

About a year and a half ago, I led NextDraft with this: “One of the mainstays of the show Cheers was when everyone in the bar would respond to the entrance of Norm Peterson by shouting, “Norm!” I have a theory that the whole country will chant the same refrain when norms return to the executive branch. But if the past few days are any indication, that theory may not be put to the test anytime soon.” What were the norms that were broken that week? Revealed intelligence sources, politically motivated prosecutions, mixing private and government business, foreign interference in U.S. elections, and the undermining the First Amendment. It sounds familiar because it is. We rant, we rave, and the song plays on. Remember when we thought Trump was gonna pivot? Meanwhile, on the other end of the political spectrum, I’m hearing calls for a revolution. At this point, just getting America back towards being a democratic republic would be more than enough revolution for me. Who saw this coming before it even started? Masha Gessen can certainly lay such a claim. This was published two days after the 2016 election. Autocracy: Rules for Survival. This is a long quote, but worth noting: “Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century’s accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy. Of course, the United States has much stronger institutions than Germany did in the 1930s, or Russia does today … The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them—including the ones enshrined in law—depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.”

+ One of the worrying signals is that the normalization appears to be taking hold even among those who are well aware of this moment’s threat to the republic. Politico: Sanders Joins Trump in Telling the Media to Go to Hell (when it comes to releasing his health records): “Even politicians who stand against him on every issue, and who speak solemnly about the need to restore norms shattered during this presidency, are ready to follow trails he has blazed in taking flight from public accountability.” And look at this exchange between Trump and Bloomberg. An election reduced to a flame war. Who does that benefit? (Hint, not you.)

+ I know what you’re thinking. “Dave, you ignorant putz, don’t you know that politics has always been nasty?” Yeah, I know. But the tone of discourse has moved far beyond politics. WaPo: “Since Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America.”

+ And, sure, Rush Limbaugh has always been despicable, so his latest gay bashing is par for the course. What’s not par is that it came less than a week after he was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

+ The state of our discourse brings to mind a Norm Peterson quote from Cheers: “Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?” … “Like a baby treats a diaper.”

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