We speak with Joshua Keating, senior editor at Slate, about his article: “Whatever Trump Is Doing, It Isn’t a ‘Coup.’ But the Long-Term Effect Could Be Similarly Damaging.” Our guest explains that what we call a coup normally relies on violence to keep someone in power who was not chosen by the people in a fair election. Trump is not (yet) using violent means to achieve his goals. At least for now, he is trying to use legal means to hold onto the White House — lawsuits, recounts, and the like.
We won’t learn for a couple of months whether Trump will relinquish his office or instead fight to retain power even if he has to use extra-constitutional means: Violence, the threat of violence, intimidation, or some other illegal method.
Whether or not we call we have seen so far a coup, to what extent have Trump’s actions eroded our political and other institutions? How deeply have his corrosive effects penetrated the democratic norms and sense of united purpose that are necessary to lubricate the wheels of constitutional government?
Trump has normalized violence, bullying, intimidation, and a sense of grievance and entitlement. In the end, how permanent will Trump’s destruction turn out to be on the United States? How long will the dark after-effects last? How much damage have his actions already caused to the American public’s faith that our democratic processes will ensure our freedom in the future? Will a loss of that faith undermine public participation in elections or encourage illegal disruption of elections, which could enable authoritarian mobs to seize power by force, as occurred during the 1930s and at other times in history? What costs will we have to pay in order to restore trust in our democracy?
Our guest is Matt Ford, a staff writer at The New Republic. We discuss his article: “The Case for Prosecuting Trump and His Cronies : How Biden Treats His Predecessor Could Determine the Fate of American Democracy.”
President-elect Joe Biden has talked about not wanting to “look backwards,” not wanting to focus on investigating and prosecuting Donald Trump for the illegal actions he committed while in office (or before).
Understandably, Biden prefers to look to the future, to exert all his energy and political capital to develop, pass, and implement the best policies he can, in order to solve the many serious problems facing our nation.
On the other hand, will our country be better off if Biden’s administration fails to investigate what Trump and his cronies were up to while they held all the reins of power? Isn’t it important for the public to know about any illegalities and/or any unethical behavior by the Trump administration, including illegalities that may have gravely harmed groups of American people, the economy (including people’s job prospects), and American standing in the world?
What weight should Biden’s government put on ferreting out prior non-compliance with law, holding government officials and business entities accountable for their actions, whether they broke the law, abused the public trust, unjustly enriched themselves, or any other wrongdoing? To put it another way, what message will be sent if law-breakers or abusers get to cheat the American people and then go scot-free? What deterrence will we be able to rely on, to insure against similar acts in the future?
Biden’s appointment of a new Attorney General will tell us a lot about what his answers to these questions are.
Lisa Cote’ and Doug Teschner discuss with us an organization that whose goal it is to enable people, especially in the US, to be able to talk to each other, despite political divisions. The purpose is to open a dialog. The last few years have been very polarizing, and people have stopped even respecting each others’ points of view. This organization is THE BRAVER ANGELS. They encourage participants to join. Those participants should be the whole spectrum of society. Their pledge is
As individuals, we try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.
In our communities, we engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together.
In politics, we support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.
Bill Curry, writer, political commentator, former candidate for governor of Connecticut.
We discuss how Trump may be gone from the White House, but trumpism is still around.
We discuss the hundreds of felonies Trump may have committed, how he has debased political speech, and how he has divided the country.
We also discuss the Biden agenda going forward. Biden has indicated that he has no plans to personally indict Trump. This must be a decision by the Justice Department, not a personal witch hunt.
We, as a nation, must ensure that there should be consequences for the assault on our democracy, and the attempted installation of a fascist government by Trump.
Booker and Host: Arnie Arnesen
Producer: Ken Barnes
We speak with our friend, Bob Hennelly, investigative reporter for Slack.com, the NJInsider, @stucknation, and The Chief/Leader, a public employee union journal in NYC. We begin remembering David Dinkins, the first (and still the only!) African-American mayor of New York City, who just died at the age of 93. Dinkins was a true giant. Much of his work centered on improving the lives of ordinary New Yorkers. To help children in the public schools, he started and supported many educational projects.
Dinkins has not been given the credit he deserves for turning NY City around from serious financial and crime problems. He took on the police department and its powerful union, reduced police brutality and began a shift toward community policing. This brought down NY’s infamous crime rates, especially violent crime. When Dinkins took office, NYC suffered 2,000 homicides/year. He reduced it to the point where there are now ¼ that number, 500 homicides/year.
Rudolf Giuliani ran against the mayor on a platform that appealed to racism, (much like he has done in the Trump White House). During his campaign for mayor, Giuliani promoted his candidacy by grandstanding at a police rally (a police riot, really) surrounding City Hall. Giuliani trashed Dinkins and handed out voter registration cards in an effort to win over the “tough” law and order voters. Giuliana won the election and later hubristically took credit for reducing crime.
Speaking of shameless self-promotion, we note that Giuliani first rose to fame as a NY prosecutor: his office leaked confidential information to reporters so they could publicize his busts, creating the myth that he was a heroic prosecutor. Through his preferential leaks, he made sure that all New Yorkers got to see him perform legal theater as the news programs showcased him putting handcuffs on rich white guys and walking them out of their Wall Street office buildings. Their shame brought Rudy fame, which he later exploited to run for president.
We also discuss Hennelly’s article on Big Pharma – which he describes as one of our most deadly pre-existing conditions. They get accolades in the press as if they’re the cavalry arriving with their magic cure (a COVID-19 vaccine). The real story has been omitted from this narrative. Pharmaceutical corporations used to produce lots of vaccines that protected the health of our population. But then, as vulture capitalism became the norm, Big Pharma saw that the profit margins were much greater producing other, more specialized drugs (the kind they’re now advertising repeatedly on every TV show, as well as the “medications” that have caused the opioid epidemic). As the number of manufacturers of vaccines fell dramatically, the US did not have sufficient capacity when the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Now, of course, the US government (i.e., taxpayers) have invested huge public resources into research – for which the drug companies did not have to pay the costs – so Big Pharma rides to the rescue developing COVID vaccines – which just happen to provide lucrative payouts for the corporations. Side note: Do we think they’ll be paying taxes to the US government on their profits? Or will they bank them offshore in tax havens?
Will we learn a lesson from this experience with the vaccine? Or will we continue to ignore the problem and let it recur over and over with nary a blink?
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we dispel a lot of myths about US history vis-à-vis Native Americans with our guest, Jean Schroedel, professor at Claremont Graduate University. Her new book, “Voting in Indian Country,” is full of facts that we had never been taught and false narratives that we repeat as if they were gospel. Few Americans realize that Native Americans and Native Alaskans were the last people to gain US citizenship and the right to vote. Nor do the media describe the barriers and the discrimination which make their voting so difficult even to this day.
For example, during the last few election cycles when many states enacted voter suppression legislation, a North Dakota law required that, in order to get vote, people must show identification which includes a street address. Surely the legislators were aware that Native American reservation have very few streets and no numerical addresses. They couldn’t register to vote using merely a P.O. box.
This year, because of COVID, many public health officials have urged everyone to vote absentee and by mail. Native Reservations have very few post offices and no home-delivery (even on areas the size of other entire states), so the vote-by-mail process is nothing like the rest of us who can drop a request for absentee ballot in the mail, receive the blank ballot from the clerk in our mailboxes, fill it out, and drop it in the corner mailbox. Some people have to travel for 30 miles just to get access to any mail service, and with or without COVID they can’t afford to waste gas in the process.
We also learned that the narrative of the first Thanksgiving is based on a lie. When the Mayflower arrived 400 years ago, the area was empty of Native peoples. They had all been wiped out by “the great dying” – a disease which had been brought by earlier groups of European colonists.
Our first guest is Arash Javanbakht, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist and Director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University. We discuss his article, “The Matrix is Already Here: Social media promised to connect us, but left us isolated, scared and tribal.”
When it was first introduced, social media seemed to help people connect with each other (as advertised). Over the years, however, social media has constricted people more and more into separate silos or echo-chambers, where others who believe as we do and think as we do are listening/talking only to each other. We are isolated from the views of people who disagree or who are privy to different facts. We spend time with our “tribes” and continually reinforce the same point of view on subjects that matter to us.
At the same time, we are isolated from any alternative viewpoints or any additional facts, and are never challenged to justify our conclusions with pesky facts or modes of analysis. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias harden our positions and render us angry at anyone who disagrees.
This is a dangerous place for a democracy to be. From a psychological point of view, it creates anxiety, stress, trauma. It becomes difficult for societies to solve problems together, makes debate over policies impossible (because people aren’t listening to each other), and it clogs up the wheels of the democratic process.
We chat with Ian MacDougall, a lawyer and journalist who has written for many respected publications. We discuss his piece in Pro Publica entitled “The Long Odds Facing Trump’s Attempts to Get State Legislatures to Override Election Results.”
The barriers are high, yes: State legislators and election officials have to ignore the facts, be willing to break the rules (which may entail committing crimes), convince all necessary players to go along, and have their decision upheld in higher-level appeals including the courts. Moreover, 2020 is not 2000 (Bush v. Gore). The Republicans would have to overturn the duly-cast votes in 5 states, not one. So as one state’s officials debate whether to go first, they must know that their efforts (and risk) may not in the end be successful in keeping Trump in the White House.
Some commentators theorize that Pres. Trump doesn’t really expect to be successful with his election-challenging lawsuits. (Trump’s main lawyer recently said this in an interview.) Trump knows that, even with his 3 Supreme Court nominees participating in his case, Chief Justice Roberts is an institutionalist, and other justices care about this as well. They don’t want to take actions that could lead to the Court’s decline in status, legitimacy, or respect. They also know that the Supreme Court’s legitimacy depends upon people accepting its rulings, voluntarily submitting to the rule of law, complying with societal norms. The Court doesn’t have the power of the purse or the sword to enforce compliance.
So if success is not the goal of these election challenges, what is? We think destabilization is the goal. Trump and his Republican enablers want Americans to lose faith in our democratic processes, to believe that Trump’s defeat was unfair and Biden’s presidency is illegitimate, so they will join in 2024 in restoring authoritarian Republican control over our government. And they know that messaging and propaganda are powerful tools. They also know that confirmation bias is an invisible weapon against the kind of truth and rational discussion which are necessary to a democratic system of government.
Thus, we hope that Trump’s seemingly losing battles against the election results will serve as a necessary wake-up call, to alert us to the vulnerability of free and fair elections, and to our duty to guard against the undermining of our precious democratic processes. We hope Americans can learn something from this educational opportunity: What reforms are needed; what guardrails are required to keep democracy safe.
We rethink the week with Valerie Endress, professor of political communications, Rhode Island College; Dean Spiliotis, Civic Scholar and Presidential Scholar at Southern New Hampshire University; Russell Muirhead, Chair of the Government Dept at Dartmouth College; and David Atkins, contributor to the Washington Monthly and a Democratic activist in California.
We analyze lessons that the country and politicians can learn as a result of this month’s elections. The Democratic Party must understand and address the anger, the fear, the alienation of the 70+ million people who voted for Trump. Dems cannot ignore these voters’ viewpoints, nor pretend that Trump voters were unaware of his more disagreeable actions and behavior. The new administration must demonstrate that its policies will make all Americans’ lives better, including those of Trump voters.
The Republican Party must assess its own soul as well. Will it evolve into an honorable center-right party which appeals to a diverse coalition of people? Or will it remain stuck as the party of white nationalism, which can succeed only by disenfranchisement?
We also discuss whether the Biden administration should prosecute Trump and his cronies for corruption and other crimes committed while in office. Biden himself has hinted that he might not because he doesn’t want to tear the country apart. He wants to look only to the future and enacting programs that will address some of the serious problems that have not yet been solved.
No one, of course, wants to fan the flames of hatred; the country is already polarized enough. But what message do we send if we fail to hold government officials (or anyone, really) accountable when they commit crimes that impose grievous harm on our country or its people or on democracy itself? Some say that this simply encourages more and worse corruption, and a deep slide into totalitarianism. We believe the rule of law must be upheld, and that it is a good thing to assure the American people that everyone will be held equally responsible for upholding it.