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Fragments from a Fractured Body Politic
When the news cycle stops making sense
Some weeks it seems the world has slipped off its axis and gone mad. In such a moment, when it’s stopped making sense, delivering coherence feels like a fool’s errand and a disservice to the purpose of this work. There’s little I owe you more than honesty and the truth, as best as I can articulate it.
So for today, I share with you—rather than a full narrative—a collection of fragments, five snapshots from our fractured body politic.
Determined to hold onto the job of House Speaker by any means necessary, Kevin McCarthy’s decision to pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden—despite lacking evidence of criminality or likely even the votes among his own members—seems particularly desperate and moronic. Still, this is unsurprising for the increasingly extremist GOP, as displayed by the dinner meeting of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene with Donald Trump at his Bedminster club on Sunday. “I did brief him on the strategy that I want to see laid out with impeachment,” Greene told reporters, sounding like the shadow House Speaker, adding later that she wanted this effort to be “long and excruciatingly painful for Joe Biden.” As The New York Times notes, this impeachment attempt—no matter how fact-free of wrongdoing—is exactly what Trump has been pushing for months.
That criminal defendant, who is facing 91 felony charges and remains the dominant candidate and likely presidential nominee of the Republican Party, earned strong support on Wednesday from arguably his most significant political ally. The criminal cases against Tump, his ally said, were part of “the persecution of a political rival for political reasons.” And more, this prosecution “is good because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others democracy.” This message—from Russian President Vladimir Putin—was just what Trump wanted to hear. He blamed Biden—“a stone-cold criminal”—for turning America into a banana republic and attracting such criticism from world leaders. As he told a friendly Fox host, turning the world upside down:“You can’t have law and order in a country where you have such corruption.”
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, announced on Wednesday that he won’t seek a second term for the U.S. Senate. In a new biography about him, Romney told author McKay Coppins that “a very large portion of my party really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” Not shocking for anyone paying attention, but quite a stark admission from Romney, underscoring the death knell of the GOP’s legitimacy.
A survey released this week from the Open Society Foundation reported that 42 percent of young people 18 to 35 from 30 countries favor military rule and 35 percent favor strongman leadership over democracy—including skipping elections and consulting legislatures—to address their country’s challenges. This is substantially lower than any other age group. “Our findings are both sobering and alarming,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, Open Society president and a former United Nations deputy secretary general. “People around the world still want to believe in democracy. But generation by generation, that faith is fading as doubts grow about its ability to deliver concrete improvements to their lives.”
As described in The Atlantic excerpt of Romney, A Reckoning, the senator has been absorbed with a historical map detailing the rise and fall of civilizations. Reflecting on the collapse of once-great nations, he told his biographer: “A man gets some people around him and begins to oppress and dominate others. It’s a testosterone-related phenomenon, perhaps.” Pondering America’s experiment in self-rule, he called it “fighting against human nature.” Democracy, he concluded, “is a very fragile thing. Authoritarianism is like a gargoyle lurking over the cathedral, ready to pounce.”
In the months and years ahead, it’s going to be quite a task to confront the fragmentary nature of our society, devise ways to repair the fractures—and regain coherence and unity. But few tasks are more significant if we are to sustain democracy and keep the authoritarians and demagogues from increasingly exploiting our vulnerabilities.
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