22 Comments

I keep hearing that Democrats have to "wake up to the danger of losing our democracy." Well, I'm awake, and plenty scared. But what to do? I live in a blue state, my legislators are on board. I can support blue candidates in swing states, but you can't out-organize voter suppression or a takeover of the electoral process. Ideas?

Expand full comment

Prof. Snyder, this should be your next Op-Essay for the NY Times or WaPo. "What comes after" scenarios appearing in mainstream publications aren't (to my knowledge) asking if what's left as a result of "what comes after" is a thing anyone, even a grifter like trump, would want. Keeping me up at night now is the prospect of having to leave the country. (There are few "bluer" places in the US than NJ, although I'd probably have to move nearer NY.) I have read that many people have left Hungary during Orban's rule. Would MAGA partisans close the borders to emigration in 2025? Prevent money transfers to foreign banks? Shut down the ATMs? The dream of watching the Nov. 2024 election results in Montreal helps me get a few hours' sleep.

Expand full comment
Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 6, 2022

I wake screaming from what I had hoped only a dream to discover that you have given voice to my nightmare in reality. As this is a story you have been telling and retelling for some time now, you must feel a Casandra whose prophesies seem ignored. Please continue your warnings and the prescriptions you suggest for the ills to our democracy they foretell. It is a story that must continue to be told until We the People, who are the only ones with the power to write a different ending, pick up their quills and begin to draft a different legacy than you foretell. Do not look to Washington, D.C. for an answer to our ills. It moves too slowly and is too cumbersome. The power must rest with We the People, all of us together. If we surrender our electoral voice all else is lost.

Expand full comment

What gives the Republicans an advantage is reflected in a quote by Sam Rayburn, a former Speaker of the House: "Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one." Attacking and dismantling norms and institutions is easy and politically useful to channel the insecurities of the electorate into grievances, but building norms and institutions can take the hard work of generations. Unfortunately, we don't have the time for that.

Our system is a three legged stool designed to be supported by two, functional governing parties and an informed electorate. One of those legs, the Republican party, is no longer a functioning governing party and another leg, an informed electorate, is increasingly shaky. I remain hopeful and will do what I can, but I am deeply pessimistic that our system will stand over the next few years Trump or no Trump.

Professor Snyder's question for the Republicans "power over what?" is an important one, and they may push people too far, but how groups attain power will largely determine the conditions they inherit. Taking liberties with Robert Bolt's quote from his play "A Man for All Seasons," "....And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Republican party, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the party to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?" They won't. They will turn on each other in destructive factions clamoring for power without scruples. It will be ugly, and we will all suffer as a result.

Expand full comment

Helpful and clarifying, Dr. Snyder, thank you, and I agree with you and other brave salient thinkers that we must grasp the scope, scale, and variety of likely worst-case scenarios in order to strategize and navigate these rough waters. And...I am beginning to crave some comparably detailed visions of the new version of democracy we want to create out of this dismal morass, however unlikely achieving them might be. Whenever I hear the term "multiracial democracy," for instance, my heart skips a beat—yes! That is a reality I want to preserve and claim and nurture. I wonder how The Narrative would change if we and other leaders could spend at least as much time describing the democracy we are working toward as we do the craven mobsters and their crafty (and effective) ways. I want to move past the vacuous "This is not who we are as Americans" and "we're better than this" exhortations, and offer assertive positive notions of a New Democracy where all have enough, no one is above the law, and we work together for the Common Good. Something like that, something to hold onto when we are hunkered down in our tiny blue havens, waiting for the mobs to pass.//Thank you so much for the clarity you bring in this fraught moment.

Expand full comment

Thank you so much for spelling out these possibilities in such detail. It helps me focus on what could happen and how to fight against it. I would rather have the stark truth of the worst possible outcomes before me than fool myself into believing that they could never occur. It's a pleasure to be a retired professor who has the time and resources to read, listen, and support those who are working for our democracy, including you, Prof. Snyder.

Expand full comment

“I was walking at night, the fifth man in the row. A bronze flame from burning people was flickering in the center of the violet sky.

“In that mild darkness I had my eyes wide open, and although the blood from my bayonet-pierced thigh bathed my body in warmth that intensified to the point of pain with every step, and from behind, through the thick, hasty stamping of men’s feet I caught the delicate, apprehensive footsteps of the women, [. ..] I can recall nothing from that night other than what I saw with my wide-open eyes.

[. . .]

“All these people who, because of phlegmon, scabies, and typhus, and also because they were too thin, were going to the gas chamber, begged the nurses (who were loading them into the crematorium trucks) to look and remember. And to tell the truth about man to those who haven’t learned it by experience.”

--Tadeusz Borowski, “Here in Our Auschwitz and Other Stories”. Translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021), pp. 278-80.

Of all the stories in this collection, it is this less-than-three-page one that highlights my greatest fear. Michael Bales writes in his comment, “Many citizens remain clueless or unconcerned about the now dire, looming threat to democracy.” How often have I thought that this is even more of a threat than the threat itself! How often have I read this story aloud to myself, late at night, because I’m so worried, I can no longer concentrate on my reading! And when I get to this part, I read it very slowly: “[. . .] to look and remember. And to tell the truth about man to those who haven’t learned it by experience.”

Expand full comment
founding

Sadly, the Republicans have been working feverishly to win no matter what and they are succeeding. How do you counter that if it has already happened? They are gerrymandering, changing laws in the States to favor themselves where they can, using a religious right to further their cause. If Trump indeed runs in 2024 and “wins”, I agree this scenario will likely happen because he is a cruel and undisciplined person and chaos is all he understands. But if an ambitious and more disciplined autocratic Republican wins, I wonder if we will see the Country go the way of Hungary- the slow and relentless strangulation of institutions. Which would be worse?

Expand full comment

Shared on Facebook, hoping to make people think.

Expand full comment

Idea: Prof Snyder have you thought about animating "On Tyranny"? It needs to get out to the masses. Put it on YouTube, Netflix, or Broadcast TV.

Expand full comment
founding

I hope the Democrats can get it together to pass a voting rights bill before the Mid-Terms: If it’s not too late already. Who’s to say the Republicans if they win the House and Senate won’t impeach Biden and Harris and remove both and then install their Speaker of the House. Or install Trump for that matter I see tweets from Cruz that they will impeach if they win the legislature. If we fail to protect voting rights, Republicans have manipulated laws and gerrymandered enough to “win” even though they are a minority. I think we should be calling our Congressmen and demanding our voting rights.

Expand full comment
Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 7, 2022

Thank you for addressing what the media ignores: what happens when the once-unthinkable happens. Yes, it's impossible to predict the exact repercussions, other than chaos, violence, and loss.

Many citizens remain clueless or unconcerned about the now dire, looming threat to democracy. The situation reminds me of what happened to one of our two beloved Labrador retrievers when I was a kid growing up in Florida. Sadie was crossing railroad tracks, following far behind one of my brothers. She stopped on the tracks at the sound of an approaching freight train. The urgent blares of the horn made her freeze in place, despite my brother's frantic calls to her. And that was that.

Expand full comment

Thank you.

Expand full comment

Logically, if the Democrats were going to “rig the 2020 election”, why didn’t they also make sure to have a majority of 60 senators? It would have made life so much easier.

Expand full comment

The reported apathy of younger generations, the apolitical stance of my generation of Boomers, terrifying. My state is blue, on board, and aware. The insanity of this insurrection, ongoing, is stunning. The immense inability of Democratic leaders to inspire vision, hope, a way forward is frightening. You are so right on, I am having difficulty sleeping. The potential of fascism in our country is real and horrible.

Regardless of contributions to this or that campaign, letters to this or that person or organization, the consequences of the inadequate Senate, the partisan so-called Supreme Court, we remain at risk. I am so concerned that people will just chuck the notion that their vote counts, or that it is not worth the effort.

Expand full comment

My local city council put out a 2022 budget that doesn't include any of the $1.7M in federal covid relief money we received. My friend wanted to discuss it now as the Ukraine situation is going on, and I had to say that I was simply "not interested in watching these people play politics!" On point; thank you Professor!

Expand full comment