As usual, a good deal happened while I was away: the terrible flash floods in Germany, the raging fires on the West Coast, the assassination of the president of Haiti, the disastrous spread of the Delta variant of the virus. But judging from what I have heard watching CNN international, something else less dramatic happened as well. It seems finally to have become part of the common wisdom that the Republican Party is now a full on fascist movement. For someone my age, that statement has an odd sound to it. I grew up accustomed to think of fascism as something that happened in Italy (where the term was coined, drawing on an old Roman word), in Spain, in Hungary, and of course in Germany. Lynching, racial segregation, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, military repression of working-class organizations, McCarthyism – these were what we had to contend with in America. But not fascism. Not a major political party openly committed to seizing power illegally, not merely suppressing the vote but ignoring it, denying it, all in the name of white supremacy.
It is difficult for someone who has spent his entire life publicly attacking the weaknesses and failings of the American political system now to find himself desperately defending “American democracy” against a fascist threat, but however ego-dystonic this may feel, there is no contradiction in it, I am convinced. Virtually everything I want to see happen in this country requires mobilizing scores of millions of men and women to use the power of the vote. Permanently destroy that power and there is nothing left for me to hope for.
I have spent some time reading the American Constitution in an attempt to figure out what could happen in 2024 to foist Trump on us again. The following is an entirely conceivable sequence of events with that outcome. Suppose that Biden runs again, this time against Ron DeSantis. Suppose that the result is roughly the same: Biden wins an enormous popular majority and a modest electoral vote majority, a crucial portion of which consists of the electoral votes from three or four midwestern states or southern states controlled by Republican legislatures. Suppose that in those three or four states the state legislatures, against tradition, against the vote, and even perhaps against state laws, sends to the Congress electoral votes committed to Trump, who has not even been a declared candidate. Since no person under these circumstances would have a majority of the vote, the Constitution says that the House must choose from among the three persons with the most electoral votes, each House delegation voting as a unit. Since the Republicans control a majority of the state delegations, they could vote to choose Trump as president. If the decision were appealed to the Supreme Court, the court would look to the Constitution and find that the process had been entirely in keeping with the explicit specifications of that document. At this point, American democracy with all its flaws comes to an end.
What would happen if this nightmare scenario, not at all impossible, were actually to come to pass? I do not really know the answer to that. Would California and New York and Virginia and Washington State and all the other democratic states accept the outcome? Would Biden, still president for another 14 days, accept the outcome? Would the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff accept the outcome?
You can see why I have lost some sleep over this. No kidding.