Monday, September 30, 2019

ANS -- Answers to Impeachment Objections

Here is a list of (right wing talking) points and rebuttals for your use when discussing impeachment.  Doug Muder, the author is very clear in his writing and his thinking.  

Answers to Impeachment Objections

You might think there's no role for us in the impeachment process. But our role may be the most important one. Here's what you need to know to start doing your part.

So it's on: There's a serious impeachment inquiry, and in all likelihood it will lead to a vote in the House on articles of impeachment. Then it will be the Senate's turn to look at the evidence and decide.

In a literal, constitutional sense, that's where the important stuff will happen: in Congress. Witnesses will be called, subpoenas issued, questions asked and answered, votes held, and in the end the President either will or won't continue in office.

To lesser extent, stuff will happen in the courts. What subpoenas are valid? What documents have to be produced? What witnesses have to testify? What privileges can they claim to avoid answering?

Put that way, it sounds like there is no role for the rest of us. But in fact there is a role, and collectively our role is the most important one. Because whatever the evidence says, Congress isn't going to move without public support. So at every point, they're going to wondering about us: Are we paying attention? Are engaged or bored? Angry with the President or with his accusers? Convinced by the case against him or befuddled?

So yes, it's about witnesses, documents, and votes. But it's also about TV ratings, public demonstrations, letters to the editor, and what's trending on Twitter. While we're watching Congress and the courts, they're going to be watching us.

Yes, Congress will eventually make up its mind. But they will also be following us as we make up our minds. And that will happen not in televised hearings, but over coffee and in social media. We'll think things out on our own, or discuss them one-on-one or in small gatherings. And what we decide will matter.

Trump's supporters seem to understand this, so they have been out in force spreading — let's be blunt about this — bullshit. Wild charges, baseless conspiracy theories, lies about evidence that has already come out, threats, pseudo-legal mumbo-jumbo, and anything else will throw sand in the gears of the public thought process. You can see this happening on the TV talk shows, where Trump defenders like Jim Jordan and Rudy Giuliani shout, talk over their interviewers, change their story from moment to moment, and refuse to answer questions — because they know that if the public has a rational conversation about evidence and law, Trump will lose. They can't engage your mind, they have to overpower you.

The same thing is happening on the smaller scales as well. Trumpists distract, misdirect, make things up, repeat slogans, insult, spread conspiracy theories without worrying that they contradict each other, and in general create a fog rather than shining a light. Because if the American people just get confused, nothing will happen. And that's what they want.

So it's important that lots and lots of us refuse to be confused or distracted, and that (to the extent we can) we commit to be shapers of the opinions around us rather than wallflowers.

With that in mind, I have assembled a list of the most popular objections to impeachment that I have heard, and have tried to cut through the fog with sharp answers you can use in your own discussions.

What about the Bidens? This isn't really a defense of Trump at all; it's an attempt to distract attention from his wrongdoing and unfitness for office.

I discussed the general tactic of whataboutism back in August. Its purpose is to draw you into defending Biden against a ridiculous attack, which keeps the spotlight off of Trump and the reasons to remove him from office. The important thing to understand here is that a whataboutist can win by losing: Even if you shred all of his arguments, and impress all physical or social-media bystanders with the baselessness of his charges, all that time and energy has been diverted from the case against Trump. As I wrote in August:

Since the point of whataboutism is to derail a criticism rather than refute it, a false assertion often works even better than a true one, because the discussion then careens off into evidence that the assertion is false. Suddenly we're rehashing the details of what Obama or Clinton did or didn't do, while the original criticism of Trump scrolls off the page.

The opposite horn of the dilemma is to leave people with the general impression that there is something slimy about Biden, even if they can't say exactly what it is. (To a large extent, this kind of shapeless smear is what sunk Hillary Clinton.)

What to do? Two things:

  • Call out the whataboutism for what it is: a confession that Trump's actions can't be defended on their own terms. All his defenders have is distraction: Look here! Look there! Look anyplace but at the criminal in the White House!
  • Don't go through the details of defending Biden — that's taking the whataboutist bait — but do have a detailed reference you can link to or point to. Say something like "This has been checked out in detail and it's all bullshit." (Or maybe substitute some more polite word for bullshit, depending on the forum.) This response has the advantage of being completely true.

I recommend two links: "The Swiftboating of Joe Biden" from the Just Security blog, and "I Wrote About the Bidens and Ukraine Years Ago. Then the Right-Wing Spin Machine Turned the Story Upside-Down" in The Intercept.

The whistleblower report is all hearsay. Lindsey Graham went wild with this talking point on Face the Nation Sunday, repeating "hearsay" 11 times. The kernel of truth is that the whistleblower complaint assembles information from unnamed "White House officials", many of whom saw or heard things the whistleblower himself/herself did not witness.

But that kind of misses the point: The evidence that is really damning is the transcript of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president, which the White House released itself. That's not hearsay. (It also matches the whistleblower's description pretty well, which argues for his/her credibility.)

The whistleblower's complaint is a roadmap for investigation, and not the substance of the case against Trump. By the time an impeachment vote is held, the House will have assembled more direct sources that either will or won't corroborate what the complaint says. I expect the White House to try to stop those sources from testifying, because that's what guilty people do.

There was no quid pro quo. This is just a lie, and a pretty obvious one at that. It's impossible to read the transcript of the Ukraine call without immediately recognizing the quid (money for Ukraine's defense against Russian invaders) and the quo (manufacturing dirt on Joe Biden).

It's true that Don Trump never spells it out in so many words, but Don Corleone never did either. When the Godfather said, "I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse", he never elaborated "because if you do, something bad will happen to you." He didn't have to.

Where's the crime? As you read the Ukraine transcript or the whistleblower complaint, and then listen to legal analysts debate it, one striking thing is that the laws they discuss don't really capture what's wrong here. It's sort of like extortion. It's sort of like bribery. It's definitely a campaign violation, but that seems like a comparatively minor charge.

What's wrong is that the President is treating the powers of his office as if they were his private possessions, rather than as a trust he holds for the People. He is trading a public good — aid to defend Ukraine from a Russian invasion — for a personal advantage over a rival in the 2020 election. If that kind of thing is acceptable presidential behavior, then we can pretty much give up on having fair elections from now on. Foreign governments will try to curry favor with future presidents by doing things that would be illegal for the president to do himself — like hacking DNC emails the way the Russians did in 2016 — and expect to receive future favors like foreign aid or readmission to the G-7.

Trump wriggled out of that bit of cheating by claiming that he didn't directly conspire with the Russians in their crimes. (That's the "no collusion" part of the Mueller report: Mueller established that Trump was the beneficiary of Russia's crimes, but was unable to prove Trump's involvement in the criminal conspiracy.) But in the Ukraine case, Trump is personally involved in an attempt to strong-arm the Ukrainian president into helping him cheat in 2020.

If that's OK from now on, then the Republic is sunk. Future elections will be meaningless.

Abuses of power that "subvert the Constitution, the integrity of government, or the rule of law" are precisely what the Founders had in mind when they put impeachment into the Constitution, and it doesn't matter whether the details precisely match some criminal statute. Congress should not get lost in legalisms, but needs to focus on defending the integrity of our elections.

The Senate will never remove Trump from office, so what's the point? Three things are wrong with this one:

  • Not impeaching Trump will be costly. First, it would back up Trump's claim that all the Democratic talk about Trump's crimes is just politics; if the charges were serious, Pelosi would have impeached him, wouldn't she? And second, it is in Trump's nature to keep pushing until he meets resistance. If pressuring foreign countries to manufacture dirt on his rivals is OK, what other ways will he find to cheat in the 2020 elections? If you want to beat Trump in 2020, you can't just stand there and watch him cheat.
  • Impeachment puts Republican senators on the spot. When you don't do your job because you assume the next guy won't do his, you take the pressure off the next guy. "I would have done my job," he can claim later, "but nobody asked me." Republican senators, especially the ones vulnerable in 2020 like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, will try to distance themselves from Trump's crimes without doing anything to upset his base. ("Deeply troubling," Mitt Romney says, and he's the brave one.) Democrats should assemble the case against Trump as clearly as possible and make senators vote yes or no. Do you approve of this behavior or not?
  • You never know. The Nixon impeachment seemed absurd until suddenly it wasn't. Trump's support in the Senate is held together by fear, not by love or unity of purpose. Coalitions of fear sometimes dissolve suddenly, as in "The Emperor's New Clothes". If Trump starts going down, not many senators will want to go down with him.

Impeachment will make it impossible to accomplish anything else. Frank Bruni makes the argument like this:

Where's the infrastructure plan that we're — oh — a quarter-century late in implementing? Where are the fixes to a health care system whose problems go far beyond the tens of millions of Americans still uninsured? What about education?

This argument would be a lot more persuasive if Mitch McConnell's Senate hadn't bottled up everything before impeachment. Republicans in Congress may use impeachment as an excuse to do nothing; but they weren't doing anything anyway.

The Democratic House has actually been quite busy passing legislation, which the Senate just ignores. Of course you wouldn't expect a Republican Senate to simply rubber-stamp whatever comes out of a Democratic House. But nothing stops the Senate from passing its own version of, say, background checks or lowering drug prices or helping people save for retirement. Then there could be a House/Senate conference committee to work out the differences, the way Congress used to get things done.

As for Trump, it's absurd to claim that impeachment prevents him from working with Democrats on infrastructure, or any other common purpose he claims he wants. Both Nixon and Clinton took some pride in being able to keep doing their jobs in spite of distractions. (Much of what Clinton did to balance the budget was happening while he was under investigation or being impeached.) Trump alone thinks it makes sense to take his ball and go home until Nancy treats him better.

Impeachment will rile up Trump's base. I wish Democrats would stop thinking about Trump and his base the way some battered women think about their abusers: If dinner is on the table when he comes home and the house is ship-shape, maybe he won't hit me tonight.

You know what? Trump's base is going to be riled up from now on. Get used to it, because no matter what Democrats do, Trump will spin a story in which he is the most unfairly persecuted man in the history of politics. His idolaters will believe it, and they'll be hopping mad. It's already happening, and it's going to get worse. The Trumpist minority can threaten violence and even civil war if we don't do what they want. But if we're letting ourselves be ruled by a violent minority, if we are terrorized out of doing what is right and what the country needs, then there's already been a civil war and we lost.

Democrats should wait for the election. David Brooks makes this case, saying that impeachment is "elitist".

Elections give millions and millions of Americans a voice in selecting the president. This [impeachment] process gives 100 mostly millionaire senators a voice in selecting the president.

It's true that elections are the Constitution's primary method for getting rid of bad presidents. But what makes the Ukraine scandal stand out as impeachment material is that it's an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election. We can't just wait for the election if in the meantime we're doing nothing to stop Trump from cheating in that election.

So yes, Democrats should keep talking about healthcare and climate change and all the other important issues of America's future. But at the same time we have to do our best to make sure that a fair election is held at all. The only way we have to do that is to call attention to Trump's cheating and appeal to the American people's sense of fair play. That's what this whole process is about.

Wouldn't Pence be harder to beat in 2020? Trump, from this view, is an unpopular, damaged candidate. But Pence, being more like a typical Republican presidential candidate, could win back the never-Trumpers and the professional-class suburbanites, reunite the Republican coalition, and be a more formidable candidate in 2020.

I don't share this concern. If Trump is removed from office, or damaged to the point that he doesn't seek re-election, Pence will face the same problems Gore did in 2000: Does he embrace Trump or distance himself? Does he let Trump speak at the convention? Does he campaign with Trump? Should his rhetoric inflame the resentments resulting from the impeachment or try to move on? If he stays too close to Trump, he won't win back the people Trump alienated, and may risk being stained by whatever brought Trump down. But if he is too distant, Trump's base will resent his disloyalty.

Gore at least could run on Clinton's policies, which were fairly popular. (In The Onion, President-elect Bush assured America: "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.") But Trump's policies have never been popular: the border wallstanding with the NRAmaking climate change worserace baitinggutting ObamaCareshutting down immigrationpalling around with Putin, the farm-destroying trade war with China, and so on. In addition, the issue Pence is most identified with personally is bigotry against gays and lesbians, which is also not popular.

True, Pence would not have to answer for Trump's long series of outrageous tweets. He could make his own version of Biden's case that the adults were in charge again. But Trump's base loves those tweets and doesn't want adults to be in charge. They identify with Trump because he insults all the people they wish they had the courage to insult, and defies the experts who make them feel stupid. If Pence tries to be an adult, or (even worse) a gentleman, they won't like him.

Picture 30,000 people showing up to hear Pence, hoping to be revved up the way Trump revved them up. Won't they leave disappointed?

So no: If Trump is removed, Pence is not a formidable candidate.

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  • Jon On September 30, 2019 at 9:45 am

    "… the way some battered women think about their abusers: If dinner is on the table when he comes home and the house is ship-shape, maybe he won't hit me tonight.".

    Oy. I get your overall point, but that was perhaps not the best choice of analogies.

  • D. Michael Wells On September 30, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Thanks, one of your better essays. However, it still contains a nugget of naivety: that many people can be persuaded about Trump by logic and evidence. I recently had a conversation with some high school classmates (from 56 years ago!) where they expressed dismay at being characterized at being "criminals" because they were Democrats. This was from another classmate who had known my friend all of his life. The hard core base is not reachable.

    • Kim Cooper On September 30, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      If you are discussing this with someone from the hardcore base, you are probably right that they are not reachable. However, if this discussion is at a gathering or on social media — anywhere where others will be watching the interchange, — you do it not for the hard core guy, but for the lurkers. The silent watchers. Because they may be reachable. They hear what you say and think about it. So remain polite but firm and clear. It can help.

  • Darren Magady On September 30, 2019 at 11:30 am

    I think you missed one other reason to worry about impeachment; what does an acquittal mean if/when the Senate acquits Trump? I am not sure that isna good enough reason to oppose impeachment at this point., but the idea that Trump would call himself acquitted is concerning.

    • JP On September 30, 2019 at 11:47 am

      Well, if we don't impeach at all, he will also claim exoneration, so it's not clear to me that we'd be any worse off. And if damning evidence is presented in the investigation but the Senate acquits anyway, the story could easily be "Corrupt Republicans cover for their corrupt President" instead of "Trump did nothing wrong."

  • Rebecca Stith On September 30, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Also, the whistleblower complaint falls within several hearsay exceptions. George Conways explained this succinctly to Lindsey Graham.


    • George Washington, Jr. On September 30, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Linda Tripp wasn't present when Clinton and Lewinsky were doing whatever they did, and "Deep Throat" wasn't at the Watergate break-in, either.

  • Anonymous On September 30, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    For me EVERY issue hinges on a single question: what course will most likely help us move toward dealing with global warming? The 2020 house and senate races were going to be predominated by support or opposition to trump. If Trump is impeached and convicted by the Senate, I am afraid that removing Trump will make Democratic control of the senate even more difficult to achieve.

  • George Washington, Jr. On September 30, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    What about the one I hear from other liberals – that impeachment will make Trump a "martyr" and motivate his base to turn out for him in greater numbers? This has been the biggest objection to impeachment, at least until now.

  • madelonw1011 On September 30, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    When I want some clarity on what is going on with the trump presidency, I read this blog. I find that clarity in the straightforward way in which it is written.

    I am not a fan of the Joe Biden candidacy. I think Joe has done a fine job in the Senate (for the most part) and he was an excellent Vice President to Barack Obama. I think it's time for him to rest on his laurels and act the part of elder statesman. He has much to offer others running for office… not just the presidency. Whether he can or will do that is anybody's guess.

    As I read this posting, I kept thinking about an article that I read in The Atlantic the other day called "Hunter Biden's Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption." It lays out why both Democrats and Republicans benefit from their positions in government. Most telling was the assertion that Hunter Biden would not have gotten the job on the board of Burisma without his father's name and position as his way in. (

    It is the "legal, socially acceptable corruption" against which many progressives (including me) rail. I will be 72 years old in 11 days. I am a Vietnam Era veteran. I lived through Watergate, watching the hearings live on television. I want to see both Biden and Sanders drop out of the race. The sooner this happens, the better off I believe the country will be. We have more than enough younger, and far more capable candidates (IMHO) than either of these old, white men. Obviously, comes the Primary in my state, I will not be voting for either.

    I am not naive. Even the progressive, younger candidates all have some baggage, but they are smart enough to want to distance themselves from it. (No, I still don't know who I will vote FOR. All the poles asking that question seem far to early in the process for truly intelligent answers. I do wish they would poll to see who people will NOT vote for.)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fwd: Canoo’s first subscription-only EV is a refreshing rethink of the VW Microbus - The Verge

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Joyce Segal <>
Date: Wed, Sep 25, 2019 at 8:36 AM
Subject: Canoo's first subscription-only EV is a refreshing rethink of the VW Microbus - The Verge
To: Kim Cooper <>

Hello ANS group -- this is news about a coming new vehicle from a new company with a new/old concept.  Have a look -- there's pictures! It's all electric and has a U-shaped seating area, and a window looking down at the road.  Fun!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

ANS -- News headlines getting you down? Here's how to protect your mental health

I heard this man on the radio (CBC) and really liked what he had to say -- that humans work basically on cooperation.  That what we need to reduce stress is connection.  That just touching a person, even very briefly, can help calm you down.  this is the reason that people hug after a disaster.  Connection is the key.  He had chemical reasons, and he is science based.  Here is a summary of what he said.  If you go to the website you can hear the whole (54 minutes) program in podcast.


News headlines getting you down? Here's how to protect your mental health


In 2016, just before the U.S federal election, psychologist Steven Stosny noticed his clients in Washington, D.C. were coming to him with a surprising new concern that was affecting their mental well-being: their newsfeeds.

People were so upset by the news that it was having an impact on their relationships and mental health. It was happening in so many people that Stosny gave it a name - "election stress disorder." He imagined it was a temporary situation that would end when the election was over.

He was wrong. 

The upsetting news seemed only to escalate when Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency.  

One of his clients, a member of the Trump administration, came to Stosny with a crisis he was facing at home.

"His sixteen-year-old daughter threatened to commit suicide - and she hadn't been suicidal before - if he didn't leave the Trump administration... What this girl, the daughter, was under the influence of, was lots of social media about the headlines and they were blaming the Trump administration."

Stosny renamed the disorder to reflect this new reality, calling it 'headline stress disorder,' a situation which now seems here to stay.

"The ubiquity of [headlines], they're 24/7, there's a lot more competition so the headlines have to get more sensational to grab your interest. And the easiest way to grab people's attention is through fear or anger. "

Finding Solutions

Listening to your feelings is important, but remember to keep things in perspective, says Stosny.

"Your emotions are viewed as signals. They're like a smoke alarm. So when the smoke alarm goes off, you don't scream "We're all gonna die!" You look to see if there is a fire. If there is, you put it out."

Stosny has several recommendations for combating the powerlessness you feel when faced with an onslaught of bad news in the headlines. 

1.Read past the headline 

Read the entire article, not just the headline, say Stosny, and you'll probably feel better.

"People tend to only read the headlines or the brief summary, [but] if you really get into the details of the story... the details are usually not as bad as the headline sounds. Because remember: the headline is meant to grab your attention so you won't switch channels. And the easiest way to grab people's attention is through fear or anger."

2. Write down your concerns. 

"Write down your anxious thoughts. When anxiety is seizing your brain, your thoughts race. They go by very fast. And the faster they go, the less realistic they get. 

And then assign a probability. Anxiety is always the worst case scenario. So you write down what you're anxious about, then [you rate them] on a scale of 1 - 5, how likely is that to happen?

Anxiety is about possibility. And anything is possible. We have to live in the world of probability. How likely is it to happen?"

3. Connect with your friends and family.

"I don't think in the past 6 - 8 months that I have checked the news without going and hugging my wife." 

"What people tend to do when bad news comes, especially over social media, is disconnect. You know, you stay on your phone, you keep scrolling. ….so when we feel isolated, anxiety automatically goes up. You feel more vulnerable. There's more danger."

"Touch each other! Look in each other's eyes! It doesn't take much, just a few seconds, and that will be enough to give you a little oxytocin that will calm the anxiety."

"That's why after a disaster, like a flood or a hurricane, everybody on the TV is hugging. Strangers are hugging, people who ordinarily wouldn't like each other are hugging, because they are sensing that they need connection to keep from feeling out of control or despairing."

4.Take action to create the changes you want to see.

Stosny says creating change comes about when you focus on the kind of world you want to see, and then consider what can you do to bring it about. 

The answer may be "Not a lot, but you can do something! You can write letters, you can go to marches, but it's always got to be based on what you want. Not on what you don't want. That seems like a subtle distinction but it makes all the difference for how anxious you're going to feel, how resentful, or angry you're going to feel."

5.Connect to a spiritual practice

Even if you don't believe in a religion nor have a personal spiritual practice, Stosny says the idea of transcendence can still be very helpful in dealing with anxiety.

"Transcendence really means feeling connected to something larger than yourself. It overrides your immediate selfish concerns. And our brains function better when we are not self-obsessed."

Steven Stosny is the author of several books including "Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain under Any Kind of Stress."

Saturday, September 21, 2019

ANS -- Why Republicans Play Dirty

This is an opinion piece about why the Republicans play dirty.  Apparently, they fear they cannot win if they play by the rules.  That raises the question of why they feel they deserve to win unfairly if they cannot win fairly.  Does it mean they think they are better than you and they should be in charge even if we don't want them?


Why Republicans Play Dirty

They fear that if they stick to the rules, they will lose everything. Their behavior is a threat to democratic stability.

By Steven Levitsky and 

Mr. Levitsky and Mr. Ziblatt are political scientists and the authors of "How Democracies Die."

  • Sept. 20, 2019
CreditCreditChris Gash

The greatest threat to our democracy today is a Republican Party that plays dirty to win.

The party's abandonment of fair play was showcased spectacularly in 2016, when the United States Senate refused to allow President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February. While technically constitutional, the act — in effect, stealing a court seat — hadn't been tried since the 19th century. It would be bad enough on its own, but the Merrick Garland affair is part of a broader pattern.

Republicans across the country seem to have embraced an "any means necessary" strategy to preserve their power. After losing the governorship in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, Republicans used lame duck legislative sessions to push through a flurry of bills stripping power from incoming Democratic governors. Last year, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a Republican gerrymandering initiative, conservative legislators attempted to impeach the justices. And back in North Carolina, Republican legislators used a surprise vote last week on Sept. 11 to ram through an override of Gov. Roy Cooper's budget veto — while most Democrats had been told no vote would be held. This is classic "constitutional hardball," behavior that, while technically legal, uses the letter of the law to subvert its spirit.

Constitutional hardball has accelerated under the Trump administration. President Trump's declaration of a "national emergency" to divert public money toward a border wall — openly flouting Congress, which voted against building a wall — is a clear example. And the Supreme Court's conservative majority, manufactured by an earlier act of hardball, may uphold the constitutionality of the president's autocratic behavior.

Constitutional hardball can damage and even destroy a democracy. Democratic institutions only function when power is exercised with restraint. When parties abandon the spirit of the law and seek to win by any means necessary, politics often descends into institutional warfare. Governments in Hungary and Turkey have used court packing and other "legal" maneuvers to lock in power and ensure that subsequent abuse is ruled "constitutional." And when one party engages in constitutional hardball, its rivals often feel compelled to respond in a tit-for-tat fashion, triggering an escalating conflict that is difficult to undo. As the collapse of democracy in Germany and Spain in the 1930s and Chile in the 1970s make clear, these escalating conflicts can end in tragedy.

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Why is the Republican Party playing dirty? Republican leaders are not driven by an intrinsic or ideological contempt for democracy. They are driven by fear.

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Democracy requires that parties know how to lose. Politicians who fail to win elections must be willing to accept defeat, go home, and get ready to play again the next day. This norm of gracious losing is essential to a healthy democracy.

But for parties to accept losing, two conditions must hold. First, they must feel secure that losing today will not bring ruinous consequences; and second, they must believe they have a reasonable chance of winning again in the future. When party leaders fear that they cannot win future elections, or that defeat poses an existential threat to themselves or their constituents, the stakes rise. Their time horizons shorten. They throw tomorrow to the wind and seek to win at any cost today. In short, desperation leads politicians to play dirty.

Take German conservatives before World War I. They were haunted by the prospect of extending equal voting rights to the working class. They viewed equal (male) suffrage as a menace not only to their own electoral prospects but also to the survival of the aristocratic order. One Conservative leader called full and equal suffrage an "attack on the laws of civilization." So German conservatives played dirty, engaging in rampant election manipulation and outright repression in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


In the United States, Southern Democrats reacted in a similar manner to the Reconstruction-era enfranchisement of African-Americans. Mandated by the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870, black suffrage not only imperiled Southern Democrats' political dominance but also challenged longstanding patterns of white supremacy. Since African-Americans represented a majority or near-majority in many of the post-Confederate states, Southern Democrats viewed their enfranchisement as an existential threat. So they, too, played dirty.

Between 1885 and 1908, all 11 post-Confederate states passed laws establishing poll taxes, literacy tests, property and residency requirements and other measures aimed at stripping African-Americans of their voting rights — and locking in Democratic Party dominance. In Tennessee, where the 1889 Dortch Law would disenfranchise illiterate black voters, one newspaper editorialized, "Give us the Dortch bill or we perish." These measures, building on a monstrous campaign of anti-black violence, did precisely what they were intended to do: Black turnout in the South fell to 2 percent in 1912 from 61 percent in 1880. Unwilling to lose, Southern Democrats stripped the right to vote from millions of people, ushering in nearly a century of authoritarian rule in the South.

Republicans appear to be in the grip of a similar panic today. Their medium-term electoral prospects are dim. For one, they remain an overwhelmingly white Christian party in an increasingly diverse society. As a share of the American electorate, white Christians declined from 73 percent in 1992 to 57 percent in 2012 and may be below 50 percent by 2024. Republicans also face a generational challenge: Younger voters are deserting them. In 2018, 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Democrats by more than 2 to 1, and 30-somethings voted nearly 60 percent for Democrats.

Demography is not destiny, but as California Republicans have discovered, it often punishes parties that fail to adapt to changing societies. The growing diversity of the American electorate is making it harder for the Republican Party to win national majorities. Republicans have won the popular vote in presidential elections just once in the last 30 years. Donald Trump captured this Republican pessimism well when he told the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2016, "I think this is the last election the Republicans have a chance of winning because you are going to have people flowing across the border."

"If we don't win this election," Mr. Trump added. "you'll never see another Republican."

The problem runs deeper than electoral math, however. Much of the Republican base views defeat as catastrophic. White Christians are losing more than an electoral majority; their once-dominant status in American society is eroding. Half a century ago, white Protestant men occupied nearly all our country's high-status positions: They made up nearly all the elected officials, business leaders and media figures. Those days are over, but the loss of a group's social status can feel deeply threatening. Many rank-and-file Republicans believe that the country they grew up in is being taken away from them. Slogans like "take our country back" and "make America great again" reflect this sense of peril.

So like the old Southern Democrats, modern-day Republicans have responded to darkening electoral horizons and rank-and-file perceptions of existential threat with a win-at-any-cost mentality. Most reminiscent of the Jim Crow South are Republican efforts to tilt the electoral playing field. Since 2010, a dozen Republican-led states have adopted new laws making it more difficult to register or vote. Republican state and local governments have closed polling places in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, purged voter rolls and created new obstacles to registration and voting.

In Georgia, a 2017 "exact match law" allowed authorities to throw out voter registration forms whose information did not "exactly match" existing records. Brian Kemp, who was simultaneously Georgia's secretary of state and the 2018 Republican candidate for governor, tried to use the law to invalidate tens of thousands of registration forms, many of which were from African-Americans. In Tennessee, Republicans recently passed chilling legislation allowing criminal charges to be levied against voter registration groups that submit incomplete forms or miss deadlines. And in Texas this year, Republicans attempted to purge the voter rolls of nearly 100,000 Latinos.


The Trump administration's effort to include a citizenship question in the census to facilitate gerrymandering schemes that would, in the words of one party strategist, be "advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites," fits the broader pattern. Although these abuses are certainly less egregious than those committed by post-bellum Southern Democrats, the underlying logic is similar: Parties representing fearful, declining majorities turn, in desperation, to minority rule.

The only way out of this situation is for the Republican Party to become more diverse. A stunning 90 percent of House Republicans are white men, even though white men are a third of the electorate. Only when Republicans can compete seriously for younger, urban and nonwhite voters will their fear of losing — and of a multiracial America — subside.

Such a transformation is less far-fetched than it may appear right now; indeed, the Republican National Committee recommended it in 2013. But parties only change when their strategies bring costly defeat. So Republicans must fail — badly — at the polls.

American democracy faces a Catch-22: Republicans won't abandon their white identity bunker strategy until they lose, but at the same time that strategy has made them so averse to losing they are willing to bend the rules to avoid this fate. There is no easy exit. Republican leaders must either stand up to their base and broaden their appeal or they must suffer an electoral thrashing so severe that they are compelled to do so.

Liberal democracy has historically required at least two competing parties committed to playing the democratic game, including one that typically represents conservative interests. But the commitment of America's conservative party to this system is wavering, threatening our political system as a whole. Until Republicans learn to compete fairly in a diverse society, our democratic institutions will be imperiled.