*Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America*

Acclaimed legal scholar, Harvard Professor, and New York Times bestselling author Cass R. Sunstein brings together a compelling collection of essays by our nation’s brightest minds across the political spectrum—including Eric Posner, Tyler Cowen, Noah Feldman, Jack Goldsmith, and Martha Minow—who ponder the question: Can authoritarianism take hold here?

With the election of Donald J. Trump, many people on both the left and right feared that America’s 240-year-old grand experiment in democracy was coming to an end, and that Sinclair Lewis’ satirical novel, It Can’t Happen Here, written during the dark days of the 1930s, could finally be coming true.

Is the democratic freedom that the United States symbolizes really secure? Can authoritarianism happen in America? Sunstein queried a number of the nation’s leading thinkers. In Can It Happen Here? he gathers together their diverse perspectives on these timely questions and more.

In this thought-provoking collection of essays, these distinguished thinkers and theorists explore the lessons of history, how democracies crumble, how propaganda works, and the role of the media, courts, elections, and “fake news” in the modern political landscape—and what the future of the United States may hold.

Due out in March, pre-order here.  The book also has Jon Elster, Timur Kuran, and Jonathan Haidt, dare I call it self-recommending?


I would argue that already happened, at least twice, with Lincoln and With FDR.

Explain how FDR ended democracy. I understand the Lincoln argument.

While the forced sale of gold at the pre devaluation price of $20/oz might not be undemocratic, it was definitively fascist.

Also, FDR tried to dilute the supreme court, which was undemocratic, but the system prevailed.

FDR's court packing plan nominally failed but only because the Court decided to let him achieve his objectives without packing it [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_switch_in_time_that_saved_nine]. I guess there have been at least two Justice Roberts's in history that have made political accommodations to avoid challenging the President.

On the other hand the Court should show some deference to the other two branches of governance-- otherwise you are at risk of judicial usurpation of the political process.

FDR ran many more authoritarian programs, some still exist.

Regarding Gold, after promising not to confiscate people's money/gold coins in the election campaign, FDR almost immediately confiscated all the people's money (gold coins, gold is money) in April 1933. From 1837, (Congress set it - it's in the Constitution) the gold value was $20.67 per ounce. In 1934, with The Gold Reserve Act, FDR ordered a 69% devaluation to $35/ounce; and legalized the Federal government's ownership of all monetary gold (executive order April 1933 had confiscated all gold money).

If you don't see that as "authoritarian," I can't help you.

He and his gang hadn't completely thought it out. Until mid-1934, each ten/twenty dollar Federal Reserve Note still had on it embossed in Bold Caps, "WILL PAY TO THE BEARER TEN/TWENTY DOLLARS."

Another fun fact, enemies of the state were imprisoned for exceeding or undercutting government-set wages/prices.

Breaking a political promise is not the definition of authoritarianism.

FDR raised the price the government would pay for an ounce of gold from $20 to $35.

Please explain to me how paying a higher price for the citizens gold is confiscating their wealth.

Cass Sunstein displaying classic transference. Trumps election was a delay in America's inevitable turn left into authoritarianism

"Explain how FDR ended democracy."

The opposite of authoritarianism is not democracy; it's liberty, Limited Government or, dare I say it, libertarianism. FDR, with cooperation from his intimidated-through-threat-of-packing Supreme Court, struck down the most fundamental pillar of our Limited Government, limitation by enumeration. Under the original Constitution, Congress could exercise only those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution. FDR and his Court declared, outside the Amendment process, that the commerce clause allowed the Congress to do anything (not specifically prohibited elsewhere in the Constitution) because everything "relates" to commerce in some way or another. Note the switch: Congress can do only those things specifically allowed vs. Congress can do anything not specifically prohibited.

The case here was Wickard v. Filburn [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn]. I guess it's incorrect to refer to that Court as simply intimidated by FDR's court packing threat --- by that time FDR had appointed 8 of the 9 justices.

FDR's fascist fiasco -- the National Recovery Administration -- could not have come from any President who respected citizen liberty or the Constitution. Tyrants prefer personal flexibility.
And the cowardly Supreme Court only nullified it as a minor separation-of-powers over reach.

A mere 30% of eligible Americans voted for FDR in 1944.
Hardly a strong endorsement for a "beloved" wartime president, or for majority-rule democracy.

At the end of the day, he was the father of big government....and that's all he was . Even the people who supported him never claimed that he was smart. He didn't end the Depression and we would have won the war no matter who was President.

When he tried to pack the Supreme Court he got his comeuppance. Even his own VP was against him.

If you think of him as an upper class version of Obama you would be on the right track.

Fascism is much more democratic than its reputation would suggest; and, in much the same way, Democracy is much more authoritarian then its reputation would suggest. A libertarian dictatorship is in many ways more plausible than a libertarian democracy.

In most of the world, popular governments wind up with highly authoritarian policies (especially economically), see South America for an example. Europe and the Anglosphere are the exception, where liberal democracies are the norm (although European non-Anglo democracies were usually pretty authoritarian as well, and the post-war liberal democratic order in Western Europe seems to be a direct result of the Anglo-American victory in much the same way that the Communist order in Eastern Europe was the result of Soviet victory) -- though I dare say we get away with it by spending the liberal cultural capital that was built up starting with the Renaissance (and especially through the Enlightenment), and that this cultural capital cannot last forever.

Re: that this cultural capital cannot last forever.

Why not? We are still spending the cultural capital left by Greece and Rome. That "stuff" is not a countable asset because the past is always there and ready to be mined anew. It's not like we can somehow deplete the past of its existence.

Let's not forget that FDR also sent over 100,000 peaceful American citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps during WWII with no due process.

Wartime is the exception to the rule that capitalism outperforms communism/totalitarianism. In fact, the Soviets had a phrase recognizing this phenomena, it was called "wartime communism" and they tried without success to replicate it in peacetime. Hence Lincoln/FDR had to adopt command-and-control tactics during these periods to preserve capitalism and the American way. Trump is the dangerous exception to this rule as the USA is not at war yet. My thought experiment on how the USA turns totalitarian is simple: Trump fails to nuke North Korea, which develops multiple ICBMs and nukes several US cities, Seoul and Tokyo with fusion warheads. The American public demands "strong leadership" which steps in as a permanent solution. Trump is not the Antichrist, but he paves the way for a future American Hitler/Stalin.

Bonus trivia: "Pereira Declares" by Antonio Tabucchi is excellent fiction on how totalitarianism can affect ordinary people.

"Trump fails to nuke North Korea, ... he paves the way for a future American Hitler/Stalin."

Hmmm, this seems like a logical disconnect.

I thought he set out the logic pretty clearly. There are *assumptions* that could be questioned (NK gets a deliverable bomb; Kim will nuke a "western" city and bring down anihiliation, as opposed to just making threats; etc) but the logic is there.

Ok, that's a fair point. It is a logical argument. It's basically the argument for a President MacArthur replacing Truman.

"...the USA is not at war yet."

Combat activity by the US military is taking place all over the world. Maybe you could say that congress hasn't declared war on anyone since 1941. If that's the case why does the military award decorations for veterans of no wars?

What else has the river become than “visage of a colossal wreck,” as in Percy’s Ozymandias? This is to say the novel has gone beyond a story of a family and the trees and the shade; it has become programmatic. As Darl jumps from the wagon, he sees the mules “roll up out of the water in succession, turning completely over, their legs stiffly extended as when they had lost contact with the earth (149).” As it must have been too for Beethoven and Mozart when they heard Haydn’s Farewell symphony. As Cora says, “If he had been a man, he would a been there instead of making his sons do what he dursn’t” (153).

On the other hand, standing outside chatting with the bouncer about his future diet plans, Shelley's descendant (the bouncer) - direct descendant (as if) - got me into a Manhattan club I would not otherwise have gotten into. But that was back in my Amway days which was the only reason I cared... The older Bush was president at the time. So brave when young, so diminished in age! Well, better times are ahead for anyone with love - requited, unrequited, strong, or even weak but viable - for virtue. Is that what you were trying to say? Of course Faulkner is the bete noire for those who over-romanticize "giving up" and even better for those who always see Fascism lighting down on America while it has actually touched down just about everywhere else.... Not Faulkner's fault, would not have wanted him to marry my daughter but, had he offered to buy me one of those rotgut whiskey drinks, I would not have said no (would have discreetly spilled it on the floor when he looked away). Trees and the shade - nice. Not 'green fields' nice, but for 4 syllables, pretty good.

There arises a series of Condorcet loops, at 100 shells a minuet,

“Above the ceaseless surface they stand—trees, cane, vines—rootless, severed from the earth.." The sea's sure face, the seizure's cure, the Kaiser's sure façade........"the mules’ eyes a wild, sad, profound, despairing 1quality,..." ...wild, sad, profound, neither winced nor cried aloud...wild, sad, profound, wrath and tears, the horor of the shade (its despairing quality), the pair of nabakov and Flaubert, standing behind, the visage of a colossal wreck

2 Corinthians 5:21 - the most profound verse in the Bible? Pro - your precious Condorcet loops, apotheosized, by the best student of the best of rabbis (Gamaliel, O Gamaliel, as Faulkner would have said with a little less rotgut whiskey in those long afternoons and a little more Bible study ... but I digress) Con - Christmas is the holiday of friendship and love, Easter is good, of course, but it is more like a celebration on the steps of the courthouse, after the verdicts have been read and the sentences commuted. Christmas is when, out of friendship, God became a person, Easter is historically contingent, starting with Adam and Eve both - not just him, not just her, but both - forgetting that some day I , pobrecito, would be born and would have a bad life because she and he sinned. Kind of depressing, when you think about it, compared to Christmas, and a happy family that everyone is happy for, bringing gifts and singing songs that are really good songs. So, Corinthians 5:21, good, but not the most profound. Cor ad cor loquitur. No that would be some other verse. My money is on Philippians 1:3. Well, memorize them both this week, and get back to me with your opinion next month (Philippians 1:3 - I thank God every time I remember you - three characters, representing all of us, including the angels, who are memory themselves, and more, and two verbs.)

1 corinthians 15:26. Now there's a plan.

"the last Oyev to be abolished is Mavet" " the last enemy to be defeated is death" .... cheerful, right ?

I'm failing to see how Trump is implicated in this scenario. Is the claim that some other president would nuke North Korea, but that Trump, due to his naive pacifism, will not? The original thesis was that Trump was an incipient Hitler, not an incipient Neville Chamberlain.

Trump got the job offer.

What is the Great Successor's motive for bombing US cities? It would certainly bring down massive retaliation, including regime change by vaporization.

The only mechanism I can see whereby it would come about would be: NK launches a conventional invasion of SK, meanwhile informing SK's allies that any serious intervention would lead to nuclear retaliation; the US intervenes anyhow; and Kim has to make good on his threat, figuring that regime change is now inevitable and that he might as well give himself a Viking funeral. In such a case, though, I think that the US's retaliation would be quick and extensive enough that there wouldn't be time for the public to demand a Cincinnatus to deal with the situation.

Now, it's possible that Kim, instead of sending up mushroom clouds over major US cities, would choose the EMP option. If he's got thermonuclear capability, he could inflict considerable damage thus; and he wouldn't need a delivery vehicle capable of surviving atmospheric re-entry. That might lead to a longer-term crisis in the US, with the President using emergency wartime powers over a period of years in order to restore infrastructure. A President could learn to like that kind of power; and the prolonged crisis would give the public a chance to get used to the loss of freedom—especially the loss of other people's freedom.

In that case, though, I'd be more worried about how, say, a Sanders or a Warren would deal with the situation. A Trump might try to use the emergency to impose, say, restrictions on criticism of the President, but since his natural sympathies are with the greedy self-serving corporations, he's unlikely to nationalize them or to try to establish a Fascist-style national industrial organization. On the other hand, a progressive President would be naturally disposed to stick it to the corporations anyhow, and to take advantage of the crisis to establish a new and permanent NRA.

Nuclear EMP is massively, utterly, over-rated by lay commentators. There's exactly the right mix of terror and lack of information.

It ain't nowhere as effective as the VOX articles make out.

Agreed, the information commonly available on the internet is hyperbolic. That being said, we don't have enough real world evidence to come to a conclusion one way or another.

I don't know whether authoritarianism has "already happened", but Woodrow Wilson certainly not only thought it could but that it should. The big question in political theory over the next few years will be whether progressives reject or continue to accept Wilson's views that Donald Trump should be vested with great, unchecked, unconstrained powers.

Both were very short-lived flirtations with authoritarianism motivated by national emergencies. And note that in both cases regularly scheduled elections proceeded without hindrance-- and in Lincoln's case there was for a while a real possibility he would lose in 1864.

I thought that blurb was dreadful. Who wrote it?

P.S.: tense. Is the democratic freedom that the United States used to symbolize ...?

Yeah, to some degree it sounds as if it promises to be a just a high-brow outpouring of indignation about the Trump Administration. Concern trolling PhDs, in other words. Maybe it will be better than that, but I see no reason to be optimistic, given that blurb.

The authors and publishers can’t just say “Trump is nowhere near Hitler, he’s actually pretty close to the presidential norm except he’s more crude and narcissistic.”

Even if that’s the truth, it won’t provide the blurbs, the buzz and the sales!

I loathe Trump fervently, but he's not anywhere close to Hitler. He's Berlusconi.

Your argument would carry more force if it weren't coming from a complete cuckold.

Trump can bust my push open any day.

The core of the first Roosevelt brain trust consisted of a group of Columbia law professors (Moley, Tugwell, and Berle).

Did any of these guys get Trump's election right in the first place? Why would we now listen to their predictions about what's next?

Not even Trump thought he would win.

so therefore we should listen to the predictions of those who didn't predict Trump?

My point was if you only listen to predictions of those who 'predicted Trump' you pretty much have only Scott Adams. Also, you don't understand predictions and probability. You are probably one of those dumdums who think Nate Silver 'got it wrong' when he gave Trump a 30% chance to win on election eve.

"Can authoritarianism take hold here?"

President Barack Obama 2014 - "“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama said Tuesday as he convened his first Cabinet meeting of the year."

"Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity...They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices."

That scared me. The applause for the idea of tearing down separation of powers terrified me.

What a partisan snowflake. When your guy employs executive orders it's all good.

These are the crazy years.

The guy who expanded state authority over the individual via taxes and regulations, while appointing highly politicized judges, turning the IRS and possibly the NSA and FBI against political opponents, and wasting DNC funds massaging his public image - this guy we love as a man of the people.

The other guy who strips government of regulatory and taxation powers, while appointing apolitical originalist judges, maintaining a publicly antagonist relationship with bureaucrats and laying bare his often ugly personality on Twitter for all to see - well, this guy is secretly creating a fascist state.

The Trump era will be remembered for many things, and one will be the exposure of the intellectual elite as little different from catty teenaged girls who don’t like the new and popular cheerleader.

"apolitical" - go back to Russia.


Judging from the Left's paranoia, intolerance and desire to deplatform and otherwise muzzle dissenting opinions, it's safe to say that authoritarianism is already here.

Citizens who can't agree on the basics see no alternative but to silence or otherwise eliminate their rivals.
Impatience about progress & the inability to tolerate reasoned disagreement show there might be an increasing appetite just to crush the opposition instead of debating them.

Let's not forget the dirty tricks and the gaming of the process that shows that both sides have diminishing respect elections and their results. Russia? Birth Certificates? Hanging Chads? Whitewater?
Democratic sportsmanship & fair play may be dead.

Even before the elections they game the system. The left refuses to acknowledge that requiring photo ID might reduce voting fraud and is not an onerous discriminatory practice and almost all civilized countries, even the socialist European utopias they dream about require it. The right also hasn't entirely approached this issue completely honestly and could show their good faith for democracy by making balloting secure and convenient instead of using tricks and chicanery that make it burdensome in hope to depress turnout of their rivals.

Finally the left's efforts to import ringers to manipulate of demography & democracy are transparent and outrageous. What should they expect their opposition to do when they so often gloat that America's future is Brown and that Democrats can look forward to a permanent majority & one-party rule?

We've returned to a climate of mistrust and scheming to manipulate the system to our advantage, probably not seen since just before the Civil War. The bitter divisions to perhaps gain advantage or preserve balance of power surrounding the Missouri seem terribly familiar.

Except, of course, that it was Karl Rove who promissed Republicans a permanent majority. Republicans lost the popular vote in all presidential elections since 1992 with the lone exception of 2004.

Let's be blunt: the unavoidable internal contradictions of the American system make a house divided against itself out of America. Almost all Americans believe half of the country is treasonous and must be crushed by all possible means.

"Almost all Americans believe half of the country is treasonous and must be crushed by all possible means."

That's just laughably incorrect.

Are you sure? The depth of feeling may vary, but I can quickly construct a variety of cases where you get a hard 50/50(ish) split.

Guns: Pro? You likely believe as the supreme court does that weapons are a constitutional guarantee that shall not be infringed. Con? You believe a whole massive swath of guns (or all of them) are not covered under any constitutional protection (or if they are it is a core error) and should be controlled or banned. No matter which camp you are in, the other camp is dangerous and deluded. I suppose treason only applies to the Ds, who want to ignore the constitution.

Choice/Abortion: Pro? The fundamental job of the government is to preserve and protect individual freedoms from those who would take them away (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). Those who are against abortion are against personal choice for women, and so any government action to reduce choice is antithetical to the core reason we have government. R? You likely believe the same thing, with the exception you consider the fetuses as people (and because they don't have a choice while the women do, protecting the unborn is more important a job than protecting the women's freedom, and so for the government to allow any form of abortion is antithetical to the core reason we have government.

I can keep going, but I give much more truth to A Truth Seeker's statement.

"Are you sure? The depth of feeling may vary, ..."

The depth of feeling per the quote was: " is treasonous and must be crushed by all possible means".

Most Democrats aren't actively trying to kill Republicans nor vice versa.

They just don't think it is expedient to strike now. So what? Bad blood flowed for a long war before the South attacked. Also, people keep saying they are being oppressed, repressed and liquidated. It is the core of left wing criticism of killings by the police and, as I said, Kupelian states that the state has gone Nero and presecutes Christians. Do you really doubt he would love to persecute leftists?

In America, politics has become war by other means.

One just have to read America's press.

According to Mr. Krugman, America has become a failing state. According to Mr. Kupelian, America is bizarre and Americans Christians are persecuted by a totalitarian state. According to the New York Times, Mr. Trump's notions are bizarre. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/opinion/trump-kelly-republicans-history.html
According to George Gilder, secularism is satanical.

According to FOX News, the CIA wants to overthrow Trump. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/02/18/im-democrat-and-ex-cia-but-spies-plotting-against-trump-are-out-control.html

No, he is not.

I am the great cuckold not Krugman.

Stop impersonating me, blackguard!!

Trump can bang my backend any day

Wrong. At least half of the country is oblivious to it. And wouldn't care even if they weren't oblivious.

Re: . The left refuses to acknowledge that requiring photo ID might reduce voting fraud

Photo IDs aren't much an answer because the real problem lies in the registration process, notably the ability to have multiple valid registrations active in different places. Almost every instance of voter fraud identified in the present era has involved people voting (often by absentee ballot) in more than one jurisdiction. We need a national registration database to deal with that- but I hear no calls for that. As far as IDs go, I'd support a national ID card, one provided to all adult citizens free of charge (and without onerous red tape requirements). Bonus feature: it could double as an ID for employment purposes. Individual states cannot be trusted in this area since they can and do put up all kinds of obstacles to keep the "wrong" people from voting.

Steven Pinker's new book looks to be on a similar topic:


A shame that the NYT got scared and dropped Khan. He would've been such an interesting op-ed writer these past couple years, and could've exposed NYT readers to truly different viewpoints in a civil way.

"exposed NYT readers to truly different viewpoints in a civil way"

That's why the NYT dropped him.

So this is how liberty does in America... with thunderous applause.

Yes, this is how Liberty does in America ... with thunderous applause. Is Liberty in Brazil greeted with shocked silence?

I meant "dies". The keyboard is too little.

I find the blurb to be backwards. The election of PDT shows the people democratically revolting against Authoritarianism. It has been proven that the DNC stacked the deck to get HRC elected. The only thing that got in it's way is PDT and the "deplorable" people who voted for him. How can you see it any other way?

And don't say "Russians" because that argument is becoming more and more ridiculous by the day.

Have you ever considered Russians? I saw a Russian under my bed yesterday telling me to get my news from more than one source. Then there was the Russian the day before that, hiding in the bushes, who said to reject identity politics. Then a Russian subliminally edited my newspaper this very morning to say that international deals should be re-examined from time to time! The Russians are undermining our free society!

Those gosh darn Russians. One of them even turned my milk sour last week, and I'm pretty sure they're responsible for the low harvest this year. We should declare war!


Pacific Daylight Time was elected?

It lost the popukar vote, but took the electoral college.

don’t say “Russians”

Go read of Don Jr and private messages to Wikileaks.


No wonder Don Sr, in a Jerry Lewis version of Authoritarianism, warns against CNN.

Luckily Don Jr has released all the communications. Nothing there.

When exactly did we enter a world where a candidate's son communicating with computer hackers (criminals under US law) was fine?

Stolen goods.

When? forever. We even have laws that protect whistleblowers.

Anyways, if you'd bother to read the exchange, he replied three times to their many messages, not really even engaging in anything with them much.

Are you going to pretend that if Chinese hackers had stolen similar GOP emails, and Chelsea Clinton had coordinated with them during a campaign, that would be fine because she was a "whistleblower?"

That should be funny to watch. Go ahead, try that one out.

But on a more serious level this is how the GOP has inched itself to moral bankruptcy.

There's no doubt partisan hacks like TMC and others here would of course be ripping the Dems if their people had done the same thing. But I wonder, Anonymous, would YOU be ripping the Dems as much as you are ripping the Reps on this?

If you want a higher morality, ask everyone what theirs is, by their lights, and ask them to aspire to it.

If you want a lower morality, undermine every effort along those lines.

Non sequitur much? I take it you are declaring partisanship. It's a free country of course.

Not a non sequitur, but maybe over your head.

If you want to test whether someone is playing a side (or in your case both-side-ism), ask them for a higher principle. If they can name one, and stick with it, they are not being partisan (nor jerking off with "both sides do it").

I saw a study recently, based on some polls, which said Americans in general are less able to name an ideology (and stick with it, let alone a moral principle) and increasingly just make the partisan binding.

Your dual mistake is to believe that includes everybody, and that it should remain everybody going forward.

Do better.

Or you could just answer the question. If the Dems played footsie with the Russians the way the Reps probably did, would you be squalling about it or dismissing it as a big nothing like Hillary's servers? I think we know the answer but here's your chance to show us something.

This is the kind of nonsense (jerking off) that makes me call you a nihilist. You don't believe in anything, and so you can't relate to anyone even trying.

In this case higher principles are pretty easy to name, starting with "don't lie and don't steal." After that you can say "don't break campaign laws" or "don't break data security laws, nor assist those who do."

Not hard, if you believe in "things."

LOL at you think anyone here cares what you call them. I believe some things are a big deal and some are not. I believe politics involves plenty of dirty tricks and getting help from Russia is one of those. I also believe it didn't affect the election outcome. I am much more concerned with active voter suppression by Reps at the state level, that's a much bigger deal than Russians. I'm not talking voter ID, I'm ok with voters having to provide ID. But the Reps make sure that only their tribe's IDs are ok (student ID no, gun license yes). Then they understaff or outright close (early or even all day) polling stations in minority neighborhoods, require students to go home to vote, etc. That cynical evil doesn't have a Dem analog.

I said earlier "If you want a higher morality, ask everyone what theirs is, by their lights, and ask them to aspire to it." I think that beats "dirty tricks are fine" - but beyond that it is a question of law.

We have a boatload of election law because we decided, as a nation, that dirty tricks were not acceptable. We have a special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, because there are laws.

" I am much more concerned with active voter suppression by Reps"

You're calling ME a partisan hack? lol.

As for the hacking, I don't condone it, but it wasn't the republicans who did it, nor wikilinks. Once you have information of a lot of crooked tricks you do have some ethical obligation to make it known to all. It's not like Podesta got caught with a girlfriend, there was a lot of dirt there. Also, the Republicans did get hacked, but apparently there was little incriminating evidence there. They had no issue letting the FBI look at the servers involved. Are they just nicer people, or smarter not to leave a crap load of evidence around? I don't know.

"Is the democratic freedom "

We are not a democracy, we are a republic. California, which is 15% of our economy, has already restricted the right of assembly and voting due to legal, and unconstitutional, restrictions. But we get away with it because we are net donors to the Swamp. In our past a lot of the states were quite authoritarian.

But we cannot be authoritarian in DC as it would simply cost too much to police across the North American continent. The plan,instead, is to generate our regular generational default, suffer a few years of very high inflation, then go back into severe debt. That is the plan, anyway, it is how we normally do it. No authoritarianism, just default.

What planet are you on lol.

The belief that Trump represents some final end of the US experiment with democracy or that Trump represents some dramatic form of authoritarianism seems unhinged and deranged.

One year after Trump's election victory, and towards the end of his first year of governance, what has been so horrible? Insulting CNN? Trump's rude tweets? Trump's orthodox conservative domestic agenda on health care and taxes? Attempts at limiting and tuning future immigration levels?

Even committed Trump opponents acknowledge that Trump is actually less authoritarian than Obama. Trump has shrunk the size and scope of his own executive branch. Betsy DeVos is controversial for scaling back the size and scope of the federal Department of Education. Trump has done similar controversial regulation cuts in environmental and energy departments.

To cite some strong anti-Trump writers agreeing with this:

He has also nominated Federalist society approved conservative to the Supreme Court and lower courts to universal conservative praise.

Not to mention obeying the various "travel ban" decisions with a minimum of complaints but no defiance whatsoever. Some tyrant.

Not to mention obeying the various “travel ban” decisions with a minimum of complaints but no defiance whatsoever.

I like to think he's picking his battles. If we're to restore self-government in this country, the legal profession will have to be gelded, the federal judiciary in particular.

Agreed on all points...

"Self satirizing" may be better than "self recommending" on this one?

A whole book of liberals and NeverTrumpers whining.


We'll know we're going to authoritarianism if the semi-auto weapons are confiscated. You can't have authoritarianism without doing that first.

Or the right to own a tank (legal) or fighter jet (id). Even hand grenades. After all, a 'well regulated militia', according to the NRA*, means one capable of fighting any competent modern army, so I guess like Ray Bradbury's short story, suburbanite preppers would need to carry nuclear weapon missiles as well.

Sentence fragment from an excellent NY Times article on the 2nd Amend.: "“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon. ... Enter the modern National Rifle Association [to overturn this interpretation starting in 1977]"

The Supreme Court is hardly an honest arbiter. I trust you are familiar with many of their inane decisions.

For example, I find it immensely ironic that the Supreme Court just up and discovered a Constitutional right to privacy. Of course, this right only works when one is having an abortion. The elusive "right to privacy" does not seem to exist for other medical procedures. Nor does it the right to privacy extend to plants grown on your own property - even if indoors or underground! Really remarkable, this right to privacy.

I haven't yet been able to find the relevant passage in the Constitution nor it's amendments, but evidently it's in there somewhere: All men and women have a fundamental right to privacy, so long as they do nothing other than get abortions.

Nobody on the Supreme Court has any real self-confidence. Maybe Alito or Thomas. The rest of the crowd at that particular old folks' home know that they are where they are because they went along to get along. It is never too late to change, but as Jonah Goldberg, companion human to Snowball the Wonder Dog, wisely says, nothing is going to change.

That being said, my favorite cook book was written by Martin Ginsburg. Great stuff - the guy was a chemist by training, spent a couple years in the army (where one learns to cook or one learns to eat bad food every day). And, in real life, Brennan was super polite to me the one time I met him (in the basement of my law school, he thought I was just a polite person who thought he was just holding a door for some random old guy - and I think he was happy to think he was not recognized), and Souter was clearly grateful that I pretended not to recognize him when he was walking out of Olsson's Books in Alexandria, near the river, in February, wanting to think quiet thoughts and not be recognized. Justice Ginsburg's husband was one of the few academics I have met who had no arrogance whatsoever (if you ever met him you would know what I am talking about). My con law professor was a dear friend of Thurgood Marshall's, and she was a nice person, so he gets some of the reflected credit. Still, they were all tragically wrong on important issues. Well, history goes on, even the most famous people alive today will one day be footnotes, what is important is not using power badly. Roe v Wade and its progeny - those are 6 words that, hundreds of years from now, some scholar will look upon with profound disappointment and sadness and, to be blunt, disgust. Those who are not scholars, in those far off days, will not be aware.

Wow. Attempts at tying a government power to the militia clause are always stupid, but this is the most embarrassing effort I've ever seen

Hard to judge something by a blurb but... when is this insanity going to stop? What has Trump really done that is outside of the norm? Even though I didn't vote for him and do not like his style, I find the left attitude towards him really childish. Of course, this is nothing new (Naomi Klein did say that GWB was not going to leave office) but it has reached levels that are silly and scary.

Concur, but the other side did it (and still does) with Obama. We're just in a hyperpartisan phase, have been since the mid 90s.

The political system in toto is a corrupt broken down wreck. Authoritarianism might conceivably lead to more just outcomes. Provided, of course, you get Pinochet and not Peron.

"Provided, of course, you get Pinochet and not Peron."
And you give him nine years of absolute power to wreck the country and enrich his cronies and another eight years to start picking the pieces of the country. When he left power, Chine was poorer, as compared to other Latin American countries (which did not fare so well in the eighties themselves) than when Allende was trashing the country. It is a wonderful way to waste seventeen years.

The communists in Chile were out of control and wreaking havoc on the people. Pinochet stepped in and restored order. He was the right man in that situation, and I would argue one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century... along with Kemal Ataturk for replacing islamic with secular law.

Again, he spent nine years trashing the country further and another eight returning the country to the place it occupied before. If Americans had tried to work with Chile's moderates instead of imposing a totalitarian regime over the country ( http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch26-01.htm ), things would have been different.

Darth Deco: Authoritarianism might conceivably lead to more just outcomes.

...and so the fascist at last comes out of the closet.

I'm almost proud of you. You've finally exposed your true self.

What's amusing about you is that you cannot reliably interpret a simple statement and cannot describe the world around you in anything but caricature and cannot (to take one example) understand ordinary descriptive statistics. Yet you think quite highly of yourself.

What's amusing about you is the total lack of self-awareness and hypocrisy you exhibit in posts like these. In other words, pot meet kettle.

Ah there it is, Art's now on the record as a fascist. Just as long as it's a right fascist and not a left one.

A perfect example of the cure being far worse than the disease.

Nice try, but Sunstein's book does not include my essay "Goedel's Loophole": https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2010183
Abstract: "The mathematician and philosopher Kurt Gödel reportedly discovered a deep logical contradiction in the US Constitution. What was it? In this paper, the author revisits the story of Gödel’s discovery and identifies one particular “design defect” in the Constitution that qualifies as a “Gödelian” design defect. In summary, Gödel’s loophole is that the amendment procedures set forth in Article V self-apply to the constitutional statements in Article V themselves, including the entrenchment clauses in Article V. Furthermore, not only may Article V itself be amended, but it may also be amended in a downward direction (i.e., through an “anti-entrenchment” amendment making it easier to amend the Constitution). Lastly, the Gödelian problem of self-amendment or anti-entrenchment is unsolvable. In addition, the author identifies some “non-Gödelian” flaws or “design defects” in the Constitution and explains why most of these miscellaneous design defects are non-Gödelian or non-logical flaws."

Fascism in America? It’s happening sez Naomi, (Woolf, not Klein).

This is from 2007, exactly ten years ago. How prescient? Not very.


good grief naomi woolf and naomi klein are two different people, I hadn't registered

Oh look, Thor found something wrong someone said 10 years ago.

To the extent that the military would be needed for such a regime to come to power, I don't see it happening here. I lived recently in an apartment house that was about half military, and I simply can't see any scenario in which our political differences, to the extent they were even that important or different, could lead us to killing each other.

It wasn't until Clinton that the political views and party allegiance of the military diverged more than 1-2% from civilians. Electing a draft dodger to be the commander in chief had an understandable effect.

What's the effect it's having with the current Dodger in Chief?

Never is a long time, but let's just say, "No". And also let's say that there's clearly less reason to fear it now with Trump than there was with Obama -- a man who decided his will must be done and if Congress wouldn't act, he would be forced' to pass the 'necessary' laws through executive orders and regulation -- and who the press and intellectuals cheered on in the process. One of the most worrying trends toward authoritarianism in American government is the ever greater concentration of power in the presidency, and Obama was clearly the worst president in my lifetime in that regard. But 'leading thinkers' seem to worry about authoritarianism descending when and only when there's a Republican president:


Is Naomi Wolf contributing a chapter?

It is not entirely un-apropos to bring up the great Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention song, It Can't Happen Here, clearly based on the novel. It actually was quite influential--and not just among pimply teenagers in the suburbs who dared to think they might oneway be as cool as Maynard G Krebs...


For comparison:


Basically you dislike adversarial law, while defending attacks on a law based society.

Serious question. Is there a chapter on the Obama administration using the security agencies to spy on political opponents?

I'll be honest. If there isn't, with such a title, I would spit in the face of the authors.

Derek, Are you a Putin bot? What are they supposed to do if they have evidence that Putin is interfering with our election?

Or an amateur bot. Because certainly a living, breathing, human striving for honesty would not claim that an intelligence investigation under FISA rules was just an administration spying on political opponents.

Holey smokes, what would derek require, that if anyone politically active also colludes with a foreign government it cannot be investigated because that "colluder" is also someone's "opponent?"

The bar for an administration using security agencies to spy on political opponents should be *extemely* high -- wouldn't you agree? Was it in this case? Was the evidence clear and compelling (and not just that dodgy Fusion GPS dossier?) Do you think the Obama administration had a track record of being reticent to use state power against political opponents? And will you be as credulous if the Trump administration claims to have evidence compelling it to wire-tap its opponents in 2020? (Of course, that's assuming the Trump administration will have gained effective control of the agencies by then, which does not seem assured at this point).

Isn't it easy to distinguish top down interference from bottom up crime solving?

No it isn't easy at all. There will always be interested parties ready to produce and provide the necessary evidence under contract (which seems a fair description of the dossier).

Man, you don't even know what happened, do you?


Quicker read. Dems paid for a fake dossier on Trump. FBI didn't believe any of it but used it to spy on Trump. Rice used it to unmask Trump's name.

Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he spent interfering in Israel's election. A frickin ally.

Do you mean Sheldon Adelson?

No, why would I care what a private citizen does? Obama spent state department money to oppose Netanyahu.

"Some $350,000 was sent to OneVoice, ostensibly to support the group’s efforts to back Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement negotiations. But OneVoice used the money to build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama’s campaign — all of which set the stage for an anti-Netanyahu campaign, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a bipartisan staff report."

Public spending, with a public audit trail, is not at all like hacking, impersonating, astroturfing.

To claim moral equivalence is one more way to moral bankruptcy.

Mr. Netanyahu survived the election, and the U.S. spending was not deemed illegal because the State Department never put any conditions on the money. Investigators also said OneVoice didn’t turn explicitly political until days after the grant period ended.
“The State Department ignored warnings signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” said Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the investigative subcommittee. “It is completely unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed — immediately after the grant ended — against the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East. American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.”

Seems like OneVoice was "impersonating" as an organization that was for one purpose, peace-settlement efforts, and then actually being an anti Netanyahu campaign organization. Woopsie

By impersonating I really meant a foreign actor masquerading as a domestic one, as in the famous:


OneVoice seems to have been a loosely organized grass roots organization, but a real one. It wasn't spooks at Langley making it all up.

OneVoice seems to have been a loosely organized grass roots organization, but a real one. It wasn’t spooks at Langley making it all up.

If a real one, staffed with fantasists. Why would the State Department be cutting checks to fools? You've got two choices: (1) the Foreign Service is populated with fools or (2) they knew perfectly well for what the funds would be used.

TMC, I was unfamiliar with OneVoice, but apparently you are far more unfamiliar with it.

Here is a Wiki link describing its activities since 2002: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OneVoice_Movement


You have a problem. You just make up stuff.

From Wiki: In February 2015, the United States Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, began an inquiry to determine what connection, if any, existed between a United States State Department grant of $300,000 to OneVoice and its subsequent involvement with V15. In July 2016, the Subcommittee's report was published, concluding that "OneVoice Israel's conduct fully complied with the terms of its agreements with the State Department and governing grant guidelines" and that "the Subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections."[32]

From the link above.

I make stuff up? I must be one hell of a guy. Got a wikipedia page about my claims, a Senate subcommittee checking them out too. Look at the posts above your last one. There seems to be a lot going on that I just made up. Let's see "“the Subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections.”[32]" Not that they didn't send money to do so. If this were an econ site, someone might mention money is fungible.

Also interesting: "This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)
A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. (December 2016)"

Boy, the rest of the Senate report makes me feel much better:

"The Subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to
influence the 2015 Israeli elections. Soon after the grant period ended,
however, OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in
part, with State Department grants funds to support V15. In service of V15,
OneVoice deployed its social media platform, which more than doubled
during the State Department grant period; used its database of voter contact
information, including email addresses, which OVI expanded during the grant period; and enlisted its network of trained activists, many of whom
were recruited or trained under the grant, to support and recruit for V15.
This pivot to electoral politics was consistent with a strategic plan developed
by OneVoice leadership and emailed to State Department officials during the
grant period. The State Department diplomat who received the plan told the
Subcommittee that he never reviewed it.
• OneVoice’s use of government-funded resources for political purposes was not
prohibited by the grant agreement because the State Department placed no
limitations on the post-grant use of those resources. Despite OneVoice’s
previous political activism in the 2013 Israeli election, the Department failed
to take any steps to guard against the risk that OneVoice could engage in
political activities using State-funded grassroots campaign infrastructure
after the grant period.

And the big conclusion"

But as described in Parts IV and VI of this
report, within days after the grant period ended, OneVoice deployed the campaign
infrastructure and resources created using grant funds to support an antiNetanyahu
political campaign called V15. That use of government-funded
resources for political purposes was permitted by the grant because the State
Department failed to adequately guard against the risk that campaign resources
could be repurposed in that manner—as described in Parts II and IV.

Looks like your full of it Bill.


Why do you ignore the conclusion of the Committee's Report?

Here is the link to the Committee's Report and not TMC's excisions: http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/download/joint-staff-report_-review-of-us-state-department-grants-to-onevoice

Here is the complete Executive Summary of the Committee's Report:

On December 2, 2014, at the urging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Knesset voted to schedule new national parliamentary elections for March 2015. Within weeks, an international organization known as the OneVoice Movement absorbed and funded an Israeli group named Victory15 or “V15” and launched a multimillion-dollar grassroots campaign in Israel. The campaign’s goal was to elect “anybody but Bibi [Netanyahu]” by mobilizing center-left voters.1 The Israeli and Palestinian arms of OneVoice, OneVoice Israel (OVI), and OneVoice Palestine (OVP), received more than $300,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department to support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine over a 14- month grant period ending in November 2014.2 In February 2015, the Subcommittee initiated an inquiry concerning the connection, if any, between OneVoice’s State Department grant funds and V15’s political activity. This report outlines the findings from that investigation.
The Subcommittee concludes:
• OneVoice Israel fully complied with the terms of its State Department grants. OneVoice designed and executed a grassroots and media campaign to promote public support for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for the Department, as it said it would. Under the grant, OneVoice expanded its social media presence, built a larger voter database, and hired an American political consulting firm to train its activists and executives in grassroots organizing methods in support of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
• The Subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections. Soon after the grant period ended, however, OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grants funds to support V15. In service of V15, OneVoice deployed its social media platform, which more than doubled during the State Department grant period; used its database of voter contact information, including email addresses, which OVI expanded during the grant period; and enlisted its network of trained activists, many of whom were recruited or trained under the grant, to support and recruit for V15. This pivot to electoral politics was consistent with a strategic plan developed by OneVoice leadership and emailed to State Department officials during the grant period. The State Department diplomat who received the plan told the Subcommittee that he never reviewed it.
• OneVoice’s use of government-funded resources for political purposes was not prohibited by the grant agreement because the State Department placed no limitations on the post-grant use of those resources. Despite OneVoice’s previous political activism in the 2013 Israeli election, the Department failed to take any steps to guard against the risk that OneVoice could engage in political activities using State-funded grassroots campaign infrastructure after the grant period.

The conclusion was that it didn't violate the grant's rules, not that it wasn't used in swaying the election. It details have resources paid for by the grant were used to campaign. Which was the claim made.

If authoritarianism ever actually comes to america it'll be through these people: https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/37503/

" brightest minds across the political spectrum"... Let's see, two legs good, four legs bad...until...

On August 1914...

"By his own experience, Colonel Vorotyntsev comes to realize that “educated people were more cowardly when confronted by left-wing loudmouths than in face of machine guns.” In one remarkable scene, he finds himself in an informal meeting of garrulous Kadets. “Each of them knew in advance what the others would say. But . . . it was imperative for them to meet and hear all over again what they collectively knew. They were all overpoweringly certain they were right, yet they needed these exchanges to reinforce their certainty.” Oddly enough, Vorotyntsev, who thinks quite differently, finds himself echoing their beliefs, and wonders: what exactly is the pull that he and other conservatives or moderates experience on such occasions? I have not seen this question, as relevant today as ever, addressed anywhere else, and Solzhenitsyn handles it brilliantly. Vorotyntsev at last breaks free “from the unbearable constraints, the bewitchment.” It is his escape from this “bewitchment” that makes Professor Andozerskaia, who witnesses it, fall in love with him...." Gary Morson, The New Criterion 10-17

Their argument isn't against authoritarianism; it's against the particular authoritarian--and his voters--who got the Executive branch.

Political correctness is patently authoritarian, even totalitarian. Is there a chapter on that?

Anyway, you start the identity politics-fight and one side or the other will finish it. Welcome to the future you chose.

Political correctness is patently authoritarian, even totalitarian. Is there a chapter on that?

The signature of this site is that neither moderator has the cojones to discuss the pathologies of institutional life in higher education. Tenure is good for just what?

Too bad Art doesn't start a site to handle those discussions.

He (she?)* used to have a site that he linked through his name. As I recall, its focus was on various internal Catholic matters, not politics, but I only briefly scrolled through it once.

Regardless, a personal site at this stage would be redundant. His political commentary would be perfectly at home on sites such as Stormfront.

*It's occurred to me that AD could just as easily be a proverbial, but particularly repressed "crazy cat lady." His relentlessly pissy, scolding demeanor is consistent with that of the sort of cranky, uptight spinster parodied in Dana Carvey's old "Church Lady" SNL skit.

alt.Nazis only need to win one election. Instead of writings books that nobody reads, I'd suggest exiling a few hundred thousand alt.Nazis to Arctic Alaska. This can be done in a matter of weeks.


Trump, a fraudster with mafia friends, belongs in the Russian government, not the US.

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