December 11, 2021

Rx for 2024: No, Not Trump. No, Not Biden.

by Hal Gershowitz

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America needs a political high colonic.

The American political diet currently suffers from too much bile-induced roughage, and a change of menu is needed if a well-balanced, well-functioning, healthy political system is to be maintained. This column is not about criticizing the table set by the former president or the current president of the United States, but rather about recognizing the need for a rational, new political menu. The current political diet is killing us. It is loaded with high-energy, low-value, deadly junk food that can be lethal to our democracy and our democratic institutions.

I recently addressed a large discussion group with well over 100 in attendance. I asked everyone to raise their hand who, during the past year, had not experienced significant political divisiveness and stress within their family. Not a single hand was raised.

As we look to 2024, we need to shift from our two-man roster of current and immediate-past oval office occupants to newer, younger, less toxic personas with fresh faces, fresh ideas, and fresh messages. We have to escape from the miasma that permeates our national politics. We have to be done with the current milieu of mal contentedness, and the politics of destruction. We desperately need an intervention.

America is experiencing a growing and dangerous flirtation with authoritarianism. We can look away, but we can’t pretend it is nothing about which to be concerned. Many Americans might be horrified to ponder the question of an authoritarian America. It appears many Americans, however, would tragically respond,—so what?

The great danger of authoritarian leaders in a constitutional democracy is that the constitution itself can be quickly relegated to the status of a quaint relic, if not to the dustbin of history altogether. Constitutional order can, and on occasion, has been swept aside in the interest of expediency. Elections can become inconveniences, if not impediments, to an authoritarian leader, and coups can become efficient expediencies. Authoritarianism is dangerous, very dangerous, to the survival of constitutional democracy.

And so, figuratively speaking, political chefs have prepared authoritarian banquets before. Many Americans have become attracted to a political menu of mean morsels being served up by a cadre of new authoritarian chefs eager to appease these new and dangerous appetites. We are seeing it today in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, and even in tiny Slovenia, to name but a few foreign examples. Authoritarianism is on the march. The efforts to undo an American election, and the preparations that are underway to try again in three years, if deemed necessary, demonstrate that authoritarian drums are beating here as well.

Until well into the 20th century, authoritarian regimes and monarchies controlled much of the world. It wasn’t until the First World War that the major governing monarchies began to fall. During the 100 years between 1914 and 2014 half of the world’s monarchies fell, and the number of republics rose from a scant four to thirty-four. Four absolute monarchies, however, still reign today in Brunei, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Democratically elected leaders in America have, on more than one occasion, flirted with the suspension of constitutional guardrails in the interest of priorities that seemed necessary and expeditious. That’s how habeas corpus was suspended during our Civil War. And that’s how, in 1942, we incarcerated over 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry, approximately 80,000 of whom were American citizens, and all of whom were living in America legally, and none of whom were found to have had any relationship with the regime that attacked Pearl Harbor.

In a sense we are still feeling our way, and, today, there is more backsliding than there is progress. COVID has given a number of authoritarian politicians or authoritarian regimes an opportunity to tighten authoritarian measures at the cost of liberal democratic governance. A lesson that all politicians learn is to never let a crisis go to waste.

So, America is far from immune to authoritarian thrusts into our body politic. Quite to the contrary, according to Morning Consult, one of the world’s leading survey research organizations, 26% of our fellow citizens in the United States embrace right-wing authoritarianism. That’s huge. It is twice the size of the equivalent authoritarian cohort found in Canada or Australia. It is not new either. We have had our swoon with the Huey Longs, the Charles Lindberg’s and the so-called America Firsters, the George Wallace’s, the Steve Bannon’s, and the Donald Trump’s.

Not every American authoritarian-leaning president has, however, been an evil provocateur. After all, John Adams was an authoritarian. So were, at various times, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among others. Sometimes, world events, such as an attack on our country, have made authoritarian leadership tolerable, maybe even preferable. But any amelioration of our constitutional order should be extraordinarily rare and tolerated only under the most extreme circumstances.

A major problem we face is the mislabeling of news. Just about half of the country regularly consumes what it assumes is news from social media, about a third from Facebook alone. Little of the so-called news traffic on Facebook and Twitter really constitute news by any reasonable definition of the term. The so-called news is served up to us by social media as determined by machine-learning supercomputer algorithms that know what information we respond to, and how much time (or interest) we will devote to a particular subject or point of view. When these supercomputers determine what information we are inclined to accept, they will begin sending more of that “news” to the exclusion of other real news. And the recipients of this messaging think they are being well informed.

And so, we must recognize the lethality of political poison when it is served up as news to our body politic. It will invariably result in what might be called IBS, my shorthand for Irritable Ballot Syndrome. My pallet, for example, can no longer stomach those Senators and Representatives who were quite willing to subvert our constitutional democracy in the interest of a failed coup promoted by a defeated President who was, and still is, the leader of their party.

In the Senate, there are eight: Ted Cruz (TX), Josh Hawley (MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Cynthia Lummis (WY), John Kennedy (LA), Roger Marshall (KS), Rick Scott (FL), and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

 And, in the House of Representatives there are 147: Robert Aderholt (AL),Rick Allen (GA),Jodey Arrington (TX), Brian Babin (TX), Jim Baird (IN), Jim Banks (IN), Cliff Bentz (OR), Jack Bergman (MI), Stephanie Bice (OK), Andy Biggs (AZ), Dan Bishop (NC) Lauren Boebert (CO),Mike Bost (IL), Mo Brooks (AL),Ted Budd (NC), Tim Burchett (TN), Michael Burgess (TX), Ken Calvert (CA), Kat Cammack (FL), Jerry Carl (AL), Buddy Carter (GA), John Carter (TX), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Steve Chabot (OH), Steve Chabot (OH), Andrew Clyde (GA), Tom Cole (OK), Rick Crawford (AR), Warren Davidson (OH), Scott DesJarlais (TN),Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Byron Donalds (FL), Jeff Duncan (SC), Neal Dunn (FL), Ron Estes (KS), Pat Fallon (TX), Michelle Fischbach (MN), Scott Fitzgerald (WI), Chuck Fleischmann (TN), Virginia Foxx (NC), Scott Franklin (FL), Russ Fulcher (ID), Matt Gaetz (FL), Mike Garcia (CA), Bob Gibbs (OH), Carlos Gimenez (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Bob Good (V), Lance Gooden (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), Garret Graves (LA, Sam Graves (MO), Mark Green (TN), Marjorie Greene (GA), Morgan Griffith (VA), Michael Guest (MS), Jim Hagedorn (MN), Andy Harris (MD) Diana Harshbarger (TN), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Kevin Hern (OK) Yvette Herrell (NM), Jody Hice (GA), Clay Higgins (LA), Richard Hudson (NC), Darrell Issa (CA), Ronny Jackson (TX), Chris Jacobs (NY), Mike Johnson (LA), Bill Johnson (OH),, Jim Jordan (OH) John Joyce (PA), Fred Keller (PA), Trent Kelly (MS), Mike Kelly (PA), David Kustoff (TN), Doug LaMalfa (CA),Doug  Lamborn (CO), Jacob LaTurner (KS), Debbie Lesko (AZ), Billy Long (MO), Barry Loudermilk (GA, Frank Lucas (OK), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Tracey Mann (KS), Brian Mast (FL), Kevin McCarthy (CA), Lisa McClain (MI), Daniel Meuser (PA), Mary Miller (IL), Carol Miller (WV), Alex Mooney (WV), Barry Moore (AL), Markwayne Mullin (OK), Gregory Murphy (NC), Troy Nehls (TX), Ralph Norman (SC), Devin Nunes (CA), Jay Obernolte (CA), Burgess Owens (UT), Steven Palazzo (MS), Gary Palmer (AL), Greg Pence (IN), Scott Perry (PA), August Pfluger (TX), Bill Posey (FL), Guy Reschenthaler (PA), Tom Rice (SC), Mike Rogers (AL), Hal Rogers (KY), John Rose (TN), Matt Rosendale (MT), David Rouzer (NC), John Rutherford (FL) Steve Scalise (LA), David Schweikert (AZ), Pete Sessions (TX), Jason Smith (MO), Adrian Smith (NE), Lloyd Smucker (PA), Elise Stefanik (NY), Greg Steube (FL), Chris Stewart (UT), Glenn Thompson (PA), Tom Tiffany (WI), William Timmons (SC), Jefferson Van Drew (NJ) Beth Van Duyne (TX), Tim Walberg (MI), Jackie Walorski (IN), Randy Weber (TX), Daniel Webster (FL,), Roger Williams (TX), Joe Wilson (SC), Rob Wittman (VA), Ron Wright (TX), and Lee Zeldin (NY).

This IBS (irritable ballot syndrome) list is enormous, and therefore authoritarian danger is clear and present in America.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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17 responses to “Rx for 2024: No, Not Trump. No, Not Biden.”

  1. m kaback says:

    Outstanding! When the PEOPLE wake up about these anti-democrats in Congress and deliver a massive dose of IPECAC to purge (ELECT) them out of government, we could SAVE our DEMOCRACY !

  2. Norman Lewis says:

    You remind me of the famous N.Y. Times writer Thomas Friedman who for years was a down the road impartial columnist and in my mind was on the correct road for the U.S.
    The years started changing his views now he exemplifies the left leaning government that occupies the white House
    In your list of abolish the Senators and Congress men (women) for trying to keep the country aware of Biden’s radical policies you forget to mention Nancy Polisi and of course Chuck Schumer the fore runners of these extreme policies
    They have done more damage in their terms than the group of no-no’s you mentioned

  3. Reply to Norman Lewis: My list is not comprised of those who tried “to keep the country aware of Biden’s radical policies.” My list is comprised of those who tried to overturn an American election. And I would add they tried to overturn an American election BEFORE Biden was sworn in and before there were any Biden policies.

    • Ray Galante says:

      Trump’s controls “his” GOP, Biden’s stature is flimsy; What to do? Perilous times ahead. Voters, wake up! Entire election process in jeapordy. Need less rancor, more continuing positive communication between leadership of both parties.

  4. Joanne says:

    I agree with Norman!

  5. this column is right on. wish it was read by more’

  6. Stuart Goldfine says:

    Going with Norman Lewis. Getting rid of those 147 and 8 Senators is a clear road of one party in charge and we end up with another Hitler. Nancy Pelosi, Biden, Schumer, Schiff, and Kamala Harris are what is wrong in America today and causing this divide. Telling the electorate that everything they pass as law will be free is idiotic. Nothing is free today.

  7. LWY says:

    I Suggest everyone read the article that appeared in the Desert Sun today, “What would Democrats such as FDR and Truman think of the party now?”

    Let me recite one paragraph that quoted Nikita Khrushchev on 9-29-59.

    ” Your children’s children will live under communism. You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept communism outright; but we will keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you will finally wake up and find you already have communism. We will not have to fight you; we will so weaken your economy, until you will fall like overripe fruit into your hands. Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

    It goes on to say here is the plan. “Control health care and you control the people. Increase poverty; poor people are easier to control. Increase. debt to unsustainable levels to produce more poverty. Remove the ability of people to defend themselves by taking their guns away, so you can create a police state. Take control of food, housing and income so all will become dependent on government. Take control of what people read, lis ten to and learn in school. Remove the belief in God from government and schools – people need to believe in only government knowing what is best for them. Use class warfare to divide people into wealthy and poor. Eliminate the middle class to cause more discontent, and make it easier to tax the wealthy with support of the poor.”

    How is that for destroying your appetite?

    • Harold Gershowitz says:

      Reply to LWY: The Khrushchev quote which has circulated on social media appears to be apocryphal. The apocryphal quote was apparently paraphrased as an imagined conversation between Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt in a guest editorial in the Desert Sun. This from Reuters Fact Check; regarding remarks circulating on social media regarding what Khrushchev supposedly said at the UN general assembly on September 29, 1959: False claim. There is no evidence that former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made remarks about the creation of a socialist state in America to the UN General Assembly as is being circulated on social media.

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  8. Judy says:

    LWY, Regardless if who said it, or when…. I believe that’s the path we’re on….

    Like little lambs to slaughter…

  9. Chuck Anderson says:

    Hal,
    Excellent essay. I admire your tenacity in delivering these essays in the face of the ignorance shown by some of your readers. You very clearly labeled the senators & congressmen & women as supporting the overthrow of the election only to be completely misunderstood by several readers. Your patience & perseverance in the face of such clear bias or just plain ignorance is remarkable.

  10. BLB says:

    Agree with Norman et al.
    Do you and and most of the Media have to continue to harp on Jan 6th when we are in the midst of a socialist indoctrination by our current administration?? An administration that is so inept and unqualified in every capacity. It is very scary what is happening right now under our very noses, but all anyone wants to talk about is Jan 6th. There are a lot more serious things happening in Congress and our government right now before our very eyes. If we don’t stop the current Progressive movement, we won’t have to worry about who is running in 2024. We need to worry about the current legislation that Congress is voting on next week or the next few months…which will determine our future!!
    We have so much more to worry about before 2024….get over your Trump derangement syndrome before it’s too late. There are many conservatives that are no longer Trump supporters…but no one seems to understand that. It’s over with him….move on!! CURRENT events are tremendously more important!
    May I refer you to Mark Levin’s American Marxism, and also the memoir Forty Autumns (about the creation of East and West Berlin.) Both much more relevant to our future than dwelling on Jan 6th.

    And as I recall, you recommended Social Dilemma documentary….and you were getting off of social media.
    And I agree. I don’t think that many of our population get their “news” from social media but more from podcasts, television, and and written publication…of course there can be discussion and interpretation of the validity of those sources as well.

  11. Robert borns says:

    Jan 6 was done by, in my opinion, a bunch of clowns in comparison to the dems 4-year attempt to depose a sitting president by a whole bunch of proven lies against Trump by elected officials and eurocrats in the FBI, dept of justice, congressman and senators. I am ashamed of Jan 6, but frightened by the dems organized attempt at their historic presidential overthrow. In my opinion, you should discuss this as opposed to your concentration on Republicans and January 6. But I, like your many readers, enjoy your beautifully done essays even when I take issue with you.

  12. Michael Gong says:

    Would those who disagree with you and support the likes of Norman be happy to live in a police state in which all policies are declared by a dictator who rules for life? I agree with Michael Kaback and Chuck Anderson.

  13. Jeff Jenkins says:

    Thanks, I have written my Reps. regarding that their ( all- both parties) number one job should be to assure America that the election was legit.

  14. Norman Hershfield says:

    One can easily see the commenters from the left and those from the right. Each reads destruction of our democracy from the other side. I, for one, try to be independent, but lean to the left. January 6 was definitely a coup attempt. It must remain a prominent story, because, other than the Southern secession, it is the only such attempt against our legitimate government and totally unconstitutional act in our country‘s history. As for the Democratic party‘s fight with Trump, we may never know what actions by Trump‘s team with the Russians constituted collusion and what did not. We will also likely never know if Comey worked to promote the Democrats‘ arguments or not. Did Clinton’s friends push a made-up story? What was Trump‘s chief of Staff doing with a Russian agent on his payroll? What we do know is that the the Democrats‘ attempts at impeachment did nothing to advance their legitimacy with the American public. They were a complete waste of time and resources. On the other side of the fence, as you can see, any sign of socialism has become communism to the American right, and that reeks of Venezuela and Cuba to them. Just ask the team at Fox News who makes certain to promote this argument. Not one Republican voted for Biden’s bill to spend money on roads, bridges, dams, etc. someone please tell me what’s political about fixing America’s infrastructure? And now he cannot get his Build Back Better legislation through because even one of the democratic senators doesn‘t want to spend the money. Yes, we‘ve spent a lot of money in recent years, and maybe we can‘t afford to keep on spending this way. Let‘s look at where the spending came from. How about the trillions Republican governments spent on the wars in Iraq and Afganistan? How about the lost revenues from the lowering of tax rates on the wealthy ever since Reagan‘s presidency. How many of you know that under Roosevelt the highest tax rate on top income earners was 75%? That‘s right and Republican governments have been lowering the rate administration after administration. Now some of our billionaires pay a lower tax rate than you and I. As to the democrats’ attempts to advance some elements of socialism in this country, It‘s amazing to me that none of these people appear to have ever looked at Canada, Japan, Australia, and most of Europe, where virtually all live with socialized medicine, subsidized university educations, high tax rates that fund these government projects, higher wages, shorter work weeks, and longer vacation times than we have. None of these countries are communistic.

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