It Can Happen Here

There once was a group of people who had fought against a totalitarian regime and really wanted free democratic elections. And their dream came true. Totalitarianism fell. Elections were declared. Victory! Joy!

But as tends to happen with free elections, it soon became clear that the results weren’t going to be what the Democrats (which is what they called themselves) wanted. Catastrophe! What if the winners – bad, bad guys! – were going to subvert democracy? Democracy in danger!

So it made sense to falsify the election, just this once and only to save democracy. It was such a good cause! And it’s so easy to convince yourself that the actions you are dying to take are morally justified.

We all know how the story ends. The country where those Democrats lived hasn’t had free elections in the 30 years since.

This is an old story and I told it before. What I don’t get is why anybody would think it can’t happen here. Human nature is such that people don’t need a reason to be corrupt. They need a reason not to. There’s no reason other than a belief in American exceptionalism to doubt that people can easily convince themselves to cheat “just this once to save democracy in the extraordinary times we are living with lives at stake.”

20 thoughts on “It Can Happen Here”

  1. Well, if Republican voters are truly concerned about possible fraud, they should come and vote in person. They oppose voting by mail anyway, and are not afraid of COVID, so this should not be a problem.

    It would actually be very entertaining if election results in the US turned out the same way as in Belarus (government expecting standard 60-70% turnout, throwing in some 20% of pro-government ballots, much more people turning up to vote in person than expected, which resulted in voter turnout exceeding 100%)


    1. Why should only Republican voters care? Isn’t it bad for everybody if elections are falsified? I want everybody to think about this and wonder why they believe it’s impossible. Why is this possibility so openly dismissed? Why is it “a conspiracy”?


      1. // Why is this possibility so openly dismissed?

        Because America is an old democracy which has known much harder days than today and it hasn’t happened even then. Presidents were assassinated, yes, but voting fraud? πŸ™‚

        Also, from what I understood from latest Belarusian elections, modern technology makes it harder to hide mass falsifications.


          1. // Is it the same technology that’s provided by companies who are aggressively supporting the side suspected of wanting to falsify?

            I thought you would say it, but despite everything I don’t think the Big Tech has total control over the flow of data.

            In Belarus a few photos of voting forms made from private cellphones were sufficient to show who won the election.

            Once info spreads and it spreads fast, even Big Tech cannot scrub the Internet clean of proofs. AI is not that smart and efficient.


            1. Yeah… I’m seeing extremely effective silencing on every major platform of anybody who steps away from the dogma just the tiniest bit. Facebook and Google didn’t censor Belarus because they don’t care about it. But Google leadership had weeping sessions after the last US election, vowing never to let it happen again. I don’t think that the analogy with Belarus stands.


      2. I definitely believe that the elections in the US can be falsified. I also believe that they have been falsified before. These temptations have not appeared yesterday “because society is decaying” and today’s Democrats are particularly immoral people.

        The US system is very stable. Usually this is a good thing, but in some ways it is a bad thing. Namely, a lot of bad shit has to happen before Americans will actually start learning from their mistakes. Thus, what is happening now, as unpleasant as it is, is the only way the US can learn from its past mistakes. It has to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately there is no other way. Inertia is too strong. I am deeply sorry for those who will experience harm in the process, I genuinely am. But some phenomena occurring along the way (particularly non-violent ones, like falsified elections in a country positioning itself as the standard of democracy) may indeed be entertaining, especially to outside observers.

        These mistakes include all kinds of things, from left-wing to right-wing and everything in between, including the inability of the mainstream to recognize that shit happening to black communities is not a result of some special “culture” that just spontaneously turned out the way it is (as Dreher seems to believe, or else he is just very careful to not be caught attributing this “culture” to genetics πŸ™‚ ), but a result of failures to address longstanding problems. In other words, the Americans need to recognize that there is some better balance between personal responsibility and influences of the environment, including narrowly-defined environment one is growing in AND broadly defined environment including foundational beliefs of the society. Placing 100% of weight on personal responsibility or on “culture” without questioning why the “culture” is the way it is is as wrong as placing 100% of responsibility on “white supremacy” or “patriarchy” or etc, and denying any agency of the people of color, or women, or etc. Both American mainstream and critical racial theory are extremist views, from the above perspective, in my opinion.

        Or, to put it in still another way – I agree with you or whomever else claim that X or Y are impossible in the US because US culture would not be conductive of X or Y. Scandinavian-style social democracy is impossible in the US… This is true. As the things stand now. But the shit will keep happening until the US evolves (or devolves, whichever you prefer to call it) to the point where Scandinavian style social democracy (or more “Canadian” system, or some other more just system specific to the US) will become possible.


        1. I agree with everything except the part where the Scandinavian system, instead of a narrowly regional fluke, is the crowning achievement of humanity towards which everything trends. COVID has demonstrated extremely well that we are not Scandinavians and the cultural divide is too enormous to use them as a model. It makes more sense to talk about the US moving towards the Mexican model or the Chinese one. Curiously, since COVID struck, there’s been no mention from the usual quarters of “let’s be like Sweden.” Suddenly, Sweden is evil because it’s not following the COVID orthodoxy.


          1. // It makes more sense to talk about the US moving towards the Mexican model or the Chinese one.

            What is the Mexican model? And what do you mean by “the Chinese one”? Dictatorship locking Covid-positive people in their flats?


            1. Excellent question.

              Mexico had a one-party “democracy” for 70 years. It was stable but extremely corrupt, which is what you expect with a single-party rule. Now it has three viable parties and there is a transfer of power but it doesn’t matter much because the state is powerless in the face of the cartels.

              When I speak of the Mexican or the Chinese model, I refer to a one-party rule that brings stability at the cost of a legitimate political process.


              1. “a one-party rule that brings stability at the cost of a legitimate political process.”

                I do not know Mexican history, but it sounds like their one-party ‘stability’ led to the situation of the state being “powerless in the face of the cartels.”

                If so, how can anyone for strong government support such ‘stability’ which is the opposite of real meaning of the word? And your words – “stable but extremely corrupt” – make one wonder how slipping into powerlessness and irrelevance can be deemed ‘stable.’


              2. This is another brilliant question. You are on a roll today. πŸ™‚

                The Mexican situation looked enviable against the background of what was happening in other Latin American counties where even this limited version of democracy was an unattainable dream. Civil wars, military dictatorships, dead bodies strewn on the ground. Mexico looked so peaceful in comparison. But as you correctly say, this stability carried seeds of its own destruction. Mexico is now a mess with a full-scale civil war going on in several states, large parts of the country not controlled by the state forces, and dead bodies strewn on the ground.

                This is precisely why I’m very much against this scenario. A peaceful and legitimate transfer of power is crucial. Once that’s gone – even for a very very good purpose – the next stage will be catastrophic. In the US we are losing the understanding that this peaceful transfer of power is a wonderful thing even if we don’t like the people the power is transferred to. This is very dangerous in my opinion.


          2. Scandinavian system was just an example, I am not insisting that the US has to follow this particular path. Let’s not react to keywords. My point is very simple. Every society generates social tensions, every society has some level of injustice. The US society is not uniquely horrible. But once the tensions are generated, there is a choice. Either you consciously vent those tensions (I am talking reality here, not PR) by slowly moving towards more social democracy, broadly defined, promote solidarity beyond one’s neighborhood, with fellow countrymen whom you do not know and who are different from you, and also make some real effort ameliorating inequalities that have systemic / historic origins, OR you insist that everyone is 100% responsible for one’s situation (or some God-given immutable “culture” is responsible), elect Reagan, go as business-friendly as possible, etc. (I am oversimplifying). If you fail to manage social tensions in reasonable ways, these social tensions will start managing you in unreasonable ways. If you refuse to deal with tensions in a constructive manner because you are prejudiced against everything that has word “social” in it, the tensions will not disappear, they will vent via weird outlets, like critical racial theory, for example…

            Unfortunately, exceptionalism makes Americans believe that the above rules do not apply tho them.


            1. I read this joke today. Why don’t the Amish get COVID? Because they don’t have TVs.

              It’s the same thing. Are these riots and the complete insanity of the last 4 years a manifestation of actual tensions or are people riled up and sicced on each other by the news sources they access? If it’s the latter – which is what I believe – the only real way out is to give the people doing the siccing what they want. And what they want isn’t more justice and equality but unconstrained power in a single-party system ruled by a technocratic oligarchy. Why is this oligarchy going to suddenly promote solidarity if it gains from their being none?


              1. I am an old-fashioned leftist. So I believe social tensions are real. As powerful as modern propaganda is, it cannot create something completely out of nothing, it can only magnify or misdirect existing energy.
                Remember, we used to mock Russian Patriots (TM) when they insisted that Soviet Union fell apart just because the US State Department threw some money at some people, or because some people consumed too much of anti-Soviet propaganda, or because secret “world government” (extra points to anyone framing it as “Judeo-Masonic conspiracy” πŸ™‚ ) wanted it destroyed, and not because Soviet system was inherently deeply flawed and had multiple very real fault lines – economic, ethnic conflicts and grudges, resentment of the liberal minority against the totalitarian system, society being extremely unhealthy psychologically, etc. Why do a 180 degree turn when talking about the US? What purpose is served by the belief that US would be perfect, if not for some totalitarian tendencies of some people who are mistaken for “leftists”?..

                As for why techno-oligarchy would promote any solidarity – of course it will not. I am not saying it will. I am saying that the US will be experiencing the problems it is experiencing until you learn to control your techno-oligarchy, and any other oligarchy, among other things. I do not know how to do it. I wish I did.


              2. I don’t think the US would be perfect without this. But I absolutely do believe that we wouldn’t see anything remotely resembling these riots. The riots are completely manufactured. There’s absolutely no reality behind them. People are trashing cities over something that doesn’t exist. This is a demonstrable fact. Hard as people have tried, no evidence of widespread “police brutality”, let alone of a racial nature has been produced.

                There are, indeed, many problems in this country. But they are clearly not serious enough if people can spend months over such utterly inane and ridiculous stuff as these invented Russia collusions, impeachments, and police brutalities. Crowds of kids are out of schools getting their brains eaten by tablets. But nobody is talking about this because we are enthralled by a bunch of completely ridiculous invented stories. Remember the noose hoax? That got more coverage than what this forced introduction to online addiction is doing to kids’ brains.


            2. “Either you consciously vent those tensions… by slowly moving towards more social democracy…”

              I don’t agree that a policy march towards social democracy is the key determinant of political stability in a democracy. What’s most important is that elite groups commonly agree on a robust set of norms and political institutions designed to resolve their differences peacefully including a periodic and fully legitimate transfer of power to their opponents. Parliamentary democracy was stable in Great Britain for two centuries before there was a universal suffrage or the Labour Party.


              1. Well, let’s stick to reality. Nobody is going to reverse universal suffrage. So we will have to develop a system that is stable and includes all or at least vast majority of the developments of the last 200 years.


              2. “develop a system that is stable…”

                Perhaps I was not clear. Policies don’t make democracies stable, in fact they can have the opposite effect by undermining elite consensus on peacefully resolving all of their political disputes – democratic institutions, norms and elite agreement to work within them are what really matters and have been since modern democracy was birthed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688


        2. “The US system is very stable.”

          Ummm… no.

          There’s that pesky Civil War thing.

          From 1776-1860, it was commonly believed by those living in the British North American colonies that the republic to their south was unstable and would collapse in civil war because it was a republic. Imagine their complete lack of surprise when… And, the US Civil War was no small thing – as wars go, it was one of the worst in the 19th century and previewed WWI as an industrial war of bloody attrition.

          I’d say the US system is starting to look quite wobbly at present because of the breakdown in elite consensus over fundamental democratic rules and norms like accepting the procedures and results of elections and the absolute repudiation of political violence as a means of achieving political power..


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