New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman tweeted:
How Republics End https://t.co/6X3xgZOgFe
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) December 19, 2016
And his column:
Paul Krugman | December 19, 2016
Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.
But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.
Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.
On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”
Really? We noted yesterday that both John Kerry, in 2004, and Hillary Clinton this year, campaigned in part on the claim that foreign leaders would be much happier if they won, rather than their Republican opponents. We also noted, in the same article, that President Obama apparently saw nothing wrong with the United States attempting to change the outcome of a democratic election, to attempt to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.
So, what exactly happened with the supposed Russian intervention? If the allegations are correct — and, so far, the CIA say that Russian intelligence hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Jon Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, with the allegation being that those hacked e-mails were given to WikiLeaks — WikiLeaks published private e-mails from the DNC and Mr Podesta, e-mails which contained things they didn’t want public, e-mails which made Hillary Clinton look bad. President Obama stated, personally, that there is no evidence that our voting machines were hacked or that the result of the votes was incorrectly reported.
There’s more, of course, all of it just barely concealed high-strung whining that somehow, some way, the election of Donald Trump is like the change in Rome from the Republic to the Empire. He thoroughly misstated the actions of the state legislature in North Carolina, which he claimed “effectively stripped the governor’s office of power, ensuring that the will of the voters wouldn’t actually matter,” as though the incoming Governor will have no authority at all, and that the wicked Republicans are trying to create “a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.”
I saw this illustration on Twitter yesterday, and it demonstrates, better than the red/blue maps, just how Americans voted:
The Clinton Archipelago islands are those counties Hillary Clinton carried; the Democrats believe that their future lays in the densely populated urban areas, and perhaps it does, but that leaves them alienating vast swaths of the country. Hillary Clinton did not carry a single county in Oklahoma, not one. Even the states Mrs Clinton carried show wide swaths of Trump-majority counties, where voters were overwhelmed by the urban vote.
For the Democrats, this was fine . . . in 2008 and 2012.
The Democrats will make a comeback; they always do. To come back, they’ll need a candidate who isn’t so uninspiring that black voters simply stay home, a candidate who isn’t so dishonest that honest Democrats feel lethargy. The esteemed Dr Krugman will be happier following some future election, but right now, he’s gone completely bonkers, eaten up with Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.