Wednesday, so-called “presidential historian” Michael Beschloss was on Chris Hayes’ bizarre and little-watched MSNBC show (but I repeat myself) to proclaim that we “could be six days away from losing our rule of law” and that we “are on the edge of a brutal authoritarian system” where children will be “arrested and conceivably killed.”
(Apologies for the craptacular quality of the embed, apparently, RCP hasn’t discovered how to make video and viewer specs work together.)
Riffing off Joe Biden’s Tuesday speech, this is how the conversation went.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS: Six nights from now, we could all be discussing violence all over this country. There are signs that may happen, may God forbid, that losers will be declared winners by fraudulent election officers, or secretary of state candidates, or governors, or state legislatures.
We could be six days away from losing our rule of law, and losing a situation where we have elections that we all can rely on. You know, those are the foundation stones of a democracy. So, if Biden had gone on the air tonight and said, the biggest thing we have to worry about is marginal tax rates, or something like that, well, it is important. But what significant presidents do, I think you’ll agree, we both write history, you and I. In 1860, Lincoln didn’t say the biggest issue was — colleges, although he felt strongly. He said the country can’t survive half slave and half free.
1940, Franklin Roosevelt didn’t say, you know, the biggest thing I’m worried about is farm policy. Farm policy was important to him, but it what he did say was, never before, since Jamestown and Plymouth rock has America been in such danger.
Joe Biden is saying the same thing tonight, and a historian 50 years from now, if historians are allowed to write in this country, and if there are still free publishing houses and a free press, which I’m not certain of. But if that is true, a historian will say what was next date tonight and this week was the fact whether we will be a democracy in the future, whether our children will be arrested and conceivably killed — we’re on the edge of a brutal authoritarian system, and it could be a week away.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: Do you really think it’s a week away, possibly?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: possibly. Because, you know, one of the safeguards that protect our democracy — being able to have elections where you vote someone out to misbehaves. Instead, what we see — what you are, for instance, rightly mentioning about the candidate for governor of Wisconsin, saying, elect me governor, you’ll never — Republicans will always be elected to henceforth and our state.
Well, Hitler and Mussolini didn’t even bother to say that. Yet, in 1934, Mussolini had an election, and how did it go? Well, Miussolini’s party got 99% of the vote. In 1936, Hitler’s party entered an election, which he called “free and fair,” which was a corrupt fraud. It was party one with 98% of the vote. That’s what happens in autocracies. And it can happen very fast.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. If you look to our own history, of course, the Jim Crow South was a one-party state for decades. Within the structure of what we call American democracy, though, it was essentially an authoritarian one-party state within the state.
I thought of another moment in history tonight, which was in 1871, when a Northern Republican, Radical Republican from Massachusetts get a speech don’t he House floor, and was accused by his democratic opponents of, quote, “waving the bloody shirt.” He didn’t actually do that, but he talked about planned violence directed at Republican officials and free blacks in the South. And waving the bloody shirt came to mean, “oh, you’re going on and on about this democracy stuff again.”
I thought about that, because it ended up being an effective pitch by Democrats who would go on to find real success and subsequent midterms. And I think you see some of that both from the mainstream press and from the Republican Party, about this democracy concern. Like, you’re waving the bloody shirt, are we talking about this again? I wonder what you think the sort of resonance historically of that is.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, it has the added advantage of being true. I hope it doesn’t happen, but there’s at least a significant chance that this country could be consumed by violence all over the next week, after this election. After this election. I hope it doesn’t happen.
The difference between 1871 and now is, groups that wanted to generate violence against black people and others, they didn’t have social media, so they couldn’t connect with each other, and aggravate each other, and conspire, and plan.
Now, you’ve got social media and all these groups all over the United States can get in touch with each other instantly, and plan something nationally that could be very dangerous and would be the opposite of what you and I think of as a peaceful democracy.
Again, I hope this never happens.
On the one level, this is utter bullsh**. It is simply two lackwits trying to rationalize the electoral ass-whipping their preferred party is about to take as the result of electoral fraud — something that would be banned if Twitter had any consistent rules other than “Democrats are always right,” see When Twitter Blacklists a Common Opinion as ‘Misleading,’ It Shows That Fascism Is Still Alive and Well in San Francisco.
But you can’t notice how it tracks with Biden’s speech (my boss, Jen van Laar covered it here, Biden Ignores Issues People Care About in Primetime Speech, Focuses on January 6 and ‘Election Deniers’.
The extreme MAGA element of the Republican Party — which is a minority of that party, as I said earlier, but is its driving force — is trying to succeed where they failed in 2020 to suppress the rights of voters and subvert the electoral system itself.
That means denying your right to vote and deciding whether your vote even counts. Instead of waiting until an election is over, they’re starting well before it. They are starting now.
They’ve emboldened violence and intimidation of voters and election officials.
Lets talk violence of the left, shall we
Illinois man threatens to kill GOP candidate Darren Bailey and his family in voice mail.
NH candidate Don Bolduc (R) dodges punch hours before debate.
NC candidate Pat Harrigan(R) has bullet shot through home.
— SnakeRiverVenom (@PhilCam30960791) November 3, 2022
I’d also add the attempt on the life of NY GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin by one of the left’s stormtroopers (BREAKING: GOP Candidate for NY Gov, Lee Zeldin, Attacked by Assailant During Speech and Two People Shot Outside GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Lee Zeldin’s New York Home). But, as we learned with the attempted decapitation of the House GOP when Representative Steve Scalise was shot and with the attack on Senator Rand Paul, the left is not opposed to political violence so long as their wishes are served.
With democracy on the ballot, we have to remember these first principles. Democracy means the rule of the people — not the rule of monarchs or the monied, but the rule of the people.
What we’re doing now is going to determine whether democracy will long endure. It, in my view, is the biggest of questions: whether the American system that prizes the individual, bends toward justice, and depends — depends on the rule of law — whether that system will prevail.
This is the struggle we’re now in: a struggle for democracy, a struggle for decency and dignity, a struggle for prosperity and progress, a struggle for the very soul of America itself.
Make no mistake — democracy is on the ballot for us all.
This is no ordinary year. So I ask you to think long and hard about the moment we’re in. In a typical year, we’re often not faced with questions of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or put us at risk. But this year, we are.
As my friend Dave Reaboi said on Twitter:
This kind of rhetoric isn’t just crazy—it serves to justify their extreme bloodlust. The rest of the quote refers to the Civil War and WW2, where people needed to be killed by the millions. This is exactly what they’re braying for. https://t.co/G35SIRiD5C
— David Reaboi, Late Republic Nonsense (@davereaboi) November 3, 2022
We are going to win resoundingly at the ballot box on Tuesday. But I’ll tell you what comes next. First, we are going to see final vote counts delayed by days, if not weeks. Pennsylvania is already laying the groundwork for that by saying not to expect final results Election Day because adding one plus one is just too hard to do. There will be a concerted effort to remove Republican winners from office using the Fourteenth Amendment and a specious accusation of “insurrection” because they refuse to admit that the fraudulent 2020 election was free and fair. We will see Merrick Garland unleash the FBI on GOP victors to tie them up in court and, when possible, imprison them. You can bet that Biden and other national Democrats will quickly segue to claiming the election was fraudulent and organizing violent political street protests.
What Biden and Beschloss are doing is only a small step removed from the rhetoric of the leaders of Rwanda as they fomented a genocide. Sad to say, we are at a point where I can compare our politics to one of the most benighted Third World countries imaginable and not engage in hyperbole. They are laying the groundwork for actual resistance to an election outcome.
Democracy (if we are using that term to mean a constitutional and representative republic) is on the ballot Tuesday. Just not the way Biden and Bechloss would have you believe.