The Eastman Memo

This week, I've been writing (and Tweeting) about the Eastman memo.

Here I gathered together my analysis and the questions I answered, condensed it down, and put it into a video.

(I’ll have a transcript soon on my blog.)

Scholars quoted:
Bálint Magyar

(Like a well-trained appellate lawyer, I rely on authority. 🤓
Also, that way you don't think I'm just making stuff up.)

Questions answered include ⤵️
-Why did the plot fail?

Here is the transcript as a blog post:…

Everything in the video / blog post comes from my threads and Tweets from this week, and the analysis I did for the Washington Post.

But after more ☕️ I may do a Twitter summary as well.

About a third of the video and blog post comes from the analysis I did of the Eastman Memo for the Washington Post.

This link (provided by my editor) allows you to go around the paywall if you don't have a subscription.

Beyond that, I answered questions and addressed comments. One was this comment ⤵️.

This video combined with the one I did called "When will these attacks on American democracy end" try to respond to two unrealistic ideas."

The first . . .

. .. the first is that with one stroke, democracy in the United States can be shattered, leaving us with something else.

The second (related) goes like this: "If X doesn't happen, democracy will not survive" or "If X doesn't happen, rule of law will be meaningless."

People on Twitter like "what if" scenarios.

"What if the Supreme Court agreed with Eastman?"

One follower summed it up like this: "If the Supreme Court agreed with Eastman, you wouldn't need to Supreme Court anymore."

Why would the Supreme Court create a dictator?

From a purely cynical point of view, right now they have a lot of power. If they created a dictator, they'd have to be afraid of the whim of a "president" who could weaponize the Department of Justice and law enforcement and do whatever he wanted.

I went off-topic :) This is not in my video.

But I do address (in a roundabout why) why really scary "what if" scenarios and statements like "If we don't punish them all harshly democracy will die" are not helpful.

We need to address the actual threat in realistic ways.

This was in response to my question, "Why would the Supreme Court create a dictator?"

If the courts wanted to create a dictator, they could have sided with him in all those lawsuits.

Even Trump-appointed judges ruled against Trump.

This is from the blog post and video:

The right-wing extremism we're seeing is a reaction to the civil rights and women's rights movements.

Before 1954, America had functioning democratic institutions, but they protected White men only.

Since then. . .

. . . we have been trying to transition from a democracy in which democratic institutions protect White men only to a democracy in which they protect all people.

Democrats want that to happen.

Republicans don't. Some like John Eastman, Giuliani, and others . . .

. . . are willing to blow up democratic institutions altogether to prevent America from transitioning to a fully functioning multi-racial democracy.

Others like Pence and McConnell, don't want to destroy democratic institutions altogether, they want to return . . .

. . . to the time when democratic institutions protected White men only.

This is reactionary. Go back to the good old days. MAGA = reactionist politics.

Why are they so afraid of a multi-racial democracy?

Tucker Carlson explains it well: They are afraid of being "replaced."

They'll attack again.

The way to prevent a successful coup is to strengthen our democratic institutions so that they can also withstand the next attack.

He refused to go along with the plan.

I think the way to understand Pence is that he wants to go back to the days when White men ruled, but he doesn't want to blow up democracy altogether.

He's cool with a return to 1850, but not a Trump dictatorship.

This is a distinct possibility. I can't say for sure where each Republican falls on the continuum.

But I have noticed that many reach a line they can't cross. Others, like Giuliani and Eastman, have no line.

While this isn't in the video (but I've talked about it elsewhere) all of this dovetails with @HC_Richardson economic history: They want to go back to the time when businesses were unregulated.

I wrote about one of her books here:…

This is already long, but I think I'll make myself unpopular by dissecting this comment someone sent me.

🔹A person who says "there need to be consequences" is using language in a very imprecise manner. There HAVE been consequences. Trump lost the election . . .

. . . and was ousted from power, he is facing multiple lawsuits and investigations in various states.

I suggest that the person who says "there need to be consequences" has a particular consequence in mind. Be specific. Say it. "If X doesn't happen, we will lose."

🔹"consequences are a result of well-working institutions. If there are no consequences, the institutions are not working as intended."

Institutions never work perfectly. They can't. First, they are made up of human beings. Second, there is constant pushback.

Democracy is messy and imperfect. Democratic institutions are messy and imperfect.

"My way or the highway" is not democracy, it's autocracy.

Someone else told me that if all the instigators of the insurrection are not punished, people will lose 'faith' in democracy.

"If X doesn't happen, I will lose faith in democracy" isn't much different from, "my way or the highway." Right?

Democracy isn't a fancy thing that someone else does.
Democracy is literally "rule by the people," and we are the people.

Democracy is frustrating and slow-moving and imperfect, but there are not many alternatives.

Some people embrace autocracy because they don't have the patience for democracy.

An autocrat (strongman) promises to blow through the red tape and Get Things Done Now.

I have a tab on my website with ideas for defending democracy.

It's called "things to do."

People who tell me ⤵️ rarely explain HOW this can be done.

Remember how ugly it was when people chanted "lock her up"? Don't be like that.

Rule of law has procedures.

I do appreciate comments and questions, but please either read my blog post or listen to the video first.

Thanks :)

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More from @Teri_Kanefield

22 Sep
Scholar Hungarian scholar Balint Magyar offers a theory that explains why the US held out against the same tactics that caused other countries to collapse into autocracy.

His theory also explains why comparisons across nations don’t always work.

While writing about post-communist mafia states, he talked about the “big bang” theory:

He says that the “conditions preceding the democratic big bang have a decisive role in the formation of the system.”

Here’s how I understand the theory (to use Russia as an example. I'll get to Germany in a moment).

At the time of the Russian Big Bang (early 1990s, when a Democracy struggled to be born) the Communist Party had a monopoly on power and resources.

Read 10 tweets
21 Sep
Let's be clear about what we're talking about with the attempted coup on January 6, including the new info in the John Eastman memo.

We're not talking about "another term" with Trump as president.

If he would have pulled this off, he would effectively be a dictator. . .

Because he would have (1) overthrown an election and (2) installed himself as president in place of the duly elected president.

It would mean all democratic institutions had broken down.
It would also mean that the population would either tolerate it or be subdued by force.

When we say "he came close" the question is "close to what?"

I believe we came close to a major constitutional crisis and possibly a great deal of violence and bloodshed.

Read 12 tweets
20 Sep
According to John Eastman, "The Constitution assigns the power to the vice president as the ultimate arbiter" when electoral votes are counted.

(It's not true)

But does he still think that's true?

If Democrats create a dispute, can Kamala Harris pick the next president?
A key error here is that it assumes that the Electoral Count Act is illegal and assumes that states can set aside the laws they have on the books for allocating their electors.

In fact, rules governing the election have to be in place before the election.
The idea was to create chaos and give Trump's claim that he won the election more legitimacy.

He still wouldn't have stayed in the White House because this wouldn't have worked -- but it may have persuaded more people that Biden didn't win, which undermines the government.
Read 9 tweets
19 Sep
Criminal Law for Twitter 101

For this week's video/blog post, an analysis of Trump’s criminal liability in Georgia (As I promised yesterday)

Spoiler: The correct answer to every legal question is: "It's complicated." (Alternate answer: "It depends.”)

For people who prefer to read, here's a transcript.…

By the way, some of left-leaning Twitter has a weird* idea of criminal law and the justice system. They want justice to be swift and brutal.

The problem: That can backfire. Right?


For someone to be prosecuted, there has to be a specific statute on the books, and the prosecutor has to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard.

One question is whether Trump has violated Georgia Code § 21-2-604.

Read 18 tweets
18 Sep
For all the people in my mentions saying this like this, please see the video I recorded last Sunday.

I think people are confusing "They're still fighting" with "they think they won."

I also find the "no consequences" peculiar. Trump lost. He's out of power . . .

Dems hold both houses. (Slim majorities, but still)

Trump lawyers are being sanctions and disbarred.

Hundreds of insurrectionists are being criminally prosecuted.

Trump is facing countless lawsuits.

Criminal investigations are ongoing.


Okay, "We'd like to see all the people involved in jail," is quite different from, "There have been no consequences."


Read 5 tweets
12 Sep
This week, I addressed this question about Republican attacks on democracy: “I honestly can’t take it anymore. When will it end?”

And this comment: “I’m really worried they’ll try again and next time they’ll succeed.”

I’ll have a transcript shortly.

Scholars relied on: @dziblatt, Steven Levitsky, Max Weber, Lucan Way and, indirectly, @karen_stenner

After more ☕️ I'll come back and attempt a Twitter Summary.

The transcript is here:…

The latest attacks are in the Calfornia recall with a chorus of voices, including TFG, insisting that if Newsom wins, it will be because the election was rigged (CA went for Biden 63.5% to Trump 34.3)

The problem: A swatch of angry and militant Californians think it’s true.

Read 22 tweets

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