On a rainy Sunday afternoon, a somewhat gloomy thought on January 6 and the mainstream media: This past week, every major outlet published pieces emphasizing the acute threat to democracy. Good! But that was the easy part. The tough part: What happens during the rest of the year?
I’ll mention this intervention by the @nytimes editorial board as representative of the many such pieces that have come out: I agree with every word in it. But the question is: Is the NYT willing to make sure that the paper’s political coverage actually reflects these warnings?
I think the @nytimes, as an institution, would have to make some serious changes if it really took the idea that “Every Day Is Jan. 6 Now” to heart and made it the paper’s operating principle going forward.
As a matter of fact, on January 6, the NYT reverted right back to suggesting “fracture” and division as the real threats to American democracy – which is a very different tale than the one that focuses on the accelerating anti-democratic radicalization of the Republican Party.
I don’t want to make this solely about the NYT – other mainstream outlets have been way worse at undercutting their own “Democracy in Danger” pieces by unabashed #BothSides takes that always (and I must assume: purposefully) obscure more than they illuminate.
It isn’t all bad, of course. I wholeheartedly agree with @perrybaconjr: The political media is doing a better job than it’s ever done at focusing on the radicalization of the Republican Party and presenting it as what it actually is: An acute threat to American democracy.
And it is heartening to see that, over the past week, basically every major outlet did provide a platform for people who presented a clear analysis of the state of democracy – unperturbed by the all-too-predictable backlash from the rightwing machine against such “hysteria.”
But again, condemning the authoritarian onslaught on democracy on the first anniversary of an attempted coup – that’s the easy part. What happens between now and the second anniversary of January 6? Will everyone take a long hard look in the mirror and make some adjustments?
Anniversaries do not necessarily provide an honest assessment of the state of the political discourse. Let’s keep reminding these mainstream outlets about how, to start the year, they all proclaimed that “Every Day is January 6 now” – and insist they act accordingly.

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More from @tzimmer_history

11 Jan
I respect Kinzinger taking a stand against the authoritarian assault on democracy. But his continued insistence that his Republican colleagues are just scared and cowardly obscures the actual problem: Most of them are on board with the anti-democratic radicalization. 1/
The “cowardice” tale is so attractive for several reasons: It provides cover for Republicans (better a coward than an extremist); and it allows the news media to cling to the conception of the GOP as a “normal” party that is just struggling with an authoritarian insurrection. 2/
But the “cowardice” narrative fails to explain the actions of Republican elected officials up and down the country – particularly on the state and local levels – who are actively complicit and often seem to revel in the attack on democracy. 3/
Read 17 tweets
7 Jan
As January 6 comes to an end, I am filled with a sense of admiration and gratitude for the many academic observers of American history, politics, society, and culture who have put themselves out there, offered their perspective, and for whom this week must have been stressful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to pretend we have the hardest or most important jobs in the world; we don’t. But please, if you’ll indulge me: I’ve only done a few media appearances and interviews this week, a fraction of what many others are doing - and I’m pretty exhausted.
For the vast majority of academic observers, all these public efforts and appearances - while certainly welcome as opportunities to present our work - come on top of the core responsibilities and duties. There’s a syllabus to design, a book to write, a paper to grade…
Read 11 tweets
6 Jan
What is the meaning of #January6th – what is its place in American history?

As of right now, this is an entirely open question. The answer will depend on what happens next. This captures the current moment precisely: American democracy at a crossroads. A reflection: 1/
We now have a fairly clear picture of the attack of January 6 and the events leading up to it. We know that it was not a “spontaneous” protest, but a deliberate assault on democracy, organized and led by far-right militants and white nationalist groups. 2/ nyti.ms/3AfdRZB
The assault on the Capitol must be seen in the context of a larger attempt to disrupt the transfer of power and nullify the result of a democratic election – an attempted (self-)coup, deliberately planned and strategized by Donald Trump and people in his orbit. 3/
Read 28 tweets
6 Jan
Went on the @KreuzundFlagge podcast for a conversation about the past and present of U.S. democracy and what is animating the anti-democratic radicalization of the American Right.

I am more pessimistic now than I was a year ago - and unfortunately, @ardenthistorian agrees…
This is part 1 of a 2-part conversation. Here is an incomplete list of the topics we discussed - and I’ll include a few links to previous reflections on the state of American politics to provide some more evidence and receipts (in English):
Why Donald Trump is the favorite to be the next Republican presidential candidate, as the GOP and the American Right in general are basically unified behind him and, more importantly, his political project…
Read 10 tweets
5 Jan
I’m grateful to the @nytimes editorial board for publishing this. After all, the key question in America today is whether or not enough people in positions of influence and power are as committed to preserving democracy as Republicans are to abolishing it.
However, it should also be noted that the NYT - just like other mainstream media outlets - is often complicit in obscuring the anti-democratic radicalization of the Republican Party and the acute threat to American democracy emanating from the Right:
By dissolving everything into a tale of “partisanship” and “polarization” that always implicates #BothSides, thus upholding a “neutrality” dogma that provides cover for extremism and leads to severe distortions…
Read 8 tweets
31 Dec 21
Don’t frame this as “oh, the pandemic is so politicized…”

What’s on display here is the radicalization of the Republican Party. There is no equivalent on the “Left” to an official GOP account propagating vaccine misinformation, endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands.
The tweet has since been deleted - but there’s not going to be an apology or any kind of substantive retraction, of course, because Republicans either actually believe this nonsense or consider this type of bad-faith propaganda a legitimate tactic in the war against the Left.
Is there a line? Anything that’s *not* permitted? Anything that’s so extreme, so dangerous that it’s not justified in defense against what they see as the radically Un-American leftist threat? Republicans are giving us their answer every day - and that should terrify us.
Read 6 tweets

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