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/
We are dealing with true believers - and that’s a scary proposition: Much more convenient to pretend everyone loves democracy and some of us are just scared of the mean demagogue and his cult followers. But that’s not what’s happening. 4/
The real question then is: True believers in what? I think we need to start from the assumption that most Republicans are convinced they are waging a noble war against insidious forces that are threatening “real” (read: conservative white Christian patriarchal) America. 5/
Republicans consider themselves the sole proponents of that “real” America – and they believe to be defending it against the radically “Un-American” forces of leftism, liberalism, wokeism, and multiculturalism that have captured the Democratic Party and the Democratic base. 6/
What follows from that proposition is that Democratic governance – whether or not it has the support of a numerical majority of the electorate – is fundamentally illegitimate: The Democratic Party not simply a political opponent, but a fundamentally “Un-American” enemy. 7/
The “cowardice” narrative not only fails to grapple with the depth of the ideological struggle we are witnessing, it also conveniently ignores the longstanding anti-democratic impulses and tendencies on the Right. It’s a story that begins (and possibly ends) with Trump. 8/
But the Republican Party has been on an anti-democratic trajectory for a long time. For several decades, the GOP has been focused almost exclusively on the interests and sensibilities of white conservatives. 9/
And white conservatives tend to have a very specific idea of what “real America” is and should be: They define it as a predominantly white, Christian, patriarchal nation. America, to them, is supposed to be a place where white Christian men are at the top. 10/
The overriding concern of conservatism as a political project as it has existed in the United States since at least the 1950s, and thus the GOP’s overriding concern since at least the 1970s, has been to preserve that white Christian nationalist version of “real America.” 11/
Due to political, cultural, and most importantly demographic changes, Republicans do not have majority support for their political project anymore – certainly not on the federal level, and even in “red” states, their position is becoming increasingly tenuous. 12/
No one understands this better than Republicans themselves: In a functioning democratic system, they would have to either widen their focus beyond the interests and sensibilities of white conservatives, which they are not willing to do; or relinquish power, which they reject. 13/
They have chosen a different path: They are determined to do whatever it takes, regardless of how radical, of how anti-democratic, to protect their hold on power and preserve existing hierarchies and the traditional order. 14/
This anti-democratic path has finally led many Republicans to a point where they are openly embracing authoritarianism – because their previous attempts to uphold white Christian patriarchal rule within the confines of a restricted version of democracy have failed. 15/
Yes, conservatives are radicalizing against democracy – but rather than going from "pro-democratic" to "anti-democratic," what we're seeing is a shift from "on board with a restricted version of democracy" to "determined to prevent multiracial, pluralistic democracy." 16/
Good on Kinzinger for refusing to cross over into open authoritarianism. But instead of focusing on “cowardice,” it’d be great if he could grapple with why he was willing to accommodate, even embrace the anti-democratic tendencies and forces on the Right for so long. /end

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More from @tzimmer_history

9 Jan
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.
Read 9 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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