The fever dream of reactionary centrism: A center-right re-alignment of American politics, all in the name of defending democracy against Trump - while also upholding the traditional order against the forces of multiracial pluralism. Wow.
In this vision, Trump and the excesses of militant Trumpism are excluded from the “respectable” spectrum of American politics – but so are all the “radical Leftists” like Bernie Sanders, and all those “woke” activists and crazy “critical race theorists.”
The desired result is a new normal that not only glorifies the status quo, but actually restores a more secure white elite dominance. With the exception of Big Lie-inspired election subversion, Cheney does not seem to have a problem with the GOP’s other undemocratic tools.
Cheney has demonstrated no desire to protect voting rights against the hundreds of voter suppression bills introduced by Republicans on the state level since the last election, or to outlaw the type of aggressive partisan gerrymandering that is being pursued in GOP-led states.
While being celebrated as an alliance against authoritarianism, what such calls for a Biden/Cheney ticket represent is a desire for a less democracy – or, to be more specific: for a more restricted version of democracy that keeps the forces of multiracial pluralism in check.
For the record: I’ve seen several people use the term “reactionary centrism” (which is good, because it’s an incredibly apt concept) - but the clearest, most insightful dissection I have encountered comes from @RottenInDenmark - full credit to Michael Hobbes.
Reactionary centrism, David Brooks edition.

“Centrism”: Anything that allows people like Brooks - a mostly wealthy, white, male elite of self-proclaimed moderates - to decide what is / is not acceptable.

“Leftish agenda”: Anything that deviates from status quo-fundamentalism.
Ah yes, Biden went too far with his “leftish agenda” when he pushed his socialist program through via Reconciliation, then ruthlessly abolished the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation and democratizing reforms, then… wait… that can’t be right…
Ok, now I got it: Biden went too far with his “leftish agenda” when he went hard after everyone responsible for January 6, then dramatically raised taxes for billionaires, then fully endorsed the teaching of CRT at elementary school, then… wait… that’s not it either?
Alright, let me try again: Biden went too far with his “leftish agenda” when he single-handedly opened all borders, then signed the Green New Deal into law while also outlawing cars, effective immediately, then abolished Christmas, then… uhm…
Well, anyway: A more “centrist” direction is urgently needed!

Biden/Cheney 2024! To save “democracy,” of course.
You have to admire how lazy the term “leftish agenda” is. “Leftish”: a lot broader than just “left,” so deliciously vague. “I’m not gonna define it or be specific… Don’t even bother asking what is ‘left’ about it. You know what I mean, the stuff we don’t like. Leftish!” Perfect.
These “centrist” confessions would be revealing under any circumstance; in the context of a now-or-never struggle to protect democracy, with Biden finally and forcefully intervening to get voting rights legislation passed, the reactionary ideology could not be more obvious.
These “centrist” pleas always entail a barely veiled threat: “If you don’t break with these woke radicals and their ‘leftish’ agenda, you leave us no choice - be reasonable or we’ll have to vote for the other team!”

The eternal permission structure of the reactionary centrist.

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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
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/
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

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