Thomas Zimmer Profile picture
DAAD Visiting Prof. @Georgetown @EuropaSaxa 20th Cent. U.S., German, Transatlantic History - Global Health Politics - Writing a History of "Polarization"
Joshua Cypess Profile picture Scott Phillips Profile picture Brendo RN Profile picture 4 added to My Authors
24 Jul
I really appreciate this deeply personal column by @perrybaconjr on life inside a political “bubble.”

I wholeheartedly agree that not all “bubbles” are the same, and not all are bad. Let me add a few thoughts:
I live in much more of a bubble than @perrybaconjr. According to this NYT interactive, 92 percent of the people in my neighborhood are Democrats. I’ll tell you why I’m fine with that. nytimes.com/interactive/20…
I have a personal red line for my private life: If you don’t think this country should be a democracy in which all people are equal and count equally regardless of race, gender, or religion, I’d rather not hang out with you.
Read 13 tweets
23 Jul
No better way of telling the world who you really are than to go all “They’re coming for our heroes!!” over the removal of a statue of *Nathan Bedford Forrest*
It can be difficult to assess historical figures who are revered for certain important achievements even though there are also deeply problematic aspects about them.

But that’s absolutely not what we’re looking at here. This guy is famous solely as a symbol of white supremacy.
Nathan Bedford Forrest is famous not in spite, but solely because he was a traitor, war criminal, and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He was the embodiment of white supremacist violence when he was alive, and has been a symbol of continued white supremacy ever since.
Read 8 tweets
21 Jul
Exactly right. These biases hamper the ability of most civic institutions to recognize, acknowledge, and react adequately to the GOP’s anti-democratic radicalization.

These problems are most visible in the mainstream media’s continued failing to handle the rightwing threat.
More and more journalists and analysts - including some who work for mainstream media institutions - see this clearly, of course, and use their platforms to alert the public to the problem, demand change, and suggest a better way forward, as @ThePlumLineGS does here:
But we’re still being fed a steady diet of the “both sides squabbling as always” kind of obscuring nonsense that @EricKleefeld rightfully criticizes here:
Read 10 tweets
20 Jul
I struggle with the “nihilism” framing. It may well capture what’s driving some Republican officials. But it tends to obscure the nature of the reactionary political project that animates most people on the American Right: They aren’t motivated just by the prospect of power.
Here is a long thread on why we should start from the assumption that Republicans are true believers in what they do, convinced to be justified in preventing multiracial pluralism - the downfall of “real” (read: white Christian patriarchal) America - by whatever means necessary:
I also think that focusing on opportunism and lust for power is not only inadequate analytically, it also benefits shameless cynics like Mitch McConnell, at least in terms of media coverage: Better to be seen as a devious, nihilistic genius than a reactionary white nationalist.
Read 5 tweets
16 Jul
I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about the use of the term “fascism” to describe the American Right. It’s complicated.

But this - the racist demagoguery, the idea of the racialized Other as a diseased threat, the desire to keep the nation “pure” - is pretty fascist.
I reflected a little bit on the “Is it fascism?” question here, with links to a great piece by @lionel_trolling and an excellent episode of the @KnowYrEnemyPod podcast, both providing insightful, nuanced explorations of the fascism debate:
I’ll also link to this thread in which I reflected on – and rejected – an argument advanced by some scholars of Nazism that today’s American Far Right can’t be “fascist” because fascism was a phenomenon exclusive to Europe’s interwar period:
Read 14 tweets
15 Jul
Here’s the thing: Many scholars and observers saw this clearly and spent the entire Trump era trying to get America’s civic and political institutions to acknowledge the threat and act accordingly - while constantly being derided by the Very Serious Pundit class as “alarmists.”
When it comes to the authoritarian threat to democracy - and the anti-democratic radicalization amongst conservatives in general - the “alarmists” have been right every step of the way. A lot of self-proclaimed Very Serious People should really grapple with that fact in earnest.
The issue is that those who actively worked to obscure the threat to democracy with their anti-alarmism - whether or not they fully understood that’s what they were doing - are still shaping the political discourse going forward. And few have engaged in sincere introspection.
Read 18 tweets
15 Jul
This really applies to all the rightwing moral panics. Political correctness, cancel culture, wokeness: Much of the anxiety that fuels these reactionary crusades stems from the fact that white people - white men, in particular - face a little more scrutiny today than in the past.
#metoo is another excellent example for this dynamic: As soon as traditionally marginalized groups gain enough power and enough of a platform to make their demands for respect and accountability heard, certain white people / men start bemoaning “persecution.”
Important to note that it’s really just the *threat* of scrutiny, the *potential* of being held to account that is enough to cause the next round of reactionary panic. In practice, the power structures that have traditionally defined American life have unfortunately held up fine.
Read 22 tweets
12 Jul
Here’s @ThePlumLineGS making a strong argument for why Democrats need to accept and set out to win the culture wars.

I’ll add some general thoughts on the idea that “kitchen table issues” can be separated from “culture war stuff,” to which too many Democrats still cling. 1/
The column outlines many of the reasons why ignoring the culture wars dimension is doomed to fail, as a matter of political strategy, in a situation in which the GOP, aided by the rightwing propaganda machine, is guaranteed to succeed in making it a salient issue. 2/
Aside from the question of political strategy, many in the Democratic camp seem to be basing their insistence to focus solely on socio-economic and financial matters on an analytical error: the idea that those “kitchen table issues” can be separated from the culture wars. 3/
Read 16 tweets
11 Jul
Progress.

It is never inevitable, never irrevocable, never linear. It is always the result of difficult struggles that often involve heavy losses, and it always comes too late for so many people who would have deserved better.

But it is possible. This, here, is progress.
Yesterday was a good day at Charlottesville. And a good day for America.
A great thread on the history being made at Charlottesville yesterday.
Read 4 tweets
8 Jul
In this important column, @ezraklein emphasizes the need to question certain pervasive myths about American democracy. I would like to add some thoughts from a historical perspective – on a democracy that never has been yet: 1/
Even after four years of Trump, even after the insurrection of January 6, the animating principle for too many Democratic officials and liberals more broadly seems to be that “It cannot happen here.” 2/
American democracy can no longer afford this mix of willful ignorance and naive exceptionalism. It absolutely can happen here – and in many ways, an authoritarian victory would constitute a return to the historical norm. 3/
Read 53 tweets
5 Jul
“What the hell happened to her?” suggests that Haley and, by extension, Republicans in general have recently lost their way. Better to acknowledge that everything we’re seeing is well in line with longstanding anti-democratic, authoritarian tendencies on the American Right.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans haven’t changed the way they talk, the way they present themselves. Many have. And these shifts on the level of rhetoric and style were, to some extent, inspired by Trump.
I reflected on Haley’s embrace of “brawler politics,” specifically, here:
Read 9 tweets
1 Jul
Appreciate the sentiment - but I’m really hoping that a) we’re not seriously still debating *if* #SCOTUS is an impediment to progress, and that b) we can all acknowledge that impeding progress towards multiracial democracy has been the historical norm for the Supreme Court.
Seriously, the widespread view among Liberals of #SCOTUS as an ally in the fight for a more democratic, fairer society stems entirely from a romanticized understanding of the Court’s history, misconstruing the Warren Court as the norm, when really that era was a massive outlier.
Whenever you bring up the fact that SCOTUS has, as a historical norm, been allied far more often with an anti-democratic, reactionary political project, someone will inevitably yell “But what about this decision? Or that decision?!”
Read 12 tweets
30 Jun
As far as I can tell, Hanania is widely regarded and presented by people on the center-right as a serious conservative intellectual. This, however, is not something a serious intellectual would write.
One has to be either remarkably uninformed or astonishingly disingenuous to equate the serious theoretical work and empirical analyses by leading legal scholars with the “modern representatives” of fascism and white nationalism.
If you think of Crenshaw / Bell and Stormfront / Bannon as equivalents, that really says a lot about you.
Read 4 tweets
29 Jun
This is a crucial piece by @ThePlumLineGS, outlining why the Select Committee should explore the “white rage” behind the January 6 insurrection.

I’d like to add: The white nationalist threat doesn’t emanate from the fringes of society – but from the Republican Party itself. 1/
We must not miss the forest for the trees: “White rage” is not just a fringe phenomenon in American politics, and the people who stormed the Capitol were not just a bunch of frustrated individuals from the fringes of society. 2/
They also weren’t simply seduced and overwhelmed by Trump’s #BigLie – I reflected on why it would be dangerously misleading to imagine the insurrectionists as victims of brilliant propaganda here: 3/
Read 40 tweets
28 Jun
Nikki Haley made some statements last week that provide an interesting window into the conservative psyche and help explain why even the “moderates” united behind Trump. Some thoughts: 1/
There’s obviously a lot of wannabe-tough nonsense in Nikki Haley’s statement. But it also expresses a feeling of being on the defensive, of being under siege, that is pervasive among conservatives – and has been for quite some time. 2/
“The days of being nice should be over” – time to get dirty, to fight back by whatever means. That, to me, is the underlying principle, the anxiety and energy that animates much of what is happening on the American Right. 3/
Read 32 tweets
23 Jun
Was this statement opposing federal initiatives to guarantee the right to vote made in:

A: 1869 (reaction to the 15th Amendment)
B: 1890 (justification for Jim Crow laws)
C: 1965 (reaction to the Voting Rights Act)
D: 2021 (justification for blocking the For the People Act)
The answer is D, but the only clue is the mention of S1 - because other than that it’s exactly how white supremacists have always justified their highly discriminatory election laws that were specifically designed to disenfranchise Blacks and anyone threatening their rule.
Seriously, if you know anything about the history of racism and white supremacy in this country, about how it took the federal government overriding “states’ rights” and forcing the states to respect Black people’s right to vote, you know how outrageous a statement this is.
Read 5 tweets
18 Jun
There are interesting parallels between the reaction of American conservatives to #Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday and the way West German conservatives despised the idea of celebrating May 8 as a “Day of Liberation” through much of the post-war period. Some thoughts: 1/
May 8, 1945 was, of course, the day Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. It is widely celebrated in many countries, including the U.S., where it is known as VE Day: Victory in Europe Day. 2/
It was celebrated in one of the two post-war Germanies: The German Democratic Republic, which was part of the Eastern Bloc and defined its identity in discontinuity with Prussian and Nazi history, and explicitly (though inadequately) as a society of anti-fascists. 3/
Read 48 tweets
17 Jun
This piece is spot on: Instead of pretending that individual politicians are the problem, we need to acknowledge what @ThePlumLineGS calls the “larger truth”: That the Republican Party itself has become an anti-democratic force and an acute threat to American democracy. 1/
As @ThePlumLineGS rightfully notes, not every Republican has gone as far as Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia in their open disdain for democracy, the rule of law, and those who protected it on January 6. 2/
But let’s remember that calling the insurrection a "normal tourist visit," as Clyde famously did, or acting the way he did towards a man who risked his own life to defend American democracy, does not get you in trouble within the Republican Party. 3/
Read 20 tweets
16 Jun
This is as grotesque and inflammatory a lie as any Trump has ever told.

And in today’s GOP, that’s totally fine. Truth, decency, norms: None of that matters. Who cares if the “Libs” are guilty of this particular crime - they’re an “Un-American” menace, and so anything goes.
Let’s be clear how deranged and dangerous this is. This is one of the leaders of a major party accusing the political opponent of deliberately allowing the killing of newborns, and women and medical personnel who are dealing with incredibly hard decisions of murder.
As with many of these bizarre rightwing lies and demonizations: Imagine having your mind poisoned by this stuff day in and day out, until you start to believe it’s an accurate characterization of the political opponent - or at the very least *could* be true of the enemy.
Read 6 tweets
15 Jun
And if Germany’s “conservative” party were to enact such a Holocaust ban as part of a general attempt to restrict critical debate and punish dissenters, U.S. journalists and observers would not hesitate to warn of this anti-democratic, far-right, authoritarian faction.
I find such hypothetical analogies very instructive. Because of the Holocaust’s prominent place in the American national imaginary, they sharpen the awareness for how a society chooses to address the mass crimes it committed in the past, and their lasting legacies in the present.
I know Bryan Stevenson, the founder of @eji_org, often talks about discussing the death penalty with a German audience, and how outrageous it would be for the post-1945 German state to keep executing people, and for Germany to execute a disproportionately high number of Jews.
Read 6 tweets
15 Jun
Yes! And this isn’t just opportunism or cynicism. The underlying ideology is that Democratic governance is per se illegitimate, that Democrats are pursuing an “Un-American” political project fueled by a coalition of people who don’t deserve their place in the body politic.
Of course McConnell is a shameless opportunist and unabashed cynic. But ideology circumscribes and defines the realm of opportunity. For all those supporting McConnell and his party, this kind of “hardball” is a viable option because they see it as a strategy in a noble war.
The context-free focus on opportunism and lust for power is inadequate analytically, if we want to understand what animates the Right; and it is problematic politically: It obscures the fundamentally anti-democratic (small d!) tendencies among conservatives.
Read 5 tweets