The generation gap is huge

Via a tweet from Patrick Egan.  This chart is something else:

Other than just the size of this gap, what really strikes me is the dramatic shift of the Silent generation (aka old people) in the past two elections.  My naive hypothesis is that this is largely about the dramatically increased salience and party polarization around racial issues.  Especially, as the Silent generation is, of course, overwhelmingly white.

And, its not Republicans becoming more conservative on race, but maybe flight out of the Democratic party from older Americans who do not like the trend on race, which is pretty damn dramatic:

There’s also, a pretty notable shift among Millennials.  My theory is that Obama sucked in Millennials like the ultimate political rock star in 2008, so those 2008 numbers are somewhat inflated and have returned to earth where they will stabilize in a still, very clearly pro-Democratic level.

Anyway, we shall see.

 

This is what it feels like to live in an Authoritarian country

Just like this, actually.  The point is not that we are living in an authoritarian country now, but that, for the most part living your daily life, you wouldn’t even notice if we were.  There’s so much I’ve been wanting to say in response to Trump’s shameful acquittal (and “Trump even more unleashed” response) but what has resonated with me most is this great post from political scientist and scholar of authoritarianism Tom Pepinsky:

Let’s warm up with a question. Why don’t powerful people just seize the reins of authority in American politics? You may think that the answer is because our system of laws says that they may not. We have a Constitution, after all, that says that presidents and members of Congress are elected. The rules say that powerful people cannot just seize power. If you want to have the authority to make laws, you have to win elections.

But that answer is wrong. What constrains the powerful is not the Constitution, nor the system of laws, regulations, and bureaucracies that govern political competition. What constrains them is the practice that American politicians seek power through elections and that everyone agrees to accept that method.

That difference is subtle. It may even seem tautological—didn’t I just say that powerful people don’t seize power because they don’t? But it is essential for understanding what sustains democracy, and what undermines it. Democracy is a political regime, which O’Donnell and Schmitter define as

the ensemble of patterns, explicit or not, that determines and channels of access to principal governmental positions, the characteristics of the actors who are admitted and excluded from such access, and the resources or strategies that they can use to gain access.

Democracy is nothing other than a particular pattern of behavior that reveals how, within some community, people access positions of political authority.

Constitutions and laws, like other so-called “parchment institutions,” help to provide a structure for politics. Given that there are many ways to have elections, our Constitution generates public, common expectations about how they might be conducted (see Carey [PDF]). But laws do not constrain on their own. They constrain—and this is the essential bit—if people behave as if they are constrained by them.

Working from these two points—democracy is a pattern of behavior, and laws only constrain if people behave as if they are constrained—it follows that we would be correct to say that democracy has collapsed if the explicit or implicit patterns of behavior that govern access to political authority no longer operated. And we would not look to the passage of a law, or necessarily even the outcome of an election, to determine if democracy had collapsed.

Democracy, in fact, makes it particularly challenging to know if democracy has collapsed. That is because when democracy functions, challenges to it are usually hidden, and when they emerge in the open, they are processed through a system that presumes that challenges can be handled democratically. Political actors invoke laws and Constitutions as if they were binding constraints. Stresses that pose questions about the stability of the regime over time, therefore, are fundamentally ambiguous. They may be regime-altering, or not. And the responses to them by those who hold power may be regime-altering. Or not.

And that is why, if American democracy were to collapse, you almost certainly wouldn’t notice it. Not right away, at least…

 Indeed, there aren’t very many differences between everyday life under most forms of authoritarianism and everyday life under democracy. For most people, in most cases, life is basically the same. And because most people, in most cases, are not motivated primarily by their politics in going about their everyday life, the functioning of national politics is not a first-order concern for them.* Democracies usually do not go out with a bang. They just cease to be.** [emphasis mine]

No, we are not living in an authoritarian state, but that would clearly be Trump’s preferred outcome and undoubtedly Trump’s gross abuses of power and the egregious abuse of the Justice department, in particularly, undoubtedly push us in that direction.  And most Americans would not really know until it was too late.

That’s why my mantra for this election is that it is not about taxes, abortion, size of government, immigration, etc.  It is about a party that believes in the rule of law and one that does not (but, rather believes in a demagogue).  The choice is really that clear.

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