The Rejection of Washington’s Bequest: What Americans Need to Consider in Advance of the Election
“But are there not many fascists in your country?”
“There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the times comes.”
- Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
Now? Of all fucking times, now? A variation, perhaps less profane, perhaps tinged more with sadness than rage, went through the minds of millions of Americans when the inevitable became reality. A century ago, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck observed a young republic touched by the magic of luck and memorably remarked “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” Once wonders what his latter-day successor Angela Merkel, the last remaining Atlanticist leader upholding the world built by an optimistic, can-do America now long past, must think of the luck of Americans now. In a year when voting in massive numbers is the last stopgap before the irrevocable stain of Putinism becomes too embedded to dislodge, we’re faced with a highly contagious pandemic and a massively, and deliberately underfunded post office. In a year where the litigation is all but certain to decide the thin veneer of legality within which Trump hopes to cloak his purported re-election, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg removes the clearest voice on the Court for fairness and adherence to Constitutional norms, her absence certain to be filled by a sprightly young cheerleader for untrammeled executive power (so long as the presidency is held by a Republican, that is).
In fury and disgust, the departure of the lioness of the Court compels patriots across the country to ask, precisely, what can we do? The Court is gone; McConnell will get his sixth seat, and no amount of “but Lindsay Graham said he wouldn’t do this!” rage-tweets will change that. Most recent commentary jumps ahead to the hoped for renaissance of late January, proposing everything from court packing to abolishing the filibuster. That presupposes an electoral victory, but more to the point, an acknowledgement of an electoral victory. Throughout American history, at least post 1860, those two things have always been the same. It is the burden of 2020 that “winning” and “Donald Trump accepting a loss” are two vastly different things. Leave progressive rejuvenation for the spring. First, the American people are going to need to leap over a limitless chasm, one they quite plainly are not ready…