from Joseph Britt: " The task before us today is primarily a moral one, only very secondarily one of institutional reform. I would rather it were one we did not face, but as we Americans have gotten ourselves into this fix it will be up to us to move out of it, and forward." (posting at twitter about the above article)

It is all only moral, and ethical. That is the only important thing. The Politicians with a capital P who are our leadership in the communities, where the voters live, have to look at themselves in the mirror if they are not truthtelling. We have a complicated Senator, Senator Susan Collins, who is a lot deeper than non-Mainers know. This is not the person portrayed on SNL. There is a long tradition of independent thinking in Maine, maybe because we are stuck out there at the end of the country, all alone. People leave us alone, or used to. Senator Collins grew up in the far north, she is not easily scared by a bear in the back yard or a crowd of R in the Senate Chamber. Senator Olympia Snowe, and other current and past politicians in Maine do have common ground in many ways. Look to R and D crossing the aisle out of sight of the media, a la how to Get to Yes, an important Harvard U Mediation Project initiative. The 24/7 news cycle destroys morality by rushing to get more content which is then diluted into something called "cuisinart journalism." Great article, thank u!

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Jim --- you are right of course, and I deeply appreciate your enduring and desperate faith in the possibility of our democracy. I think that if you can realistically see a way forward short of upheaval, I could also believe in that. Your post lays out a clear and rational way forward, but the question of course is “How do we get from here to there’?...

In your list of possibles, they would all seem to require an overwhelming victory of one party in the Presidency and Congress, akin to 2008 (when even a 60-40 Senate was barely enough to pass the ACA). A narrow majority in either house, as currently, would be insufficient for just about all of your ‘could be done’ list. I doubt that any of them will be enacted in the current term. Most of them will require the change in the Supreme Court you outline, and this will take a few years to take effect.

This hoped-for overwhelming electoral victory would be based on ‘make the government work’, and I think we are very near to that being a dominant Presidential campaign issue. But this issue cuts both ways, with differing emphases – and either party could ride it to success. The results of a Republican victory on this issue may differ a lot from your (our) preferences.

The other possibility to enact a ‘make government work’ mandate is autocratic fiat. That seems perilously close these days.

On your must do list, the ‘house burning down’ emergencies, I fully agree in theory.

Re the assaults on elections via voter suppression, gerrymandering and assertions of fraud: perhaps small steps can be made in the current term of Congress to minimize voter suppression, but not much more. Again, sufficient action will require a stronger majority. And that does not seem likely in 2022.

But I am confused about what you think the Press can (would) do. What is “The Press” anymore? The “Mainstream Press” (with the exception of Fox News) has been exposing Trump and the Radical Right for several years now, to only modest effect. You did admirable work yourself in cataloguing hundreds of Trump lies for the Atlantic, and perhaps that moved the dial a bit in helping defeat him, but to me it seemed more like you were building the historical record.

Even beyond the lessened influence of the mainstream press is the pursuit of profit regardless of the damage caused. I think of how CNN promoted Trump before he was elected and then turned on him – both in the interests of profit and relevance: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/business/media/jeff-zucker-helped-create-donald-trump-that-show-may-be-ending.html

But beyond profit-whoring, there just do not seem to be many news outlets that have a broad influence that can counter the agit-prop of the nationalist Right, where even facts are negotiable. The Atlantic (such as Barton Gelman and Anne Applebaum) has been documenting the autocratic threat quite well, but The Atlantic, like most other mainstream media, appeals to a narrow spectrum of Americans, some degrees on either side of the center.

Who is The Press that can have sufficient effect to turn the tide of this moment? That is not a rhetorical question…

Best, Randy

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"As a followup to 'Fools, Drunks, and the United States of America,' a triage guide to possible steps in defending democracy." How to implement? Start a Salon, do a conference, bring together the moderate R and D to implement this practical guide! There are so many wonderful leading lights like Corey Booker, Pete B, Deval Patrick who can take on helping us all march into the bright new future of the next 50 years. We have the geniuses, some are very unlikely worldwide leaders into the new century and beyond: such as the charismatic Greta Thunberg.

Thanks for the great new article and more, please!

What about a voting holiday with parties and coupons for voting? Wouldn't that alone solve a lot of problems?

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Dec 12, 2021Liked by James Fallows

Two comments regarding the Senate.

1. While it is "unfair" that small states get the same number of Senators as large states, I don't see it having any effect on our government. Most people point to the partisan bias of the two-senator small state bias but that in fact is incorrect. Actually, the smaller states are balanced by party. Currently, the ten smallest states have 10 Republican and 10 Democratic (or Democratic-caucusing) Senators. That balance has been maintained pretty much for the past twenty years or so. In addition, it's not clear to me that small states hold unfair leverage which they use for small state concerns. Are we passing legislation that is unfairly biased toward Vermont versus California, or Wyoming versus Texas? Not that I'm aware of. The divisions are partisan and national, not local and based on state size.

2. Nonetheless, the Senate is a problem and creates unnecessary obstacles for effective government. But I believe we can -- effectively -- get rid of the Senate, despite what you cite in part 1. And we can do that by giving each state equal suffrage in the Senate -- i.e., *none.* Each Senator would have a zero, or non-binding, vote in areas we choose. We could make the Senate more like the House of Lords, with something of an advisory role but with limited or no ability to block (or pass) legislation. We could consider retaining certain areas where Senators have an effective vote, such as for treaties and some (if not all) appointments. But for legislation? Nope, nothing.

That would seem to pass constitutional muster to me, even if it would demand a constitutional amendment for it to happen.

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Thanks again for all this and that which has preceded, and I agree wholeheartedly with your taxonomy of actions needed whether impossible, improbable, or imperative yet still challenging which begs the question: How does this get done?

- Are there enough liberals and progressives in those parts of the country dominated by the GOP to change the quantitative dynamics that have brought us to this point?

- Is it possible to get there without a significant number of Republicans in their strongest circumscriptions joining the rest of us?

- Is it possible without a complete divorce from the conservative-v-liberal paradigm that would put intellectual honesty and forthright distinctions of areas of agreement and discord so that a critical mass of the electorate across the country might concretely marginalize the extremist outliers (wishful redundancy intended...)?

Here is a more focused perspective that is pertinent to all three questions :


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Ed, thanks. These are all crucial questions, and I will confess that I don't have a good answer to them. The reason I didn't go straight to them in these pieces is my sense that news reports are *mainly* about those points anyway. So we don't get to the underlying "what could be done" / "why should it be done" issues.

I realize that none of this can happen without concerted effort, as I said in this second piece. In the "Ready, Aim, Fire" sequence, these are confined to the "Aim" part — which is necessary but not sufficient.

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I hope you don't mind I pasted this post on the fb of two local left wing groups, Minuteman Indivisible in Lexington MA and Blue Wave Support in the east Bay Area.

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Always happy to get the message out!

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