“Ohio’s Phantom Menace”

Politico reports that the DNC is forging ahead with its plan for a pre-convention virtual roll call, originally planned to address the since-resolved Ohio ballot access problem: “The Democratic National Convention Rules Committee met virtually on Friday to outline plans for the virtual roll call vote and announced they would meet no later than next Friday, July 26, to vote on the rules. Virtual voting by convention delegates is scheduled to start no earlier than Aug. 1.” More background on the pretextual (in my opinion) basis for forcing an early delegate vote here and here.

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“Biden and Trump Have Succeeded in Breaking Reality”

From M. Gessen in NYT, an astute commentary on where we’re at:

Biden and Trump represent entirely different values and policies…. Biden is right: Trump poses an existential threat to democracy.

But both campaigns are creating a sense of unreality, in presenting politics as formulaic spectacle, abstracted from the actual politics each candidate represents and from people’s lived experiences….

Autocrats and aspiring autocrats, whatever their political orientation, have been telling this story for a long time. They say that the country is on the verge of catastrophe and that only one person — the great leader — can save it. They use this rhetorical strategy because it works. That is, it works in times when a critical number of people are feeling insecure, precarious, frightened, as many Americans clearly are….

It’s tempting to say that Trump’s autocratic movement has spread like an infection. The truth is, the seeds of this disaster have been sprouting in American politics for decades: the dumbing down of conversation, the ever-growing role of money in political campaigns, the disappearance of local news media and local civic engagement and the consequent transformation of national politics into a set of abstracted images and stories, the inescapable understanding of presidential races as personality contests.

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“Joe Biden, Kamala Harris or Someone Else? The Convention Rules Might Decide.”

Jeff Greenfield’s deep dive into party rules and procedures, in Politico Magazine:

Whether or not President Joe Biden drops his bid for reelection amid rising pressure from party leaders, there’s a very good chance that the Democratic convention will be more contested than any in more than a half century….

That means that the convention rules, including who can vote on what ballot and how free the delegates are, will play a crucial, even decisive role. It requires a close look at a process riddled with tricky issues: delegates who are “pledged” but not necessarily “bound”;party insiders who cannot vote on the first ballot, except when they perhaps can; delegates who are free to vote their choice except when they can’t.

And all of these factors will lead to different outcomes depending on whether the convention will see an embattled president fighting a serious challenge to his renomination or a convention that must choose a successor to a president who has chosen to stand down. Further putting things up in the air is the early virtual roll call to nominate Biden that the DNC currently has planned, but which is being fiercely resisted by those who do not want a Biden nomination locked up before the convention even begins.

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“Republicans say they will trust the election results as long as Trump wins”

From the Washington Post:

Despite the brimming confidence of Trump supporters, the campaign is preparing them to question the results if things don’t go their way. Trump has preemptively questioned the outcome of the election, sowing doubt in the results long before votes have been cast. In his convention speech on Thursday, he falsely said Democrats “used covid to cheat” in the 2020 presidential election.

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“Jan. 6 committee members leverage Trump in pleas for Biden to step aside”

Politico:

Democrats who played prominent roles on the House Jan. 6 committee — which concluded that Donald Trump poses a unique danger to democracy — are at the forefront of the latest push by members of Congress to call on President Joe Biden to consider dropping his reelection bid.

It’s an effort driven by their fears of a resurgent Trump.

On consecutive days this week, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) — three of the Jan. 6 panel’s seven Democrats — urged Biden to reconsider his candidacy in light of the party’s eroding confidence in his ability to stave off another Trump presidency. Their statements echoed their assessment of Trump drawn from their work on the select committee.

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Unfortunate use of the word “coup”

The New Yorker writer Susan Glasser, a journalist whom I greatly admire (and read regularly), in her most recent column uses the word “coup” to describe the current effort within the Democratic Party to persuade Joe Biden to step aside and let the party choose another nominee: “The coup against Joe Biden, should it succeed, would represent something as unprecedented in its own way as the fact that the Republican Party has now formally ratified the decision to stake its future on a deeply unpopular, rapidly aging demagogue who was repudiated by voters only four years ago.” The column also uses the word “coup” in its subtitle: “As the Republican Convention anoints the ex-President, the Democratic panic over Joe Biden begins to look like a coup.

Even accounting for some metaphorical leeway as part of a writer’s creativity (so-called “poetic license”), to characterize what’s going on right now within the Democratic Party as a “coup” is deeply misleading and disserves the public. It suggests that this internal debate within the party is somehow improper, illegitimate and undemocratic (small-d). Indeed, that’s why Chris LaCivita, Trump’s senior campaign adviser, has used the same word “coup” to describe what’s happening among the Democrats.

Whether or not one thinks Democrats should substitute another candidate for Biden as their nominee, that is a matter for the Democratic Party to decide pursuant to its rules, and there is nothing improper, illegitimate or undemocratic (small-d) for members of the party to deliberate among themselves as to the best course for their party to take in light of developing conditions.

To be sure, Biden is the presumptive nominee based on the results of the party’s presidential primaries, and unless he withdraws from the race the delegates to the party’s nominating convention who are “pledged” to his candidacy–according to the party’s rules–“shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of [the voters] who elected them.” But if Biden ultimately decides to withdraw based on all the input he’s been receiving from members of his own party, both leaders and grassroots, then there is no “coup” at all. Instead, the party would be deciding for itself what’s best in the circumstances.

In fact, even if Biden refuses to withdraw and an effort is mounted to challenge his continued candidacy based on the proposition that his “pledged” delegates should no longer vote for him “in all good conscience” because of what’s changed since the primaries (including his disastrous debate performance), that effort would not be a “coup” attempt. Although, as a practical matter, I think such an effort would be most likely to fail, it would not be in any way improper, illegitimate, or undemocratic (small-d) under the party’s rules. Rather, it would be following those very rules to hash out a significant disagreement among the party’s members about what the party should do.

A coup, by contrast, is the seizure of power contrary to established rules–the opposite of what Democrats in good faith disagreement would be doing as part of the party’s internal self-governance. The term “coup” therefore is much more appropriate to apply to what Trump attempted in his effort to seize a second term despite losing the 2020 election. In my own writing about the 2020 election, I have often been hesitant to use the term “coup” to describe what Trump did (although I have done so occasionally) based on a belief that using the term tends to cause an emotional response that can cloud analytic reasoning over what actually happened. Nonetheless, insofar as Trump fought to repudiate the outcome of the 2020 election in order to cling to power using improper, illegitimate, and undemocratic (small-d) means–like attempting to pressure Pence into rejecting the valid electoral votes from the states–it is not wrong to use the term “coup” to describe what Trump attempted.

It is wrong, however, to use the same term to describe the current contestation within the Democratic Party. It is a false equivalence to write, as Susan Glasser did, that the attempted “coup against Joe Biden” would be anything like what Trump did in response to being “repudiated by voters” in 2020. Even if it’s a false equivalence that the Trump campaign already has seized upon, journalists should not make the same mistake.

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