Discover more from Ctrl Alt Right Delete
Five scary things in this email
A look ahead to 2024 and the challenges of saving democracy. Again.
Last month, I asked what topics y’all were interested in reading more about. Most of your responses were centered on next year’s presidential election and/or down-ballot races. No one is despairing, but I’d describe a lot of your emails as anxious. That anxiety is understandable because we’re in uncharted territory. Most days, I still feel bullish on 2024, but I’ve obviously been wrong before. There are just so many unknowns it’s hard to feel like you have a handle on things.
Well, for the next two weeks, I’m going to try to give us all a framework. I’ve put together five challenges and five opportunities for pro-democracy advocates (and those working to elect pro-democracy candidates) in 2024. This week, two days before Halloween. I’m going to scare you a bit with the challenges. Next week, one year out from Election Day, I’ll present five opportunities to give you some hope.
OK, let’s do this:
Trump’s MAGA coalition of election deniers has amassed real political power across the US. We should probably start with the newly elected Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, an election denier, coup organizer, and far-right extremist. In a race where Steve “David Duke without the baggage” Scalise was at one point considered the mainstream candidate -- the GOP House Caucus made clear that it’s still Trump’s party and MAGA is still the only constituency it cares to serve. But Congress is just one elected body. Election Deniers hold statewide offices that oversee elections in a third of the country. Eighteen state legislators currently serving across the US were at the Capitol Building on January 6. Each and every one of these folks, from Speaker Johnson on down to your local MAGA County Clerk, will use every power and privilege of their office to help Donald Trump win the election and/or come back to power even if he loses.
The political discourse and media coverage are backsliding, treating 2024 like a normal election year. Once again, American Democracy is on the chopping block, but most of our political press seems desperate to go back to politics as usual. Instead of analysis of what the stakes are and what communities and people would be harmed by a second White House term for Trump, American political media has focused on obsessive coverage of trivial things like Joe Biden’s age (but not Trump) John Fetterman’s wardrobe. It’s a dizzying array of bothsidsism and horserace politics. While it’s wonderful to see journalists like Margaret Sullivan and Christiane Amanpour push back and call for reporters to be “truthful, not neutral,” we have to assume that the coverage isn’t likely to improve. Making it harder to ensure voters understand the stakes of this election and don’t tune out entirely.
We’re losing ground in the local culture wars. Since January 6, the MAGA Right has shifted its tactics from national politics to local culture war fights. Things like Critical Race Theory, book bans, dehumanizing trans children and their families, and drag queen performers. These attacks have damaged local communities, institutions, and democracy at the municipal level. Much of the time, it’s a shockingly small group of extremists driving the outrage, but these folks are organized and highly effective. The majority of people in most communities almost certainly don’t agree with them, but that majority isn’t as organized and isn’t resourced nationally in the way these agitators are.
Tech companies are rolling back their policies, gutting their trust and safety teams. And then there’s Twitter. I devoted a recent newsletter to this topic, but current world events serve as a stark reminder of just how bad things are again on social media. America is one of more than 50 countries with a national election next year, and I can’t believe that Civil Society groups are forced to push Big Tech to reinstate many of the same policies we were asking for in 2018.
Organized harassment is now a staple political tactic in MAGA’s toolbox. Political opponents and everyday people are now routinely targeted with hate, harassment, and harm. Call it stochastic terrorism, networked incitement, or simply inciting others to violence. By now, we’re all familiar with the strategy: MAGA politicians, media figures, and influencers from Donald Trump to Libs of TikTok encourage violence against political opponents, marginalized communities, and anyone who gets in their way on the path to power. Since Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve seen incidents of incited violence leading up to every election. Candidates, volunteers, and election workers are also barraged with threats and harassment, with women and people of color being especially vulnerable.
It’s important to be clear-eyed about what we’re up against, but please don’t despair. I promise you the opportunities are just as hopeful as the challenges are concerning. Be sure not to miss them next week.
Fulton County DA Fani Willis has quite the talent for getting guilty pleas from Trump co-conspirators. I love to see so much accountability, especially since it increases the pressure on Trump. Seeing MAGA lose their minds has also been fun, especially over Jenna Ellis’ plea deal. Media Matters has a fun roundup of the best reactions.
Jim Jordan’s Conspiratorial Quest for Power (The New Yorker)
Jim Jordan will not be the next Speaker of the House, leaving him plenty of free time to continue harassing social media researchers and the institutions they work for via Congressional Investigation. As this profile points out, Jordan’s theatrics are costing institutions millions of dollars and taking a toll on folks personally as well. Not to mention, they’re a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
Trump Makes It Clear: He Now Owns the House (DailyKos)
You probably hadn’t heard of newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson until this week, but Donald Trump certainly has. Because Johnson is Trump’s guy through and through.
Do you have a friend or colleague who would enjoy Ctrl Alt-Right Delete? Be sure to forward them this email so they can subscribe, too!
I hope everyone who celebrates has a safe and happy Halloween. Sadly I’m going to miss trick or treating with the kids, but we had them in their costumes for a party at school this week, and I’m still melting at how cute everyone looked. Costumed babies and toddlers are now my favorite thing about Fall.
(Note: Before you ask, no, the children in the GIF are not my children. But they are adorable. Enjoy!)