An Open Letter in Defense of Democracy

Diverse coalition sounds the alarm

You rarely see all these folks on the same page or united about about… anything. But I’m delighted to be able to add my name to this remarkable declaration, which is being released today,

[This open letter is being published simultaneously by The Bulwark and The New Republic.]

We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.

Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.

But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.

Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.

The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump’s defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.

So we, who have differed on so much in the past—and who continue to differ on much today—have come together to say:

We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to change state election laws to limit voter participation.

We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to empower state legislatures to override duly appointed election officials and interfere with the proper certification of election results, thereby substituting their own political preferences for those expressed by citizens at the polls.

We vigorously oppose the relentless and unending promotion of unprofessional and phony “election audits” that waste public money, jeopardize public electoral data and voting machines, and generate paranoia about the legitimacy of elections.

We urge the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass effective, national legislation to protect the vote and our elections, and if necessary to override the Senate filibuster rule.

And we urge all responsible citizens who care about democracy—public officials, journalists, educators, activists, ordinary citizens—to make the defense of democracy an urgent priority now.

Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the Republic.

Todd Gitlin
Professor of Journalism, Sociology and Communications
Columbia University

Jeffrey C. Isaac
James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science
Indiana University, Bloomington

William Kristol
Editor at Large, The Bulwark
Director, Defending Democracy Together

Cosigners

Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

Sheri Berman
Professor of Political Science
Barnard College

Max Boot
Senior Fellow
Council on Foreign Relations

James Carroll
Writer

Leo Casey
Assistant to the President
American Federation of Teachers

Mona Charen
Policy Editor
The Bulwark

Noam Chomsky
Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics Emeritus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jelani Cobb
Professor of Journalism
Columbia University

Eliot A. Cohen
Robert E. Osgood Professor
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

David Cole
National Legal Director
American Civil Liberties Union

Laura K. Field
Senior Fellow
Niskanen Center

Carolyn Forché
University Professor
Georgetown University

Francis Fukuyama
Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University

William A. Galston
Senior Fellow
Brookings Institution

Jeffrey C. Goldfarb
Michael E. Gellert Professor Emeritus
New School for Social Research

Hahrie Hahn
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Professor of Political Science
Director, SNF Agora Institute
Johns Hopkins University

Roya Hakakian
Author and poet
Fellow, Davenport College, Yale University

John Judis
Writer

Ira Katznelson
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History
Columbia University

Michael Kazin
Professor of History
Georgetown University

Randall Kennedy
Michael R. Klein Professor of Law
Harvard University

Steven R. Levitsky
Professor of Government
Harvard University

Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.

Susie Linfield
Professor of Journalism
New York University

Damon Linker
Senior Correspondent
The Week

Dahlia Lithwick
Senior Editor
Slate

Jane Mansbridge
Charles F. Adams Professor, Emerita
Harvard Kennedy School

Win McCormack
Editor in Chief
The New Republic

John McWhorter
Professor of Linguistics
Columbia University

Deborah Meier
Educator

James Miller
Professor of Politics and Liberal Studies
New School for Social Research

Nell Irvin Painter
Edwards Professor of American History Emerita
Princeton University

Rick Perlstein
Writer

Katha Pollitt
Writer

Claire Potter
Professor of History
New School for Social Research

Jedediah Purdy
William S. Beinecke Professor of Law
Columbia University

Jonathan Rauch
Senior Fellow
Brookings Institution

Adolph Reed
Emeritus Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Kim Lane Scheppele
Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs
Princeton University

Charles Sykes
Founder and Editor at Large
The Bulwark

George Thomas
Burnet C. Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions
Claremont McKenna College

Michael Tomasky
Editor, The New Republic
Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Jeffrey K. Tulis
Professor of Government and Law
University of Texas

Dorian T. Warren
President
Community Change

Joan Walsh
Writer
The Nation

Michael Walzer
Professor Emeritus of Social Science
Institute for Advanced Study

Sean Wilentz
Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the American Revolutionary Era
Princeton University

Benjamin Wittes
Senior Fellow
Brookings Institution

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Your Word of the Day

Happy Wednesday. It seems like a good day to add to your political vocabulary. Today’s word: dingleberry as in Tim Miller’s piece today: “Political Speech For Human Dingleberries Has Never Been More Robust.”

This is pure fire (and arguably the most important thing you’ll read this morning):

Never in the history of the world have more human dingleberries had larger platforms to spew deranged nonsense about politics than they do right now, at this moment. We are in a golden age for fools with political views outside the mainstream.

If you bookmark this page and come back to it in a week, or a month, or a year, the dingleberry maxim will be as true then as it is today. There seems to be a Moore’s Law for the dispersion of idiotic content and no matter what the cEnSorS do to slow it down, the takes transistors still find a way to double capacity every year.

The breadth and depth of this speech is so vast that someone who hasn’t engrossed themselves in internet political culture might have no idea of its reach. If you are over the age of 35, there are people on YouTube and Twitch and TikTok that you have never heard of who have significantly larger audiences for their radical political ravings than the most preeminent policy journals had during your formative years.


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Reality check on “Defund the Police”

Via Pew:

Amid mounting public concern about violent crime in the United States, Americans’ attitudes about police funding in their own community have shifted significantly.

The share of adults who say spending on policing in their area should be increased now stands at 47%, up from 31% in June 2020. That includes 21% who say funding for their local police should be increased a lot, up from 11% who said this last summer.

Support for reducing spending on police has fallen significantly: 15% of adults now say spending should be decreased, down from 25% in 2020. And only 6% now advocate decreasing spending a lot, down from 12% who said this last year. At the same time, 37% of adults now say spending on police should stay about the same, down from 42% in 2020.


Wait for it…

Because, of course...

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Quick Hits

Everything Facebook: It's Worse Than You Thought

ICYMI: JVL provides an overview of the Facebook meltdown.

People are starting to dig through the trove of documents known as the “Facebook Papers” and what they are finding is both shocking and totally unsurprising.1

Let’s start with the shocking stuff.

Facebook is used to facilitate human trafficking:

Facebook has for years struggled to crack down on content related to what it calls domestic servitude: "a form of trafficking of people for the purpose of working inside private homes through the use of force, fraud, coercion or deception," according to internal Facebook documents reviewed by CNN.

Facebook is used by parties stoking political violence:

Facebook employees repeatedly sounded the alarm on the company's failure to curb the spread of posts inciting violence in "at risk" countries like Ethiopia, where a civil war has raged for the past year, internal documents seen by CNN show.

The social media giant ranks Ethiopia in its highest priority tier for countries at risk of conflict, but the documents reveal that Facebook's moderation efforts were no match for the flood of inflammatory content on its platform.

And how is this not a “smoking gun”?

Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content — including content likely to make them angry. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than “likes,” internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business.

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