Where are the interviews with regular Americans terrified for our democracy?

I’m terrified.

And I know I’m not the only one.

I am terrified by the increasingly real possibility that this country — if Republicans take Congress in 2022 and Trump prevails in 2024 — could become a white Christian authoritarian state, where constitutional rights and protections get rolled back either by law, by fiat, or at the point of a neo-Brownshirt’s gun.

I am terrified about a scenario the likes of which I would never have even imagined before a few years ago. I thought this country’s constitutional system was unshakeable. Now it’s shaking and so am I. What would I do?

And of course I’m not alone. A Quinnipiac poll out this week found that a significant majority of Americans – by a 58 to 37 margin – believe “the nation’s democracy is in danger of collapse.” Some of that is right-wingers who think the 2020 election was stolen, but it’s 56 to 37 percent among Democrats, too.

Over half of Americans also consider it very likely (19 percent) or somewhat likely (34 percent) that there will be another attack in the United States like the one at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

And while people who follow me on Twitter are hardly a representative group, I was struck by how many people responded to this tweet by telling me that not only are they terrified, but that everybody they know is terrified, too.

Invisible

I don’t read about people who feel that way in the news, though.

A growing number of pundits are trying to sound the alarm, and some of them end up being quoted in news stories. But that’s not the same as a cultural trend piece that takes the temperature of a population.

It’s all highly reminiscent of what amounted to a near-boycott of Biden-supporter coverage before the 2020 election. New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote in July 2019 that “anti-Trump voters are practically invisible in recent mainstream political coverage” – even though they represented the majority of Americans. It didn’t get any better in the ensuing 16 months.

It’s been true during every run-up to war in our history: the supposed “left” gets ignored. And it’s true again.

Where are the voices of the ordinary people who fear for democracy? Why has the majority been silenced?

We continue to get breathless reports from the Trump rallies.

What about talking to non-racist parents who worry their children will be taught propaganda at school? Or people in Black or brown communities who worry about barriers to voting, increased poverty and more militant policing? Or people in immigrant communities who don’t want to see their neighbors deported? Or trans people, who would have reason to be scared for their lives? Or government employees who would be asked to do things they consider abhorrent?

Or hang out at a Unitarian Church, or a reconstructionist synagogue, or a mosque, or a Common Cause meeting? Or, hell, just talk to people in a blue-state diner, if that’s easier? (Maybe make that a deli.)

It’s not only liberals who are terrified, either. It is, forgive me for saying so, pretty much anyone who occupies the reality-based sphere and is paying close attention.

That includes, for instance, the three dozen former Trump administration officials who, according to CNN, “held a conference call last Monday to discuss efforts to fend off his efforts to, in their view, erode the democratic process. Never-Trumpers were there already.

Our jaded, self-satisfied national political reporters could even benefit from talking to journalism colleagues in other departments. I have no doubt that a lot of reporters, editors, and publishers are worried about bogus prosecutions, harassment, and punishment of journalists perceived to be disloyal. Our entire industry should worry that even more extreme Trumpian bombast about fake news and the enemy of the people could well become rallying cries for armed militias.

Touched a Nerve

What I asked on Twitter on Monday was this: Has anyone seen any good articles on people who are truly terrified that we may well be headed to white nationalist authoritarianism?

No one had a good example. There were several links to excellent articles about the threat to democracy written by experts. But none about ordinary people feeling scared.

Nevertheless, some of the responses to my tweet blew me away. The frustration was overwhelming. Quite a few people volunteered to be interviewed.

Unflappability Has Its Limits

The public needs to hear about ordinary Americans who are anxious and alarmed. And it would be good for top political reporters to be exposed to thoughts and emotions that don’t come from their colleagues’ elite, incestuous Twitter feeds and the occasional parachute into a red state.

Those reporters need to understand that a lot of ordinary Americans are scared. Some of us are even freaking out.

And that, in turn, might make their coverage about the growing threats to American democracy more urgent and a lot less emotionally removed.

There are two bills in the Senate that would go a long way to shoring up the voting part of  democracy,  but the coverage has been all about strategy and process and who’s up and who’s down, not what’s in the bills and the likely consequences of not passing them.

The stakes are simply too high for the coverage of these to continue to be so blah.

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this incredible article. It is ABOUT TIME. I am one small voice. I live a middle class life and having saved everything I could during a long career in business, I am lucky to have a good retirement and SSI. I am neither progressive nor am I conservative. I am a liberal thinker and I KNOW WE CAN DO BETTER. I am terrified by the Republican party, though. Terrified they will continue their lies and obstructionism. I do not agree with 90 percent of what Liz Cheney believes because her position as the rep for the least populous state in the Union is quite opposite mine, living in a section of one city that is 10 times the size of her entire state (mostly I believe in gun control cause I can not fathom people walking around my city with guns, or having open carry handguns on a subway car) but I celebrate her courage, and that of Adam Kinsinger, for telling the truth. I had a stroke recently because of this awful political discourse and the LIES that consume us. Please talk to me because my voice is never heard. I despised my city’s mayor because he is a progressive out of touch with my life and patriotism, too. We must stop this insanity or we will fall prey to the red shirts who are brown shirts in the historical sense. My kids don’t want to have kids now because they are afraid, too. I am even afraid of putting a flag outside my house with a political sign for a democrat for fear that my dad’s memorial flag will be harmed or torn down. What have we become? This IS terrifying. Please stop the “what about-isms” the good press like PBS Newshour can display. Please write stories about this again and again and again. This is sincerely killing me.

  2. This 1000 times. Where are these reporters??? Are they buried so deep in their beltway bubble that they can’t even step outside into the real world to take the pulse of the body politic? Because I can tell you that the fear of losing our democracy is palpable in this country. My entire circle of friends, some of whom are Democrats and some Republicans who voted for Biden, talk about this constantly. But for a slight reprieve after Biden took office, we’ve been worried for our country and what can happen if the Republicans win the house in 2022.
    We are on the edge of the abyss folks. And the MSM is all about the bothesideism. Completely out of touch. This kind of reporting helped get us to this place. I remember during the 2016 election when Hilary Clinton was giving policy speeches and CNN was showing an empty hall where Trump was going to have a rally two hours later. I remember the endless stories about Hilary’s emails and the panels comprised of Trump sycophants, some of whom are ensnared in the Big lie. I also remember how long it took for the MSM to call what Trump said were lies. They still refer to them as ‘falsehoods’.
    So enough with the reluctance to call Republicans out. Enough with the refusal to ask them the ‘hard’ questions, like ‘Do you think Biden is the president’? I’m talking to you, Chuck Todd. NYT, do these endless stories about Trump voters really speak to the issues that most of America cares about? If you are going to interview these people, interview the people who work tirelessly to preserve our right to vote. And enough with the ‘Biden is failing storyline, WAPO. If that’s your game plan, then take the Democracy Dies in Darkness off your masthead, because you can’t say one thing while your actions say otherwise. Reporting can have a pro-democracy stance and still be fair and balanced. It’s not just an issue for some, it’s THE issue of our day.
    So thank you, Press Watch for bringing attention to this. So few are, and so many should.

  3. It’s pretty clear why the vast majority of journalists are so damned complacent as we’re sliding into fascism — they identify more with the oppressors. They consider themselves on a par with the people they cover — they went to good schools, they appear on TV, they have nice houses.

    This all began after Watergate, when suddenly everyone wanted to go to J-school and become a reporter. The problem is, people from prestigious schools are ambitious, and that makes them identify with the politicians, not those of us who are terrified of the politicians. As Carl Bernstein points out in his new book, he didn’t go to college — and that probably made him very different from other journalists.

    Journalism as a whole was much better when reporters were working-class guys and gals who lived in working-class neighborhoods. Now they live these Sunday Times cover-story lives. They have no emotional investment whatsoever in saving those of us who are scared shitless right now.

    And for the first time in my life, I find myself wondering if I need to buy a gun.

  4. I read something in the Washingto. Post online today by Philip Bump that I can’t find anymore, but in it he expressed a belief that Americans are moving to the right, and he pooh-poohed the idea that our democracy is in danger. If I find it I will post the link, but I was furious. Someone should tell him that he’s part of the problem.

    • I think it was probably this:
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/18/shift-right-2021/

      Keep up the good, work, Dan! Though Republicans have been working to suppress voters for years (decades?), for me, the turning point happened back when they wouldn’t seat Garland. It’s only gotten worse since. I think it’s about time that we start referring to those who are anti-democracy as being anti-American in the truest sense. Patriotism in America means supporting democracy, and as a corollary, supporting truth so that democracy can produce practical outcomes. Those who have decided that their political opponents are evil are willing to discard both. Normal, democracy-loving Americans are afraid because this “my opponents are evil” mindset has no aversion to violence based on their warped internal logic.

      And in case anyone is wondering, I don’t think of anti-democratic people as “evil” myself–they’re just another instance of common human weakness combined with uncommon human avarice, along with a big dose of ignorance. Christian concepts of the soul and of Evil as a noun certainly don’t help, either. It’s just nigh impossible to debate someone who is so divorced from reality. And if we can’t debate, then what?

  5. You don’t need to go to blue states to talk to people who are freaked out by what is happening. For the past 25 years I have lived in a red suburb in North Carolina. I know quite a few women, some Democrats but many life long Republicans, who despised Trump and are terrified by what is happening.
    People need to realize that no matter how discouraged they are that the voting rights bills aren’t likely to pass the thing we need most is to elect more Democrats so that we can get it done.

  6. T**** pretty much owns the media now. He threatened their existence many times and the owners of media companies want profits not lawsuits so they don’t push back. The media hasn’t been the same since 2012. They’re all in on it now. Nobody has the funding to speak the truth anymore its like we live in a dictatorship already.

  7. The mainstream rolls on fitting select facts into predetermined scenarios.
    Too, the mainstream except for the anomalous Vietnam war/Watergate period, is primarily in the business of promoting establishment propaganda.
    Meanwhile, the state hasn’t cared about about the wants or needs of the overwhelming majority of the nation for decades.
    Put it all together and the mainstream doesn’t care about the majority of the nation’s people nor do they have any reason to. Honest reporting would require such coverage as well as of the existential threat of Republican lawlessness and anti-democratic laws but honest reporting isn’t of much interest to the mainstream.
    Which explains in large part how we got here. And that the mainstream is actually harmful.

  8. re: “There were several links to excellent articles about the threat to democracy written by experts. But none about ordinary people feeling scared.” — Part of that may also be that there ARE experts talking about the threat to democracy. Whereas if someone is going to write about the “validity” of the Trumpian perspective, there are no credible “experts,” so what’s left–do to the sheer lack of foundation for a truly insightful piece from that side–might be a lopsided number of “ordinary people” stories, simply out of necessity (at least to whatever extent one feels it is necessary to cover that perspective in the first place). IOW, it’s all they have.

    To your other point about most stories not being about substance but rather “strategy and process and who’s up and who’s down,” it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. While part of it may be the unfortunate “politics as sports,” I think it’s also a by-product of the fact that news is reported daily (or hourly!), and the underlying substance of an issue or bill remains fixed over days, weeks, months… while the politics and strategy of it is what changes, and what changes is what qualifies as news.

  9. mr f,

    boy, did you hit the nail on the head. just about everyone’s terrified. and no one’s reporting that fact. it’s one of the most frightening things in all of american history.

    and it’ll happen. the republicans will take over congress this election year, and the presidency in 2024 and we will proceed to become a fascist state. and most people don’t give a damn. the public is too stupid and too self-absorbed. and once we’re caught in it, who knows if we’ll ever get out of it. I sure wouldn’t hold my breath.

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