Utah or Weimar

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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44 Responses

  1. I share the same worries. I do think the most likely bad case scenario (not the worst case scenario, but the most likely bad one) is something like the military intervening and becoming a quasi-official player in civilian governance.

    So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Biden wins and Mr. Trump refuses to step down. Then the military might be called on to enforce the law and the constitution to which it is pledged to serve. Even if they do the right thing, constitutionally speaking, they’ll then be much more important than they need to be.

    I do believe things have been evolving toward this direction for a very, very long time. I don’t believe next Tuesday or its immediate aftermath will be the decisive moment. It might, however, be the spark for something bad.

    On the other hand, I’m cautiously optimistic that things might turn out well. I would love it if, a few years from now, we all look back on this time as an era where we (that is, myself and others) were just way too concerned about a very minor thing. If I can’t have that, then maybe the next best thing would be a sustained gesture toward mutual understanding, dialogue, and civility. Justice too, maybe–but hopefully at least Utah.

    Great post, Dennis. I haven’t gotten around to reading your recent stuff, but I’m glad I’ve had a chance to read this.Report

    • North in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Happily your most likely bad case scenario remains not very likely. Trump is, at heart, rather craven and he doesn’t make high risk plays like trying to order the military to get involved. Absent such an order they simply won’t, and will have no need to. The civil servants in government are and will continue to prepare for a transition if it is necessary and even a maximally intransigent Trump (in a scenario where he lost) would be gently and privately informed by the Secret Service, sometime in late December, that come Jan. 20th he’s moving out of the White House. Trump wouldn’t fight that personally- too much risk for him. He’s never had the stones for it.Report

      • InMD in reply to North says:

        I’m pretty sure the Secret Service has already said on the record they will remove him if it becomes necessary to enforce the result. I do have concerns about the damage such a spectacle could cause. You know there will be people saying it was a deep state coup.Report

        • North in reply to InMD says:

          I really really strongly don’t think it’ll be an issue. Trump is a showman. He’d never let himself be frogmarched or evicted from the White House. Hi M.O. is to comply with authority while loudly complaining or denying. When (*knocks on wood*) He loses he’ll leave the White House once he legally has to. The bigger question is whether he’ll ever concede he lost.

          But risk actual violence/prosecution/public humiliation? Nope; that’s for people with ideals more important to them than themselves.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to North says:

        I, too, hope you’re right. But my fear isn’t that he would order the military to do anything. It’s that the military might have to intervene against him. I hadn’t heard about the secret service statement, though.Report

  2. Damon says:

    A couple of random points:

    1) I think you guys spend too much time on Social Media. The only people I’ve experienced lacking respect are far left liberals that are my friends who are so caught up with their politics and hating TRUMP they can’t see straight–and even then they aren’t dissing me directly just losing their shit when I make only the slightest general support for something to the right of Bernie.

    2) “For liberal democracy to thrive you have to believe that the other guy isn’t going to rip you off.” Yeah, and frankly, this liberal democracy has been ripping me off for DECADES—this would be lessened if I left my blue state for a nice red state, but this is where the job is. I’m sure that those on the other side will claim the same from the Right.

    3) “We live in an age where civility and respect are for losers.” Not in my daily experience, except for example 1 above and only by certain individuals, who I’ve learned not to discuss politics with because they aren’t mature enough to discuss them.

    4) “Offering forgiveness is a sign of weakness.” Forgiveness should ONLY be offered when the person who wronged you apologies and makes amends, or when YOU decide to do so for your own benefit. Forgiveness is EARNED by words backed up by ACTIONS.
    5) “Winners think they will win everything,…. I see a number of people acting as if this is the end of the world.” Yeah, 10 to 1 those are the same people who lost their shit when Trump won the election. It’s those same people that have been bitching since then about how the world is going to hell. I head the same things when Obama won the presidency. World didn’t fall to shit then. You’ll pardon me if I’m a little jaded that the sky is falling THIS time. The sky was falling when Trump won, when Kavanaugh got voted in, when Amy was voted in, etc, etc. etc. This is me rolling my eyes. Frankly, it’s these people who I think are going to be the people putting other people against a wall, if anyone’s going to be doing that. The left does have a long history of doing just that.
    6) Judges: How many times have I heard that a “conservative” was put on the bench only to find out that they sided with the liberals on the bench on some major case? Too many to count. The right has a bad track record actually getting those allegedly conservative justices to actually vote conservative often times.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

      Yeah, I’m beginning to suspect that social media might be bad.


      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        300 years from now, I imagine that the section talking about the early oughts won’t talk about Trump as much as it’ll talk about Social Media.


    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Damon says:

      I think you guys spend too much time on Social Media. The only people I’ve experienced lacking respect are far left liberals that are my friends who are so caught up with their politics and hating TRUMP they can’t see straight–and even then they aren’t dissing me directly just losing their shit when I make only the slightest general support for something to the right of Bernie.

      I probably disagree with most of the rest of your comment, Damon, but that quote speaks to my experience as well. There’s bound to be a few extremists and haters in any group, and because almost all of mysocial circle and coworkers (and a good chunk of the blogging community I belong to) are liberal and anti-Trump, those are the ones I encounter most.

      For me, though, other than blogging, I’m pretty much off social media. I deactivated my facebook account. I technically have a Twitter account, but I almost never look at it. I’m not sure I remember my password.

      For what it’s worth, I do know a few Trump supporters, and they run the gambit from regular people who disagree with me, to hyper-sensitive people who I have to walk on eggshells around, to people I just don’t want to be with and am kind of afraid of. (Actually, there’s only one of the latter.)Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    Dennis, why do you want us to show civility and respect for racists?Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    Dennis makes a very good point, that civility is based on mutual respect.
    What isn’t as often discussed is how respect needs to be based on a mutual understanding of some shared set of ideas about who we are as a society and what we want to be.

    We see this a lot in discussions about human sexuality or race where pleas for civility become themselves cynical, because the underlying respect and understanding of humanity isn’t shared.Report

  5. Rufus F. says:

    I agree with all of your overall arguments, but that’s a pretty watered down version of what happened in the Weimar republic. I mean just for one thing, the many many rightwing groups that emerged were more united in their belief the government was illegitimate from its founding and their varying levels of Jew-hatred. The rot was deeper than disliking liberalism.Report

    • InMD in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Also worth keeping in mind that a unified Germany as a modern nation-state was still a relatively new concept. The battle over which and what sort of German state would be legitimate had been going on for decades.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. The Freikorps that emerged at the end of WWI were soldiers and officers who saw some of the most brutal fighting of WWI and returned home to a nation that was literally in ruins. While the Kaiser’s Germany was federalized, it was still much more centralized than the United States and there was more active oppression for left parties like the S.D.P.

    2. There was more of a history of political parties having paramilitary wings at the time, something the United States lacks.

    3. The economic conditions of the United States might be bad in many ways because of COVID and other factors but they are nothing like the economic conditions of post-WWI Germany. We are almost certainly not going to see the economic crisis that led to German Marks being largely worthless and changing rapidly.

    There are still lots of problems and it is clear that a good number of militia types are willing and eager to engage in acts of violence. But the military clearly loathes Trump and if it is a clear Biden win (which seems increasingly likely), I can’t imagine that the military or the courts are going to do a lot to save him.*

    *Georgia and Texas should not be this close but they are. From what I read, the Texas State House might be in play for Democrats this year. If Biden manages to get close to a victory or eek one out (even if a bare majority or plurality victory), there will be coattails. Same in Georgia.Report

  7. Michael Cain says:

    Quite possibly relevant for it happening in Utah is that in 2018 the voters there sent a message to the Republican Party. They elected a Democrat to a US House seat despite the Republican gerrymander intended to stop that from ever happening. And by ballot initiative they passed medical marijuana*, expansion of Medicaid*, and an independent redistricting commission. Colorado College’s annual State of the Rockies polls show a steady pro-environment swing over the last decade in Utah.

    Driving much of this, Utah’s population is growing, primarily along the Wasatch Front urban/suburban corridor — lots of young college-educated voters moving in. (If all you read was the NY Times and Washington Post, you’d think there was nothing in Utah but the LDS Church and people like the Bundies. Just not true.) Similar factors have caused the neighboring states of Colorado and Nevada to swing from red to blue, and Arizona is swinging.

    * The legislature screwed around with these, but the message is still there.Report

  8. Kazzy says:

    My prediction/hope:

    1.) Trump loses and convincingly enough that there is little ability or energy to contest the results.
    2.) Trump huffs and puffs nonetheless but the vast majority of Republicans quickly turn their back on him, realizing that the horse they hitched their wagon to for political expediency is no longer such.
    3a.) Biden takes office on January 20, likely with a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate.
    3b.) Dems lose the Senate in the 2022- mid-terms.
    3c.) Biden’s first term looks/feels very much like Obamas in terms of the relationship between the two parties.
    4.) A small but very loyal band of Trumpists remain among the populace. A smaller group remains among GOP politicians. Trump continues to hold rallies and whispers about a 3rd party but the TV cameras look away as the crowds wane and he turns into a sideshow that most people are too happy to ignore. Trumpist GOPers have some success but eventually move back towards the mainstream GOP or lose their popular support.
    5.) Mainstream Republicans pretend Trump never happened.

    All this would mean the pendulum begins swinging back the other direction and we avoid further escalation. How far it swings and for how long and what comes beyond that, I have no idea.Report

  9. y10nerd says:

    This seems fine and dandy, but it really does seem to not have race (and gender) into the mix, which is what complicates this all in the United States.

    The US is undergoing a unique experiment in the history of democracies – a long-term demographic change where the previously massively numerical majority is going to become a plurality and unable to hold onto total power (even if there wasn’t a ton of historical discrimination, just having a lot more of one group tends to help in a democracy). This is where my American exceptionalist hat comes in as a lefty and says that if we can do this while remaining a democracy, it is the most noble thing the United States will have ever done for the human species. Because the reality is that whatever it looks like, a more optimistic future for the planet probably will include all of us doing better with dealing with individuals that are very different from us having to interact far more often and have more impact on each other.

    In my dark days, I think we are going to fail. But man, that’s some vision.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to y10nerd says:

      An important part of that is going to be having the strength to look a racist right in the eye and call him “brother”, and pretend that what he was saying until five minutes ago didn’t matter.

      Because if you won’t call him “brother” because you think it ought to be “boy”, just like he called you, and you very badly want him to hurt right now the way what he was saying until five minutes ago hurt you? Then he’s gonna fight like a bastard to keep that power, because you’ll have made it clear that once he loses power his ass is grass.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

        That’s the trick with forgiveness, how does the other person perceive it.

        If I forgive the racist his transgressions against me, does he see the grace in that and decide to change, or does he see it as a license to keep on being an ass?Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          “That’s the trick with forgiveness, how does the other person perceive it.”

          At some point you have to stop Theory-Of-Mind-ing and decide what kind of world you want to live in.

          Obviously the Christian Revival is driven by the Pharisees’ concept of morality proving unworkable, but the other big part of it is the idea of turning the other cheek.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Yeah, don’t take my comment as a ding against forgiveness. It’s an act of grace that demands nothing from the person being forgiven.

            Just, you know, have enough cynicism to not be surprised when the forgiven person fails to demonstrate grace in return.

            A lot of people seem to forget that, and think the act of forgiveness has a quid pro quo attached.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              There’s a letting go that happens with forgiveness that is probably good for one’s own mental health.

              While there are great reasons for not forgiving someone who doesn’t “deserve” it, there are a handful of subtle ones for doing it anyway.Report

      • InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I think this overstates the persistence of the demographic moment. You mentioned on the other thread the full integration of the Catholic white ethnics. The line blurred. Political solidarity and cohesion as a bloc has declined to a point that it’s barely even remarked upon.

        The same forces that did that still exist. They will work to the great frustration of those who believe in racial/ethnic essentialism and their permanence.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

          Yeah, there was another professor out there who was outed as being white instead of being Chicana the other day (like, not Jessica Krug… this is a new one).

          When it was just Dolezal, it was easy to wave away as a one-off.

          These keep bubbling up.

          It’s weird.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


              I’m wondering at what point we get to ask “okay, what’s going on here?”

              Here’s where we talked about Rachel Dolezal five years ago.

              One of my comments (that I think still holds up) says:

              Her reasons are a lot more murky. Makes it an odd case. Doesn’t fit into the regular pigeonhole for people who do this sort of thing.

              Did she wield power with her new identity that she wouldn’t have been able to wield otherwise? When it comes to costs/benefits, did she gain more by lying than she would have by telling the truth? (And how much does the fact that she was in Spokane make that dynamic greater or lesser?)

              It seems to me that she was 100% under the impression that she got more social benefit from what she did than from not doing it.

              Assuming that that assumption is a good one, it’s fair to ask if she was right to reach that conclusion or whether the “mental illness” answer is the go-to one (because I’m pretty sure that “evil” isn’t on the table).

              Eventually we’ll get back to the question of whether “she got more social benefit from what she did than from not doing it”.

              That’ll be an interesting day.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

                Heinlein had a quote once:

                “This sad little lizard told me that he was a brontosaurus on his mother’s side. I did not laugh; people who boast of ancestry often have little else to sustain them. Humoring them costs nothing and adds to happiness in a world in which happiness is always in short supply. ” – RAH

                That quote, I think, needs a caveat.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                *Not Applicable To Elizabeth WarrenReport

          • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think those situations are… strange and while they may say something I’m not sure what. What I’m thinking more about is the number of married couples I see at my church where one spouse is the old Irish/Italian/German/Polish and the other is second or third generation Salvadoran or Philippino/a or Puerto Rican. My cousin’s family is like this and they have 3 kids, all being raised in middle class suburbia. I have no idea how they will feel about their identity as they grow up but my bet is that wherever it is it won’t be arrested by where we are in 2020. I think the most likely outcome will parallel what has happened before with previous waves.Report

  10. Koz says:

    I agree with the OP, in that I want us to move toward Urah and away from Weimar.

    The problem is that the OP omits or glides over the extent to which civility and mutual respect is itself a political issue, and a highly partisan one at that. In fact, there is an obvious piece of evidence to that end here, in that Utah is highly Republican state, one of the most Republican in the country, no matter what happens regarding the outcome of this particular election.

    And furthermore, which ought to registerer libs, is that Demos can very much get a fair hearing in Utah, even though it is a Republican state.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Koz says:

      As I mentioned above, some of the Dems getting a fair hearing is that Utah voters have supported, through ballot initiatives, programs favored by the Dems and opposed by the Republicans: in 2018, medical marijuana, expansion of Medicaid, and independent redistricting commission. Several items on the ballot this year, although most of it is just tweaking around the edges.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

      Utah also had the one GOP Senator honest enough to vote to convict Trump. Coincidence?Report

      • George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Utah hated Mitt Romney’s impeachment decision, and his favorability rating went badly under water. By March it had only recovered to minus 13 points. Since then he’s come back to a net +14 because everybody is focused on Covid instead of Romney being in bed with Burisma, the Ukrainian oil company. So far as I know, he’s the only Republican potentially implicated in any of the Joe, Jim, and Hunter Biden graft, corruption, bribery, and money laundering deals.

        The Senate Homeland Security Committee says it has verified Bubolinski’s documents, and that they match up with all the other documents. The FBI says their investigation into the Biden’s schemes began last year. Anyway, UPS says it has managed to find the evidentiary documents that were somehow stolen from a UPS package that was in transit. Someone must have paid a whole lot of money to try and pull that one off.Report

        • Koz in reply to George Turner says:

          “Utah hated Mitt Romney’s impeachment decision, and his favorability rating went badly under water. By March it had only recovered to minus 13 points.”

          Whatever extent this has any validity it is probably being driven by Republicans. And if it is, they need to be getting with the program. Their perception of what the alternatives are is woefully misplaced.Report

        • The Deep State must have left its lighter in its other jacket.Report

      • Koz in reply to Mike Schilling says:


        Probably not. As several people pointed out in the 2016 primaries, Trump did especially poorly in the “nice people” states and dominated everywhere else. Utah was foremost among the former.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

          I lived and worked there for a few months back in the 80s, and it really is a “nice people” state. Also, because of missions, a “has seen other parts of the world close u[” state; xenophobia doesn’t play there.Report

  11. It’s not really fair that Utah gets two such intelligent, well-spoken, ethical politicians all to itself. Can’t one of them go be a senator from Kentucky or South Carolina?Report

  12. Dr X says:

    If the election is disputed in the courts and the various decisions lead to the requisite combination of states certifying a Biden victory and, barring the electoral college defying those results, Biden will be sworn in with or without Trump’s cooperation. It doesn’t have to be done as a big event at the Capitol Building. At that point, Biden could order the DC National Guard to forcibly remove Trump from the White House.Report