November 24, 2021

Michelle Goldberg was on Morning Joe today to talk about her latest New York Times column, "The Problem of Political Despair."

"Michelle, in your latest piece for the Times, you talk about political despair being an issue for the Democratic party," Mika Brzezinski said.

"In reference to a Republican party that is, as you put it, winking at the violent intimidation of its political enemies, you write, quote, 'I look at the future, and I see rule without recourse by people who either approve of terrorizing liberals or welcome those who do. Such an outcome isn't inevitable. Unforeseen events can reshape political coalitions. Something could happen to forestall the catastrophe bearing down on us. How much comfort you take from this depends on your disposition.'

" 'Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity. A retreat that will only hasten democracy's decay. In order to get people to throw themselves into the fight to save this broken country, we need leaders who can convince them that they haven't already lost.'

"Who specifically in Congress are you look at, are you worrying specifically about, as Democrats try and come together and do things together rather than looking like they're bickering?"

"Specifically, I'm talking about passing the voting rights legislation and democracy legislation that Joe Manchin himself has championed, that he's gotten Lisa Murkowski to sign onto, but that we see no sign of other Republicans signing onto," Goldberg said.

"We would need to see some sort of reform of the filibuster in order to put forward. I mean, I take Joe's point when he says that if Democrats want to staunch these anti-democratic initiatives in the states, they need to win elections. But you know, there's a reason that you have the phrase when you talk about authoritarianism in other countries. They say 'one man, one vote, one time.'

"Right? It's not supposed to be that you win elections, then you're able to rewrite the rules so that you keep winning elections even without the majority of votes. That's what's happening now. Those who see that happening, who see that bearing down on us, and who see sort of no action being taken on it because of a couple of senators, you know, who believe that the filibuster is more important than preserving representative democracy. At a certain point, for your own sanity, you just can't keep smashing your head against a brick wall. "

"You talk about the importance of staying engaged," Joe Scarborough said.

"I'm not going to draw any analogies. I won't even cite the book I was reading because I don't want anybody thinking I'm drawing analogies with past totalitarian fascist regimes, but it was so fascinating. I was looking -- it was actually a New Yorker article that was describing what happened in a certain country, they were looking back and saying, 'So many of us thought this person coming in was a clown. Then to preserve our sanity, just as you said, we retreated. We stopped reading the news. It was just too depressing. Then when we looked up again, it was too late to affect any change.'

"That could be true of any country that slides towards illiberalism, when those who are the most progressive just, again, throw up their arms and say, it's just a mess. I'm not going to stay engaged because it is too depressing."

"After the 2016 election, a Turkish journalist friend of mine texted me and said sort of, "Welcome to my world." Obviously, even though, obviously, I would never compare the plight of American liberals to dissidents in Turkey who faced horrific repression. Her point, 'You're going to march, you're going to protest, but, eventually, you're just going to start living your life again.' And I often thought of that because American liberals didn't do that. They did fight," Goldberg said.

"They had this one end point in mind, this date, November 3rd, when this nightmare could be brought to an end, and they really threw all their energy into making that happen. The problem now, there is no date, there is no end point. I wrote, 'This dystopia doesn't have an expiration date anymore. So staying motivated in that kind of an environment is much more difficult. Again, I think you're seeing some of this falloff is natural, that you see a decline in activism on the left when Democrats are in power. But I do -- you know, there's some data to support it, but just anecdotally, you hear people say, 'It's just too painful to watch this.' "

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