The Casual Blog

Tag: Big Lie

Wildebeests in various states, querying MAGA, doubting Artemis, and getting curious about animal communication

Wildebeests in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Working through the big pile of my pictures from Tanzania has been absorbing, but also exhausting.  I’ve been trying to remember how things looked, and figuring out how to interpret the images.  In the process, I’ve been learning new things about my processing software – Lightroom, Photoshop, and Topaz AI products.

One of our prime objectives in Tanzania was to see some of the large herds of wildebeests that annually cross the Mara River.  It’s challenging to convey the power and raw beauty of these crossings, but I tried.  I also am sharing some photos of large predators.  Warning: there is a picture of lions on a recently killed zebra that might not be suitable for all readers. 

Artificial intelligence is once again a buzzword, but let me just say first, the new versions of Topaz DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI are amazing.  There are clearly important advances going on in AI, which could soon surpass our ability to understand them, if they haven’t already.  It’s far from impossible that our intelligent software could go from helpful to dangerous, if it hasn’t already. 

It’s surprising that tech journalists ordinarily focus on the question of if AI can equal human intelligence.  It has already equaled or surpassed what humans can do in some domains (playing complex games, using correct grammar) and is rapidly moving into areas we’ve thought of as artistic (composing music, making paintings, writing fiction).  But people continue to believe there is some unique and valuable quality in human thinking that can never be equaled.   However that may be, we have no shortage of evidence that human thinking has some systematic glitches.

A prime example:  MAGA Republicans, who have decided to believe and/or promote a wild and enormous lie – that Trump was not defeated in the last election, but was rather the victim of a vast fraudulent conspiracy.  There are, of course, Republicans who understand that this is nonsense and continue to support American democracy.  But most of those traditional Republicans have become very quiet, and acquiesced in the takeover of the GOP by the Trump faction.

So what is wrong with MAGA folks?  Of course, there are many individual stories, but the big drivers seem to be fear of the Others (those with different skin tones, religions, languages, genders, etc.), loss of traditional status (relative to the Others and to the wealthy), bewilderment and frustration at changing social norms, and economic anxiety.  Whatever the causes, there are clearly strong feelings causing MAGA folks to detach themselves from ordinary reality and swear allegiance to a comical-but-dangerous charlatan.

Leopard in Serengeti

One thing that struck me recently which I’m trying to keep in mind:  almost no one thinks they are a bad person, or doing things for an evil reason.  Almost everyone thinks they are a good person, or at least, no worse than average.  MAGA believers are no exception.  They view their principles as well aligned with all that is right and good.  

In this sense, MAGA people mean well.  As individuals, they may have many good qualities, and like all sentient beings, they are entitled to affection and respect.  But as aggregated political actors, they have gone off the deep end, and threaten us with disaster.        

Cheetah in Serengeti

For quite a while after the election, I expected the MAGA fever to break and our normal far-from-perfect politics to resume.  But recently it’s gotten worse.  Republican leaders and candidates vie to stake out the most extreme positions favored by the MAGA element, and some are promoting violence against political enemies and even civil war.  This is definitely not American politics as usual.  

As President Biden recently pointed out, most Americans do not share this mindset, and it’s still possible we can avoid joining the league of repressive authoritarian nations.  The question is not whether MAGA Republicans will change:  they are, at least for now, fully committed to the end of fair elections, equal rights, and other key features of our democracy.  The question is whether those who thought they could safely be ignored will wake up and passionately oppose them in the coming elections.

Lion in Serengeti

As if that weren’t enough to worry about!  But, with apologies, I’m going to give one more timely example of what looks to me like a mass delusion.  My excuse is that since it recently became a big news story, I haven’t noticed anyone else raising the issue of its essential craziness.  I’m referring to the Artemis Project, which, we’re told, is a vital effort to put people back on the moon.  As of this writing, two much-hyped launch attempts have been canceled for technical reasons.

I’m a longtime fan of science and technology, including the amazing new Webb space telescope, and was as excited as anyone at the first moon landing in 1969.  But I felt no great sorrow after we discontinued the Apollo program in 1972.  We’d been there and done that.  Even then, it wasn’t clear whether anything of lasting value had been accomplished.

As the years passed without more moon missions, I thought perhaps the lesson had quietly sunk in that the billions of dollars spent on going to the moon (around $25B) could have been used better – perhaps on climate change mitigation, preventing species’ extinction,  improving health care, education etc. (the list of underfunded serious projects is long).  Then, out of the blue (at least to me), came Artemis – which has already cost $41 billion, and is expected to eventually cost $93 billion.

This is a lot of money, even by U.S. government budget standards.  You might suppose that it involves cutting edge technology employed for some vital purpose.  But no, not really.  The rocket technology is decades old, and not even close to state of the art.  And as best I can tell, no one is even trying to argue that it is likely to achieve important scientific advances.

The accounts I’ve heard refer vaguely to the possibility that Artemis is a step towards setting up colonies on the moon, which would be a step towards colonies on Mars.  Perhaps there’s hope that a few corporations can make good money extracting valuable minerals, and a  worry that Earth will become uninhabitable.  Thanks to Artemis, a few ultrawealthy folks might try to mount rockets and flee the planet, as in the underappreciated dark comedy Don’t Look Up.  

Anyhow, the whole idea is ridiculous.  No matter how badly we spoil the Earth, it’s unlikely to ever get more desolate than the moon, or Mars.  

Is there any other possible justification for this bizarre project?  It could well be driven by corporate welfare for big military contractors and the legalized corruption of our political funding process.  And of course, there is always the combination of nationalism and chauvinism that wants to be or at least seem superior to other peoples and nations. 

Anyhow, Artemis looks to be yet another example of how our minds’ reasoning powers can fail on a mass basis – thinking we’re creating something to be proud of when we’re actually wasting precious resources, money, and time.  At this point, despite the huge costs and repeated failures to launch, junking the project is not on the table for political discussion.  

Still, this fiasco could do one positive thing: make us feel a little more conscious and humble about the flaws in our reasoning powers.  Even our smartest rocket scientists, physicists, and philosophers can lose their bearings.  As our teachers used to say, we need to double check our work.

On a more cheerful tech note, the NY Times’s Emily Anthes reports that scientists are using deep learning and other technologies to start decoding the communications of various non-human animals.    Various programs are looking at creatures like rodents, lemurs, and whales, and discovering that social groups even have different dialects.  

Some of us have long suspected that there’s a lot of communication going on among non-human animals, and wondered why more humans haven’t been more curious about those interchanges.  The received wisdom has been that only humans have language, which was one of the questionable ideas used to justify  domination and cruel exploitation of all other animals.  Maybe the latest AI will help us understand animals differently.

Impala family In Tarangire National Park

More Yellowstone animals, the Webb telescope, Jeremy Lent, and comprehending the Big Lie

Moose in Yellowstone

For Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing a few more of the pictures I took last month at Yellowstone National Park.  As I worked my way through the mass of images, I found that a lot of the ones I liked showed animals in pairs, families, and herds, finding food and friendship and otherwise getting through the harsh winter.  

With a new covid variant still at large, many species endangered, democracy in peril, and so many other huge problems, it’s a big challenge to stay optimistic and hopeful.  So I’m giving special emphasis in my daily reading to good news, when I can find it.

Bighorn sheep

Ordinary journalism privileges disasters and conflict over successes and collaboration.  This has come to seem natural in our works of history and literature.  Drama is fundamentally conceived of as conflict.   

We’re deeply habituated to assuming the worst, and viewing the world through a dark lens.  To some extent, we’re addicted to alarming stories that get us agitated.  This may well be bad for our health, and it also limits our imaginations.  But we don’t have ready terminology for an alternative approach. 

Bison

 Anyhow, I’ve been enjoying the unfolding non-drama of NASA’s James Webb telescope, which launched on December 25, 2021, and now is fully deployed and in orbit around the sun about a million miles from us.  The 18 mirrors are currently being calibrated, but so far, amazingly, everything seems to be working as designed.

Wolves

The Webb project took 25 years to design and build.  Its basic mission is at first glance obscure –  improving our understanding of the state of the universe billions of years before the earth came into existence.  But it shows  one of the truly charming, quirky aspects of human nature – irrepressible curiosity.  Despite the old neo-liberal assumption that big endeavors can only be justified in dollars and cents, the Webb can’t be explained in terms of a profit motive.   Cutting edge science like astrophysics is at base about this kind of curiosity:  the inherent satisfaction of just understanding things better.  The Webb website, which has a lot of good news so far, is here.

Ravens

Speaking of webs and understanding more about the universe, I finished reading Jeremy Lent’s recent book, the Web of Meaning.  It’s an ambitious work that proposes to integrate recent science with earlier thought systems.  I was drawn to it for its helpful introduction of Taoist, Buddhist, and neo-Confucian ideas, as well as systems drawn from pre-colonial indigenous cultures.  

Lent makes a useful distinction between reductionist science, which purports to be comprehensive but isn’t, and more open scientific processes.  He calls out the long history of dualist thinking in science, but points up affinities between ancient non-Western systems of thinking and modern scientific discoveries. 

Bison in thermal vents

In Lent’s view, one of the keys to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the universe is the interconnectedness of everything.  He recognizes the extreme peril facing our planet and everything in and on it, but posits that we can develop a new mindset and new sustainable systems.  He could be wrong.  But I found his summary of big ideas in science and philosophy readable and stimulating, and his optimism was encouraging.    

Geese in thermal vents

Still looking on the bright side, I came across an interesting essay by Matthew Rosza in Salon with some psychological explanations for why a substantial number of people believe the Big Lie that Trump won the last presidential election.  It is, of course, depressing that lots of people unite behind notions that are plainly absurd and potentially dangerous, but this real life social experiment can give us new insights into human cognition and its glitches.  It might make us a little more humble, and a little more open.

Trumpeter swans taking off

Anyhow, the Rosza essay points up how even nutty ideas can start to sound normal if repeated constantly and in different contexts by someone with apparent authority.  Their salience depends partly on how they feed the biases and needs of the fans, and the fans’ various desires to fit into their groups and find emotional satisfaction.  For example, people who are fearful of opponents and angry at losing an election are more willing to accept a crazy narrative that makes them feel better.

In the Salon piece, Dr. Matt Blanchard had this interesting perspective: 

Everything we know about the human brain suggests it is composed of numerous systems that interact, overlap, excite, inhibit, and often contradict each other, and may even hide information from consciousness. . . .  So it comes as no surprise that the act of ‘believing’ is not just one thing that humans do. Instead, this one word represents a wide range of relationships that humans have with information. We don’t truly ‘believe’ things, so much as provisionally accept information we find useful.

Dr. Blanchard also noted that the strength and tenacity of beliefs varies.  Some beliefs, like trust in a loved one, are high stakes, with big consequences for believing wrongly, and those are likely to be more thoroughly tested against reality.  Others have little day-to- day effect on our lives, like presidential races or religious observances.  Those low stakes beliefs may be more readily tried out without much reflection, just for fun. 

It makes sense that the Big Lie and other bizarre beliefs have little to do with reasoning, but serve emotional needs, like providing solace and building group ties.  This suggests that such beliefs can change when adherents find other solutions to their fear, anger, and other emotional problems.  Maybe that’s what we should try – less fighting, and more compassion. 

Happy New Year! But there’s some bad news

Here are a few more shorebird pictures from our wonderful wedding celebration at Atlantic Beach, NC. Clark, our new daughter-in-law, exceeded all expectations!  I also enjoyed spending time on the beach with the birds, and interpreting these images. As noted below, I, and probably you, can definitely use more of the beauty and peace of nature.

As we start a brand new year, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with dire problems:  the resurgent pandemic, mass shootings, fires, tornadoes, droughts, melting ice caps, and the list goes on.  There’s a lot to deal with.  As part of my meditation practice, I try to make some time every day for conscious gratitude and compassion, including self-compassion.

Given all our other problems, it’s obviously not a great time to discuss the possible end of American democracy. We’re already exhausted.  But we need to buck up and find our second wind.  Our system has been much weakened and may fail entirely.  If we want to save it, we have to act soon.  

Besides worry overload, another reason I hesitate to raise the subject is that there is so much wrong with American-style democracy.  Its most valuable ideals – free elections, equality before the law, free speech and other civil liberties – have never been fully realized. Meanwhile, this system has given us extreme inequality, embedded racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia.  

We have the world’s largest rate of incarceration, and an endless war on drugs that keeps prisons full and sustains worldwide criminal organizations.  Our military brings death and chaos to remote areas of the globe, while maintaining hair-trigger readiness to end civilization in a nuclear war.  For many, there is not adequate food, housing, transportation, or medical care.  For non-human beings, it’s even worse.  In short, our political processes have not produced what we would reasonably expect of a wealthy, enlightened nation, and they’ve done a lot that we cannot be proud of.  

But for all our shortcomings and failures, American democracy still provides one thing that is extremely valuable:  the possibility of change.  We have a tradition of fair elections and peaceful transitions of power.  Our votes almost always get counted and determine the winner.  Exceptions are vanishingly rare.

If the governing party loses, it peacefully concedes and allows the business of government to continue.  The new government might improve things, and at any rate, it is generally agreed that it is entitled to take a shot.  This has been true for a long time, and it’s hard to conceive that it could be otherwise.  But it easily could.  

Now, more than a year after the last presidential election, a substantial majority of Republicans have been persuaded that the election was stolen, and that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president.  They reject the overwhelming weight of the authorities – court decisions, officials, scholars, and news media – that contradict that view.   

Republican leaders at the national and state level, with very few exceptions, continue to support the big lie that the true winner in 2020 was Donald Trump, and to refuse to support or cooperate with investigations into the illegal attempts to nullify the victory of President Biden.

Republican legislators in some 19 states have already passed laws to make future Democratic victories less likely by making it more difficult for some groups to vote.  Several Republican-dominated states are getting rid of their non-partisan election officials who refused to assist in overturning the last presidential election and installing supporters of the big lie.   

In other words, many states are putting in place a system to stack the deck against Democrats and then, if that doesn’t work, nullify election results. In addition, dozens of states have enacted new laws criminalizing various acts of protests, including ones that would likely occur after a stolen election. Meanwhile, the courts have been stacked with Republican judges.  

While all this is happening, repeating the big lie prepares the psychological ground.  If enough people are convinced, wrongly, that election fraud is common, they may also be convinced that their own cheating isn’t so bad.  Cynicism, apathy, and fear could be paralyzing, or at least keep many people from protesting.  

These forces could in short order leave us with an authoritarian, neo-fascist system.  That is, a system with all of our current problems, minus the machinery to allow for political change to address those problems, and minus long-standing institutional restraints on repressive violence and corruption.

I know this is no fun to think about, but fortunately, it’s not hard to understand intellectually.  The challenge is to fix it.  As to Republicans who understand the big lie and disapprove of it, they need to show some backbone, and tell the truth.   Democrats who understand it need to get to work educating others on what’s happening.  And they need to get involved, volunteering, making phone calls, watching the polls, and so forth – all the no-fun jobs that are part of free and fair elections.  

Although I think saving our democracy will be tough, our ancestors have won long-odds fights for rights before.  In the last century, women fought hard to win the right to vote, and African Americans won the right to be treated as full citizens.  The forces that have brought us to this point – fear, hatred, ignorance, greed – are nothing new, and we already have the tools to counter them:  kindness, compassion, and love.  But hope alone won’t get the job done.  We need to get to work.  

Gassing up and heading out, and the latest election fraud fraud

The Tiller ride at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

This week our gas stations had gas again, which was cheering for those of us with internal combustion engines.  I headed east to Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes looking for wildlife.  It was good to connect with animals again, though as always, I regretted my own greenhouse gas emissions.  Along the dirt roads it was pretty quiet.  I saw plenty of birds and one handsome (I think) young rattlesnake.    

On the drive out and back, I listened to various podcasts and audiobooks.  I strongly recommend a new podcast series called The Improvement Association.  The subject is election fraud in Bladen County, NC, where in 2018 they had one of America’s tiny number of actual election fraud incidents.  The podcast was put out by Zoe Chace and some of the same folks that made the podcast Serial.

The fraud involved improper ballots in support of the Republican congressional candidate and resulted in invalidation of the election.   During and after the scandal, Republicans in Bladen County claimed that Black politicians there had done much worse.  Zoe Chace decided to investigate.

Chace is not a showy personality, but she is an excellent journalist.  She asks reasonable questions, lets people have their say, and resists pat answers.  She recognizes that people often aren’t able to put things into words, including their own feelings about race, and that such feelings sometimes help account for how they see things. 

 

Much of her podcast focuses on the persistent accusations of white Republicans that Black organizers regularly committed election fraud, and she finds hardly any evidence that they did.  But she also examines the very interesting question of why white Republicans keep insisting the opposite.  She found both political opportunism and sincere racial fears, which sometimes hardened into an impossible-to-shake belief.  

In a way it’s a small story, but just now it has a lot of resonance.  Those of us not on the right are finding it difficult to comprehend how the majority of Republicans can continue to think, as they do, that Democrats committed election fraud that resulted in Joe Biden wrongfully becoming president.  

Chace’s podcast suggests part of the answer:  traditional racial attitudes have a psychological filtering effect, blocking out certain facts (like the nonexistence of evidence) and concentrating some assumptions (like Blacks are like [something]).  Confirmation bias and motivated reasoning can feel just like logical thinking.  

With some of the generosity and curiosity of Zoe Chace, I want to give Trump supporters the benefit of a doubt.  I’m willing to assume that they aren’t just gaslighting, and most aren’t specifically hoping to overthrow democracy and reinstitute legal white supremacy.  They may truly believe that America faces an existential threat from leftists who seek to institute radical socialism and outlaw Christianity, and the only defense is Trump or someone like him.  They may actually be unable to process the overwhelming evidence that none of this is true.    

As far as I know, there’s no easy way to assist folks perched on this perilous ledge to gently move back towards a more fact-based reality.  But unfortunately, it is quite easy to make them feel even more terrified,  confused, and in need of a powerful leader to defend them.  Opportunistic Republican leaders and right-wing networks, concerned with maintaining power and audience share, are currently doing so, with a vengeance.

A recent new ploy is instituting more recounts of the 2020 election votes.  As most people know, the presidential election has been officially completed and confirmed, with massive oversight by qualified specialists and courts.  But state legislators in Arizona and Georgia have decided to continue recounting.  This could, I guess, go on as long as they think, or want others to think, that there was a conspiracy and all the tallying so far is wrong.  That is, potentially, forever.

It may be that such shenanigans will keep the MAGA base energized and eager for the next election battle.  It’s at least as likely that it will slowly drain away belief in fair elections.  Big lies, like Trump’s gigantic lie about the 2020 election can work by fooling gullible people, but they can also have an even more insidious effect.  

Repeating unbelievable things while demanding they be believed works to erode belief in one’s own common sense.  The big liar implicitly says, belief and loyalty are more important than reality, and anyhow, it’s impossible to know what’s true.  Your only choices are uncritical belief or hopelessness and confusion.  The big lie can work by getting people to give up on the idea that political action may be a force for good, and make them both despondent and acquiescent to power.

This is a difficult moment in the American political experiment.  We’ve learned that there are malign forces at work that are more infectious than we thought, and there’s no vaccine at the moment.  But we’ve still got a lot of the good sense and good will that have sustained us in difficult times before.  

Attacking fact checking, and the big election lie emergency

Osprey and fish at Jordan Lake

I’d planned to head to eastern NC this week to look for black bears and other creatures.  Unfortunately, in Raleigh and elsewhere, there was a gas shortage.  For a few hours, drivers and cars waited in long lines to get into stations, and then, the lines disappeared, and all the stations that I checked were out of gas.  

The primary cause was a criminal hack of a major fuel pipeline company, with a secondary cause of a mass freak out (panic buying).  People will probably calm down eventually.  In the meantime, anyone taking a long road trip faced a good chance of getting stranded without gas, and so I sadly put off the bears.  These pictures are ones I took recently at Jordan Lake and Raulston Arboretum

I’d been looking forward to taking a break from the subject of Trump, elections, and democracy.  For a couple of weeks, it looked like we were heading towards normal, still with big problems, but having avoided a crash into full-on fascism.  Right now we’ve got a full plate of wars, diseases, and other miseries, and it would be good not to add to the to-do list.  So I’m sorry.  But this is an emergency:  our democracy is in a crisis.

Before I get to the crisis, a related development:  this week a state legislator in Michigan proposed a new law aimed at fact checkers.  As a former professional fact checker, I wondered what was up.  According to the Washington Post, the legislator in question was a supporter of “Stop the Steal” and opponent of Covid safety measures.  He proposed that fact checkers be required to register with the state, post a million dollar bond, and face fines and lawsuits for their mistakes.

As an ex-lawyer, I’m pretty confident that such a law would be struck down as unconstitutional, as long as we have anything resembling our current constitutional system.  But the proposed law is one more indication of the fragility of that system.  

It’s been four decades since I worked as a fact checker at The New Yorker, and through the years it never occurred to me that the government might try to put the lid on fact checking.  I assumed that almost everyone would prefer to have truthful, reliable information, as opposed to mistakes or lies.  Even though right-wing propaganda networks regularly play fast and loose with facts, the idea of making it a crime to try to get the facts right is something new.     

Here’s fact checking in a nutshell:  the job of the checker is to figure out whether statements purporting to be factual are accurate.  Sometimes this is straightforward, as with correctly spelling names and confirming addresses, but other times it requires more research and analysis.  On issues requiring expertise or first-hand knowledge, it requires consulting reliable experts or sources.  It requires judgment when, as happens, experts or sources disagree.  In such cases, the checker may add a note that there’s a disagreement.  

Like all humans, fact checkers sometimes make mistakes.  In such cases, they may be reprimanded, fired, or, in cases of libel, sued.  So the proposed Michigan law would seem pointless, if the point were to punish mistakes.  It makes sense, though, if the aim is to clear the way for big lies by discouraging checking.  For those whose careers depend on lies, facts are pesky things.

And so we come to the crisis.  This week Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney was tossed out of the Republican leadership because she called out the big lie that Trump won the 2020 election and was denied the presidency because of fraud.  

This action resembled Republicans’ refusal to impeach Trump, but it was actually worse.  It’s the difference between quietly tolerating a lie and loudly shutting down those that oppose the lie. Instead of merely declining to hold Trump accountable for the January 6 attempt to overthrow the election, the Republicans are now effectively co-signing his lies about the election and endorsing the January 6 insurrection.  

In an almost-but-not-quite comic development, some congressional Republicans are now rechristening the mayhem of January 6 as a normal tourist visit unrelated to Trump and his supporters. 

For any who have forgotten, Trump supporters waving MAGA flags and sporting MAGA paraphernalia stormed the Capitol, shouting death threats, and vandalizing the premises as they searched for fleeing legislators who’d been about to complete certification of the election of Biden.  There were several deaths, dozens of injuries, and legislators and guards who feared for their lives. 

Meanwhile, having narrowly lost the last election, Republicans in 30-some states are moving forward with new voting laws designed to reduce the number of Democratic voters.  According to a new report in Mother Jones,  this effort has been organized with military precision by a right-wing dark money outfit associated with the Heritage Foundation.  

The quasi-clever cover story for these laws is that they are needed to address voter fears of election fraud.  There could be such fears, but in fact, there is no significant election fraud problem.  The fears are based on the outrageous lies propagated at high volume by Trump and his supporters in connection with their effort to overturn the last election.  

Senate Bill 1 could put a stop to the worst of the state level election rigging, but that legislation is opposed by Senate Republicans and can’t advance as long as the filibuster stays in place.  At the same time, state Republicans are getting rid of election officials who refused to go along with the Trump attempt to steal the 2020 election, and replacing them with Trump loyalists.  That is, they’re putting in place election officials who appear committed to stealing elections when directed.  

There are a lot of moving parts, but the direction is clear:  the end of our traditional system of transferring power peacefully based on fair elections.  Republicans are in the process of replacing it with a system in which elections are a sham used by the powerful to fool the gullible.  Such systems have a long history, but only in countries that we would not call democratic, such as China, Russia, and North Korea.  To put it plainly:  Republican leaders are now working on a large-scale effort to undermine the foundation of American democracy.

There are, of course, some principled Republicans who oppose this effort, and others who haven’t yet heard what’s happening, but would not support it.  But right now the Republican leaders at the national and state level are moving ahead to set up a system where only their candidates can win.  For many rank-and-file Republicans, persuaded by decades of right-wing lies that Democrats are evil socialists and otherwise very scary, changing the system to keep out Democrats may seem like a good idea.   

Possibly the Trump fever will break, and those with the illness will revert to traditional support for fair elections and facts over lies.  But I wouldn’t count on it.  It’s more likely that our democratic experiment will only survive if we fight for it (non-violently, of course).  We could start by junking the filibuster and moving ahead with Senate Bill 1.