“Americans are always worried that when we lose our freedom it’ll look like the movie Red Dawn, with tanks in the streets. That’s not how a republic ends. We keep the names on the institutions, [but] we change what’s inside. We still have trials — we just don’t have witnesses. We still subpoena people — they just don’t show up. There’s still an EPA — it just works for the coal companies now. It’s like the way TV channels sometimes completely change formats but keep the name? MTV — music television — hasn’t had music videos for years. The Learning Channel has no learning — it has Honey Boo-Boo and American’s Worst Tattoos and Family By The Ton.

“When Rome stopped being a republic, it didn’t stop having a Senate. And neither have we. It’s just more like student government now. Because that’s what dictators do. Russia has a pretend parliament. So does China. And North Korea.”

If You Think It’s Bad for Mainstream Democrats Now, Just Wait“, posted on 2.6 by Jonathan Chait:

“It is always darkest, John McCain used to say, before it gets totally black. So it is for the American center-left right now. Bernie Sanders is currently favored to win the nomination, a prospect that would make Donald Trump a heavy favorite to win reelection, and open the possibility of a Corbyn-esque wipeout.

“While Sanders has not expanded beyond a minority of the party, he has consolidated support of the party’s left wing, and while its mainstream liberal wing is split between numerous contenders, it is hard to see how the situation is likely to improve soon. Indeed, it could get worse, much worse.

“The liberal conundrum begins with Joe Biden. The former vice-president led national polls until very recently, and has been the most plausible mainstream liberal candidate. At the same time, doubts about his ability to handle the rigors of the campaign at an advanced age have caused the Democratic Party to withhold the institutional support it gave Hillary Clinton. Yet his name was big enough to preclude a younger, more vigorous Democrat from emerging in the ideological space he occupied. Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris all tried and failed to run as ideological heirs of Barack Obama, because Obama’s actual partner was still there.

“Yet Biden underperformed in Iowa, and his campaign appears to be deflating, at least momentarily. So what to do?

“One strategy would be to rally around him, on the grounds that no other candidate has or will have his name recognition and ties to black voters. The other strategy is to hope his campaign collapses as quickly as possible, so that another contender can emerge. (More about them below.) At the moment it is not clear which strategy makes sense. And in the absence of an effective party to coordinate, the most likely scenario is a combination of the two: Some Democrats back Biden, others defect, and others wait to see what happens. That would be the worst possible outcome: a long, slow, painful death that prevents another liberal from taking his place and allows Sanders to gain unstoppable momentum.

“In the meantime, it seems hard to imagine how Biden or a Biden alternative could emerge in the next three contests. The next contest is in New Hampshire, which borders the home states of both Sanders and his closest ideological counterpart, Elizabeth Warren. After that comes Nevada — which, like Iowa, uses the caucus system, which has a fraction of the voting participation of primaries and reward the kind of intense organization Sanders has mastered.

“Then comes South Carolina. Biden has been pointing to this state, where he has always led, as his firewall. But will it hold if he is coming off three straight defeats?

“It is possible that by this point, Biden will have been supplanted in the center-left lane by Pete Buttigieg or even Amy Klobuchar. However, neither has the inroads to the state’s black community that Biden built, which means neither would be able to count on its support as a bulwark against the left-leaning electorates in the previous states. Also, as an additional morbid touch, the South Carolina primary will feature an organized influx of Republicans voting for Sanders in a specific plan to boost what they see as Democrats’ weakest nominee.”