The U.S. may be on the verge of collapse due to right-wing threats on democracy, according to a recent New York Times piece that called to intensify “war games” for scenarios concerning the 2024 presidential elections such as “insurrection, secession, insurgency and civil war” in order to avert “political decay” of the country.
A Thursday New York Times essay, titled “We Need to Think the Unthinkable About Our Country,” begins by deeming the U.S. perhaps “even more alarmingly fractious and divided” one year after the January 6 Capitol riot.
“Regrettably, the right has sustained its support for [former President] Donald Trump and continued its assault on American democratic norms,” it continues.
"War games, tabletop exercises, operations research … on the prospect of American political conflagration — including insurrection, secession, insurgency and civil war — should be proceeding at a higher tempo," write Jonathan Stevenson and Steven Simon. https://t.co/8eHJ6KpaBh
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) January 14, 2022
The essay was penned by Jonathan Stevenson, a former National Security Council staffer in the Obama administration, and Steven Simon, a former staffer in the State Department and on the National Security Council in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations.
Speculating that the next presidential election “will almost inevitably be viciously (perhaps violently) contested,” the authors warn of a “politically existential” threat to the country due to right-wing preparations for a potential 2024 “power grab.”
“Yet many Americans seem to be whistling past the graveyard of American democracy,” the essay cautions, as it laments the little effort dedicated to “think tanks, professional military institutions and universities to build and contemplate the dire scenarios that have become increasingly plausible.”
Describing the worst-case scenario as one where the country falls apart “at the seams,” the authors then highlight how, in the past, “worst-case thinking kept the prospect of nuclear holocaust real and the need to avoid it urgent.”
Though the essay admits since the Capitol riot, many have “recognized, ridiculed and lamented the state of our democracy,” it also claimed that, in terms of the coming presidential election, “systematic and dispassionate analysis of such possibilities has not widely emerged.”
The authors also urged reviving the 2020 bipartisan Transition Integrity Project (TIP), which they claimed far-right groups “mobilized to dismiss” after deeming the group’s activities “leftist psychological warfare” and “a blueprint for a left-wing coup.”
“That should not stop a reprise of the project’s efforts with respect to the 2024 election,” they write.
TIP, which comprised over 100 leading experts and officials, mostly Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans, “war-gamed” potential outcomes of the 2020 elections, releasing a 22-page report in 2020, titled “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition.”
The report concluded that anything less than a Biden-Harris landslide would spark catastrophe, including “violence in the streets” and a “constitutional impasse.”
According to the report, even a “clear Trump win” was deemed possible only through “foreign interference and voter suppression” and would not be regarded as legitimate.
The authors then warn of how some on the right pose a threat to the country’s political stability.
“A right-wing minority — including many elected politicians — is now practicing a form of brinkmanship by threatening to unilaterally destroy American democracy, daring what they hope is a timid and somnolent majority to resist them,” it reads.
Calling to “prepare our defenses for the worst,” the essay describes how “policy focus is now on pre-empting a right-wing steal in the next national election.”
“War games, tabletop exercises, operations research, campaign analyses, conferences and seminars on the prospect of American political conflagration — including insurrection, secession, insurgency and civil war — should be proceeding at a higher tempo and intensity,” it states.
The authors conclude by urging to “probe just how bad things could get precisely to ensure that they never do, and that America’s abject political decay is averted.”
The essay comes as the left routinely describe conservatives as a domestic threat to democracy.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.