Addendum to  Reaction to John Broderick’s “Make no mistake. America is broken.”

This section provides supporting analysis for my reaction to John Broderick’s “Make no mistake. America is broken.”  The first two paragraphs are covered in detail. I will likely parse this further into at least one more Appendix.

First paragraph

The first paragraph begins by stereotyping an undefined segment of the US population. Broderick states:

“The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day by a minority of our population ,…”[1]

Who are this minority of our [US] population? While not explicitly stated, I believe that Broderick implies that citizens who voted for President Trump and Republican candidates in 2020 constitute “a minority of our population who distrust any government they don’t control.  The reality is that President Biden won the 2020 election but it was a close race :

 “Trump won 74,222,958 votes, or 46.8 percent of the votes cast. That’s more votes than any other presidential candidate has ever won, with the exception of Biden ….
When you look at the smallest popular vote shift needed to give Trump a victory, the 2020 election was close. Indeed, it was even closer than 2016. If Trump picked up the right mix of 42,921 votes in Arizona (10,457), Georgia (11,779), and Wisconsin (20,682), the Electoral College would have been tied at 269 all. The House would have then decided the election. Republicans will hold the majority of state delegations in the new Congress, and they undoubtedly would have chosen Trump.[3] 

Now, I struggle to understand how: “The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day…” We are a union of people, we elect our representatives and President, however we aren’t a pure democracy ruled by the majority. We are a representative government.  Because a majority of one political party is in power for a period of time doesn’t imply that the actions of the minority constitute daily subversion. After all: “The United States, under its Constitution, is a federal, representative, democratic republic, an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States.” [3]

The fact that a minority group of citizens may disagree with a majority is true. As Broderick states: “by a minority of our population distrust any government they don’t control,…”  This has been true for most of the history of our Republic. In current terms: most Democrats don’t trust Republicans; most Republicans don’t trust Democrats. This distrust is a type of tautology in American politics. The first instance in American politics that I know was in the election of 1800 when Democratic- Republicans supporting Jefferson distrusted the Federalist under John Adams.

Broderick implies that this segment of our society lacks understanding of science. I vehemently disagree with the description of 74 million Americans who:  “ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk…” [1]  Broderick implies but leaves unstated that the science being ignored regards our current COVID pandemic. 

  “ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk…” [1]

A segment of our society questions COVID medical proclamations by experts that are to be accepted by all in the name of science. Dissenting opinions aren’t welcomed, in fact, they seem to be removed from most social media. What we need are scientific results that an average citizen can understand; that would reduce the doubt, uncertainty and fear. Here is how  one of my most respected teachers, Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman, described science: 

” …. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.​

​When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”​

​It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at. ….

I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television–words, books, and so on–are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science.”[5]

​ From what I can see, the science behind the vaccine mandates is questionable. What I don’t understand is how the risks outweigh the benefits for someone who is 20 years old? How about a child who is age 5?  To echo Richard Feynman: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.​” I believe our citizens have a right to hear the latest evidence and judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at. 

Does someone who is unvaccinated put others callously at risk? The important premise here is that vaccination reduces the rate of transmission. What is the evidence that substantiates that the rate of transmission is reduced in vaccinated people in December, 2021?   I do see evidence that vaccination reduces the severity of COVID in older people with comorbidities. Thus,  vaccination likely reduces the impact from COVID on the health care system and is prudent. Of course, not smoking tobacco (or marijuana) would also reduce  the impact from  lung cancer on the health care system and is prudent. Yet, smoking cessation is not mandated in the US.

“disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own…” [1]

From what I see, there is some evidence that supports:  “disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own…” [1]

Unsaid is that white Republicans are the disparagers and restrictors. The issues regarding restriction of voters are complex and I should spend time understanding them better. As to the claim of disparagement – our society might strive to be courteous to all. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enabled many of our citizens to gain the vote. A number of other acts have strengthened voting rights.States are responsible for the administration of elections.


“The administration of elections, including regulation of political parties, ballot access, and registration procedures, establishment of polling places, provision of election-day workers, counting and certification of the vote, and all costs associated with these activities, are the responsibility of the States. In performing these functions, the States are subject to the requirements of the Constitution and Federal law…” [3]

 A state may pass a law that violates the requirements of the Constitution and/or Federal law. If this happens, then the judicial system can be used to overturn such a law. This can be a slow, painful process. Some cases may have to go to the Supreme Court. 

“… and despise immigrants striving to be free.” [1]

Many Americans want immigation laws and processes enforced. What is the purpose of a law that isn’t enforced? 

I do not see evidence that large numbers of Americans despise immigrants. My mom’s parents came to the US from Ireland with nothing. In modern terms, they were chain immigrants. When I was young, I learned the words of Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, …”   I believe those words still represent an American ideal; I bet most other Americans do as well.

Let me next cover the middle passage of the first paragraph:

“Their view of our Constitution is most often fanciful, contradictory and uninformed and their idea of freedom is twisted and self-absorbed.”[1]

 First, I bet most Americans haven’t read the Constitution in many years. It’s worth studying for all of us. There are many views that can be taken regarding the Constitution; each of our Supreme Court justices has a view – they don’t all agree. In this passage, I think Broderick is using an Ad Hominem argument to attack the views of a group of Americans who may have views that differ from his regarding the Constitution and role of government in our society. 

 “They live in a self-interested, imaginary world with no social compact and no reciprocal responsibilities.”[1]

It takes two to tango. There are some liberals who agree that some conservatives fulfill Broderick’s description. On the other hand, there are people on the left who believe they are entitled to others’ hard earned savings, that the government can keep distributing them money forever, that billionaires are all evil. My point is that there are people on the left that also: “live in a self-interested, imaginary world with no social compact and no reciprocal responsibilities.”

“They disgrace the service and sacrifice of so many Americans who unselfishly gave so much to protect rights they neither understand nor honor.”[1]

 I’ll just say that I see no foundation for this statement. Again, I assume that Broderick’s undefined use of  “They” represents Republicans who have voted for members of their party to represent them in Congress and President in 2020. In fact, Republicans are much more likely to elect to Congress  Armed Forces veterans who did “ service and sacrifice.” Here’s some details:

 Of the 535 voting members of Congress, there are  91 veterans (17%) in the 117th Congress. [6]  The Republicans members of Congress represent 69% of the veterans in Congress. Why did I choose veterans?  Because they all swear an oath that includes: “solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;… “[7]  There’s not an expiration date on the oath, thus, veterans are on the frontline of those: “who unselfishly gave so much to protect rights.”   As of 2018, 7% of the adult Americans were veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2018..[8]  I’ll extrapolate from the data on members of Congress  that a majority of veterans vote Republican. There is no evidence that a broad majority of Republicans (or Democrats) “disgrace the service and sacrifice” of other Americans.

Now, to the final section of the first paragraph:

“They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject. Every federal judge found no evidence because there was none. It is the same Big Lie that even President Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr disowned.”[1]

The first sentence: “They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject.” needs to be dissected. “Big Lie” is an emotionally charged term that refers to at least three separate efforts by President Trump and some supporters to dispute the 2020 election results. Two efforts were legal, although quite unpopular with Democrats. First, there was election litigation at the state and federal level. Next, there were objections in Congress to some state electoral college returns. In both these cases there wasn’t  “zero proof’” The proof may have been flawed or weak proof. Finally, there was illegal rioting within the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 (which Broderick addresses in the more detailed second paragraph.)

A number of court cases were litigated at the federal and state level seeking  to overturn the 2020 Presidential election results in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia,and Wisconsin.  “Every federal judge found no evidence because there was none.” [1] isn’t measurable; we can’t ascertain if the judges found no evidence. A more complete statement regards the voting of Federal judges  in cases brought before them:

 “Of the 44 votes (in 13 cases), only one vote favored Trump—and did so just barely. (Note: The 13 cases include the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of Texas’s original jurisdiction filing challenging other states’ election results, but not the several nine-vote certiorari denials.”[9]. 

Of the 44 votes, 30 of them (68%) were cast by Republican appointee judges. [9] At a state level, there were election cases with some votes cast in favor of the Trump litigation: 

“Most pro-Trump votes came in dissents in the multi-judge appellate courts. These judicial disagreements might reflect the fact that appellate judges often dealt with less frequently litigated questions, such as those involving appellate courts’ original jurisdiction, and appellate judges, in any event, may regard themselves as less bound by precedent than first-instance judges.”[9]

Next up, the statement about former Attorney General Barr: It is the same Big Lie that even President Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr disowned.”[1]  It is true that Barr didn’t support the election litigation by the legal Trump team. Here is a  Barr quote:

“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told me. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”

“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr said. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.” [10]

Now, I will go along with Mr. Broderick that the decision of most judges taken with the statements by former Attorney General Barr indicate a low chance of Presidential election fraud in 2020. On the other hand, from the facts I can find, statements such as “zero proof”, “no evidence” and “Big Lie” are emotionally charged terms that don’t seem supported by the facts. 

The last section of the paragraph covers recent polling of Americans regarding the 2020 election results:

“Incredibly, according to some recent polls, sixty percent of Republicans still believe that the election was stolen, too. They have zero proof as well. Do facts matter anymore? Is truth too inconvenient to be honored? For an increasing number of Americans, facts don’t exist or at least facts that don’t serve their ends.”[1]

A December, 2021 University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll provides data to help confirm or deny the  “sixty percent of Republicans assertion”. The assertion is partially correct; a summary of the poll states: “The poll of 1,000 respondents found that only 58% of Americans believe that Biden’s electoral victory was legitimate,…” [11]  Here’s a summary of one of the questions from the poll:


Table 1:  Do you believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was legitimate or not legitimate?”December, 2021 data [12]

Definitely legitimateProbably legitimateProbably not legitimateDefinitely not legitimateI’m not sure
Republican6%15%25%46%6%
Independent37%17%6%25%15%
Democratic83%8%2%2%6%
All46%12%11%22%9%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 14-20 December, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.1%

If we look at the row of data for Republicans and assume that “election was stolen” means the same as “Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was definitely not legitimate” then at least 46% of Republicans believe the election was stolen. If we add the 25%of Republicans who believe ““Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was probably not legitimate” then 71% of Republicans believe the election was stolen. The UMass Amherst poll result supports Broderick’s case that there’s a strong polarization between Democrats and Republicans. Some Republicans are not definite in their opinion that President Biden won or lost; others are not sure.This is also true to a lesser extent for Independents and even a few Democrats.

So, I thought it would be useful to look at the same data using a different lens. I binned those who aren’t completely polarized separately. In Table 2, I used the data in Table 1 but  I created a new category “In the Middle” 

Table 2:  Do you believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was legitimate or not legitimate? December, 2021 data  [12] Added category “In the Middle” =

 (Probably legitimate + Probably not legitimate + I’m not sure)

Definitely legitimateIn the MiddleDefinitely not legitimate
Republican6%46%46%
Independent37%38%25%
Democratic83%16%2%
All46%32%22%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 14-20 December, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.1%

Broderick asserts: “They have zero proof as well. Do facts matter anymore? Is truth too inconvenient to be honored? [1] Regarding the 2020 presidential election outcome;  Table 2 indicates to me that 32% of Americans aren’t definite in their convictions. 

The final sentence of the first paragraph states: “For an increasing number of Americans, facts don’t exist or at least facts that don’t serve their ends.”[1] 

Table 3:  Do you believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was legitimate or not legitimate?” April, 2021 data[ 16]

Definitely legitimateProbably legitimateProbably not legitimateDefinitely not legitimateI’m not sure
All49%10%10%24%7%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 21-23 April, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.4%


Table 4:  Do you believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was legitimate or not legitimate?  Comparison of December, 2021[12]  to April, 2021 data[16] Added category “In the Middle” =  (Probably legitimate + Probably not legitimate + I’m not sure)

Definitely legitimateIn the MiddleDefinitely not legitimate
All – Apr, 202149%27%24%
All -Dec., 202146%32%22%
Dec, 21 – Apr, 21-3%5%-2%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 21-23 April, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.4%

 I compared the results from April, 2021  to December, 2021 in Table 4. Broderick’s hypothesis isn’t supported. Within the margin of error, the poll shows it’s likely that in the eight months from April to December, 2021, a decreasing (not increasing) number of Americans believed that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was not legitimate. Also, the number of Americans who were not definite regarding the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory increased. [17]

Second paragraph

Now, on to the second paragraph which starts: 

“Too many Americans live in a conspiracy-laden echo chamber of their own creation …” [1]

 I must agree, however, these echo chambers exist for both Republican and Democratic Americans. There aren’t many places for an American citizen  “in the middle” to find the truth. In fact, my own view of Broderick’s piece is that it has the rhetorical resonance of a reverse polarity echo chamber. [18] 

“and embrace the American flag …. support the police 100 percent.”[1]

I have to agree with Broderick’s statement in that I was sickened to see the American flag paraded in criminal activity, much as I am disgusted to see those who burn our flag during the June, 2021 riots at the US Federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. [19].

 “Many of those people presented with clear and graphic proof that misguided Trump supporters attacked our government on January 6th have concocted the bizarre notion that the FBI or Antifa were behind the insurrection. They have zero proof of that as well yet they hold to it senselessly even as the Proud Boys and others are being prosecuted or plead guilty.”[1]

 I wanted to look through both a  Republican lens and a Democrats lens at the causes of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Again, the December, 2021 University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll provides data to help understand how Republicans and Democrats  assign responsibility for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Table 5 summarizes the poll results using a Republican lens to rank responsibility. The poll listed eight possibilities for responsibility, as indicated in the first column. The next  columns are the percent of Republicans or selecting an Individual(s) or Group as responsible. The responsibilities are ranked  from the greatest to the least selected cause by Republicans. 

This poll does partially support Broderick’s assertion given that 20% of Republicans believe that Antifa was responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, the third most supplied answer. In the ranking of responsibility by Republicans, the most common blame was placed on the Democratic party, followed by the Capitol police. 

Table 5  January 6th Responsibility by Party, ranked from leading to least responsibility by Republicans [20]

Responsibility for Jan. 6 Capitol RiotsRepublican LensRepublican
Democratic Party30%
U.S. Capitol Police24%
Antifia20%
President Joe Biden8%
Former President Donald Trump7%
White Nationalists7%
Republican Party4%
Former Vice President Mike Pence1%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 14-20 December, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.1%

Table 6 uses the same method as Table 5 except the responsibilities are ranked  from the greatest to the least selected cause by Democrats. In this case, there is one primary responsibility: Former President Trump.

Table 6  January 6th Responsibility by Party, ranked from leading to least responsibility by Democrats [20]

Responsibility for Jan. 6 Capitol RiotsDemocratic LensDemocratic
Former President Donald Trump75%
White Nationalists10%
Republican Party8%
Democratic Party4%
U.S. Capitol Police1%
Antifia1%
Former Vice President Mike Pence1%
President Joe Biden0%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 14-20 December, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.1%

How far have we fallen? How dangerous is our descent? How much destructive nonsense, ill-will and subversive conduct can we tolerate and still sustain democratic rule in America?[1]

A start to answering these questions might be: How polarized is our country? I decided to look at the poll results side by side and calculate a measure of polarization. For each of the eight responsibility choices, I calculated the absolute value of the difference between Republicans and Democrats. For example,  7% of Republicans  and 75% of Democrats thought former President Trump was responsible. If we calculate the Republican minus the Democratic responses (7% – 75%)  – we get -68%. The polarization may be thought of as a magnitude, so I used the Absolute value of -68% which is 68%. A large value indicates a high degree of polarization between people of both parties. Of course, one can say this just confirms what we all feel but I wanted to quantify the degree of polarization. The results are listed in Table 7.

Table 7  January 6th Responsibility by Party, ranked by polarization.

Responsibility for Jan. 6 Capitol RiotsPolarization LensRepublicanDemocraticPolarizationABS (Rep. – Dem.)
Former President Donald Trump7%75%68%
Democratic Party30%4%26%
U.S. Capitol Police24%1%23%
Antifia20%1%19%
President Joe Biden8%0%8%
Republican Party4%8%4%
White Nationalists7%10%3%
Former Vice President Mike Pence1%1%0%
UMass Amherst Poll conducted online 14-20 December, 2021 by YouGov.[15]
Nationally representative sample of 1000 respondents. Margin of error 3.1%

Former President Trump being responsible is the most polarizing response in the survey with most Democrats holding him responsible. Yet, some Republicans also attribute responsibility to him.  The next most polarized response is to attribute responsibility to the Democratic Party, an answer most favored by Republicans (and a few Democrats). The next two most polarized responsibilities (U.S. Capitol Police and Antifa) are held by Republicans and almost no Democrats. 

Mr. Broderick asks three important questions. I struggle with how to quantify answers. Perhaps some smart academics can help figure this out. When I look at the degree of polarization, I see that we need to do a lot of work to understand the driving forces between such disconnects. It is very indicative of fracturing in our country, not a good state of affairs. Still, I believe there’s a possibility that dialog can once again occur from members of both parties. 

“Free speech is protected and cherished under our Constitution but not efforts in plain sight to subvert or destroy our country. Actions speak louder than words.”[1]

More than 700 rioters have been arrested and 150 have pleaded guilty. 270 rioters face felony charges.  [21]

Rioters are being prosecuted, convicted and sentenced are actions that do speak louder than words. Our judicial system is still working.  

Appendix A: Word Count Analysis

Appendix B – Factionalism and  Federalist Papers No. 10

Appendix C – Counting of electoral votes and confirmation of the 2020 Presidential election

Notes and Sources

2 thoughts on “Addendum to  Reaction to John Broderick’s “Make no mistake. America is broken.”

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