Tag: polarization

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

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

A good friend sent me an opinion piece “Make no mistake. America is broken.” written by John Broderick. [1]  The article provoked several layers of reaction for me.

Gut Reaction

Broderick opens with:
“Make no mistake. America is broken. The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day by a minority of our population who distrust any government they don’t control, ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk, disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own and despise immigrants striving to be free.”[1] 

Broderick writes to provoke a gut reaction from the reader. My quick reaction to the first section: the author is dead wrong! I read the rest of the piece rather quickly and my initial reaction was confirmed. Next, my mind flashed to the two systems of mind: System 1 and System 2. Here’s a brief description by by psychologist Daniel Kahneman:
“I describe System 1 as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2. The automatic operations of System 1 generate surprisingly complex patterns of ideas, but only the slower System 2 can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps.”[2]

 Broderick invoked my fast System 1 thinking.  The article struck me as an emotional appeal; an “argumentum ad passiones. I spent about a week doing a System 2 analysis for the first two paragraphs of the opinion piece. Readers be warned: this was a detailed dissection by an engineer. Let me proceed with some observations and facts.

Analysis of First  Paragraph

Why did I analyze the first two paragraphs in detail? Broderick starts with his main point: “America is broken.”  He doesn’t define his subject in the first two paragraphs yet this is more than 60% of the piece  (see Appendix A for details).  Instead, he alludes to  “a minority of our population.” The subject in most of the sentences in the first two paragraphs are mainly “They.”  Why not define the subject early? In the third paragraph and beyond, it’s clear that Republicans are the subject of the piece. For me, clarity speaks louder than allusion.

The first two paragraphs are complex. After a punchy start, the third sentence contains six accusations against an unstated minority who : 

  1. Subvert democracy.
  2. Don’t trust the government.
  3. Ignore science.
  4. Put others at risk.
  5. Restrict voters due to race..
  6. Despise immigrants..
    The accusations keep flowing…:
  7. Constitutional views are incorrect.
  8. They live in a different world with the wrong social values.
  9. They don’t honor the sacrifice of other Americans.
  10. They believe the “Big Lie” – Joe Biden’s victory wasn’t legitimate.

I found elements of truth and falsehood in most of the accusations. I started with a detailed, bottom up analysis. I started with a detailed, bottom up analysis; see the addendum. Here’s a summary of my detailed analysis of the first paragraph: 

  •  “The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day…”[1]  
    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.
  • …by a minority of our population ,…”[1]  
    Assume that Broderick’s undefined use of  “ minority of our population”  and” They” represents Republicans who have voted for members of their party to represent them in Congress and President in 2020. 
  • distrust any government they don’t control,...”[1]
    This is  true for most of the history of our Republic. 
  • ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk…” [1]
    To echo Richard Feynman: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.​” and “there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science.”
  • disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own…”[1] 
    States can pass voting laws, courts must ensure that requirements of the Constitution and/or Federal law are met. Unsaid is that white Republicans are the disparagers.
  • … and despise immigrants striving to be free.” [1]
    Most  Americans don’t Americans despise immigrants. They do want us to follow our immigration laws and processes.
  • Their view of our Constitution is most often fanciful, contradictory and uninformed and their idea of freedom is twisted and self-absorbed.”[1]
    Ad Hominem argument to attack the views of a group of Americans regarding the Constitution.
  • They live in a self-interested, imaginary world with no social compact and no reciprocal responsibilities.”[1]
     There are both Republicans (‘They”) and Democrats who might fit this description. 
  • They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject.”[1]
    “Big Lie” is an emotionally charged term that refers to at least three separate efforts by President Trump and supporters to dispute the 2020 election results. Two efforts were unpopular but legal: election litigation  and objections in Congress to some state returns. Finally, there was illegal rioting at  the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.
  •  “Every federal judge found no evidence because there was none.”[1]
    No evidence isn’t measurable; it’s true Federal judges (69% Republican) voted against election litigation. Also, ignores state election litigation.
  • It is the same Big Lie that even President Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr disowned.”[1]
    True that Barr didn’t support the election litigation 
  • 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? [1]
    The assertion is partially correct.  December, 2021 polling  indicates 46% of Republicans believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was definitely not legitimate.   
  • For an increasing number of Americans, facts don’t exist or at least facts that don’t serve their ends.”[1]
    Comparing polls between April. 2021 l and December, 2021 – a decreasing not increasing) number of Americans believed that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was not legitimate.

The terms used are emotionally charged; for example: callously, fanciful, twisted, self-absorbed, self-interested. He  also uses  absolute claims: “entire idea behind democratic rule”, “no reciprocal responsibilities”, and “zero proof” are examples. Such language won’t help a reader understand the author’s logic and wisdom. Instead, you are either with Broderick or against him.

The author uses long sentences to make claims. Why do long sentences matter?  They reduce readability. I calculated the Flesch Reading Ease Score [22] for or the six longest sentences. (Details Appendix A: Word Count Analysis)  These sentences range from “Difficult to read” to ‘Extremely difficult to read”  The entire piece also graded out as “Difficult to read”.

Broderick uses charged, hard to read, partly true claims for a purpose.  He wants to convince readers that Republicans are deplorable.  As he states: “Too many Americans live in a conspiracy-laden echo chamber of their own creation”. Echo chambers exist for both Republican and Democratic Americans. He’s fueling  an echo chamber of the opposite polarity.

Analysis of Second  Paragraph

The second paragraph discusses the events of the Jan. 6  U. S. Capitol riots.  Broderick finishes with: “Actions speak louder than words.”  I have to agree. 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. These actions tell me that our judicial system is working. It’s worth noting that 700 criminals out of more than 74 million Republican voters is about 1 in 100,000. Are the crimes of a few to tarnish the millions?

A few salient  points from the second paragraph: 

  • “… and embrace the American flag …. support the police 100 percent. [1]
    Agree with Broderick’s sentiment. It’s terrible to see the US flag misused in riots at the capitol (or the federal courthouse in Portland)
  •  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.”[1]
    In a poll of Republicans assessing  responsibility for the Jan. 6  Capitol riots, ranked responses by Republicans were 30% Democratic party, 24% U.S. Capitol police, 20% Antifa.
    (Details in Addendum)   

Mr. Broderick asks three important questions in the second paragraph: “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?    I struggle with how to answer. 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.

Some data exists to quantify: How far we have fallen? But first, we might ask: From what have we fallen?  Our republic is never united for long. There are certain events where we come together: World War 2 and 9/11 come to mind. Now, I think our country has fallen into a canyon of polarization and  factionalism. What is a faction? James Madison defines: 

 “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” [23] and Appendix B – Factionalism and  Federalist Papers No. 10

We have been in a deep abyss of factionalism before. Look back from 1967 to 1973: race riots, assassinations, the Vietnam War, Watergate, lack of jobs, inflation all spring to mind. Less factionalism would be better. So, what  can we do? Follow the Constitution and our laws. As James Madison states:

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. …. In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” [23] and Appendix B – Factionalism and  Federalist Papers No. 10

Analysis of Third Paragraph

My analysis of the remainder of Broderick’s piece is less detailed. I used more System 1 thinking and less System 2 for the remainder of this reaction.

In his third paragraph, Broderick finds a target:

It seems “They” equals Republicans, a point of clarity. Broderick told us before that: “They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject.”[1] So, I looked at the electoral  vote counting on 6-7 January, 2021. Objections could be raised; these needed to be presented by both a House Representative and a Senator. Representatives raised objections to electoral votes in six states.  Two senators supported objections for two states: Arizona and Pennsylvania, A simple majority of the joint House and Senate would allow the objection to be sustained.[24]

How did it go?   Congress voted on the Arizona objection: 396 voted No, that is to reject the objection. 127 members voted Yes and 7 didn’t vote. It’s interesting to see that 49.2% of Republicans voted No, while 48.8% voted Yes and 1.9% didn’t vote. [Appendix C]

For the Pennsylvania objection: 374 voted No, that is to reject the objection. 145 members voted Yes and 11 didn’t vote.   For the  Republicans: 41.5% voted No, while 55.8% voted Yes and 2.7% didn’t vote. [Appendix C]

Thus, based on the votes during the troubling times of 6th January Capitol riots, most Republicans senators and many representatives didn’t remain silent. The Republican Vice-President Pence certified the election results on 7 January 2021. There was no autocratic rule. Our republic stands.

Analysis of Fourth Paragraph

Broderick asks us: 

“Where have all the statesmen gone? When did truth die? When was finding out who organized and funded the January 6th assault on our free elections a petty partisan exercise to be disparaged by virtually every elected Congressional Republican?”  

To me, leaders are people that speak truth to power. Most Republicans follow the party line. Most Democrats follow the party line too. The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack started with a fight over who could serve. It started as a political duel between Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy. [25][26] Two Republicans took a risk: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. When did truth die? Probably when we ended with a lopsided committee of 2 Republicans and 8 Democrats.

I do see some other leaders on Capitol Hill. The bipartisan group that came up with alternative infrastructure proposal spring to mind. Five Republicans and five Democrats. Here they are: Senators Cassidy, Collins, Manchin, Murkowski, Portman, Romney, Shaheen, Sinema, Tester and Warner. In August, 2021 Democrats and Republicans voted 69-30)  to pass the bill.  After a series of stalling tactics in the House, it was passed in November, 2021 and signed into law by President Biden. So, there’s some proof that there’s leadership on Capitol Hill.[27]

Closing

Broderick states: “Putin must be smiling in Moscow.” I must agree and would add that Xi Jinping is probably dancing a jig in Peking. Our country is in turmoil. Broderick is correct that we need leadership. My biggest disagreement is that we need bipartisan leadership that can break through the current silo mentality.

Let me close by saying thanks to John Broderick, He made me think deeply about our country as we enter 2022. I don’t agree when Broderick states: “Make no mistake. America is broken.” I do think our country is faltering. Here’s my opinion: 

America has run for a long time through some epic challenges. We have almost always had a two party system; think of one party as the left leg and the other as the right leg. You won;t get very far hopping on one leg. To be effective, both legs have to work in harmony.

 Our country has won many  races against strong competitors.  Today, we have stress fracture injuries in both legs. We are hobbling. The race is painful.  We have some hard choices. We can recover from our injuries or press on.  

 We know how to heal, recover and emerge strong. We have done this before. We came back strong after the Civil War, World Wars, the Great Depression, and Vietnam. We went on to win some races.

Another choice is to ignore our injuries.  We can hobble into the future. We will soon stop running. We will stumble and fall. We will  lose  races to our strong competitors.

It’s our choice to make.

John Brew 10 January 2022

Supporting Pages

Addendum with supporting analysis

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