Writing today, on June 4, 2025, it is hard to believe what has happened in the United States in the last few years. It wasn’t easy to uproot my life and move abroad, as a refugee from the fascism which has taken over in the United States.
With my mastery of foreign languages and cultures and history of working in many foreign countries, I have had, and have, many options in terms of countries to which I might move. At the moment, I am in Costa Rica, where I lived for three years decades ago.
I am in Costa Rica for a number of reasons, including the fact that the country meets my main criterion of being a functioning democracy governed by the rule of law. Indeed I love the country and could well end up living here permanently.
It was foreseeable that politics in the United States would be headed in a direction leading to fascism. The Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021 represented the first attempted coup d’état by the cult followers of Donald Trump and his Republican co-conspirators This attempted coup constituted an effort to hold on to power after losing the 2020 November election, as chronicled in my 2021 book entitled COUP.
By the summer of 2021, it had become clear that with upwards of 50 million Republican Trump supporters upholding “The Big Lie” that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election, America had a problem.
President Joe Biden and the Democrats placed their bets on the proposition that enacting programs that enhanced the lives of voters, even Republican voters, would lead to Democratic victories at the polls in 2022 and 2024.
In retrospect, it is now clear that they made two huge mistakes.
First, they assumed that the political playing field would remain pretty much as it had been in the past, with opposing candidates making rational arguments and voters acting more or less rationally, in the aggregate, to choose their leaders and representatives at the polls.
Second, they assumed that the power of Trump and his cult followers and co-conspirators could be diminished without taking them on directly, by indicting the former president and his Republican co-conspirators in the attempted coup.
Their assumptions were not borne out in fact.
Millions of voters and many Republican officials continued to be captives of the Trump cult and the Trump propaganda machine. Moreover, the Republicans, acting in virtual unison, changed the laws in states where they controlled the legislatures and governorships, or could override the veto of a Democratic governor. They made little effort to conceal the fact that they were acting in bad faith, and had abandoned any belief in democracy in favor of a “no holds barred” grab for power at any cost.
The Republicans adopted two kinds of laws. The first kind was aimed at suppressing the Democratic vote, particularly among African-American and other minority voters in critical states, such as Georgia, where the Republicans had lost close Senate elections to John Ossoff and Rev. Rafael Warnock on January 5, 2021, and with those seats the Senate.
The Democrats had passed bills in the House of Representatives which imposed federal standards and Justice Department pre-clearance requirements for legislative changes in Southern states, as had existed before the Supreme Court overthrew this part of the Civil Rights Law of 1965, in its decision in the Shelby County Alabama case in 2013.
These bills, however, did not gain Senate approval, primarily because Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Senator Kirsten Sinema (D-Arizona) refused to vote to reform or abolish the Senate filibuster rule, which in practice requires 60 votes to advance draft legislation for discussion and approval or rejection by a majority of the senators.
In effect, the filibuster rule, originally a rarely used procedure that served as a kind of safety valve, and a time-out device, had by the 2020’s become a super-majority voting requirement. This meant that no legislation could pass the Senate without 60 votes except for some legislation on economic issues that could be adopted using a special budget reconciliation procedure.
The second huge mistake the Democrats made was that they failed to prosecute Donald Trump and his co-conspirators for the many electoral crimes and other felonies that they appeared to have committed.
The biggest challenge the Democrats faced was Trump’s propaganda bubble and alternate universe, fueled and encouraged by a right-wing media universe made up of Fox News and other radio, television and news outlets, and buttressed by a rabid social media machine which helped spread the propaganda churned out by Trump and his supporters.
How the Democrats arrived at the thought that they might pierce Trump’s propaganda bubble without taking him on, and prosecuting him and his co-conspirators, was never clear, and in retrospect defies understanding.
President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, House Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats in Congress seemed to have entered into some kind of conspiracy of silence.
Not only did the Justice Department not proceed to prosecute Trump and his co-conspirators, but there seemed to be a taboo among Democrats against even discussing the issue. When Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School’s emeritus professor and one of the leading constitutional law scholars of his generation, published a carefully-worded op-ed in the Washington Post urging Garland and the Justice Department to begin an investigation into these crimes, on August 5, 2021, Garland distracted attention from Tribe’s article by himself publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post later that same day, at 6:09 p.m. EDT, entitled, “It is time for Congress to act again to protect the right to vote.” The Post’s editors can only be viewed as complicit in this ploy. They could easily have published Garland’s op-ed the following day.
Closing ranks, the Democratic response to Tribe’s op-ed was a deafening silence.
Since the Democrats would not even allow discussion of the issues related to the non-prosecution of Trump and his co-conspirators, there was virtually no public discussion of their strategy.
Proceeding with this strategy of not challenging Trump directly by indicting him and his co-conspirators, the Democrats lost the House in 2022. Joe Biden’s domestic initiatives then hit a brick wall.
During 2023 and 2024, Trump’s propaganda bubble and alternate universe continued to grow in size and power.
In the 2024 presidential election, amid widespread cries of “fraud” by Republicans and the refusal by Republican electoral officials and legislatures to certify voting results in favor of the Democratic candidate, an electoral college majority in favor of the Democratic candidate was not achieved. In the Congress, through various machinations in the House and the Senate, no majority of electoral votes was approved.
Following the procedures set forth in the 12th Amendment, the House and the Senate voted to elect the Republican candidate to the presidency. While Democrats challenged the elections in several states whose Republican Representatives and Senators cast votes for the Republican presidential candidate, these challenges were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
On January 20, 2025, the new Republican president took office. With the election of a Republican Senate and a Republican House, the Trumpists had returned to power. They promptly set about passing laws which curtailed freedom of the press and other civil liberties.
Within days of the inauguration, I boarded my flight to Costa Rica.
I must say that the country agrees with me. With the Internet, I am still able to publish my weekly column on political, cultural and international affairs. My readership has expanded, and my column is now read by government officials, university professors and researchers, and informed citizens throughout the world.
I am currently working on a sequel to COUP, which like that book consists of articles I have written while events were unfolding. At the same time, I am working on other projects, including an autobiography, and a book on the use of international law by individuals and governments in different countries in efforts to to halt and reverse global warming, and the advance of fascism in America and other countries.
The book also focuses on efforts by these individuals and governments to foster the resurgent movement in favor of democracy and human rights throughout the world. This movement is currently being led by new generations in Africa, by the African Union, and as always by the European Union. Latin American countries, including Costa Rica and Brazil, are playing their part.
As I sit watching a beautiful sunset in the late afternoon on a Costa Rican beach, I am happy to be living in a democracy with no fascist threat, which is a proud member of a growing community of democratic states.
Who said the United States is the best country in the world? It ranked high once, and may one day do so again. But there are other countries.
The Trenchant Observer