We have to spend the next four years (or more) working as hard as we can on unity, solidarity, and reconciliation.
This election was basically about hatred, and we can’t afford that. It leads nowhere but to genocide. Trump and the Republicans were the worst, but disaffected Sanders and Stein voters could be as bad (often recycling Republican lies), and Clinton’s “deplorables” remark was clearly one of the things that cost her the election.
The hatred was primarily racial, ethnic, and religious, but there was plenty of hatred for “the establishment,” for Clinton and for Trump personally, and for the increasing closedness and even arrogance of the Democratic leadership. Many disaffected working-class voters simply wanted to express anguish or anger against the whole stacked deck. Many businesspeople hated regulations and the regulation-creating mind, Many conservatives simply hated the poor, hated “entitlements,“ hated the whole idea of a country where people took care of each other. The system—American political society in the 21st century—had simply generated so many problems, and its leadership was so out of touch, that many people voted to destroy it.
Substantive issues just got lost. They will continue to be lost if we don’t act. Some have said it was all about the economy, or a desire for (generic) change. No. It was partly driven by that, but the immediate, operational factor—including the way people chose to get out those concerns—was hate. The election turned on which candidate and which bunch of followers was the most hateful. Anyone who doubts this is welcome to re-read the campaign literature, see the videos, count the votes by region and ward.
Two key things to remember. First, it was not just Trump that won. Republicans swept the country. Republican senate candidates ran better than Trump in a lot of states. The Republicans even took the New York state senate! So whatever is going on here, it is much wider than Trump and Clinton. It is not even just the United States: democratically elected extremist hatemongering regimes now dominate England, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, the Philippines, Israel, India, and some other countries. To that may be added the regimes that are not democratically elected, coming to power by coups (Honduras, Brazil) or by traditional succession (Saudi Arabia) or by sheer brutal dictatorial power (most of the Middle East, China, North Korea, many others). Most of the world has gone fascist or appears to be going there.
Second, Trump clearly drew on the racists, religious bigots, and outright fascists, but evidence going back for decades shows that those are only about 20% of the voters. The other 27% of voters who backed Trump were a range of social conservatives, disaffected downwardly-mobile whites, and poor lost souls who just wanted to protest. We need to reach out to them. We have to call out hatred—wherever we find it—especially racial, gender, and religious hate, but also hate of rival political factions, and ALSO elite-liberal hate of rural and less affluent whites.
Think of South Africa’s reconciliation commissions. We need to do as they did, but proactively.
Obama in 2008 got seven million more votes than Clinton in 2016. Even in 2012, when turnout was historically low, he got three million more. Romney got about as many as Trump. So the main reason Clinton lost was failure to turn out the vote, in spite of desperate attempts to get out the vote (Barbara alone made over 1000 calls). Only 55.6% the eligible voters turned out, and Democrats suffered far more than Republicans, as usual. That means that the 20% of voters who were hateful represent only a bit over 10% of the general population. (The breakdown as of Day 18 was 62,213,790 for Trump, 64,226,121 for Clinton.)
Men and women were almost mirror image: Men broke 53-41 for Trump, women 42-54. People under 30 voted 37-55, over 30 52-43. (Other votes went to third party people, with little effect on overall results.) Whites broke an amazing 58-37, probably a record. Hispanics were 29-65, blacks 8-88 (!).
Evangelicals broke 81 to 16% for Trump, a record. In all, the GOP constituency turned out in force and was loyal. There was also a reversal of the recent trend for rich to vote Democratic. Most of the press and many giant corporations supported Clinton, but the traditional Republican constituency—well-to-do whites, suburbanites, farmers—went as heavily Republican as they did in the 1980s, unlike their shift toward Obama in 2008 and 2012. The poorer whites broke for Trump, slightly, but overall 52 to 53% of less affluent voters went for Clinton—largely because the number of minorities is so high in that income category. Even so, Trump got 15% more of the less educated and less affluent (under $30,000/year) white vote than Romney got in 2012. People under 30 broke heavily for Clinton, but not so heavily as they had broken for Obama. In all, the pattern was a return to the George W. Bush years.
Trump voters tend to believe that whites are more discriminated against than blacks, Hispanics, or Muslims—in contrast to the US average and especially Clinton voters. A Huffington Post-YouGov poll revealed that 10% of Clinton voters and 45% of Trump voters thought there was” a lot of discrimination” against whites (the US average was 24%). Clinton voters were far more prone than average to see more discrimination against the other named groups, reaching a high of 88% for Muslims (Edwards-Levy 2016).
Interesting are the huge changes in the last 50 years, even in the last 30. The cities are now so heavily Democratic that, for instance, the whole Los Angeles Basin was a sea of blue when the precincts were counted, with only a few tiny pink (not red—barely carried by Trump) spots in the most traditionally rich and conservative areas. Even San Marino, former home of the John Birch Society and a city that went approximately 90% for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, was split into a pale pink ward and a blue one. Pasadena and La Canada-Flintridge, formerly major Republican strongholds, were deep blue. So were Malibu and the whole westside. Other cities all over the state, and indeed all over the country, showed the same trajectory.
By contrast, rural areas that were solidly Democratic as recently as 1980, and in some cases even 2012, were solidly red all over the country (except where they were overwhelmingly minority-populated). Idaho was the most liberal-voting state in the country in the 1960s. It was now the most Republican, after wyoming. The Dakotas and Montana were solidly Democrat then; they are now Republican strongholds. Of course the deep south switched because the Republicans replaced the southern Democrats as the party of racism, but the border south was generally liberal Democrat through the 1960s; it is now second only to the northern interior west in Republican dominance. (So much for theories of “innate” and “genetically determined” politics and party affiliation.)
The result was that Clinton carried 88 of the most populous 100 counties in the US, but lost virtually all the 3000 rural and suburban counties (there are 3,141 counties in the US)—essentially all of the ones that were not dominated by nonwhite minority populations.
However, voter suppression since 2010 had a huge amount of effect in this, and several other games were played. Russian hacking of voting machines clearly benefited Trump, to an uncertain degree. Bill Palmer has noted that there was an astonishing decline in Black turnout even from the primaries, let alone 2012—up to 80% in North Carolina. There were other mysterious declines of minority voters, mostly in states with voter suppression laws. He also noted that Clinton arried the early vote in Florida, where most people voted early, but then Trump won the state—requiring a vote of 70% for Trump by the election-day voters. Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan turned in late-breaking Trump wins with 1% or less of the vote—consistently. Polls were mysteriously far wrong (with one or two exceptions). Voter turnout was surprisingly light, and mysteriously much lighter than expected in precisely the states where suppression was already ongoing and registration therefore down. Any one or two of these anomalies could be chance, or late-breaking changes of mind by the voters, but all of the anomalies put together looked highly suspicious to Palmer. Further detailed analysis of the numbers by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (2016) and Greg Palast (2016a, 2016b) prove Palmer right, and reveal many other suspicious matters. It is now clear that Clinton won the election and the Republicans stole it by outright lawbreaking.
Of course the Koch brothers were intensely involved at all levels. They did not like Trump and refused to support him directly, but poured over $750 million dollars into Senate and other races and general build-up of Republican agendas. They are now poised to tell the solidly Republican congress exactly what to do (Skocpol et al. 2016).
Many of the Democrat nonvoters were disaffected supporters of Bernie Sanders. They refused to vote for Clinton, and that was one of the things that cost her the election. The rest were divided into simple Clinton-dislikers and ordinary nonvoters.
Democrats often fail to turn out large percentages of their typical “base demographics.” Democrats did better in 2008 and 2012, but their turnouts in 2010 and 2014 were derisory. Only a very small percentage of registered Democrats turned out in those midterm years.
So, there were many causes of Clinton’s loss. The biggest was clearly the failure of turnout, especially the disaffected voters. Clinton’s lack of charisma and personal touch, and Trump’s abundant endowment with both, was clearly and heavily decisive. These two together led to massive loss of working-class white votes (see e.g. Maslin 2016). Clinton’s one really hateful remark—calling Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables”—may have cost her the election, but Trump’s hundreds of hateful remarks merely fed his rabid supporters. Also important were decades of Republicans deliberately whipping up racial, gender, and religious hatred, to divide the voters and set them against each other. Also decisive was Republican voter suppression and intimidation, which certainly cost Clinton Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio, and probably Arizona,. Some 1,100,000 voters, mostly poor and nonwhite, were disqualified, or their ballots somehow disappeared; reporter Greg Palast traced the story and found out how Republicans had managed it (Palast 2016a, 2016b). Google counted voter incidents reported to them, and found a clear and enormous pattern of repression and corruption of many kinds, from rigged machines to long wait times, often from closed polling places (Garland 2016). There was also apparent gaming of voting machines. Lies (especially on talk radio and Fox News) and dirty tricks did the rest. The Clinton campaign blamed especially the tricks played by James Comey, head of the FBI and a Trump Republican, in the last month of the campaign. He timed email investigations and his letters about them to do maximal damage.
Part of the back story included progressive distancing of the Democrats from working-class and rural voters over three decades. This has thrown an increasingly desperate and miserable group of people to the wolves. An excellent account of their problems and the exploitation thereof by the hate-merchants is given by Chris Hedges (2016). Part of the problem is a hard-to-define but easy-to-see difference between traditional American rural and working-class culture—defiant, independent, but loyal to charismatic leaders—and the urban intellectual culture that dominates the Democratic Party today.
Even worse was the rapid decline of newspapers and serious news magazines, and their replacement by biased and “clickbait” sites, hate propaganda (especially on talk radio), and trash entertainment. The media both eliminated serious coverage of news and set people up to believe any story or to disbelieve all stories, including climate science and other vitally important truths.
Reversal of any one of these many causes would have meant a win for Clinton.
In the days after the election, everybody seized on his or her pet cause as “the” cause, and flayed anyone who thought differently—guaranteeing problems with fixing the situation in future. The leftists and liberals revealed their fondness for what Mother Jones referred to as their typical “circular firing squad.”
The basic fact, though, is that people voted their hate—or hatred of all the alternatives led the not to vote. Trump and Clinton had the lowest approval ratings of any candidates in the history of polling—Trump was the worst ever, Clinton second. Trump’s savage hatemongering gave him this reputation; Clinton was the victim of a huge and systematic Republican smear campaign, but if she had been more personable and less connected with big banks and big business she could have blown that off, as Obama did and as her own husband did when they were subjected to similar treatment. She appeared elitist; that made her connection with the banks and firms seem deadly serious rather than mere ordinary politics.
This election is unique in the history of the US, and rare in the history of the world. In most elections, the candidates at least pretend to discuss real issues. This one was entirely about hate, from Trump’s side—even his “positive” proposals were all things to be done by getting rid of Mexicans, Chinese, Muslims, anyone. Clinton did not run a very positive or hopeful campaign either. One kept hoping and expecting her to give a clarion call for national unity and solidarity—everyone standing and working together. She never did. She appealed to every demographic in the country except white males. It didn’t work. She had no real proposals for major change; she ran far too much on Obama’s record. Previous US elections—all of them—highlighted solidarity and national unity (even while working cynically against it, as many presidents did). Even Calvin Coolidge, previously the most right-wing president, ran more upbeat campaigns and made more solid contributions than Trump. They also invariably included numerous proposals for change and growth—again, often to betray them all later, but the promise was important. Most of our elections have matched one pleasant stuffed suit against another, with no vast outpouring of hateful rhetoric and no huge difference in programs. Not in 2016.
Worldwide, elections with this breadth and depth of hate on the part of the winner have been confined to fascist takeovers, especially Germany in 1932-33, of course, but also Mussolini’s victories, and hard-right victories in various Latin American countries over the decades. Modi’s win in India involved much hatred, but had many promises too (still to be fulfilled).
More to the point, all these hate campaigns led to genocide (Modi’s has not, so far, but he has years to go). The only really full-on hate campaign known to me that ended in a peaceful, sane, normal rule was that of Mahathir bin Mohamed in Malaysia in 1972. He campaigned against the Chinese population of Malaysia, and to some extent against the Indian population too. He won handily and there was fear of a crackdown, but the Chinese community cooperated with him and produced enormous economic growth, leaving him too contented to do much persecution. (One who knows Malaysian politics of the day may suspect there was somewhat more direct economic benefit to him from the Chinese.)
But the hatemongers succeeded. The US was divided and conquered, by extremist right-wing rich people—Charles and David Koch above all, Trump, Gingrich, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell certainly, but many others were involved. These men lied, circulated fabrications and conspiracy theories, started organizations, and did everything they could to spread hatred and turn elections into competitions to see who could whip up the most hate.
Now we pay for it. The blunt fact is that the US has gone full-out fascist. I am using the strict definition: an authoritarian regime based on hatred of “other” groups, backed and sustained by close partnership between government and certain giant firms, and sustained by militarism, bullying, and (perhaps most distinctive) the Big Lie. Fascism involves power-hungry bullies deliberately whipping up hate, and using lies to do it, for the ultimate benefit of their giant-corporate backers. They often succeed best in downwardly-mobile times, but they do well even when times are very good. They can always find disaffected failures to appeal to.
This is the mode of governance that Hitler perfected, drawing his financial base from Krupp, Farben, Volkswagen, Thyssen, and so on, just as the Republicans now draw from the Kochs (though even they at first balked at Trump) and the big oil, coal, and chemical companies. Fascism is not the same as nationalism or populism, and of course it is merely trivialized by terms like “grammar Nazis” and “food Nazis” for people who care about good English and good nutrition.
Fascism means dictatorship, and the Republicans have made it clear, with their voter suppression, intimidation, and disqualification, and with their constant attacks on the press and on freedom of religion and assembly, that they want an autocratic regime. They can now have it whenever they want it, with no one to stop them. By 2018, they will have enough voter suppression in place to make the election a slam-dunk for them, unless everyone who cares about democracy unites now to stop them. America may have had its last reasonably-free election for the foreseeable future. Compare the rapid suppression of democracy under Marcos in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Rios Montt in Guatemala, d’Aubuisson in El Salvador, and many other cases of democratically-elected heads of state who instituted or are instituting fascism.
Fascism and hate-based governance always leads to genocide. In consideration of every genocide in the world for the last 120 years, my wife Barbara Anderson and I found no case of a government as extreme as ours will now be that did not commit genocide or mass murder of opponents and distrusted groups. Remember we are talking about a Republican party whose leaders include people openly calling for literal extermination of gays (preacher Kevin Swanson, for one example). They also support police and even private citizens shooting first and asking questions second (or never) if a person of color looks at all suspicious. Ongoing repression of Native American protests against the DAPL pipeline in North Dakota are moving in the direction of genocide, though they are not there yet.
We are going to have to get organized, NOW, with a real solidarity movement that is NOT confined to one political viewpoint, and we are going to have to fight hatred and work to get some sense of national unity back, or else we will certainly have genocide by 2020 or 2024. This is a confident prediction, based on study of dozens of cases. Trashing “Hillary” or “rednecks” is a luxury we cannot afford, and certainly we can no longer tolerate the Democrat establishment’s writing off working-class whites and rural people in general. We have to work hard. If we do, we can win, but otherwise things are going to be a mess.
An awful, but perfectly believable, scenario can be imagined. It is based on real cases, ranging from Hitler’s Germany to Argentina in the 1970s, and including CIA-backed and/or CIA-installed regimes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Chile, so we know the US government is fully capable of doing this. It goes as follows: Trump ruins the economy, as he is likely to do. Faced with rapidly growing protests, he cracks down more and more. This makes everything worse, so to distract people and get the country loyal to him he starts a war. Using the war as an excuse, he declares a state of emergency, suspends the Constitution, and cracks down on his enemies. This leads to more trouble, especially with waging the war and trying to finance it, and he launches a full-scale genocide to solve his problems. He might not even need a war; he might crack down and then, after protests, launch genocide, simply from economic chaos.
I think this is in fact the most likely future for the US. Another would have economic chaos going directly to such a flurry of voter suppression and intimidation that there would be no need for a war—autocracy and genocide would happen without it.
One of our key findings, confirmed independently by Barbara Harff, was that genocide is most likely (indeed, in hate-based regimes, almost inevitable) in two situations: when a regime first seizes autocratic power, and when it is challenged by a major war or economic crash.
Autocracy and mass killing will probably happen unless we take action to stop it NOW. That means a mass unity and mutual support movement big enough to influence Congress.
Part of the background to all this is the shift of the Republican Party from one of small local businessmen and a few big firms to one based on racism and religious hate. This was the product of the “Southern Strategy,” developed by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove under Richard Nixon, and used with full success by Ronald Reagan. Slowly, the racists and bigots took over, partly because small businesses and local firms declined relative to the power of giant centralized corporations. The small businessman—often community-spirited, and pro-education—was replaced by dinosauric corporations and their bigoted followers.
This is far from total, so far—a fact which gives us hope. Spending on education is a good tracker. California built up its world-class university system under Republican governors. Some Republican-dominated states still spend a lot, per student: Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and a few other high-plains and western states. Most, however, have devastated educational spending. Kansas is the most extreme case (as of 2016), but Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, and several other marginal-south states spend very little.
This massive shift on education can stand as a good proxy for attention to minorities, handicapped people, veterans, women—any population that can use some assistance. Old-time Republicans took some care of these. New ones throw them to the wolves.
The US has shifted far to the right since the 1940s, especially since Nixon’s victory in 1968. This has been reflected, for example, in falling or stagnant real wages, and steadily increasing tax cuts to the rich, many of whom (apparently including Trump) now pay no taxes at all. Clinton’s policies greatly resemble Eisenhower’s and Nixon’s; Trump’s are to the right even of Joseph McCarthy, Strom Thurmond, and other extreme right-wingers of the 1950s.
The evolution of the Republicans—and, to a large extent, the whole US—from conservative to fascist tracks perfectly the evolution of big business from competing firms independent of a smallish government to giant corporations relying on huge government subsidies and powerful enough to control government bureaus and policies. The latter is what we have now, and it is exactly the fascist economic order advocated and created by Benito Mussolini in Italy and then copied worldwide. It is natural, then, that fascist politics and morality replace conservative ones. Honor, honesty, patriotism, personal freedom, small government, and the other old-fashioned conservative ideals are repudiated. They are replaced by lies, treachery, and a huge government that regulates all aspects of life—especially sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. Fascism lives by whipping up the ancient hatreds: men’s jealous oppression of women, society’s hate of “deviants” (those who violate social norms, especially sexual ones), and hatred of structural opponents—the most visible “other” groups. These hatreds have always been with us, but fascism survives by driving them to frenzy levels.
It is important to recall that the fascist streak comes largely from the deep south, an area where support for Hitler was strong in the 1930s. It traces back to the plantation system: rent-seeking owners using slave labor. The actual conservatives were largely northern businesspeople, living by their intelligence and resourcefulness. Southern fascist and racist politics expanded nationwide from the 1970s as actual business (including actually working for one’s money) was replaced by monopolies or oligopolies, and by rent-seeking in the form of lobbying for subsidies, tax cuts, and exemptions from laws and rules. This change is the real driver of the whole shift to racial politics and the rise of fascism that led to Trump. One major part of it is a shift from class politics—the old poor-Democrats, rich-Republicans model—to race, religion, and gender politics. The center and left has, unfortunately, fallen for the racialization of politics, increasingly seeing politics as a fight between “whites” and others and between heterosexual males and others. Of course, in the immediate future, we have to fight hatred and bigotry above all things, but we also have to get back to politics based on actual economic, environmental, and social issues, before politics in the US reaches the stage of actual race war and genocide.
Poverty in America is increasing, as wealth concentrates at the top. In the 2% worst-off counties in the US (heavily nonwhite, outside of Appalachia, where they are heavily white), median household income is $24,960. In the richest 2% it is $89,723. Smoking is twice as common in the poor ones, obesity 50% more prevalent. Life expectancy for women is 75.9 years, for mean 69.8; corresponding figures for rich counties, 83 and 79.3. Fortunately, relatively few people are in the poor counties: only 14,000, vs. 362,000 in the richest 2%. (Data from Kaplan 2016.) So all these poor counties are rural: Black in the deep south, Native American in the northern plains, Hispanic on the border, and lily white in Appalachia, where the very poorest and least healthy are concentrated. Those Appalachian counties voted about 90% for Trump; the other poor counties were largely for Clinton.
Still farther back in the back story is the huge mistake made by most politicians and economists in thinking people are basically rational, and that economic issues matter most. The Marxists took this one farther, believing that class conflict dominates society. At least they allowed for humans being impassioned actors.
The truth is that humans are basically creatures of emotion; reason serves the passions, as David Hume wrote long ago. Thus the real conflict in society is always tolerance, harmony, and getting along versus hate, intolerance, and rejection. The extreme form of the latter is seen in the bigotry and hysterical mob hate that dominated the 2016 election (and, recall, it was not wholly confined to the right wing). Class differences are difficult enough, economics and rational economic concerns are serious enough and motivating enough—we cannot ignore them—but we have to work on them from an underlying platform of unity, solidarity, cooperation, accommodation, and mutual aid.
By far the worst problem facing the world, and the US in particular, is hatred. When I started my career, I looked for the most serious problem facing humanity, and concluded at the time—the 1960s—that it was food supply. So I devoted my life to studying food and food systems (production-distribution-consumption). It’s been wonderful and fun, but I was dead wrong. The food crisis of the 1940s and 1950s was rapidly solved by agricultural development, and the world is now rolling in food; shortages are due to political causes.
Seeing that, and seeing much else, brought me to realize that the real problem is hate. After the 2016 election, I see no need to belabor that point. Hate is fed by lies, the bigger and more obvious the better. This is Joseph Goebbels’ famous Big Lie technique, not his invention but certainly perfected by him, and used by many since. Trump has fed white racism, and also a wider white backlash against “political correctness” and apparent favoring of nonwhites by media and liberal Democrats (see e.g Kaleem 2016).
Fascism everywhere depends on divide-and-conquer strategies, splitting people by race, ethnicity, language, religion, class, occupation, place of origin, political opinions, anything—if one divider fails, fascists will simply turn to another set. There is no way to combat all these hatreds one by one. We have to preach overall tolerance. Fascists also love violence, oppression and bullying, so violent protests tend to bring a more violent return and merely make things worse.
After hate and lies, we have to contend with direct and immediate threats to civil rights, the environment, the economy, health, and indeed everything we are concerned about. The following is a list of things not just proposed by Trump but part of the nationwide Republican platform and to-do list over many years.
Civil rights protection is the most immediate and desperate problem. It is now clear that the real, direct, immediate reason the Republicans won heavily was voter suppression and other dirty tricks. The Republicans will now go on an all-out national campaign of voter suppression. This will likely move on to a full-scale suspension of the Constitution and declaration of dictatorship if it is not stopped immediately.
The Republicans are now attacking gays above all, Mexicans and Muslims next, but women, minorities, children, and working people will be next. The Republicans will try not only to bar or expel Mexicans and Muslims, but also to repeal the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act (they have already gutted it), and of course all protection for women and gays.
A related problem is the attack on labor that will certainly come. The Republicans throughout my entire long life have pushed for “right-to-work laws” that would make it hard to unionize. They will now try for a nationwide right-to-work law, as they have many times before. They will probably refuse to recognize unions of federal workers and contractor firms.
Environment is the next most serious immediate problem. The Republicans not only refuse to acknowledge or do anything about global warming; they now have weighed in to oppose regulating pesticides and pollutants. They are trying to repeal the Wilderness Protection Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the rest, and to sell off or give away the national lands. The movement to privatize national lands is particularly long-lasting and powerful, including things like the “Sagebrush Rebellion” that has been ongoing since the 1970s.
Their economic plans are basically a return to the 1870s, including total deregulation of banks, stopping enforcement of anti-monopoly rules, and repeal of “bothersome” regulations across the board. Most chilling of all is the long-standing Republican attempt to ban, or at least reduce to the vanishing point, class-action suits.
In regard to health, the Republicans now propose not only to outlaw abortion and cancel Obamacare, but to eliminate Medicare. Of course abortion will be outlawed to the greatest extent possible, and birth control removed from any and all federal programs. They include enough anti-vaxxers to get vaccination taken off public health programs.
They also are at war with science; if they do not shut down NSF, they will certainly eliminate its social science and global climate programs—they voted to do those things in 2016. They have long advocated eliminating NEA and NEH.
Perhaps the least awful thing they will do is cut taxes, but that will be devastating too. Cutting taxes for the super-rich will take that money out of circulation. Taxes are spent by the government (even before they are collected!) on actual goods and services. Huge tax cuts for the rich in the last 40 years have been largely squirreled away in overseas bank accounts or sunk in mansions, yachts, and other unproductive investment. There has been very little actual spending on productive investment. A dollar squirreled away in a Cayman Islands bank is totally lost to the world. A dollar spent by the US Government on health care or road repairs yields two to four additional dollars by the end of the year, because of rapid circulation. Thus tax cuts steadily make the country worse off.
Republicans will also maintain, and probably increase, the huge subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, and similar interests, and huge expenditures on military contracting. This extreme subsidization leads to “rent-seeking”: lobbying for more and more giveaways, rather than doing actual work. All this, plus deregulation of banks and other corporations, will quickly wreck the economy; look for full-scale depression in a very few years, and then implosion of real incomes. The government may well try to print its way out of the hole, leading to runaway inflation, which devastates the poor.
No government as extreme as Trump’s has ever survived long without committing genocide. Trump picked the most extreme right-wing senator, Jeff Sessions, for Attorney General; an open neo-Nazi, Stephen Bannon, for head of staff; the most visible (and rich) opponent of public education (Betsy DeVos; see Tabachnik 2011) for his secretary of education. Future appointments will surely be similarly extreme. Nothing like this has been seen in the US before. The only parallels are Nazi Germany and other fascist states.
Democratically elected governments that were comparable (though many of them were less extreme than Trump’s) included, in addition to Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Marcos’ Philippines, Rios Montt’s Guatemala, Roberto D’Aubuisson’s El Salvador, Fujimori’s Peru, and a few other cases. All wound up in genocide. Unelected governments, taking over by coup or revolution, included Iran since 1979, Pinochet’s Chile, Argentina under the colonels in the late 1970s, Rwanda under the Interahamwe, Ethiopia under the Dergue, Uganda under Idi Amin, and the various Communist and extremist-Islamic governments.
The clear predictor in all these is the use of hate as the basis of government. It can be political and class hate, racial and ethnic hate, religious hate, or ideological hate. What matters is that the government took power, justified its power, consolidated its power, and ran the country on the basis of what Barbara Harff called “exclusionary ideology.” Trump ran on a ticket of “Make American great again,” but all his specific ways to do that consisted solely of hate and exclusion. He promised to expel immigrants, stop further immigration, perrsecute religious minorities, start a trade war with China and some other countries, repress gays, crush dissident political movements, and govern through repressive and negative means, in defiance of the United States Constitution.
I am aware of no case of a government that ran on the basis of hate avoided genocide, with the partial exception of Malaysia under Mahathir bin Mohamed. Mahathir took power on an anti-Chinese platform, but modified his position steadily, and is in fact currently leading a movement for political reform. Flourishing economy and personal growth appear involved. In any case, no other government that made ethnic hate a major part of its platform has ever backed away from it successfully.
The worst problem is that a government elected by hate has to deliver. It can deliver only by increasing repression. Since this does not work very well in economics or war, the government is more and more challenged by reality. Any genuine threat—internal or external war, economic depression, major confrontations in the regime—then leads to genocide, as established independently by Barbara Harff (2012) and Anderson and Anderson (2012) through detailed studies of all recent genocides.
Genocide thus has the advantage of being fairly predictable. In the case of Trump, the most likely scenario is increasing economic hardship. Hating Mexicans, Chinese, African-Americans, liberals, Muslims, Jews, and a range of others is not an economic policy. Sharply cutting trade with China and Mexico would be disastrous. Increasing economic woes will create conditions where protests and public unrest could drive Trump’s government to more and more repressive measures. Most dangerous would be starting a war to stimulate the economy and take people’s minds off it; this would certainly lead to genocide. There is no case of a repressive or exclusionary government getting into a war without cracking down politically, and that very soon turns into mass killing. Even the small civil unrest episodes in 1980s Guatemala and Peru led to local genocides. Conversely, without a war, genocide is much less likely. Hitler did not start the gas chambers until WWII began to go against him.
While Trump purported to have various other planks in his platform, he actually ran on a ticket of hate. His economic growth was to come from sharply confronting the Chinese and Europeans. His fighting crime was basically stopping immigration and repressing black and Latino Americans. His social policies were heavily in the direction of ending LGBTQ rights and other minority rights. None of his promises were to be fulfilled except on the backs of weaker people. This is a very standard way to operate in world history, and it always leads to mass killing. His head of staff, Stephen Bannon, is a fascist by every definition. (He is not a “white nationalist.” His anti-Semitism and authoritarian attitudes go far beyond white supremacy.) He has clearly studied Hitler’s rise to power; the similarities in the Trump campaign to those of Hitler in 1932-33 seem awfully difficult to explain except by deliberate copying. We are dealing with a full-scale fascist takeover of the United States.
Only immediate, concerted action can stop this, and only if it is taken by a unified populace—essentially everyone in the US who is not a fascist. The vast majority of Trump voters were not. They were ordinary Republicans loyal to any Republican nominee, or poor and working-class people caught up in Trump’s charisma and rhetoric. The same, of course, was true of Hitler’s votership in 1932-33; it was largely knee-jerk conservatives and alienated, disaffected rural and working-class people, plus the Nazi hard core—almost exactly Trump’s votership.
Taking a moderate position is sure to get one in double trouble—shot at by both extremes. This is one reason why so many politicians and ordinary people take extreme postitions: they can expect hostility from only one direction, and they can prepare for it. Being moderate, especially if done in the hope of being peaceful, leads to being blind-sided by attacks from two (or even more) directions. Still we have to be moderate and inclusive if the US is to survive. This does not mean we play nice to everyone; quite the reverse. It means we show zero tolerance for open bigotry and fascism. However, we stand with everyone who will work with us against those. We can no longer afford the tribal divisions of the left and center.
Timothy Snyder, a scholar of genocide, has listed twenty extremely good recommendations for action. They focus on doing as much as possible, as soon as possible—not being a sheep.
We need massive nonviolent demonstrations; constant pressure through phoning, writing, and talking to representatives and other leaders; constant exposure, commentary, thinking; investigative journalism; money; and organizing. We need to unite around traditional American values of equality, freedom, tolerance, honesty, and justice; yes, America has a bloody record, but rubbing that into people and cynically ignoring the real ideas simply hands everything to the fascists. We need religious people to be ecumenical, not dogmatic, and atheists to be inclusive, not dismissive. We need to recognize that America is a mixed-race, mixed-ethnic, immigrant country, not a bunch of clashing “pure races” or “pure cultures” as the fascists maintain.
Above all, we need to maintain hope and to focus on solidarity. We can win only by building the widest possible coalition—to unite the 90% of Americans who are not fascists or hatemongers. We will have to tolerate working with ordinary Republicans, to say nothing of the unfortunate working-class people tricked into voting for Trump and also centrist Democrats sometimes accused of “neoliberalism” and other imaginary sins. We have to confront fascist exclusionary ideology with the widest possible inclusionary ideology—a message of tolerance. We have to drive positive messages against negative ones, and constructive ideas against destructive ones.
The only way to conquer a massive fascist movement is with an even more massive anti-fascist movement. We have to organize, and include everyone who is not in the fascist camp—everyone from the last few small-government conservatives to the far left. There is no time left to exclude people. The fascists are experts at divide-and-conquer strategies. We have to work to unify.
This means—and is best served by—reaffirming the traditional American values of liberty, justice, equality before the law, public responsibility, and openness.
We have to act, now.
Appendix: Snyder’s twenty lessons
Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.” Snyder’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says, “Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
- Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
- Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
- Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
- When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
- Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
- Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
- Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
- Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
- Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
- Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
- Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
- Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
- Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.
- Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
- Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
- Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
- Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
- Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)
- Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom. 20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.
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