Unite against Fascism 6
The real theme of all these messages is that we have to have full solidarity. Everyone who is not for Trump has to unite against him. That means full tolerance and respect for those who are against him, and also for those who will be against him when they know the facts.
I see four pillars of organization: Caring and respect; tolerance; truth—learning it and propagating it in this time of lies; and responsibility (including accountability), a commodity notably lacking in American politics lately.
So, what to do now? Clearly by far the most important thing is to unite the opposition. Democrats are still locked in mutual recrimination, mostly red-hots (the Sanders people who did not follow Sanders himself into support for Hillary) and moderates (basically, Clinton voters). There are also third-party voters, and the Independents who actually are a plurality of American voters. Many of them are former Republicans who have found the steady rightward shift of the party more than they can bear, but they reliably vote Republican in elections. Others are disaffected former Democrats. Others are genuinely moderate politically. Others are simply apolitical. We need to get them on board as much as possible. Remember that Trump got only 62,000,000 votes to Clinton’s 65,000,000 and another 9,000,000 to third parties and write-ins. And another 120,000,000 or so didn’t vote at all, many because they did not like any candidates.
To do this, we have to have a program that has wide support but sharply defines the sane majority against the extremists. Having no program beyond opposition to Trump and his administration simply won’t work. Neither will having an extreme or exclusionist “progressive” program. We have to have clear goals. These should be both immediate and for the farther future. I think of immediate goals as steps toward utopia. We won’t get to utopia, but any progress in that direction helps, and if we don’t have a clear vision of the good society, we won’t know where to start or how to evaluate what efforts we do make.
I think the first priority for a reasonable consensus program would be cracking down on tax breaks, offshoring money, and subsidies for the rich. Everybody except the right-wing rich seems to agree that their tax breaks and special favors are a bad thing. Extreme inequality is bad enough in itself, but it also gives very disproportionate political power to the rich, especially in this post-Citizens-United world. Indeed, overturning the Citizens United ruling and getting sane regulations on campaign spending should be another immediate priority.
Then we should go after hatred. There is a current debate over when opposition to racism becomes pernicious “identity politics.” I think we have to keep opposing racism and hatred. Racist, religious, and gender hate is what gave us Trump and his gang, and we have to fight it directly, totally, and first of all. The majority of Americans are clearly on board with this. On the other hand, there is a real concern—if politics gets too close to “white vs. black,” we have whites voting racial hate instead of self-interest. The cure seems to me to be to go after hatred in general.
Next most important is getting the truth out. Working-class America still listens to Fox News, doesn’t understand climate change, and doesn’t know whom to believe on economic and political issues. We absolutely have to quit talking only to urban intellectuals. We have to reach out much more.
After that, or actually at the same time but somewhat less emphasized initially, we can go after the longer-term issues: health and environment. US life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality are a disgrace—far worse than in any other developed country, and down with much poorer countries like Cuba, Costa Rica, and China. Our environmental situation is deteriorating fast. Global warming threatens to get out of control and devastate the planet. We have to fight anti-scientific nonsense on all these fronts.
Ultimately, I think all of us can agree we want a society where everyone is reasonably prosperous but neither individuals nor the collectivity are “rich” enough in material goods to wreck the planet. (No, we do NOT have to live miserable or puritanical lives. There are plenty of resources left IF we use them reasonably.) We want an economy that produces jobs but not subsidies, breaks, giveaways, and getting rich through crime, corruption, and cheating.
We want collective goods like free public education, a functioning infrastructure, and a beautiful and healthy environment as well as a sustainably productive one.
We have to have good public health. One thing conservatives forget is that we can’t have individual good health; it has to be public or nothing. Epidemics don’t know about race, religion, or, on the whole, gender. They are worse for the poor but the rich can’t escape them.
Above all, we want, or should want, a society where civil rights and voting rights are real, equal, and enforced. We want a society where collective goods allow individual “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
All the above is well covered in the Democratic and Green party platforms. Some points of difference exist but could and should be resolved.
Thus reasonableness instead of hatred, learning and understanding instead of bigotry and extremist lies, and compassion instead of callousness. We can’t get to Utopia but we can start the road-building.
One other thing to do right away is to document everything we can, and get the documentation out of the US to be protected in other countries. We are in for suppression of the press and legitimate radio and TV. Trump has already started it. His ideal, Putin, has killed many reporters, as well as shutting down opposition media. We can expect that. The legitimate media are already weak enough in this world of Twitter and Fox News. They will collapse, leaving us without honest news, if real suppression happens.
George Monbiot (2016) has revealed the web of liars and lying thinktanks, mostly funded by the Koch brothers, behind the Republican political machine. The article is sobering, to put it mildly. We have to oppose documented truth to a vast lie machine funded in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Three things are increasingly obvious about the Trump administration:
First and most important, the rest of the far right is quite delibeately keeping the public eye focused on Trump and his shenanigans, while they calmly dismantle the US while people are focused elsewhere. All doubt was removed by the Republicans rushing through the cabinet confirmations while the public was focused on Obama’s farewell address, Trump’s imminent incoming speech, and Trump’s ties with Russia.
At first I thought that sheer hatred explained all the Trump vote, but now I realize that passivity and conformity—expressing themselves as shallowness and weakness—were just as important. Trump the TV star simply outdrew Clinton the schoolmarm. The Republicans voted solidly for him, but were not a majority; he got his plurality by attracting the less educated and more naïve Democrats and independents. They voted for someone they could relate to—a reality TV character rather than a highly educated Washington policy wonk. Fighting Trump will be very difficult in this situation.
Therefore, for the future, the key is to learn and rationally understand instead of hating; act and fight on instead of giving up and falling into passivity; be independent instead of conformist! These self-disciplines have to underlie and be the foundation for restored tolerance, civility, and solidarity in American life. It will take hard work for all of us to buck the system and do this. Just do it. America and all of us Americans are fighting for our lives now.
I personally would also prioritize two other things: first, a specific attack on the Great Lies—the ones that just go on and on and are apparently universally believed by the right wing: Racism, religious bigotry (especially against Jews and Muslims), the nonexistence of global warming, and the unworthiness of the poor (the idea that the poor are all lazy—not working, and that because of laziness and stupidity). Fake news, lies in general, and the Republican acceptance of lies is bad enough, but these four are really especially awful, and they never go away.
The other is civility. We are getting farther and farther from civil discourse. Mea culpa: I have a terrible past of inflammatory remarks. The right wing is usually the leader and always the most successful in extreme, exaggerated, intemperate, and insulting remarks, and we should leave that to them. We always lose. In particular, I think it is time to quit using “fuck” as an all-purpose term in what should be serious political discourse.
I think all the above is a matter of what I call “process goals.” These are goals that we will never fully achieve, but should keep trying for, because any progress in that direction is pure good. We will never be perfectly healthy, but any progress toward health is good. Sustainability is another such case, though this one has to be qualified with the point that achieving sustainability by drastically reducing incomes and welfare would not be good. Justice, fairness, truth in politics and public life, and civility are all process goals. (Fairness means giving everyone a fair chance, not making everybody equal in a mindless, mechanical way.)
The health gap between rural and urban America is increasing, with death rates declining less rapidly or actually rising in the rural areas (Frostenson 2017). This is directly due to rural choice: they have been voting more and more consistently for Republicans and against health care. The greatest gap is in maternal and child mortality, because of the rural bias against abortion and indeed against women’s health care in general.
More and more evidence shows a full-scale conspiracy involving James Comey, head of the FBI, and Clinton’s emails (Abramson 2017).
Juan Cole (2017) regards Trump and many other politicians as psychopaths. He notes that psychopaths by birth are about 1% of the population, another 5% (possibly exaggerated) are rendered psychopathic by brain damage, and 12% are close enough to be easily persuaded to go with psychopaths. Another 18% are weak or scared or hateful enough to be easily persuaded. I have no idea where he gets the figures (beyond the 1%, which is standard psychology), but indeed the percentage of the population who will vote for really extreme hatred is about 10-15 %, with another 10-15% going along with it. The vote for far right-wingers like George Wallace in the old South was about 20%. In any case, Cole describes the utter lack of conscience of the psychopath and his indifference to sufferers and victims. (Psychopaths are usually male).
He notes that psychopaths often show less gray matter in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortext—an area of the brain concerned with empathy and socializing—and in the temporal poles, which may be associated with emotion.
He goes on to exaggerate the evidence for psychopathy and to overextend it; for one thing, he does not realize that sociopathy is a different thing, but lumps sociopaths with psychopaths. (Sociopaths lie and cheat without compunction; they sometimes harm, but do not usually do so. Psychopaths really like to inflict pain and suffering.) My psychologist friends are more apt to diagnose Trump as narcissist rather than psychopathic. But some of his supporters are certainly psychopathic, and his cabinet picks are certainly a strange and disorderly bunch. Cole recommends psychologically testing candidates; would that it were practical.
Also, we now learn that the Kremlin reached out successfully to Jill Stein and turned loose its propaganda on the left in the US (Michel 2017). Stein was brought to Moscow, given the royal treatment, and convinced of a number of preposterous stories about the virtues of Russia (e.g. in the Ukraine).
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater—the torture-and-murder-for-hire organization that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney hired to commit the most extreme war crimes in Iraq (see Scahill 2017). She is married to the heir of the Amway pyramid scheme swindle. She says she is destroying the public school system in the name of Christianity and Christian education.
Abramson, Seth. 2017. “The Domestic Conspiracy That Gave Trump the Election Is in Plain Sight.” Huffington Post, Jan. 17, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-domestic-conspiracy-that-gave-trump-the-election_us_587ed24fe4b0b110fe11dbf9
Cole, Juan. 2017. “Welcome to Psychopathocracy.” Informed Comment, Jan. 10, http://www.juancole.com/2017/01/welcome-to-psychopathocracy.html
Frostenson, Sarah. 2017. “The Death Rate Gap between Rural and Urban America is Getting Wider.” Vox, Jan. 13, http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/1/13/14246260/death-gap-urban-rural-america-worse
Michel, Casey. 2017. “How Putin Played the Far Left.” Daily Beast, Jan. 17, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/13/how-putin-played-the-far-left.html
Monbiot, George. 2016. “Frightened by Donald Trump? You Don’t Know the Half of It.” The Guardian, Nov. 30, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation
Scahill, Jeremy. 2017. “Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince is Advising Trump from the Shadows.” The Intercept, Jan. 17, https://theintercept.com/2017/01/17/notorious-mercenary-erik-prince-is-advising-trump-from-the-shadows/