Eroding Commitment to Democracy & Emerging Fascism

This post describes a terrifying GOP legislative agenda and parallels between 2017 and Germany in the 30s. But it also describes a counterforce developing in tens of thousands of grassroots resistance groups across America. And we are going to lose some battles, but as the brilliant closing video speech illustrates, perhaps today’s darkness is a rebirth. The video is an absolute must view.

Make no mistake, this post shines the light squarely on a very harsh challenge, but we must not wear blinders, we must see every challenge as an opportunity to expand our base and build our movement. And once you work your way through the post, the video at the end will inspire you. When you have Rev Barber dancing up and down, you are talking one inspirational speaker. She rocks. Read on and please get active.

This post describes recent social justice policy affronts in NM and Washington and a couple of stunning victories as well. It also goes into some depth describing the harrowing parallels between 2017 and Donald Trump and Bannon and Hitler and Goebbels in the 1930s, as well as parallels with other historic repressive regimes. These parallels are not being identified by hysterics looking for likes and clicks, but by sober writers, historians, and publications. I purposely shy away from the often hysterical journalism that can be found aplenty on the Internet. These pieces are thoughtful and sobering. But take heart, the post ends with an absolutely riveting and inspiring 6 minutes speech. Toward the end, on the left of the screen you can see Rev. Barber bowing in praise and raising his hands passionately. We must face this evil, but we must retain hope and aspirations. The video does both.

We seem to be losing virtually all grip on democracy, and things are slipping fast, especially at the national level. In November, I warned this was coming and that we had to focus on developing a movement — not candidates and false hopes, but strong, substantial alliances and personal relationships that can help us buffer what is now happening. While I warned this was coming, now that it is here, it is really heartbreaking and tough to keep the chin up. And that is why creating deep personal relationships with others who are joining the movement is so important. I strongly recommend that your action for today be to reach out to 3-4 friends and form what we are calling an Affinity Group, a group of people who will share ideas, feelings, and participate together in action. You will need those friends, and forming those relationships will be far more important than any petition out there.
We must also remember that, at least today, the vast majority of Retake Our Democracy members are having only their principles offended. Most of us will not go without healthcare, will not face deportation, homelessness, or be gunned down by police. While we must remain offended and shocked by this encroaching reality, with the exception of climate change, we are privileged to view it from a reasonably safe distance. We have to be there for those who daily and immediately face the harsh realities of repression, and we need to stand with them, support their organizations, and together build a movement to resist, retake and rebuild.

The Erosion of Democracy and the Development of Fascism in America:  It is Happening

Let’s begin with the concepts of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” That we have even accepted these terms as making any sense whatsoever, is a measure of the degree to which this neo-fascist movement has taken control of public debate. It isn’t just that in the first hours of the Presidency, Spicer could claim the largest turnout for an inauguration in history despite painfully obvious photographs demonstrating the opposite. It is that, as pointed out in a brilliant NPR article, America is seeing the emergence of two entirely different realities, world understandings, and even populations.

“But with fake news there are serious potential problems … problems that go even beyond disputes over what is fact and what is fiction. The shifting definition of fake news may be a sign of a broader gap between right and left. In July, author George Saunders painted a picture of that gap: “Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems.”

The article also includes astute analysis that makes it clear how these two worlds and different systems can develop. He points to the use of the term “fake news.” By its very nature, news is supposed to be based on fact. Setting aside for a moment that the media has been a tool of the corporatocracy for decades, throughout that time there was criticism of policy and thoughtful criticism of the media as well. But now, anything that doesn’t not sync with the party line is dismissed with a tweet as fake news. And what becomes real news is the tweet. This is how the world that Saunders describes above is emerging, and it is why the concept of ‘converting’ Trump supporters may be far more difficult than once thought. Do not despair. In truth, we do not have to convert many or even any of them. We need to unify and organize us, the vast majority of Americans. Click here for the full report.

But this regime is not just about the loss of truth and a dying capacity to intelligently discuss ideas, it is about the gutting of our social contract, our safety net, and our commitment to each other to care, to share, and to nourish. A prior post chronicled the gutting of the EPA, and I will soon devote a post to the unraveling of public education. But today the most immediate concern is healthcare and the GOP plan to gut the ACA and replace it with what, for good reason, is being termed, “I Don’t Care.” As excerpted from a NYT’s article:

The biggest losers under the change would be older Americans with low incomes who live in high-cost areas. Those are the people who benefited most from Obamacare. For some people, the new tax credit system will be more generous. The winners are likely to be younger, earn higher incomes, and live in areas where the cost of health insurance is low. Obamacare subsidies were structured to limit how much low- and middle-income Americans could be asked to pay for health insurance. Under the G.O.P. proposal, many of the people whose tax credits would fall sharply would be likely to end up uninsured. For people with few resources, a gap of several thousands of dollars between their tax credit and the cost of coverage would be impossible to make up.” Emphasis mine.

I highly recommend clicking on the link below, if only to examine the graphic used to depict the way in which all benefits from Obamacare are stripped from low-income and older Americans. It is absolutely shocking, and I can only wonder how Fox News and the GOP will reframe this as good for most Americans. But then, as noted above, in a world of fake news and alternative facts, most any version of reality can be cobbled. But click here and prepare to be stunned. The green coloring represents who benefits from the new plan and the red represents who loses. What is still more shocking about this plan is that the GOP intends to attempt to push the plan through in just 19 days, before the economic analysis of its impact is even completed. Why wait, when the analysis will be dismissed as ‘fake?’

As criminal as this erosion of our healthcare system is, even more frightful is that the GOP is hard at work advancing ten truly offensive bills, ranging from gutting the EPA, voucherizing public education, criminalizing abortions, ending unions, reversing wildlife protections….and more. Click here for details. It is brief, but knee-buckling.

While devastating, most of these actions can be reversed when and if our country reclaims its sense of justice, albeit after almost unimaginable costs to our planet, wildlife, children, and most vulnerable populations. What could be the irreversible damage from Trump’s redefinition of reality, is its close parallel with the emergence of fascism in many other historic contexts. I provide only Origin of American Democratic Fascism for your review as it is both extraordinarily well-written and expansive in its scope. Written by Bryan Friederborg, the article is from the blog War is Boring, a blog that I intend to follow and recommend just on the basis of this article. While quite long, it is highly readable and ranges from Ancient Greece to Orwell to Putin to the Nazis, and in his conclusion he examines with precision how Trump is redefining reality in his terms, terms that bear no relationship to facts, science, or truth. Early in the article, he states the underlying premise, not just about the US but about trends in Europe as well.  “I despise both hyperbole and conspiracy theories, but make no mistake about it, we live in an era of rising democratic fascism and of the weakening of traditional democracies and the values with which they were established and upheld.”  Click here for the full article. I could not recommend it more highly.

I want to thank one of our volunteers, Jill Coursin — at my request, she did exhaustive research on Trump’s use of lies to manipulate the media and us. There were many more sources available for this post, but we need to keep our chin up.

Progress in Santa Fe and In New Mexico

1000 Low-Income Kids Now Have a Chance At Quality Early Childhood Education. May 2 We Vote.

Not all the news is bleak. Last night in a near unanimous vote, the City Council approved the Universal Early Childhood Education resolution. The City Council meeting was packed, public testimony went on for three-hours, and on May 2, Santa Feans will have an opportunity to achieve something Trump can’t trump. We can extend quality early childhood education to 1,000 children and we will simultaneously reduce the intake of nutritionless high sugar drinks that are the primarily cause in escalating epidemics of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and childhood obesity.

Is the bill perfect? While it is certainly true that low-income communities disproportionately consume soda and so will disproportionately pay for this measure, I offer three points. First, there is abundant research that documents that this kind of tax forces the lowest income populations to reduce their intake of soda significantly, as much 25% in a UC Berkeley study. Second, the vast majority of resources and benefits from this tax will go to those low-income communities, and the benefits of quality early childhood education are undeniable. Third, Councilor Ron Trujillo voted against the resolution for precisely the reason I was initially skeptical: the tax burden falls mostly on our low-income community. I plan to reach out to Councilor Trujillo today to discuss strategies for generating revenue in a more progressive way. This could be an opportunity to work with the Mayor and the Council to pursue some of those strategies going forward.

Roundhouse Update. While at a state level, many good bills died in committee or were narrowly defeated due to a few Republicans who call themselves Democrats (do you hear me Debbie Rodella?), and most all progressive legislation that is passed will be vetoed by the Governor, we are drawing clear lines and building a power base here. Yesterday, the Hemp Research bill was passed and sent to the Governor who vetoed it within hours. The House also approved HJR-1, the Early Childhood Land Grant bill  with Rep. Jim Trujillo D-Santa Fe valiantly appeared despite having had just undergone heart surgery. Late the same night HB412, a bill that closed a myriad of tax loopholes was also passed. While each of these bills is likely to die when they hit our Governor’s desk and her veto pen, it provides hope for the future.

In 2018, with a new Governor and a more progressive Roundhouse, the Hemp Bill will be passed and signed. The Health Security Act will be passed and signed, the Early Childhood Land Grant bill will pass and be signed. And the progress being made locally will begin to be realized at a State level. On the national level, if you go to our Personal Action Toolkit, link below, you will find among many other action options, including a link to the SwingLeft strategy. We are only one year away from primary season for the midterms and 19 months from the mid-term elections. If we want to curb Trump’s fascism, it starts there. It is imperative that we retake at least one chamber of Congress and SwingLeft is the best way folks in NM can contribute to this effort. The effort to build bases in Swing States and Swing Districts can’t start in 2018, it must start now. So click the link to the Personal Action Toolkit and hunt down SwingLeft.

The news these days can be dizzyingly depressing. But as I note at the beginning of this post, the measure of our movement is not in its wins and losses, but in its gathering strength. While we have to face our reality squarely, we also have to recognize that nothing Trump and the GOP can do can stop us from organizing. That is in our hands and it is the only antidote to creeping fascism. I can’t emphasize it enough, and it is an almost daily refrain: the answer to Trump is You. Us. We must resist, retake, and rebuild, but this can only begin by organizing, building our base, and developing a source of power. The most important thing you can do today is to reach out to 3-4 friends and form an Affinity Group.  For more on that click here as it is one of the first actions in the Personal Action Toolkit. You will need those friends to buffer yourself against the daily news, and to begin to really take action you may have to get out of your comfort zone. That should be increasingly easy, as you are likely getting out of your comfort zone every time you turn on the news.

Second, get active in our movement, click here for actions and opportunities: we have panels, trainings, and other events coming. The trainings and panels are designed to build our capacities at the same time we build our base. To ensure the effectiveness and cultural competence of these efforts, an expanding number of training events are listed below. Right now, only a handful of trainings are open to everyone as we are focusing on training a core leadership group. But many of these will be available for larger groups beginning in May.

Not scheduled yet is a three-part training in Civil Disobedience, a 6-hour training in Community Organizing, Canvassing and the use of moral language, a second offering of Social Media training (Social Media 201), and a tremendous SURJ training in Cultural Awareness and White Privilege. All of these workshops are finalized except for date and time, so follow this blog to keep up to date. And in addition to the Interfaith Panel described below, a new panel is being developed, one on the Land & Historic Culture of New Mexico. It should be held in early May.

But you don’t have to wait til May to take action. I have reiterated again and again that organizing is the core to this movement, and the Outreach and Organizing Action Team is a good place to start. Below is a report on our last meeting, and we next meet on Tues, April 4, 5:30-7:30pm. If you are new to this meeting, please arrive promptly at 5pm if possible, so you can be briefed on our purpose and strategies. At our last meeting, plans were developed to:

  • Conduct outreach to New Mexico’s 15 largest cities — outreach that will be followed by sustained local leadership development, coaching, and support for local community organizing efforts with a goal of creating a statewide progressive power base.
  • Conduct ongoing, block-by-block canvassing in Santa Fe with a goal of engaging residents from every house in the city using non-partisan, empathic listening to neighbors’ concerns as a point of entry, and cultivating the involvement of hundreds and hundreds of Santa Fe residents in a participatory city budget and city platform development process much like that employed in Europe’s Cities as Commons movement.
  • Expand Open House Activism events through the City. Four are already planned and will be announced soon. The activism parties have generated tremendous enthusiasm and create a social support for sustained activism.
  • Initiate new outreach efforts to high schools and colleges, as well as create new opportunities and supports for young families to foster their activism.
  • Advance efforts to form alliances with organizations throughout the state to facilitate coordinated lobbying, advocacy, and volunteerism in support of social activist organizations.

In solidarity and hope, Roxanne and Paul…Likely you need some hope. This is one of the most inspiring speeches either Roxanne or I have seen in months. Thanks to Debra Oliver for bringing this to our attention.

3 thoughts on “Eroding Commitment to Democracy & Emerging Fascism

  1. Freedom of speech must be used honestly in a democracy if people are to appreciate each other’s interests and thereby find balances that work for everyone. But honest discourse has been derailed. Even the most fundamental social balances are being shaken, and the more elegant ones are losing footing and beginning to crash to the ground. Democracy is being knowingly torpedoed. The aim seems to be establishment of an invulnerable plutocracy, but this is being done with great intellectual violence, with such momentum that it would likely continue on into fascism. I wonder how many of today’s collaborationist plutocrats would be happy with that?

    The brutality of all this is a significant source of psychic pain for those who have long assumed we can find democratic solutions based on rational discourse. It is disheartening to the extreme that Republican supporters seem to remain unaware of the danger, locked in their alternate reality, and immune to the rational discourse that would seem critical at this point to preserve democracy.

    Don’t let this deter you, though. I really appreciate these blogs. Painful or not, we need people to keep clearly describing what is happening if we hope to turn it around.

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    • Thank you. Aside from the night after the election, this was the hardest blog to write. It took hours, hence its being sent so late in the morning. Thanks for the comment. The quote from Saunders struck at the heart of things: how do you even communicate with someone who doesn’t have anything like your cultural norms or context or even your language. It caused me to question the wisdom of trying to find common moral ground and to simply focus on the fact that we outnumber them and just need to engage enough of us to retake what they have stolen or what we have allowed them to steal. Tough. Hope you got to the video. It is worth six minutes.

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  2. Wow, what an excellent article from Frydenborg. In particular his articulation of democratic fascism is very insightful and much more depressing than the historical picture many of us older folks hold of fascism as practiced in Germany, Italy and Spain in the the 1930’s. At least we could imagine the clarity of our situation and leading to focus for our efforts if we had Brown Shirts and Nazi Flags marching down our streets. In addition, the global cabal being led by Putin and the tools of power provided by the internet and social media makes it even more insidious than the propaganda machinery used by last century’s fascists.

    What will be required to slow down this new world order? The call is for unity but what does that require? Right now we appear to have still so many individual efforts clamoring for our attention that it becomes demoralizing. By our very progressive nature we tend to be independent thinkers leery of charismatic leaders but there are times with such leaders may be necessary. A psychologist friend of mine sees the appearance of such a champion as a necessary step to harness the efforts of the rest of us. I have made calls before on your blog appealing to those who are inclined to develop strategies that will lead to a sustainable unifying resistance system. It is hard for someone like me with an engineering background to have confidence that our grass roots efforts will eventually lead to such a purposeful system. However, I remain hopeful that we are still in the storming phase of system development and that form will follow. Perhaps Indivisible or Our Revolution will lead to such.

    Thanks for an excellent post.

    John

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