Today we examine how Trump plays perfectly to an uncritical mass who pay little attention to issues, but respond to catchy phrases that reflect their rage & then, a final scary piece from the Guardian on the scale & readiness of a growing militia.
Today, we have just one News In Brief and one Election Update before we analyze how it is that so many can be fooled so badly by Trump and how a growing segment of his following could be a violent threat to our democracy. It is an important post.
News in Brief: We offer first just one News In Brief today, a very interesting one that explains a bit about America’s prioritizing freedom of choice and individualism over respect for laws, rules and a commitment to the collective.
From The Harvard Political Review: “The Importance of Culture in Societal Responses to COVID-19” The report sheds light on how the US’ strong individualist character includes an instinctive resistence to rules and authority. This is reflected in mistrust of science, resistence to rules like requiring masks, but also is part of the resistence to any sort of common sense gun legislation. The article points to how in most other societies, with a more collectivist character, the people are far more willing to sacrifice for the common good, honor rules, trust science and respect public health officials.
Election Update: Less Than Two Weeks to Election Week & Somehow the Gap Is Narrowing
This will be brief: 13 days. Time for you to devote an hour or so to making damn sure all your friends have a plan to vote or have voted and then to STRONGLY encourage them to reach out to all their friends to do the same, and so on and so on. Over 1000 folks have reviewed our GOTV strategy and from the testimony below from Joyce Begosian, you can see how it can work:
“What follows is my experience with 3 close friends, over 55, who have refused to vote in any previous election (national or local). Their rationale ranged from not liking the candidates to believing their vote will not make a difference to just being plain apathetic with politics.
Over the years, I made multiple attempts to convince them otherwise, with zero success. They continued shutting me down at every juncture, until now.
What suddenly changed their minds? Part of it is the dire situation we are in with Trump and the GOP. It mainly required a persistent flow of voter education, blogs, materials and many dynamic chats.
I took a chance and sent them little snippits of Retake’s posts on the candidates, why it’s important to vote and how to register, along with voting strategy information.
Finally, I scheduled a Zoom call with my three friends to see if they were able to wake up, move out of their malaise and get activated to exercise their right to vote.
All three friends registered to vote in the upcoming General Election. They engaged further by sending Retake’s articles and posts to their social network groups. Mission accomplished!Joyce Begosian,Retake Tranformation Study Group member
It is a handful of folks who actually change things, by getting out of their comfort zone. We’ve heard from dozens of others, who like Joyce, have ventured to play the role of organizer, of trying to galvanize, engage and motivate. Every time one more of you takes the risk, we get closer to the informed, motivated movement we will need to get us closer to something that looks like justice. Thanks, Joyce for sharing.
Even if you are one of the 1000 who viewed and presumably used our GOTV strategy, now is the time to send another note, to ensure your friends have made a plan to vote or have voted. And more importantly, to implore them to do as Joyce’s friends have done and employ the same strategy with 10-20 of their friends. We’ve heard from folks who sent out our strategy to over 100 people at a time and we’ve heard from folks, like Joyce, who have worked intensively on 3 friends. Either approach works. We just need to move more folks from being caual about politics and elections, to being informed, intentional and strategic…to be organizers.
Why 40+% of America Will Vote for Trump & Why Some Will Commit Violence to MAGA
I’ve been thinking a lot about how it is even remotely possible that 40% of the population can still solidly back Donald Trump given almost four years of his tax giveaways to the rich, bungled relief efforts; failed COVID policies; and increasingly deranged rants. For most all of our readers, his non-stop, high-pitched, hate-fueled rhetoric adds another reason for us to turn away and yearn for something else, almost anything else. So what gives with the 40% who will walk through walls for the man?
I recalled a post I had done just after the inauguration, “Understanding the Conservative Voter,” where I had reported on a tremendous book by Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in their Own Land, a book I highly recommend. Hochschild spent two years in southern Louisiana among the unemployed, under-employed and working poor. Her book tells with compassion how these poor, white, poorly educated families viewed Washington generally with nothing but disgust. They spoke of being in a long line to get help, watching people of color get preferential treatment and get to go to the head of the line, a line they stood in forever without relief. Whether their perception of that line is accurate is not the point; it is how they felt and feel and that feeling is what fuels so much of Trump’s support.
This book came to mind when reading an article forwarded to me by Charlotte Lipson, “WHY THEY LOVED HIM” from The New York Times, appearing as part of the Sunday NYT “Review” section that was devoted to the election and the NYT’s strong rejection of Trump. The article was written by Farah Stockman, who spent four years in the Rust Belt, as she followed the slow dissolution of the local economy and the people in it.
“For the past four years, I’ve followed a group of steelworkers in Indiana — men and women, Black and white — who had worked at a factory that moved to Mexico. I watched them agonize about whether to train their Mexican replacements, or stand with their union and refuse. I watched them grieve the plant like a parent. I followed them as they applied for new jobs, some of which paid half as much as they made before”From The NY Times: “WHY THEY LOVED HIM”
The piece begins with a case study of Tim, a machinist from the rust belt whose father had been a coal miner, both union members, with family that voted Democratic for generations. But then Tim outlines how union members had been betrayed by the Democrats, starting with Bill Clinton and North American Fair Trade Agreement followed by Obama’s trade deals with China. Together these deals netted nothing but lower wages for Tim and his fellow union members. They traded their well-paying union jobs for the only jobs around, jobs that paid far less and were no longer protected… while the stock market soared. From the NYTs:
“NAFTA has come to symbolize a world order crafted by elites, for elites. The deal traded away blue-collar factory jobs in exchange for white-collar opportunities to invest in Mexico’s banking and insurance sectors. Today, even its biggest supporters admit that it resulted in a net loss of American jobs.”From The NY Times: “WHY THEY LOVED HIM”
The Times then cites philosopher Richard Rorty who in the 90s predicted Democrats being deserted by the working class. Richard Rorty predicted that workers “will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported.” Rorty went on to predict the future exactly as it has played out 20 years later, stating that the working class “will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.”
Twenty years later, along comes Trump, promising to drain the swamp, asking people who have been ignored or disabused by their elected officials, Democrat and Republican: Have they been listening to you? Remember the 50s when America was great, when you had great jobs, when we weren’t besieged by illegal immigrants who would take the only jobs available? “Build a wall,” “Lock em up” perfectly expressed the ill-formed rage of millions of working people who had been betrayed by the Democratic and Republican parties. “Drain the swamp,” was just what they wanted and Trump amplified their rage perfectly.
Stockman goes on to point out that it doesn’t even matter that many of the policies promoted and passed by Trump whether tax cuts or tariffs, have hurt his base more than helped. She points to how those Trump supporters who look more deeply will discover that:
“Working-class voters who look a little deeper will notice something strange about their perceived champion: He is against unions. His first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, helped erode the ability of unions to collect dues and fees in a landmark case. Another strange thing: The Trump administration’s interim trade deal with China focuses far more on opening up the Chinese banking and insurance sectors than on creating blue-collar jobs. Also, Mr. Trump’s 2017 tax cut favored corporations and shareholders — including those who aren’t American citizens. Money that would have flowed into the U.S. Treasury went instead into their pockets and deep bank accounts.From The NY Times: “WHY THEY LOVED HIM”
Unfortunately, another piece I reviewed this week outlined how 80-85% of Americans are poorly informed and disinterested in politics, legislation and policy, with 15-20% being policy wonks and/or political activists. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Trump supporters fall into the 80-85% who are ill-informed, watch Fox to hear Trump rant and feel good inside when Trump denigrates someone like Dr. Fauci.
And it is not fair to point to those working class people as being ignorant or ill-informed or not appreciating the policy nuances that we with more education can appreciate. As Roxanne often reminds me, many of these people are barely getting by. They don’t have time to read the NY Times and they are exhausted by confronting their poverty, economic insecurity, health vulnerability and fears of the liberal left coming for their guns. Most of these people are basically good folks who a decade ago would have joined others to rebuild a barn for a neighbor whose barn had burned down. But now their lives and the future of their children have been burned down and they are fighting mad about it and looking for somone to blame and someone to follow.
As we wrote in a post last week, if we are to heal America, we must start by acknowledging how we have failed these angry people, how the Democratic Party has ignored them, how when Barack Obama had the chance to give them back their mortgaged homes, he instead handed the bailouts to Wall St. But healing is for after November 3. The rest of this post examines a small, but quickly growing subset of Trump supporters. And it is a scary picture indeed.
And Then There Are Those Beyond Angry….the Millitia…
& This Is Scary
For this portion of the post, I relied upon a piece from The Guardian, “It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US.” The Guaridan incorporated reports from Brookings, the Brennan Institute and Southern Poverty Law Center for what is an intimate look at the folks pictured above and the thousands like them scattered throughout the US.
The Office of Homeland Security has not been a stalwart protector of our freedom under Donald Trump, yet on Oct. 6, as part of a report from the OHS, Chad Wolf, acting Secretary of OHS wrote that the OHS was:
“particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years. [They] seek to force ideological change in the United States through violence, death, and destruction.”From The Guardian, “It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US.”
And from Vanda Felbab-Brown, a terrorism and extremism expert at Brookings:
“The threat is serious and intense. It is by far the most serious domestic danger in the US on many levels – the frequency of attacks, the level of recruitment, the scope of ambition of the groups and the wider political capital they are building.”The Guardian, “It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US.”
Vanda Felbab-Brown goes on to describe attending gun rallies with thousands of white supremacists networking openly:
“There were militia members from all across the US, Trump supporters with guns, gun rights supporters, all mixing together in large crowds. They drew energy from each other, enlarged their networks and emboldened their thinking – and that was before Covid.”The Guardian, “It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US.”
Michael German, a fellow from the Brennan Institute, noted that the impact of Trump’s encouragement is like throwing gasoline on a fire and as an undercover agent himself, he saw how that rhetoric can be used:
“As an undercover agent, I was present in the room when militants tried to convince a recruit to carry out a violent act and either go to the grave or become a fugitive. That’s a hard hump to get over. If you feel the president of the United States has authorized you to engage in this activity, it’s a lot easier.”The Guardian, “It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US.”
German goes on to describe that a central strategy of the far right extremists is to recruit from the military and infiltrate local police departments. He points to a white supremacist rally last week as evidence of where police sympathies too often rest:
“Armed members of the Boogaloo Bois – extremists agitating for a second civil war – illegally assembled outside the police headquarters in Newport News, Virginia. Instead of arresting the men for violating a ban on firearms on city property, the police chief handed their leader a bottle of chocolate milk and allowed him to address his ranks through a microphone and sound system that the force provided.”The Guardian, “It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center published a podcast, Baseless, which takes listeners inside the leadership of the Base, drawing on 83 hours of secret recordings from this domestic terror group dedicated to fomenting a race-based civil war to create a white-supremacist national state. This is serious. The tapes reveal how the Base recruits, vets and trains new members, how they target recruitment from the military so that these individuals can provide military training to other recruits and how they work to infiltrate local police forces.
And so with this as a backdrop, we approach Nov 3, with daily Trump rallies fanning the flames, carefully constructing a narrative that if he loses, it will be through voter fraud, that it will be the Democrats who have stolen the election, that Trump has been robbed and that those people who Trump has taught the ill-informed to mistrust: the lawyers, the academics, the scientists and most of all the Democrats, are now poised to take your guns, destroy your suburbs, force you to wear masks and stay home and ruin all that Trump has been trying to do to MAGA.
Now you know why as we are now less than two weeks from Election Week, I am frankly pretty anxious about what could transpire.
What is being done to prepare here in NM:
I’ve been commuicating with leadership from Standing Up for Racial Justice, YUCCA and an ABQ activist, Karen Beltram, who has been organizing a ton of informatoin about ways to prepare, train and organize to resist a coup or militia action, should one arise post Nov 3. At this point there isn’t a statewide coordinated group developing a coordinated plan, but things are emerging.
For now, there are 4 primary national organizations that are addressing the threats to our Democracy. They are providing trainings, guides, action steps, resources, and more. These orgs are:
- Hold the Line – https://holdthelineguide.com/Hardy Merriman, Kifah Shah, Ankur Asthana, and Marium Navid
- Protect the Results – https://protecttheresults.com/ partners include Indivisible, PDA, 350, Womens March, GreenPeace and dozens more
- Choose Democracy – https://choosedemocracy.us/ co-lead is George Lakey, online written guide, trainings, more
- Count on Us Coalition– https://wecountonus.org/#!. youth-led orgs: Sunrise, March for Our Lives, Dream Defenders, and United We Dream Action Pac
Roxanne and I participated in training from Choose Democracy and were not terribly inspired. Lakey is a legacy, but is also an 80+ year old white guy who told lots of stories of the days of yore. Interesting, but we didn’t find it too inspiring. I have heard very good things about the Count On Us Coalition , # 4 above
Best docs to read right now to get oriented… https://wagingnonviolence.org/2020/09/10-things-you-need-to-know-to-stop-a-coup/
Stay tuned. For those who are interested in getting trained, the resources above are a good start. For those who want to help organize, please write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com. I’ll do my best to connect you.
In solidarity, hope and (to be honest) more than a little bit of fear and trembling,
Paul & Roxanne