Today, we examine promising polls from Georgia, opportunities to be part of the final push to retake the US Senate. Then we offer thoughts on what we’ve been through these past four years and what we must learn from them if we are to restore our nation and return to governing for the people, the essential workers, women, communities of color, and the planet.
Georgia’s Always on My Mind
As today’s post makes abundantly clear, the runoffs on Tuesday will determine whether America has any chance of pulling back from the abyss to which Trump and the GOP have delivered us. McConnell has made it clear that as long as he runs the Senate every piece of legislation must have his seal of approval to even be brought to a vote. And so, in that context, I bring two pieces of good news, new polling results and an opportunity for you to ensure that we win the US Senate. First the polling news:
Two points to take from this 538.org summary of recent polling: 1) There is a clear trend indicating significant Democratic momentum; and 2) It is still too close and given our warranted skepticism of polls, the GOP efforts to make voting more difficult and a historic pattern of low voter turnout in runoffs, we should use these results to motivate us to action. We can do this!
There are but 5 days until the runoff and there is a well-organized GOTV calling campaign with links below. There is a calendar of calling events extending to election day. You will need to scroll a bit as dates from early-mid December appear first, but you will find events for today, tomorrow and through the 5th where you can recruit canvassers and encourage voting. Click here to get to the calendar of phone bank actions. If you cannot phone bank, you may donate to the cause at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sen-unoff?refcode=web&recurring=1
What We Should Learn from 2016-2020
For many of us, the import of this NYE began late in the evening on Nov 6, 2016 as all of us came to realize what happened, that he had actually won, that a reality show clown, a racist, a misogynist and an egomaniac had been elected president.
I think all of us conjured up scenarios of what might be coming. I doubt any of us came close to envisioning the scope and scale of what was to come, the depths of the depravity, the scale of corruption, the complete rejection of truth, facts and science and the utter absence of human feeling. And each passing day exceeded the day prior as we shook our heads in anger, sadness, even fear. We’d go to bed at night, only to wake up to something even worse, day after day after day, worse after worse after worse. As the summer wore on, and as the election approached, with Proud Boys claiming the streets and state capitols, I think all of us feared we could be looking into an abyss. And now, as January 20th approaches, it seems clear how close our nation has came to a complete unravelling.
Today, we examine what we must learn from this experience and perhaps explore the rough definitions of a path toward justice in 2021 and beyond.
While 2020 is soon over, and on January 20 Donald Trump will be removed, we will still be in the grips of his looted country. Biden and the Democrats will inherit Covid, a collapsing economy and millions of Americans teetering toward homelessness. And he will also inherit a deeply divided country, with 74 million Americans voting for this man because somehow they felt he could best lead our country. If we fail to win both runoffs, the GOP will do what it has done since Obama’s second term, obstruct every effort to address the needs of Americans.
What’s more, it is clear Trump will not go away, if for no other reason, the grifter that he is, sees hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to him from an almost unfathomably gullible base, deluded into thinking that this man will continue to represent their views, stand for their liberty and deliver them freedom. And with the alt-right media panting to regurgitate his wild assertions, we will find even the most moderate Democratic efforts to repair the nation characterized as socialism and the demise of freedom and liberty. How on earth did we arrive in a time when freedom is defined as the right to carry an automatic weapon into a state capitol and threatening a Governor, where Proud Boys are heroes and where refusing to wear a mask is an inalienable right? Well, as this post explains, where we are on December 31, 2020 is the apotheosis of the American ideal of individualism run rampant,
As we exit 2020, we know that the first months of 2021 will bring unimaginable levels of COVID destruction, not just from the disease and Trump’s bungled vaccine roll out, but from Washington’s unwillingness to do anything approaching protecting vulnerable Americans from joblessness, hunger and ultimately homelessness. It is a redux of the wild west with every man for himself and no help in sight because the strong survive and the weak don’t. How did we arrive here? As is often my wont, I turn to Heather Cox Richardson. I had written much of the above late last night but simply didn’t fully grasp what I was trying to say, until reading HCR this morning.
In Heather Cox Richardson’s December 30 Letters from an American, HCR traced the 50 year history of the demise of what in previous posts she termed “activist” government, an approach to government initiated in 1933 by FDR where government assumed the role of regulating business, redistributing wealth, and protecting workers from capitalists. As HCR is wont to do, she placed the movement opposing activist government in its historical and cultural context: Reconstruction and then to Reagan.
“That argument echoed the political language of the Reconstruction years, when white southerners insisted that federal efforts to enable formerly enslaved men to participate in the economy on terms equal to white men were simply a redistribution of wealth, because the agents and policies required to achieve equality would cost tax dollars and, after the Civil War, most people with property were white. This, they insisted, was “socialism.”
To oppose the socialism they insisted was taking over the East, opponents of black rights looked to the American West. They called themselves Movement Conservatives, and they celebrated the cowboy who, in their inaccurate vision, was a hardworking white man who wanted nothing of the government but to be left alone to work out his own future. In this myth, the cowboys lived in a male-dominated world, where women were either wives and mothers or sexual playthings, and people of color were savage or subordinate.
With his cowboy hat and western ranch, Reagan deliberately tapped into this mythology, as well as the racism and sexism in it, when he promised to slash taxes and regulations to free individuals from a grasping government. He promised that cutting taxes and regulations would expand the economy. As wealthy people—the “supply side” of the economy– regained control of their capital, they would invest in their businesses and provide more jobs. Everyone would make more money.”
HCR goes on to connect the Reconstruction era use of “socialism” to the last 50 years, where every effort to advance economic and racial justice, has been met with cries of socialism and loss of freedom. When in 2008, we elected a black president who ran on a campaign that promised “change you can believe in” HCR points to how the GOP saw it as rampant socialism: “To Republicans, primed by now to believe that Democrats and Black people were socialists, this was an undermining of the nation itself, and they set out to hamper him [Obama.]” And again, the hammer used is “socialism.”
HCR goes on to point to
HCR points to the Fairness Doctrine as a pivot point in our history, as it was used to spawn talk radio and ultimately Fox News, news outlets that were unfettered by truth or honesty and could espouse hateful doctrine, foment fear and were no longer required to present alternative positions. With the advent of social media, it became possible to insulate oneself in ones own echo chamber, never having to encounter a counter argument to one’s assumptions. The Fox echo chamber sustained a constant theme of fear of other, of fear of change, of fear of government. Of fear.
HCR points how the first actions of the Trump administration were the Muslim ban and The Wall with Trump’s hate mongering language about immigrants as rapists and criminals, again with the underlying message of fear. But all the while that Trump made immigrants and Muslims into mongrels, the GOP conducted the greatest wealth grab in history with its tax cuts, trade wars and deregulation of business. Pence expressed the GOP vision perfectly just the other day:
“They [Democrats] want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable. We have fought to make every American richer, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”Vice President Pence
It is a tribute to the iron grip of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, etc. that more than 70 million Americans embrace that statement and fail to see that the statement would be perfectly true if it inserted the word “rich” before the word “American” so the statement would conclude: “We have fought to make every rich American richer and that’s exactly what we’ve done.” And 70 million people voted for this. Do none of them stop to question as to whether they are, in fact, richer today?
HCR notes that Trump and the GOP represent the ultimate conquest of the activist government that is could protect us:
“And in this moment, we have, disastrously, discovered the final answer to whether or not it is a good idea to destroy the activist government that has protected us since 1933. In their zeal for reducing government, the Trump team undercut our ability to respond to a pandemic, and tried to deal with the deadly coronavirus through private enterprise or by ignoring it and calling for people to go back to work in service to the economy, willing to accept huge numbers of dead. They have carried individualism to an extreme, insisting that simple public health measures designed to save lives infringe on their liberty.”
But while this is unmistakably where we have landed on December 31, 2020, as HCR describes, it need not be our future. She points to the emergence of strong voices throughout America who have rejected Trump nihilism.
“In the past four years, the Women’s March on Washington and the MeToo Movement has enabled women to articulate their demand for equality. The travel ban, child separation policy for Latin American refugees, and Trump’s attacks on Muslims, Latin American immigrants, and Chinese immigrants, has sparked a defense of America’s history of immigration. The Black Lives Matter Movement, begun in July 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin, has gained power as Black Americans have been murdered at the hands of law enforcement officers and white vigilantes, and as Black Americans have borne witness to those murders with cellphone videos.”
HCR points to these movements as a cause for hope. I would add that the continued advocacy of Democratic leaders like Elizabeth Warren, AOC, Bernie Sanders, Stacey Abrams, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush, all are speaking truth to power every day. And it is their individual and collective courage and their vision for the future that must serve as our guide for 2021 and beyond. And that collective vision can’t run from the words “democratic socialism” and “socialism.” We can’t run from the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, banning fracking and and raising taxes on the rich.
There is a false narrative that has been used for decades that conflates every progressive initiative with socialism and then falsely conflates socialism with every dictatorial manifestation of that ideology of the last 100 hundred years. I’d encourage any of you who missed it, to revisit the post from Tuesday, where I reposted Mick Nickel’s excellent series of definitions of what socialism is and how it evolved, countering that with definitions of liberalism and individualism. We have far more to fear from individualism than socialism. Individualism is Darwin on steroids. Socialism is predicated on sharing. In the age of Covid, which do you pick. If we have learned nothing from 2020 it is the value of “us” and the how much we depend on others, the essential workers.
In closing and in looking forward to 2021, I feel it is important that progressives take the higher ground, unify around a vision that embraces democratic socialism rather than running from it. We must find our own language to describe our vision and not accept the false narrative foisted on us.
That’s it for 2020. Stay safe, healthy, and hopeful. We have endured much and hopefully have learned much. In 2021 we will resume the work at hand and on January 20th, for once, the light at the end of the tunnel will not be a train barreling toward us.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne