II. It’s Later Than You Think

Part one here.

Are you registered to vote? Will you proudly sport your “I voted” sticker on November 6th? Are you thrilled that you’re about to take your country back? Even though attempts at voter suppression are becoming more brazen by the day? Even though the party of Trump will still hold the presidency, Senate and Supreme Court? Even if Carl Bernstein, half the team who blew open Watergate for the Washington Post, reports

Trump has talked about a disruption campaign if the results are close but have the Democrats taking control of the House or Senate.

“I talked to people … in touch with the White House on Friday who believe that, if the congressional midterms are very close and the Democrats were to win by five or seven seats, that Trump is already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts, sow confusion, declare a victory actually, and say that the election’s been illegitimate,” Bernstein said after being asked if Trump’s challenge to fraudulent voters was a form of voter suppression.

The past four months in particular have opened many people’s eyes to what the Trump administration is capable of accomplishing. Alarmed by this realization, they’re compelled to “do something” in response, but they’re accustomed to the ways American society used to work. They’re under the impression the crisis in which we find ourselves can be remedied by voting. They know the confirmation of an accused rapist to the Supreme Court is a travesty, they may know family segregation — scratch that, cultural genocide — never really stopped, they may have some sense of the myriad horrors unfolding… but for all that, they still have faith in the system. Holding onto this faith doesn’t make them stupid, just misguided.

But they need to understand that this election can be lost. Legitimately or illegitimately, our voices can be rendered mute.

* * *

Your midterms Blue Wave is poised to wash over the Hill. The script gives directions as follows: the party who lost the presidential election now makes massive gains in Congress. Yet feeling safe in this assumption only work if you also believe that Trump’s election, the one there was no way he could possibly win, was an an outlier, and that the mechanics of our system are still behaving in essentially ordinary ways. Does that sound like the county you’re living in? Is Trump stymied by concerns about propriety or the rule of law? Show me the part where any of this is normal.

The decline of our democratic society may fill you with righteous anger, but our openly nationalist president’s approval rating is 47 percent in a new NBC/WSJ poll – an all-time high. Deploying thousands of American troops to “defend” the US/Mexico border is scoring big with a certain type of voter. Other data is more promising. 35% of potential voters report Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation made them more likely to vote for a Democrat in their district. Will the potential be realized? The truth will out in a week.

* * *

These are unconscionable times. We’re at the moment when the canary, deprived of oxygen, drifts into a dreamless slumber as the rest of us labor on. Right wing terrorism has risen sharply over the last year; and while it’s often attributed so-called lone wolves, the Proud Boys look a little more like the GOP’s blackshirts with each passing month. 13,000 migrant children are being held in detention camps like this one in West Texas. Puerto Rico has been abandoned. Mass shootings have to be truly spectacular for anyone to talk about them the next day. No wonder the Trump administration is betting it can deny trans people their humanity. Our cultural sense of humanity has been suffocated. Taken a whole, this raises questions like “who’s next?”, “how far will this all go?” and “does anyone else feel like they’re about to pass out?”

* * *

What exists in the present day that didn’t when fascism was last at its peak: sophisticated facial recognition and thermal imaging technologies. The NSA’s PRISM program. A fully militarized police force. A prison-industrial complex with an insatiable hunger for more victims. The hobgoblins of misinformation: 24 hour news channels, talk radio and social media.

The tools of control are as great as they’ve ever been, and they’re in the hands of people who have no compunction about using them.

* * *

We’ve been a lot quieter these days. Sometimes you have to be, to suss out what reality lays outside breathless Beltway “live from the scene of the car crash” reporting. Or you have to step away from the hyperbole you’ve been screaming into the void, because writing about political issues can easily lead to circular, self-reinforcing nonsense. Neither is the case here.

No, we’ve been choked by the ever-growing suspicion that the clock has run out, that fascism won’t be relinquishing its stranglehold on the body politic anytime soon. We can look back at our warnings since Inauguration Day, and see those concerns reflected back at us now from mainstream outlets. These are the same people who used to deride concerns about Trumpism as paranoid. Perhaps they weren’t paranoid enough.

It can happen here. It is happening here.

Donald Trump has suggested that Jewish people might be committing anti-Semitic hate crimes to make himself look bad.

After days in which he refused to comment on a spate of anti-Semitic attacks, Mr Trump broke his silence to repeat an neo-Nazi conspiracy theory that has claimed that the attacks are “false flags”. Supporters of that belief – who include leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke – believe that such attacks are being perpetrated by Jewish people in order to undermine the White House.

It’s later than you think.

President Trump is vowing to sign an executive order that would seek to end the right to U.S. citizenship for children born in the United States to noncitizens, a move most legal experts say runs afoul of the Constitution.

The action, which Trump previewed in a television clip broadcast Tuesday, would be the most aggressive by a president elected to office pledging to take a hard line on immigration, an issue he has revived in advance of next week’s midterm elections.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits,” Trump said during an interview with Axios scheduled to air as part of a new HBO series starting this weekend. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

Soon it will be too late.

Now Bolsonaro will crack open Brazil’s relatively closed domestic economy like a piñata, showering global finance with opportunities to privatise the country’s businesses and exploit its natural resources. He will suppress wages by attacking organised labour and slash welfare payments to the poor. His programme is so clearly one of upward redistribution that his opponent, the Workers’ Party Fernando Haddad, won in 98 per cent of the country’s poorest districts.

If Hannah Arendt’s description of fascism – an alliance of elite and mob – applies to Brazil, it is an alliance of the global financial elite with the “mob” of middle class people enraged at the enduring social power of the poor. Bolsonaro will align Brazil firmly with Trump’s design for an American world disorder. His supporters have wasted no time in taking to the streets, firing guns and torching offices to intimidate minorities and the left.

And that’s how fascism happens. There is, in all modern societies, a seething reactionary consciousness that remains unexpressed behind the politeness and performativity demanded by globalised technocratic norms. Arendt said that what the mob and the elite needed was “access to history”. That is what figures like Trump and Bolsonaro provide. The ability to roll back social liberalism, welfarism and the rule of law whose progress had seemed as certain as the arrow of time in the decades when the free market model worked.

We are living through a period where one crack in the system generates another. Bolsonaro could have won without Trump, but it would have been harder; Trump could have won without Brexit, but he modelled his entire campaign on Brexit, and dabbled with Russian influence in the same way as the Brexiteers.

So where’s next? The most fragile political economy is Europe. In Western Europe, the far right has been contained so far by proportional representation systems, and by the refusal of traditional conservative parties to entertain coalitions with authoritarian nationalists. In Eastern Europe, it is authoritarian conservatism that holds the whip hand.

–Paul Mason, Brazil shows how the elite responds when forced to choose between fascism and the left

Democracy Works, Or: What A Funny Joke I Just Told

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary victory over old guard Democrat Joe Crowley got fired me up. Ocasio-Cortez is under 30, a woman of color, someone with strong left ideological convictions who presented herself as-is to the voters of her district – and the electorate welcomed her with with open arms! She’s proof positive that democracy isn’t always easy, but it can work from time to time.

So why are we talking about her more than two weeks later, with months to go before the 2018 midterms? It’s not anything she’s done, It’s what Crowley hasn’t:

As the New York Times explains, Crowley received the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a group of labor unions and activists that has also backed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon. But after Ocasio-Cortez’s primary win, Bill Lipton, the state director of the Working Families Party, reached out to Crowley’s team and asked that he vacate the line. Crowley, however, declined. This means he’ll remain on the ballot, which is certainly a curious decision to make!

It’s not like Crowley’s disregard for what voters have clearly said they want is an aberration. Allow me to diagnose Democrats’ real problem: Democrats. When the party had a presidential candidate that excited people, they buried him. Given a choice between the possibility of peace with North Korea and the threat of nuclear war, they put on their tattered hawk costumes and squawk. When Republicans want to further cut funding to social programs, they do their best impression of a fainting goat. The gerontocratic leadership have “sensibly” caved on so many issues there’s a crater where their beliefs used to be.

If the cryptkeepers of the Democratic Party refuse to stop standing against social progress, they may one day finding themselves standing against a wall instead. They’ll be provided with free blindfolds.

My Prison Nightmare

Life’s unfair. You know it, I know it, every respectable white, middle-aged man in a business suit knows it. If life was fair, I would have been better at converting .pdfs. If life was fair, my perfectly legitimate business in the former Soviet Union wouldn’t be tarred as “shady business dealings” by liberal media scumbags. If life was fair, the federal judge would have seen Mueller’s witch hunt for what it is and dismissed the case against me.

But that’s not the world we live in. Dark forces have turned me into another statistic of America’s carceral system. Like Nelson Mandela, I’m a political prisoner. My suffering is exquisite.

For those of you who have never been on the inside, brace yourself: I’ll describe – in nightmarish detail – the prison hellscape I’m forced to endure.

I’ve been sequestered in a private, self-contained living unit. My captors say it’s bigger than the other cells, but I think they’re strategically lying to make themselves look good in my tell-all book. Guess what, assholes? It won’t work. Not until you remove the bars from my windows.

I have my own bathroom, but the warden refused my request to have a bidet installed. To add insult to injury, the toilet paper they supplied me is one-ply. One ply?! Does man’s inhumanity to man know no bounds?

The water pressure in my personal shower is lackluster at best.

I can come and go as I please between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., but they won’t let me leave prison grounds. Not even when I offer to have a sizable sum anonymously transferred to their bank accounts via an untraceable third party!

Most painfully of all, they gave me my own telephone, but I’m paranoid Witch Hunter Bob is listening in. I haven’t called any of my Russian oligarch friends in weeks. I have to communicate with them using an encrypted email service instead. Somebody get me out of here!

This is my darkest hour, but I’m certain I’ll overcome adversity and leave the joint more powerful than ever. I’m even thinking about getting a prison tattoo, if the warden will allow Mister Cartoon to bring in his full tat rig. I’m thinking… crying eagle on my chest?

 

 

 

This past weekend’s Families Belong Together demonstrations against Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policies brought huge numbers of protesters out into the streets all around the United States for the fourth time this year. But what exactly does all the marching do, and how will it help the resistance win?

There have now been well over 20,000 protests since Trump took office, according to data from the Crowd Counting Consortium, involving some 15 million participants, in every corner of the country. Until the Women’s Marches that kicked off the resistance in January 2017, the country had almost never witnessed coordinated protests in more than 200 locations in a single day; over the last year and half, the resistance has broken this record time and time again. On 30 June, people marched against family separation and detention in more than 750 communities, from big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles to tiny towns like Antler, North Dakota, where 15 of the town’s 28 inhabitants turned out to take a stand.

The numbers are impressive, but if anyone thinks that mobilizations like these will miraculously lead Donald Trump to do an about-face on any of his policies, they are in for a disappointment: change typically doesn’t happen that way.

Mass marches in America, no matter how large, have almost never worked as short-term pressure tactics. Yes, the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act followed on the heels of the historic 1963 March on Washington, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his legendary I Have a Dream speech, but the influence of the march on the legislative victories was an indirect one.

Mass marches function first and foremost as movement-building tactics, giving people an immediate bodily sense of being part of something larger than themselves, a palpable experience of collective power. They’re an antidote to despair, countering the sense of paralysis that can come all too easily when the news is as demoralizing as it has been. When marches are effective, it’s because they feed into longer-term strategies, strengthening people’s willingness to undertake the other kinds of work that produce concrete change.

Until recently, the principal strategy of the grassroots resistance to Trump has been an electoral one: building toward the midterm elections, in the hope of electing a wave of progressives in November. At marches all around the country last weekend, people chanted “Vote, vote, vote!” and many participants redoubled their commitment to the essential but unglamorous work of making that happen.

After her stunning upset victory last week in a New York Democratic primary, progressive candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reminded people of the labor-intensive door-to-door outreach it took to win, posting photographs on Twitter of her worn-out first pair of campaign shoes and writing: “Respect the hustle.”

The horrors of forced family separation and the looming battle over the next supreme court nominee are leading many groups and individuals to realize that a second kind of strategy is needed as well, a civil resistance strategy based on wide-scale non-cooperation, the kind that has been used all around the world to counter authoritarian regimes.

—LA Kauffman, Dear resistance: marching is not enough