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