Over the last 8 years, what have the Democrats done for us? Where was the fight for progressive issues? There wasn’t any. Remember the Affordable Care Act? It was a perfect opportunity to push for Single Payor or at least the public option. Instead, we got an actual Republican health plan. As we push for the country that we want, we must remember that the Democrats don’t care about the good of the country. They exist solely for the sake of gaining power.
This doesn’t leave us much of choice in allies. On the one hand, we have the party that will do anything for power. This includes tolerating election tampering, selling out the middle class and surrendering to fascism. Or we can ally ourselves with the party that refuses to fight the descent into fascism, that the big pitch is, “What, you’re going to vote for those fuckers? They’ll enslave you in return for fulfilling all of your racist fantasies.” Well, clearly that pitch isn’t good enough. There are enough people that are will to watch the world burn to placate their own bigotry.
That leaves us, the progressives, in a difficult spot. The Democrats refuse to move to us but will deride our attempts to break free. Any third party will strengthen the party of bigotry and they clearly don’t need help to gain control of the country.
Yet, we can not be content with the status quo. We need to move the discourse left and push through our goals. We need to make the Democrats fear that we will splinter off and make a new party. They need to taste the fear of death to make the changes necessary for ensuring the continuation of our country.
Yet, splintering may be too far. It is too much of a risk to create a new party in our current system when one of the parties fails to maintain our democracy. We are stuck in a system comprised of the regressive bigots and the centrist cowards.
Splintering will the only aide the regressive agenda and yet, we have no other way to push the needle left. The Democrats pitch is not enough and yet, it remains true. How do we push for what is right when the alternative is literally nazis. This is the direct result of both white bigotry and white apathy (which I am more than guilty of). We must teeter on the edge of annihilation in order to create a country that we can be proud of.
On Tuesday, the senate confirmed Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. She has no qualifications for the job and her plan is to gut the public school system. No one thought that she was qualified for the job. The public outcry was huge and yet only two republicans were brace enough to stand with the people and vote against her.
Yesterday, the senate confirmed Jeff Sessions for attorney general. He was deemed to racist for the Reagan administration to appoint as a judge. The senate even went so far as to silence Elizabeth Warren when she attempted to quote Coretta Scott King’s letter about Jeff Sessions due to its content calling him racist. Let’s be clear, he is clearly racist. He has worked to prevent and the undermine the voting rights of People of Color. He is also fiercely anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigration, and against the legalization of marijuana. He is against many things that most of the country is for.
This just continues the trend of the Trump/Bannon choices to continuously ram immensely unpopular policies on us. Our only hope is to get congress on our side. They have been continuously betraying us, going along with the nazis currently in power. Our Congresspeople need to feel our wrath. We must make them listen. They must understand that they must work for us or we are coming for them.
Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)
19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.
20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.
— Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History, Yale University