Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Life Inside The Fire

When Donald Trump was elected, this is what I had to say:

"In a little over two weeks, Donald J Trump will be the next president of the United States, and I fear that we don't stand a chance. In conversations I've had with those who voted for Trump, both online and in person, they simply do not have any concerns or reservations about what this man has done or anything he is about to do. In most cases they are people who want their version of America to triumph, and that's a version where gays are in the closet, immigrants deported, bosses control their workers, people of color are invisible, and women are in the kitchen. If Trump has to break a few laws and break a few heads for that to happen, they simply do not care. 
Just think of all the violations we have already seen -by Trump and by his allies- that have failed to move these people. Republicans blocked the president from nominating a Supreme Court justice in an unprecedented breach of the Constitution that would have caused a crisis in an ordinary year. Republicans in North Carolina have a attempted a Reconstruction-era coup. Trump did not release his tax returns. What we know of his taxes shows that he does not pay them. He openly bragged about groping women. He mocked a reporter's disability. He insulted the parents of a soldier who died for this country. He insulted the service of a man who spent years in a POW camp. He received support from the hacking of a foreign government opposed to the United States, has praised that nation's dictator, and has now taken steps to kneecap America's own intelligence apparatus. He has appointed the editor of a white nationalist rag to a new advisor position previously unheard of. He has failed to give a press conference since July, preferring to use Twitter as a platform to kvetch, insult, and threaten. On Twitter he has made alarming statements about nuclear weapons. 
None of these actions has swayed his supporters, because they have been fighting a low-grade civil war in this country for decades, and are convinced that an autocrat will finally give them the victory they crave. 
So where are those who can check Trump's power, and call him to account? The news media has been servile, giving him credit for the Carrier deal and the House Republicans' retreat from scrapping independent oversight of Congressional ethics, even though he was not responsible. And those are the "liberal" outlets like the New York Times. With Fox News and Breitbart, Trump has a massive propaganda operation backing him. The Democratic opposition is typically pathetic. Bernie Sanders, the supposed champion of the left, greeted the election by talking about how he could work with Trump. Schumer has been playing the backroom buddy game. The left generally has been divided and disorganized. Time, money, and effort was put into a doomed recount campaign headed by the charlatan Jill Stein but supported by gullible liberals. So-called radicals have been downplaying the significance of the Russia hack and Trump's response to it, seeing it as yet another opportunity to chide liberals rather than to actually do anything constructive. Liberals have had a tendency to run around like chickens with their heads cut off. The united nationalist front behind Trump, which is drooling over itself at the thought of smiting the left and erasing its influence, will be the anvil on which progressives are smashed by the Trump hammer.
I don't like being such a downer, but if Trump's opponents remain this divided and disorganized, and the media continues to play into his hands, we are really and truly fucked. In two weeks we are headed into the fire."

I called this post "Into the Fire." After last week it feels like we have been pushed further into the fire, the flames rising even higher. I can't decide if what I wrote in January of 2017 was too pessimistic or not pessimistic enough. Trump has committed outrage after outrage. Last week alone, one of his fans tried to murder a group of prominent Democrats and another man inspired by Trump's fear-mongering over the caravan of Central American immigrants murdered eleven people in a synagogue. This is the kind of stuff I feared the most as we were first heading into the fire.

While Democrats have rallied and won improbable races in places like Alabama, Trump's supporters and Republicans in general have stuck by him. His popularity has even risen in recent weeks. As I wrote those months ago, Trump is giving these people exactly what they want. The Republican pitch to their base has been an unmitigated torrent of hate and fear that makes Nixon's similar ads in 1968 look like Frank Capra films. Many Republicans who used to recite the same Chamber of Commerce bullshit about markets and taxes are now lighting their beards on fire with nativist zeal. I have read some convincing takes is we are now seeing a fascist movement being created AFTER rather than before seizing power. Trump benefitted from the vagaries of the US electoral system (and outside meddling) to win power in a fluke election. Despite making a fool of the country in his Putin press conference, putting children in cages, and inspiring violence, Trump does not appear to have lost any support among his base. 

So what of the opposition party? The Democrats have been helped by a new generation of inspiring politicians like Ocasio-Cortez, Abrams, Gillum, and Beto, but they have mostly failed to rise to the occasion. Schumer still bends over backwards to please Republicans, giving them judgeships with hardly a fight. The Democrats have failed to provide a national message, which means that Trump is allowed to dictate what the press pays attention to because there are no Democrats demanding coverage for their issues. How will Democrats govern if they get power? The lack of clear answer to that question in damning.

At least the Democrats are showing signs of hope, though. The mainstream news media has been absolutely pathetic. They cling to bothsidesism, their one true religion. Even after Trump has threatened our democratic institutions and called the press "the enemy of the people" they still bend over backwards not to criticize the president. After bombs were sent out to prominent Democrats the New York Times actually ran an article saying "What these people said about Trump," implying that they had brought this on themselves. After Trump announced that he was going to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship, which is enshrined in the Constitution, the media wrote all kinds of articles discussing how he could justify doing this, instead of rejecting it outright. Just as conservatives remain devoted to their ideology and Democrats still maintain their lack of fighting spirit, media figures are still primarily concerned with maintaining their station and not rocking the vote. The media's inability to call out Trump when his side has their own massive media juggernaut blasting their propaganda means that Trump will always have his thumb on the scale.

So two years since the last election, have we learned anything? A small number of people have pushed themselves to participate in public life. Everyone else seems to be content to just keep going  on as they did before. We have been pushed further into the fire, but some folks are in denial that they are even being burned. We are all being burned, and last week some were consumed.

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