After Donald Trump was defeated in the 2020 election, we had reason to hope that the threat of Trumpism would abate somewhat. However, the threat is not only continuing, it is getting worse. Today we are facing a triple threat to civilization:
- Lack of anywhere near sufficient action to stop climate change and catastrophic damage to the world’s air, water and land;
- Intensified threats to the survival of liberal democracy in the US and elsewhere, seen in the dominance of racism, loss of voting rights, and loss of women’s right to choose;
- Lack of standards of truth and decency; lack of effective attacks on the Big Lies facilitating Trumpism and other authoritarian forms.
And the forces for freedom and liberal democracy are losing the fight against this triple threat. We need to prepare for a future of continuing chaos, in which the need for struggle is constant; and we need to remember that progress is not inevitable at all.
1. How Can Saving The Environment Not Be the Priority?
Humans, as well as the other animals and plants, are going extinct at a fast-accelerating rate, and much of life on earth will die from escalating environmental disasters including heat, storms, and flooded coasts. This will occur within just a few decades, unless extreme, urgent action is taken now.
The COP26 UN conference on climate change, with more than 120 world leaders in attendance, is currently taking place in Scotland. It is doubtful that a lot will be accomplished, other than some reduction in usage of coal and curbs on methane gas. We can’t blame it all on the cows!
MHI is going to discuss this topic elsewhere, but we must raise the question here: what part of humans’ unevolved brains doesn’t make the environment people’s priority concern? Are we so indoctrinated with capitalist culture that we can’t even imagine defying the laws of capitalism (the drive for profits obliterating everything human) in order to save ourselves? One is reminded of Lenin’s comment in anticipation of the Russian Revolution: the capitalists are so wedded to profit-making that they will sell the revolutionaries rope for the revolutionaries to hang them with.
Youth and indigenous peoples are taking the lead in climate-change demonstrations all over the world, with around 100,000 turning out to protest at COP26 in Glasgow. Absent the full-blown social and economic revolution that is needed, soon, we have to hope they can win some degree of change. But so far there are not enough protests to change the business-as-usual proceedings.
2. The Threat to Liberal Democracy Aided by Racism, Racism, Racism
We breathed a little more freely after the US election last November, because Trump was about to leave the presidency soon––even though we realized that his racist and sexist authoritarianism had by no means been rooted out by one election (nor could it be rooted out by elections). We expected Trump to resist leaving office, but we did not imagine it possible to subvert the rule of law in so many states and federal institutions, all the way up to Congress and the Supreme Court, that he could nearly succeed in overturning the election. Only now are we finding out the full extent of his illegal actions to remain in power. It is only due to the relative honesty of a few people in a few institutions that he did not succeed, at minimum, in throwing the nation into a constitutional crisis and a shooting civil war.
Threats to the continued existence of liberal democracy in the US have only grown greater in the year since.
Credit: Tony Webster
Congress could not even pass a law to restore the voting protections that used to be in federal law, but which the Supreme Court overturned, nor the voting protections that Republican-controlled courts and statehouses have destroyed more recently. Not one House Republican voted to pass a basic law to protect the right to vote. (It passed without them in the House, but a broader bill failed to pass the Senate, so nothing has been put into law.) Meanwhile, the states are adopting more and more draconian restrictions on voting, as well as re-drawing districts to make sure that gerrymandering favors the Republicans.
If the Republicans succeed in “turning” Congress into a majority-Republican body in the 2022 election, it will be impossible for the Democrats to pass anything to save voting rights by any means. The purpose of all this, of course, is to stop Black and Brown people from voting and electing people who might serve their needs.
In case the “wrong” people still manage to vote, the states are busy passing laws to allow state legislatures to overturn election results! Control of election procedures is being fought over in states and cities as well, especially cities with large numbers or a majority of voters of color.
A solid majority of Americans favors women’s right to choose, yet Congress did not even try to pass a law to codify the right to abortion, which will most likely be ended with Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court, possibly in the spring. The Court may knock out the ridiculously unconstitutional, bounty-hunter enforcement mechanism passed in Texas, but that’s all. It is unlikely to keep Roe’s limits on banning abortion after 6 weeks, as has been done in Texas, or if the Mississippi standard prevails instead in its case, then after 15 weeks.
How can the Republicans get away with this assault on women’s rights, 48 years after it was established by Roe? This is a do-or-die issue for the Trumpites because so much of their base consists of right-wing anti-abortion Christians, but securing the right to abortion is not considered do-or-die for the Democratic Party. Women are taking to the streets, although not yet in the numbers we saw the last time abortion was illegal, pre-Roe.
And now we come to racism and Black resistance. This is a moment when white supremacy’s murderous recent past is dominating the news via the courthouse. There is a confluence of white supremacists’ trials: the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two anti-racism demonstrators after the police shot a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020; the trial of three white men in Georgia who killed a Black youth, Ahmaud Arbery, while he was out jogging last year; the civil case for damages against the “unite the right” organizers, including the killer of Heather Heyer, in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017; and the civil-court settlement for the nine Black people massacred and the others injured by a young white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. And, of course, the “successful” trial of George Floyd’s murderer earlier this year. In each case, murder took place by police who had no possible self-defense claim, or else by white men who were “hunting” Black people.
Although even the best of the liberal press tries to depict racism and LGBTQ discrimination as part of a “culture war,” it is not; racism is the enduring central characteristic of the US. Reproductive and gender and racial freedom are not matters of culture, but of human rights. Did you see the pictures of white border-patrol officers on horseback, with reins used like whips in hand, chasing Black migrants away from the southern border? A fitting image of “the South will rise again.” That is the nation’s all-pervasive “culture.”
Credit: Gregg Gonsalves
Within the so-called left, there is some debate about whether racism or capitalism is the dominant mode of oppression in the US. Nonsense—they go hand-in-hand. Racism is an essential feature of capitalism: divide people and the ruling class continues to rule.
The fact that racism persists, largely unabated, can make one question the ability of democracy to solve problems of inequality and lack of freedom—can democracy alone guarantee the rights of minorities? This is a subject for much more discussion.
3. The Death of Truth and Decency Means Chaos and Constant Struggle
Trump left us a thoroughly degenerated Republican Party, as well as a freshly armed and inspired far right, to carry on the mission of destroying all opposition to the authoritarian assumption of power by any means necessary. We are forced to fight every day just to protect the rights that we thought had long been secured, like the right to vote and to have choice in reproductive medical care. And we are losing the fights.
It is clear that Republican officials care only about getting and retaining power and lack any ideology except self-promotion. Not having adopted a Party platform last year, because Trump didn’t want one, they now stand for absolutely nothing. That’s bad enough, but what’s worse is that they have accepted and reveled in the anti-democratic measures left to them by Trump as well as those now being adopted by Republican-controlled states. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ failure to attack the Senate’s completely undemocratic filibuster procedure assures that Congress will be ineffective in stopping the trend.
Far from our having uprooted Trumpism, it is more rooted and is extending its roots into everything. Its method of gaining support is the Big Lie—not only about the last election having been “stolen,” but about every terrible thing Trump has done. Deny, attack, deny, attack—that’s all we hear from Trumpists, and that mode of operation is now standard in Congress, the courts, and the media.
The election for governor of Virginia is said to have been won by the Republican due to his accusation that the education system was falling under the spell of “Critical Race Theory,” even though that was not being taught or even proposed for Virginia schools—and all it means is telling the truth about US history. Any racist dog whistle will do to influence the vote. Just make it up and lie, lie, lie.
Here we find the confluence of untruth and racism. Racism has been a mainstay of US politics forever, but now it is tied especially tightly to lies, because everyone knows, or should know, better (such as the myths about coronavirus vaccines, Black genetic inferiority, etc.). Anything goes to try to reverse or suppress the votes that went to Biden. Otherwise, the Republicans cannot win an election––as even they now openly admit, in justification of their activity.
Fox News, Facebook, and YouTube determine what information gets heard, due to the structures and algorithms of the information systems that currently dominate. Truth is forced to “compete” with untruth, and to be drowned out and crowded out by untruth, because of the validation of existing attitudes and the hits of dopamine that the latter supplies.
What is needed is to fight for truth and meaning in the service of democracy and freedom. The first step is to recognize the threats––and to remember that progress is not at all inevitable. We could be headed back to the Dark Ages, where conspiracy beliefs, anti-science, might-makes-right practices, and cruelty predominate.
MHI will continue to fight the trend, no matter what happens. Will you join us?
Editor’s Note, Nov. 24, 2021: Characterization of the Charlottesville trial has now been corrected. The version originally published stated, incorrectly, that the case was criminal, not civil. It also referred to the defendants as rioters rather than as organizers.