The tolling bell you hear is the slowly swinging pendulum sounding the death knell of the Democratic party. I was concerned this outcome would come to pass, and it is coming. I’m no Democrat, but I understand that this government is built on a foundation of two parties in opposition, performing the expected checks and balances on one another. And Democrats seem to have disappeared from the landscape.
When there is only one party, they can turn off the spigot of information, legislate in the dark, and shut down all avenues of debate over government policy. And that’s what the Republicans are doing. Want to complain to Sen. Deb Fischer or Sen. Ben Sasse about the Senate health care bill? Why? You don’t know what’s in it, and neither do they. We have reached the point where, in a room full of citizens and their elected Congressional representatives – who themselves are members of the ruling party – there is still nobody in the room with the ability to influence government policy.
If no other truism about Americans is reliable anymore, the “winners win” mantra of the pro sports/corporate/suburban/white/government classes remains a bellwether, a rock solid institution of the American psyche that makes us all kin to Alabama football fans. Winners win, and losers lose, and any other value judgment you care to apply is – sorry – irrelevant. This is also one of the very few things the president knows – he knows that by and large, Americans abhor an ethical, morally conscious loser who loses more than they are bothered by the unethical, immoral winner who wins. Trump himself is the poster boy for this American institution. We all know he’s unethical, dishonest, immoral, etc. He knows nothing about government, or frankly anything else. But he was elected president because he projected a winner’s persona and smeared everyone else with his favorite label for everyone who’s not named Trump – loser.
Thus the more Democrats lose, and the more they point impotent fingers at one another for losing, and the more Republicans win on an agenda of intolerance, race hatred, misogyny, corporate greed, xenophobia, white power, and all the rest, the more the idea gets cemented in sparsely-informed American minds that Republicans are on the winning side of these class warfare issues. Trump’s deplorable positions on everything – women’s rights, immigrants, NATO, the “Wall”, free trade, police and government corruption, government transparency and ethics, voting rights, the environment, energy policy, tax policy, health care – these become the winning positions.
I’ve never believed that people in general are “good at heart” – many are, but you only have to study recent history (or just go to a Trump rally) to learn that many are not. Let’s be real – many people are self-centered, vindictive and hateful. Such people see a friend in Trump, who nurtured and shaped their inchoate paranoia and rage into hatred of HIS enemies. History also teaches that good people who find themselves in a society experiencing rising intolerance, fascism, nationalism, widespread corruption – once it gets going they don’t necessarily have the means to stop it from happening. Because the people who are not good at heart (but who ARE in power) quickly render the democratic institutions that could stop their insurgency inert. Meanwhile, they repeatedly bring into question the very nature of law and order, and of facts themselves, until literally everything comes down to a matter of opinion. Sound familiar? Russia provides a great example. We were warned by a number of Russians that they too felt like Putin’s election was just a phase, a hiccup, that the country would “right itself” before he was able to transform a fledgling democracy into a standard-issue dictatorship. They were wrong. (Just last week literally millions of Russians risked their liberty by participating in an illegal Anti-Corruption march. The effect, apart from coverage by the foreign press and many arrests, was absolutely null.) And we are wrong if we think Trump and his eager GOP army of polite, smiling fascists will be kind to our beleaguered republic. Putin did his best to install Trump because he gambled it would help destabilize our delicate democratic balance of power (not because he’s a friend of Trump). Boy did he hit the jackpot.
If you don’t see it now you may one day, when you’re looking down the barrel of an Authorized Unruly Citizen Execution device, thinking “this can’t happen” to white, law-abiding me. But it happens nearly every day, right now, to people of color – just recently in Omaha, in fact, though the murder weapon was a taser rather than a pistol. These people of color – like the Native Americans at Standing Rock, like the people at every anti-Trump protest who find themselves being pummeled with rubber bullets and arrested for “rioting” – these are the test subjects. Jeff Sessions is in Washington actively encouraging more police departments to engage in such tests by publicly announcing that he is abandoning all Justice Department investigations into civil rights abuses by local police forces (and will initiate no new investigations), while he and Trump quietly remove the legal safeguards of civil rights policy reform enacted over the last eight years. And I believe that eventually, just like the civil rights workers who were wantonly murdered in the American South in the 1960s, white folks who persist in exposing these police murders for what they are in the 2000s are likely to find that same target on their chests.
(In fact, 53 years ago today, on June 21 ,1964, civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner were arrested by a Mississippi deputy sheriff for speeding. They were released into the hands of Klansmen who had plotted their murders. They were shot, and their bodies were buried in an earthen dam. Recall that Jeff Sessions has testified much more recently that he was “OK” with the Klan until he learned they used illegal drugs.)
The irony is that true leaders in some of the police forces under investigation (Philadelphia, Chicago) were welcoming of federal guidance and federal prosecution of bad officers. They offered that it’s difficult to change police culture from within or prosecute bad actors locally because of the “old guard” and “blue wall” mentalities that can be generated in tight-knit police departments, not to mention local tax/funding issues quashing internally-driven improvements. But Sessions doesn’t want more humane police. He actually wants them to get “tougher” on us, if that’s even possible given that the police are murdering people every week.
I don’t enjoy reaching these conclusions. But given the facts, I can’t see my way to any other, rosier ones. Back in August – November 2016, I implored every forward-thinking person I know (and even some backward-thinking persons) to stop Trump. Quit complaining about Hillary and the DNC, and STOP TRUMP. Not stopping him, to my mind then, would be a signal to the country and to the world that the man represents what we are, and who we are. Not stopping him is the equivalent of endorsing him. “None of the above” or a protest vote for a candidate whose name you probably won’t even remember in a year is unacceptable. Silence is assent. We have assented, we have met the Trumpers and they are effectively us, and we knew all along that the people to whom we’ve handed this power are not the type to put it to good use for the common betterment of the country and its citizens – because they have never been that type, never served and never contributed to the country. Draft-dodging Trump, tax-dodging Trump, pussy-grabbing Trump and his billionaire cabinet – not to mention Steve Bannon – have demonstrated over the course of their lives that they are interested only in enriching themselves and their families or chosen clans. They’re in it for the money. We threw out everyone who was in it to do some good.