How to beat authoritarianism
@champasoft asks how we can repair in 2020 with Trump stacking the courts.
I hear despair in that question. Despair comes partly from not understanding our history and thus thinking: “This never happened before!” and then feeling doomed.
1/ For example, about those judges: Through most of U.S. history, the Supreme Court has been conservative. How conservative?
In the 1960s, judges were confirmed who openly supported racial segregation.
In 1894 the Court said the income tax was unconstitutional. There have basically been only two truly liberal courts in all of U.S. history:
3/ There have basically been only two truly liberal courts in all of U.S. history: The Marshall court (1801-1835) and the Warren (1953-1969) court.
Yes, Trump’s judges will set us back. They’ll make law we won’t like. But we’re not in uncharted territory. We’ve gotten out from under bad laws in the past because people put in a lot of work to change them.
4/ Susan B. Anthony gave us the 19th Amendment. Thurgood Marshall ended Plessy. Now the conservatives want to roll things backward. OK, so someone will have to do the work of rolling them forward again.
I never said it would be easy.
5/ One reason democracy fails is because it’s “grinding work” Democracy requires compromise and give and take. (Run for local city council and try to get something done if you don’t believe me.) Authoritarianism happens when people want shortcuts.
6/ “Trump will break the rules and end gridlock” or “The way to get what we want is to refuse to compromise.” Refusing to compromise, “my way or the highway,” is authoritarianism. So is rampant rule breaking. That’s how democracy dies.
7/ Raise your hand if you feel continually shocked by Trump.
8/ I will give a (very brief) summary of this lecture.
Prepare for your mind to be blown. @TimothyDSnyder—an expert in European history and fascism of the 20th and 21st centuries—says, among other things, that Trump is a “talented politician.”
9/ People don’t believe me when I say it, so I was happy to find this lecture by a world class scholar. Even if (after listening to him) you disagree, his opinion is worth taking seriously. The next few tweets will be a summary of Snyder.
10/ The reason people are so surprised by Trump—and keep being surprised—is that they bought into a myth. For conservatives, the myth was this: Capitalism brings freedom, so more capitalism [laissez faire economics] means more freedom. Oops! deregulation brought Trump.
11/ True conservatives are opposed to Trump, BTW. As I’ve explained, the current GOP is authoritarian, not conservative. The liberal myth was: We’re on a road to progress. Ironclad rules are in place. The future will be more like the present, but better [even more inclusive].
12/ History teaches us that all such myths (stories) “break.” People who don’t know this are shocked when the story breaks. Trump broke the story. So each day there’s shock about Trump’s latest outrage, shock that Russia picked our president & shock that the GOP is on board.
13/ Both myths contain the idea that the future is predetermined. It’s natural to shift from feeling that “the future will be more of the same no matter what we do,” to “we’re doomed, no matter what we do.” People are shocked. And they think there is nothing they can do.
13/ But that’s not how things work. The future takes the shape it does because of things individuals do in the present. What we do matters. Being continually shocked is a luxury. It’s a way of saying: “This is all new, so nobody knows what to do!” “Shock is pre-helpless.”
14/ Knowledge of history helps because seeing past patterns enables us to act in the present. Snyder says to take Trump “seriously” because he is a “talented politician who represents the mainstream of politics right now.” (picture shows the source of quotations)
15/ The “mainstream of politics right now” is the rise of far right wing politics all over the globe (Brazil, Hungary, etc.) Trump and the GOP are part of a global movement. Trump practices what Snyder calls “the politics of eternity,” which he explains at length in:
16/ Trump has created two loops into eternity: First loop: He promises to loop back to a mythical moment when America was great. Second loop: He pummels our emotions each day so that we can never think ahead to the future, or how to behave in order to shape the future
17/ [end of summary] So what do we do now?
Stop being shocked each day. It’s exhausting and clouds the brain. Part of the shock comes from thinking Trump is dumb. Never underestimate the opposition. Besides, employing authoritarianism tactics aren’t hard (for Trump).
18/ Some people insist that unless Trump and all those who shield him are “brought to justice,” democracy fails and/or “the system is corrupt.”
Recall a goal of Putin’s active measures is to undermine faith in our democracy
19/ The moment we say, “The whole system is corrupt” Putin wins. Systems can’t work perfectly. Law enforcement, courts, and democracies are never perfect. To demand perfection will condemn us to authoritarianism because liberal democracy can’t survive those expectations.
19/ If millions of people want to undermine democracy, putting their leaders in jail won’t deter them. I’m not saying not to. I’m saying this won’t solve the problem. If you’re trying to figure out why so many Americans want to undermine democracy, click here.
20/ Also, see this explanation of the authoritarian dynamic.
We’re in an authoritarian dynamic now. Anti-democratic movements aren’t new in the US. Slavery & Jim Crow were anti-democratic. Keeping women out of the public sphere until late 20th century was anti-democratic.
21/ This picture was taken in New Jersey while Hitler was on the rise.
22/ Democracy for all (not just white men) is relatively new. Now we’re sliding back. I’ve seen people argue that the Constitution failed, so we need to amend it—or pass tougher laws to prevent another Trump.
23/ Authoritarians arise by deliberately breaking rules. See People who cheer the authoritarian are happy to see the laws break. Democracy can only survive if politicians and others willingly respect the norms.
Punishment can’t cure authoritarianism.
The only way to save democracy and reverse the current backslide into authoritarianism is through democratic means. I know it’s hard. Democracy is hard.
26/ In the showdown between democracy and autocracy, there are always more people in favor of democracy. We have to make those who want democracy understand what’s happening and vote.
Yes, there will be elections in 2020. Even autocracies have elections, they just don’t matter.
27/ Want to make sure they matter? Work in the Protect and Promote the Vote org in your state. (I have some experience with these orgs, They’re great)
We need lots of Susan B. Anthonys out there.
January 23, 2019