Musing about law, books, and politics

Start Doing It Now

Let’s suppose the unthinkable happens: Trump badgers our democratic institutions until they crumble, the 2020 election is mere ritual, nothing checks Trump’s power, and Trump makes himself an autocrat.

What then?

I’ll show you how Chile got out from under an actual dictatorship and restored democracy. I’m using Chile as an example because my husband’s family experienced the Pinochet dictatorship, so I have first hand accounts.

Sources for facts and quotations are from:

Chile is a good example because—like the US, and unlike other countries who have experienced right wing uprisings—Chile had a long tradition of democratic institutions prior to the Pinochet dictator.

In Sept, 1973, far right wing Gen. Pinochet pulled off a military coup and installed himself as a dictator.

The coup was made possible partly because of a complete breakdown in trust between two of Chile’s major political parties. (Yeah, I know about the US involvement)

Even after Pinochet installed himself as a dictator, the “distrust persisted, eclipsing their shared revulsion toward Pinochet’s dictatorship.” Political leaders from opposing parties couldn’t bear to speak to each others.

Then, in 1978, tired of living under an oppressive dictator, the opposing parties started talking.

Eventually they rebuilt trust. By 1985, the anti-Pinochet forces came together and signed a National Accord for a Transition to a Full Democracy. The coalition even managed to negotiate with Pinochet’s hardcore right-wing supporters.

These talks staved off “potentially destabilizing conflicts.” Democracy was restored. Staring into the abyss of a brutal dictatorship taught the Chileans a lesson.

Fearful that another Pinochet would arise, the elected leaders developed a practice of informal cooperation that they called, “democracy of agreements.”

Thus, when enough of Pinochet’s critics came together and figured out how to negotiate with each other, Chileans were able to restore democracy.

OK, so, if the worst happens and we find ourselves in an actual autocracy, the best way out is to follow Chile’s example: Find common ground with the parts of the GOP that do not support Trump’s autocratic methods, and work on negotiating with Trump’s actual supporters.

If this sounds hard, the Profs. Ziblatt and Levitsky remind us that democracy is difficult, grinding work:

If you don’t think democracy is grinding work, run for local office and try to get something done. To succeed, democracy requires compromise and concession.

Putin’s active measures is partly designed to create so much division and discord in American society that a pro-democratic coalition becomes impossible.

Let’s not let Putin win.

I met a cancer researcher who developed chemo drugs. She told me if she got cancer, she’d immediately go on a macrobiotic diet as the best way to organically fight cancer.

I thought: Why wait? Why not start eating more veggies, rice and beans now when the work isn’t as hard?

Same with getting out of an autocracy. Why wait? Why not start implementing the solutions now, when not as much is needed? How about this as a place to start: Stop underestimating Trump, and stop blaming his victims. (Before you yell at me, let me explain)

Trump a master at manipulating and controlling the national conversation. He’s also a skilled con artist. He is conning a lot of people. To quote Yale Prof. Jason Stanley (@jasonintrator) Trump is cynically employing fascist tactics to enrich himself.

There’s a portion of our population that are fearful by nature. They are, by nature, averse to complexity and therefore fearful and uncomfortable with diversity. They can’t do much to change the way they are.

Along came Trump, who knows exactly how to manipulate them. He riles them. He created what Karen Stenner and Jonathan Haidt call an authoritarian dynamic.

The antidemocratic forces have been at work long before Trump. The path was paved for him.

If we can pull together more than 60% (I think about 65% is the upper limit of what is possible) into a solid anti-Trump coalition and keep trying to expand the numbers, we can make sure to prevent autocracy, and we can build the kinds of coalitions that can strengthen the democracy.

In other words, use the remedy as a preventive measure.

Pulling together more than 60% coalition means accepting members of the GOP who made Trump possible. It means forming a coalition with people who I can guarantee will say things you don’t like.

We won’t always like what they say. But we need them. What we’re facing are the same forces of darkness faced by Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Thurgood Marshall, Susan B. Anthony, and others. It’s the same struggle, against the same enemies: Fear and hate.

Leaders who are much wiser than me have said that the way to answer hate is with love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”— Martin Luther King, Jr. end/

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