Musing about law, books, and politics

What’s going on with the Trump-FOX-GOP?

Yesterday Trump retweeted that he should get 2 years added to his term.

Friday Trump told Putin about the “Russian hoax” and didn’t tell him to stop interfering in our elections.

The GOP is fine with this.

I see bewilderment & frustration: They’re greedy traitors! They’re betraying American values!

Spoiler: The Trump-GOP springs from a deeply entrenched authoritarian tradition in America.

They think they’re saving America.

Even with all that Trump-Putin love.

Seeing this moment in historical context can help us understand how to move forward and save democracy. It may also help with what we can expect from impeachment hearings.

America was founded as a representative democracy, which sounds great. Except for one big problem.

For most of U.S. history, “we the people” meant white men. Only white men had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  • Slavery was authoritarian.
  • Jim Crow was authoritarian.
  • Paternalism (deeply entrenched in much of American culture) was authoritarianism.

The doctrine of paternalism held that women and all people of color were better off under the dominion of white men.

Prior to the Prior to the 1930s, industry was almost completely unregulated. White men could basically do what they wanted. They could grab! [Click here for a history of rape and sexual harassment laws]

They could take! The frontier meant that taking and grabbing wasn’t for rich men only.

The Ku Klux Klan was authoritarian. Paxton argues that fascism didn’t begin in Italy; it began in America, with the KKK, who even had a kind of uniform and demonized enemy.

Fascism happens when people get uncomfortable with too much democracy. Democracy naturally leads to diversity, which triggers a fascist backlash. The KKK arose from new rights for African Americans.

This photo was taken in New Jersey in 1937:

So many Americans sympathized with Hitler that FDR had to work hard to keep the US allied with England and France.

Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 desegregation case, ushered in a time of rapid change: The Civil Rights, women’s rights, and 1960s upheavals.

By the 1970s—for the first time—America came close to being a true liberal democracy

The backlash started right away.

We’re still riding that backlash.

By the 70s, the NRA was on its way to becoming a radical right wing group

In 1994, Gingrich channelled the growing anger over these changes when he said the GOP mustn’t compromise. The problem is that democracy requires compromise. “Our way or we burn the place down” is authoritarian. McConnell carried out that refusal to compromise.

The Fox-Trump-GOP wants to go back to time when white men had complete “liberty” to take and grab. (And they could exploit the free labor of women. What a deal!)

It’s hard to go backwards. A lot of laws are in their way. So they want to destroy those laws. Tear it all down!

The only way to get back to the 1920s, or 1780s (when America was “great”) is to dismantle the federal government.

When Trump said “all our laws are so stupid and corrupt” he meant all those laws preventing him and his pals from grabbing and taking.

Russia has been courting America’s far right wing for decades, including infiltrating the NRA. If you didn’t know America’s far right wing has long been “looking to Russia with hopeful eyes. . .” click here.

The people who see Russia as the savior of the white race are not going to suddenly say, “OMG! Trump has been accepting help from Russia? What a TRAITOR!” They’ll cheer him for trying to save America. Okay.

Now let’s talk about all that shock and outrage.

 Prof. Timothy Snyder, in this lecture, talks about why people continually feel shocked by Trump.

Prepare for your mind to be blown. Snyder—an expert in European history and fascism—says, among other things, that Trump is a “talented politician.”

He explains that people are constantly shocked by Trump because they bought into a myth. For conservatives, the myth was: Capitalism brings freedom, so more capitalism (fewer regulations) means more freedom. Oops! Instead of freedom, they got Trump.

The liberal myth is: We are on the road to progress. Ironclad rules are in place, and the future will be more like the present, but better (even more inclusive).

History teaches us that all such stories “break.” People who don’t know this are shocked when the story breaks.

Trump broke the story.

Both myths contain the idea that the future is predetermined. It’s natural to shift from, “the future will be more of the same no matter what we do,” to “we’re doomed, no matter what we do.” I’m seeing a lot of “we’re doomed” out there.

But that’s not how things work. The future takes the shape it does because what we do in the present. 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.” (Quotations from Snyder.)

It’s paralyzing.

Raise your hand if you believe if we shout louder about how authoritarian Trump’s behavior is—and if we find a way to put the truth in front of the American people—eventually enough people will see Trump for the dangerous demagogue he is, and he’ll lose support.

I did. [For people not on Twitter: There is a lot of shouting and outrage on Twitter every time Trump does something outrageous.]

“Nixon lost support during the impeachment hearings,” some say.

This isn’t the Nixon era. The Nixon era wasn’t this polarized. Nixon didn’t have Fox, Breitbart, or Infowars. John Dean suggested that if Nixon had Fox, he may have survived.

During the Nixon era, much of the white South was still Democratic. (The shift wasn’t complete until Reagan.) For more on that, click here.

Look at Trump’s approval ratings over the past 2 years. I prefer the 538 aggregate (to avoid focus on outlier polls)

The 538 aggregate is here: For 2+ years, Trump’s approval has hovered around 40%. Let’s not fool ourselves. Much of that 40% sees exactly who and what Trump is. They’ve always been with us. They insisted on a Constitution that allowed slavery.

 They didn’t want women to vote. They hated the 1960s radicals. They cheered Gingrich who said the GOP mustn’t compromise. If Trump stays at 40%, 2020 will be a bloodbath. It’s enough to compensate for cheating. Landslides happens when a candidate wins with 58% (Reagan)

I believe our biggest landslide since 1824 (when these things were recorded) was FDR, who won with 62%. Some say that Graham, McConnell, and others support Trump because they’re compromised. Yes, the GOP hacked their emails, too. But Russia doesn’t need to blackmail allies.

 I suggest they all support Trump because they want to. They like what he stands for. Yes, Graham said this in 2016:

I suggest he just didn’t yet realize Trump could be openly racist and still win.

I’m not saying that impeachment hearings won’t cause Trump’s approval to drop. I am suggesting that it might not be as much as people hope. We’ve been fighting the same fight for 243 years. We’ll win the same way we won in the past: Working for every inch we gain.

 For what I mean by “how we won in the past” see this post on Susan B. Anthony and FDR.

For what you can do, there’s a tab on my blog called “Things to do.” 

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