Wednesday, January 19

Trump has given birth to a dangerous new myth of the ‘Lost Cause’. We must fight it | David blight

TOMexican democracy is in peril and almost everyone paying attention is trying to figure out the best way to put it. Should we, in the intellectual classes, situate our warnings in satire, in Jeremiah, in social scientific data, in historical analogy, in the philosophical wisdom that we extract from so many who have instructed us on the violence and authoritarianism of the century? XX? Or should we just scream after our Christmas naps?

Some of us take our pens and do what we can. We quote wise scribes like George Orwell on how there can be a latent fascist waiting to emerge in all humans, or Hannah Arendt on how democracies are inherently unstable and susceptible to ruin by skillful and aggressive demagogues. We turn to Alexis de Tocqueville for his amazing insights into American individualism, while we love to believe his claims that democracy would create greater equality. And oh! how we love the infinite and fabulously open democratic spirit of Walt Whitman. We inhale Whitman’s verses and are captured by the hypnotic power of democracy. “Oh Democracy, for you, for you I am trilling these songs,” wrote our most exuberant Democrat.

Read enough of the right Whitman and you can come back to believe that American democracy can still be “the indissoluble continent … with the love of lifelong comrades.” But right now we cannot rely solely on the genius of our wise ancestors. We have to face our own mess, fight the fight before us, and prepare for the worst.

Our democracy allows a criminally leaning, twice-accused former president, who publicly fomented a coup attempt against his own government and still operates as the gangster leader of his political party, to peacefully reside among us while under investigation for his misdeeds. We believe in the rule of law and therefore await the verdicts of our judicial system and legislative investigation.

Yet Trumpism was unleashed on January 6, and every day before and over a five-year period, a crusade to slowly poison America’s democratic experiment with a movement to reverse decades of pluralism, greater racial and gender equality. and scientific knowledge. To what end? Establishing a desperate white utopia for the rich and the aggrieved.

On this January 6 anniversary, is it time to sing again with Whitmanian fervor, or is the only rational response to shouting? Scream first.

On January 6, 2021, an American mob, orchestrated by the most powerful man in the country, along with many allies in Congress and the media, nearly destroyed our indirect electoral democracy. To this day, only Trump’s laziness and incompetence can explain why he failed to fire Vice President Mike Pence in the two months leading up to the coup, installed a genuine lackey like Mark Meadows, and established the formal halt to the counting of electoral votes. . The royal coup needed weapons, and the military chiefs thankfully made it clear that they would oppose any attempt to impose martial law. But the coup persists failing; it now takes the form of voter suppression laws, the virulent states’ rights doctrine applied to all manner of legislative action that installs loyal Republicans into the electoral system, and a propaganda machine capable of popularizing big and bad lies. little.

The lies have now infiltrated Trump’s Lost Cause ideology, building its monuments on ridiculous stories that millions believe and codifying them into law to make the upcoming election easier to steal. If you repeat the terms “electoral fraud” and “electoral integrity” enough times in the right networks, you have a move. And “replacement theory” works well alongside a thousand repetitions of “critical race theory,” both without definition or meaning, but both terrifying. Liberals sometimes invite contempt with their devotion to diversity training and their insistence on fighting for words rather than genuine inequality. But it’s time to see the real enemy: a long-brewing American-style neo-fascist authoritarianism, seductively helpful to the grievances of the disaffected, and threatening to steal our microphones midway through our odes to joy.

Yes, misinformation must be fought with good information. But you also have to fight with fierce politics, with organization and, if necessary, with bodies, without violence. We have an increasingly dangerous right-wing population. Who do you know who really wants to commit to their ideas? Who on the left will volunteer to be part of a delegation to go and discuss the fate of democracy with Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, or the Fox News sirens? Who on the right will attend a symposium with 10 of the best writers on democracy, its history, and its philosophy, and help create a plan for American renewal? As a culture, we are not in the mood for such reason and courtesy; we are in a fight and it has to happen in politics. Otherwise, it may be 1861 again in a very new way. Unfortunately, events even more shocking than January 6 are likely to be needed to advance our political culture through and beyond the current crisis.

And when it’s 1861 again, the new secessionists, that is, the Republican party, will have a dysfunctional constitution to exploit. The ridiculously undemocratic US Senate, now 50/50 between the two parties, but where Democrats make up 56.5% of the population and Republicans 43.5%, bodes well for those determined to thwart the majority democracy. And of course the Electoral College, an institution more than two centuries old, and one that even our first demagogue president, Andrew Jackson, advocated for abolition, offers perennial hope to Republicans who may continue to lose popular votes but win. The presidency. as they have in two of the last six elections. Democracy?

And now the song? Well, keep reading. Of all the books on democracy in recent years, one of the best is Can Democracy Work by James Miller. Brief history of a radical idea, from ancient Athens to our world. Miller, a philosopher and political historian, offers an intelligent journey through the turbulent past of this great human experiment on whether we can really rule ourselves. It shows how fine the lines are between success and disaster for democracies, how great victories turn into reactions and great losses, and how the dynamics of even democratic societies can be completely amoral. The new intolerant ruling classes sometimes replace the tyrants they overthrow.

“Democratic riots, like democratic elections,” writes Miller, “can produce perverse results.” History still awaits us. But in the end, through examples like that of Václav Havel in the Czech Republic, Miller reminds us that the “ideal survives.” Democracy requires the “best laws,” Havel intoned, but it must also manifest itself as “human, moral, intellectual, spiritual, and cultural.” Miller makes history to show that democracy is almost always a “riddle, not a recipe.” Democracy is much more difficult to maintain than autocracy. But we must renew it.

Or just read Whitman’s Song of Myself, the 51 pages, from the opening line, “I celebrate and sing to myself,” to his reflections on the luck of just being alive. Read on a few pages later when a “runaway slave” walks into Whitman’s house and the poet looks at his “rolling eyes” and suckles “the gills of his neck and ankles”, and then into his embrace of “primeval”, complete democracy halfway through the song, where he accepts “nothing that not everyone cannot have.” Finally read to the end, where the poet finds a happy oblivion, surrendering “to the earth so that it may grow from the grass that I love.” Whitman’s “sign of democracy” is everywhere and in everything. The democratic and authoritarian instincts are deep within us, forever at war.

After January 6, it’s time to get ready to sing, shout, and fight.

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