I just finished reading the Notes from the Editors in the October Monthly Review (I still subscribe for nostalgia rather than for the need for up to date Marxist analysis). It was about how fascism develops, or neofascism, as the current version is labeled. It wasn’t a compelling analysis, but it was an interesting effort at making sense of what’s happening. There certainly are significant overlaps to 1920s Germany, but with distinctive differences as well.
How does it feel? Just as bizarre as it is for you. For better or worse, we have two good senators and a great representative (the son of lefty anti-war activist Marcus Raskin). That makes it less frustrating than if I felt we had to continually contact them to ask them to do the right thing. There have been lots of regulatory changes, but that often happens in Republican administrations, even if this crowd is so much more hypocritical than predecessors. Then there’s “the swamp” that is supposed to be an enemy for this crowd, but is their natural habitat. Again, it’s the hypocrisy, not the behavior, that is most disturbing compared with the Reagan and Bush administrations.
The attacks on democratic institutions is extremely worrisome and it’s hard to see how this is reversed. Confidence in the press and in democracy itself is clearly eroding quickly. I would be even more worried if our president was more capable of developing an agenda and pursuing it. That’s why I’m not a fan of impeachment (which is irrelevant with a Republican Congress anyway); Pence is capable of pursuing a coherent and scary agenda, without increasing the schisms within the Republican party.
What do we do to change this path? Honestly, I just don’t know. The labor movement should be doing much, much more to communicate with members and the families and friends about what this really means for them, rather than what the rhetoric promises, but that’s not happening. Young people are getting more active and that is critically important. But the insecurity of the new economy leaves everyone in competition for the few decent jobs and the prospects for a rising living standard; most people are left behind and they’re being fed racism and xenophobia as a consolation prize. Until we come up with an economic strategy that forces employers to raise wages as profits soar, many will feel there’s no alternative to trying to hold others back in order to improve their own lives.
Our own lives are relatively isolated from the decay many are experiencing; our kids are doing fine and their kids are wonderful and entertaining. But the downside risks, for every minority, including Jews, are quite real and require engagement to the opposition to what’s going on and the rejection of cynicism. It’s not easy, though.
The 2018 election will be important, but 2020 will be critical, as that is when the next census will be done and the re-drawing of congressional districts will occur in state legislatures. Being more focused on that level of government is mandatory; we’ll see if the Democrats follow through on making it a priority. The congressional races next year will be tough for making change – in the House because of gerrymandered districts and in the Senate because of the number of Democratic seats up for election, some of which are in states won by Trump. It will be a good sign if the Dems pick up a bunch of seats in the House and don’t lose more than a couple in the Senate. At least that’s my off the top of my head sense today.
Well, I can’t be reassuring, but I’m not ready to declare the fight lost either. Keep hope alive. It seems that the comedians, more than the serious news analysts, are making the biggest impact on keeping lots of people from sinking into despair. However, that is a reflection of what you said – that our politics have become a reality show. At least many of the current reality TV personalities are able to demonstrate the hypocrisy and cynicism of the self-proclaimed populists, who are anything but defenders of the public.