In order to determine how we got to where we are with our democratic republic, we need to acknowledge where we are and work our way back from there. Currently, we are in a tenuous and fragile spot, having just experienced, on 1/6/21, a barbarous insurrection against our Capitol and its elected representatives by pro-Trump thugs. It was, arguably, the most serious attack on our way of government in our history, and it has our foreign enemies licking their chops as to how they can take advantage of our cancer from within.
In a few days we will inaugurate our next president, Joe Biden, along with our next vice president, Kamala Harris. A large number of people who voted for Trump still believe the election was fraudulent and that he actually won. However, Biden’s win has been definitively proven in the courts and by election officials, many of whom were Republicans, and elsewhere by reputable media sources. Further violence against our government and the election results has been threatened.
So how did we get to such a dangerous crossroads in our nation’s history? My contention is that Donald Trump has been laying the groundwork for this uprising for many years now. When Barack Obama became president in 2008, Trump stoked the flames of systemic racism by claiming over and over, despite evidence to the contrary, that Obama was not born in this country and therefore was not qualified to be elected president. He knew this was untrue but figured if he repeated the lie ad infinitum that people would start to believe it. Eventually Trump admitted his claims were false but the seed had been planted by then. Latent racism within the population was triggered and a blustery, charismatic spokesman identified.
Republicans in Congress, led by Mitch McConnell, then took over and tried to block Obama’s agenda every step of the way, largely succeeding in road blocking much of his two terms in office. Systemic racism, as a result, continued to fester and ooze and simmer. Attacks on Blacks and Jews increased during this time mostly perpetrated by white supremacist groups and individuals which had been gaining strength and numbers since the early 90’s.
By the time Trump came on the scene in 2015 he quickly surmised who was most vulnerable to his scurrilous attacks. He laid waste to his opponents in the Republican primary via Twitter name-calling, his Hitlerian rallies, and false innuendo and misinformation, a favorite tactic of his. And after his nomination he continued to hammer Barack Obama along with Muslims, Mexicans, and how his planned wall on the southern border would solve the immigration problem. Angry and closet racist voters lapped up his lies and misinformation like a cat does milk. He found a language that spoke to these under the radar voters. He lost the popular vote to Hillary in the general but squeezed past her in the critical Electoral College tally, just barely taking key battleground states.
Trump promised to ride into Washington and drain the swamp of corruption. Instead, he proceeded to become the most corrupt president in our country’s history. He became more and more autocratic and tyrannical by the day. But the economy was fairly strong, along with a low unemployment rate and a strong stock market.
Then a tiny virus interceded and all that changed. The level of lies that started spewing from Trump’s mouth and tweets went up arithmetically. As Covid cases increased along with deaths, businesses were forced to close or limit the numbers of customers. Masks and social distancing were added to preventative measures. Trump would have none of it. Keep business and school open. The virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and would be gone by spring. A miracle would happen, he declared. Or drink bleach, he advised, as his medical advisors behind him winced. That’ll clean out the virus. Deaths began to climb the charts. The numbers are fake, he said. People are dying of other causes, not from the virus. Fake news, he ranted. Open up the businesses again. They did, and the virus took full advantage of the president’s obstinance, denial, ignorance, and evil. More Trump lies puked like projectile regurgitate.
The economy began to tank. Unemployment soared to levels equaling the early days of the Great Depression. So Trump, worried now that such news would affect an election that he considered a sure win, constructed even bigger lies to stanch the effects of the growing pandemic and his tepid and incompetent reaction to it. He began to advance the word that if he did not win the election, it was surely a fake, a fraud, rigged by the Democrats to insure their victory. He had built the greatest economy in the history of the country, he boasted. The virus would be gone shortly, he ranted, and the economy would shoot back up like a missile. It didn’t and…it didn’t.
To top it off, in March, George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, was choked to death by a cop after a routine arrest. Rightful street demonstrations and protests ensued, rising up against police brutality and racial injustice. Systemic racism? Not in our country, Trump cried. He saw this too as an attack against him and his reelection which was in the bag, he thought. He ordered the military to clear the way of peaceful protesters so he could hold up a Bible next to a church for a photo op. But TV images of heavily armed National Guardsmen forcefully evicting Black Lives Matter folks from a square near the church did not go well for Trump. His popularity poll numbers, which he compulsively checked, were heading in the wrong direction, even among evangelicals who didn’t take kindly to Trump using the Bible and the background church as props to impress his base..
So he and his surrogates in Congress and the right wing media pressed the Big Lie with even more vigor and amplitude. Even before election day arrived, he advised his base to not use mail-in ballots, initiated by some states to protect its citizens from the ever expanding pandemic. They’re crooked, he said. Surely, Democrats would stuff the ballot boxes. Only use regular polling places and forsake the mail-in or absentee ballots which he often got confused. He knew Democrats were more likely to vote with mail-in’s so he increased his toxic rhetoric ten-fold, flooding Fox and Twitter with admonitions against the fake election to come…if he didn’t win.
He lost…big time. But Trump would not accept it, and repeated the Big Lie as if it were a cult mantra. That was how he was raised: If you repeat a lie over and over and over, people will eventually believe it or at least have doubts.
His base believes it still, and that base now includes a number of congresspeople in both Houses, extreme right wing media personalities like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, along with a whole passel of barbarians including QAnon adherents, Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and a bunch of other white supremacists who Trump has praised and encouraged and dogwhistled with his incitement to violence as we graphically saw on 1/6/21. A nascent civil war in our democratic republic. Hard to get my head around.
So why are we here? Trump’s base, including all of the above, have bought the Big Lie, and many other of his other lies, hook, line, and sinker. They are essentially a brainwashed base that is distressingly similar to a cult. They are not living in the same house but the same mindset. Trump and his enablers have created an alternative reality and they’ve sold it to a gullible public. They all, Trump included, have their hand in the proverbial monkey trap, wrapped around the food, remaining trapped. All they need to do is open their hand, let go of the food, and presto, they’re free. But they can’t bloody let go.
Let me be clear: Donald Trump is a racist, and many of those who support him are racist as well–white supremacists, QAnon, many Republican congresspeople, and ordinary white citizens who’ve been fed a diet of systemic racist rhetoric from Fox, Trump, and his enablers. With Trump leaving office, this problem, therefore, will not instantly go away. It stems from long standing fear, hatred, housing discrimination, judicial inequality, employment discrimination, and misinformation. It all came to a head in the 1/6/21 uprising, arguably, the most rapacious American event of the 21st century to date.
So how to dig our way out of this hole we find ourselves in? What’s needed is a multileveled, multidimensional approach. For medical emergencies we call an ambulance which takes us to a hospital emergency room. For emergency insurrections as we just saw, we need enough police and national guard intervention to prevent such an uprising again. Without law enforcement and judicial retribution there can be no rational or reasonable debate. As we’ve seen in the days since the riot, police presence has been substantial in D.C. and elsewhere. This has deterred further overt violence, and has been very effective so far. So that is number one in my proposed multilevel dimensional approach.
Next, is a concerted effort to oppose and forcefully reject the Big Lie. This means that the new administration must rebuild trust in our electoral system, the judiciary, the mainstream media, the legislature–every aspect our society that Donald Trump attempted to destroy and defame. Trump was a cancer to our democracy; and cancers are treated with truthful information and forceful treatments that the patient must believe in. Personally, this was true for myself and, despite side effects, led to my remission. If I had doubted the chemo I probably wouldn’t have benefited as much from it.
This means Joe Biden and Kamala Harris need to frequently use their bully pulpits to remind the public that our democracy and the election rules and Constitution that govern it have seen us through over 200 years of ups and downs. There has never been significant election fraud. There have never been stolen elections, regardless of the political party of the people who run the elections in each state. Like green and red traffic lights, everyone follows the rules of the road, and that has been true of our elections over all these years. There has been voter suppression mostly rammed through by the Republican Party, and that is wrong. But through wars, economic crises, social unrest, natural disasters, and political demagogues our system of government has stood the tests and held up quite well. We still have a ways to go with racial equality and justice, but we’ve made progress under our representative democracy. As Winston Churchill once said, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.”
Others too must put out this message that helps reverse the Big Lie; for as with Trump’s tactic of repeating lies, the repetition of the truth also eventually changes public belief and opinion.
Continuing, this new era of political sanity before us must help our people directly and quickly. We have suffered under Trump’s cruel and incompetent hand. Our new president and our representatives in local, state, and federal office must put aside political differences and tackle the pandemic, the economy, unemployment, as FDR tackled the Depression and World War II: with courage, intelligence, fortitude, and cooperation between ourselves and others around the world who are in this boat together. We have great brain power in this country. Use it to reduce our suffering. Whatever is needed, be it compromise, sacrifice, right thought and action, collective prayer, and a strong sense of the commonwealth and what is needed to heal its wounds and advance to our common goals of equality, security, health, happiness, and freedom within the boundaries of common sense laws.
Finally, we need to reverse the distrust Trump created in our hallowed free press. The internet, social media, and cable news have brought with it a hodgepodge of opinion that masquerades as valid news. Our First Amendment is a great and good document but it was not meant to condone and encourage violence, hatred, deceit, and mis-and dis-information. We have a Federal Communication Commission. Perhaps it needs more muscle and moxie to monitor these disperate media sources and make sure they are staying within the guidelines and rules of the road. I am not talking about abusive censorship. I am talking about reporting and labeling news as news and opinion as opinion. This will serve to lead us out of the dangerous abyss of media doubt and distrust we are in–an abyss that can easily pave the psychopathic path to fascism.
In summary, I am optimistic we can find our way out of the wilderness we are in. I’ve been lost a few times in actual wilderness and finding my way out required thinking clearly of my predicament, not panicking, keeping my emotional self as cool as possible, coming up with common sense solutions, being flexible and reasonable, depending on my good brain, and finding the better angels within and around me to return to safety. Obviously, as I write on this Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in the year 2021, I was successful. I think the same will be true for us as we enter a new era of sanity, reasonableness, intelligence, and courage that this renewed and hopeful political environment will bring.
Blessings, good wishes, and good health to you all.