Birth of a nation: Jim Crow Republicans seek to repeat America's dark history

"Birth of a Nation" is one of the most important films in cinematic history. D.W. Griffith's masterwork is considered by many film scholars and critics to be the first "modern" film: Its cinematography, narrative techniques, and technical innovations set the standard for what would come afterward.

There's a lesson here: A work of art can be extremely important, even groundbreaking, while also embodying — and seeking to legitimize — thoroughly reprehensible social and political values.

"Birth of a Nation" is one such example. The film is a white supremacist fantasy, and fable about the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Instead of depicting the truth about how Black people created during Reconstruction "a nation under their feet" by fighting for their freedom, participating in democracy — as elected officials, voters, and organizers — creating civil society organizations and developing government programs that uplifted both Black people and poor whites, "Birth of a Nation" shows Black freedom, multiracial democracy and equality across the color line as something grotesque.

In Griffith's racist fable, Black people are childlike and ignorant, not suitable for self-government and democracy. Black men are animalistic rapists, obsessed with defiling "virtuous" white women, or violent drunks who are elected to government but then act irresponsibly. Infamously, Griffith depicts the Ku Klux Klan -- America's and the world's largest white terrorist organization -- as heroic and valorous. The power and influence of "Birth of a Nation" was so great that it contributed to a national climate in which thousands of Black people were lynched across the United States. It also helped resuscitate the KKK and turn it into a national organization.

In a letter to the president of the NAACP in 1921, scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that "Birth of a Nation" was created "to slander and vilify a race." He considered the movie to be "a public menace … not art, but vicious propaganda." The NAACP would lead protests against the film.

In historical reality, Reconstruction was one of the great experiments in American democracy — until it was sabotaged by white supremacists who worked tirelessly to take away Black people's freedom and impose a new form of slavery.

Woodrow Wilson, one of America's most overtly racist presidents, famously described "Birth of a Nation" as like "writing history with lightning." There was no true history in "Birth of a Nation," but Wilson was correct about the lightning: A hundred years later, "Birth of a Nation's" white fantasies and white lies still carry a type of electrical power and impact across space and time.

The Jim Crow Republicans of 2021 are once again trying to take away Black people's voting rights and civil rights in order to create a new American apartheid. They and their allies are using much the same logic and tactics — and in many cases the same language — as were used from the birth of Jim Crow in the 19th century through to its (temporary) defeat in the 1960s by the civil rights movement and Black Freedom Struggle.

These attacks on multiracial democracy include white supremacist terrorism, as seen during Donald Trump's coup attempt and the lethal attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In the war on Black and brown people's civil and human rights, "Birth of a Nation" now functions as a handbook, as well as a prologue, justification of and insight into the collective mind of the Jim Crow Republican Party and white right.

New polling from CBS/YouGov shows how racist and white supremacist attitudes about Black people's civic responsibility, citizenship, trustworthiness and right to vote are being used to justify Trump's "Big Lie" about the 2020 presidential election and the Republican Party's war on multiracial democracy. In the aggregate, these anti-Black attitudes and sentiments constitute what political scientists and others describe as "modern" or "symbolic racism".

CBS News begins its analysis by noting that most Americans "don't think there was widespread fraud in 2020," but most Republicans still say there was, and perceive "making voting easier" as giving Democrats an unfair advantage:

A closer look at why some still endorse the fraud claim and what specifically Republicans claim happened — despite the absence of actual evidence — shows a strong link to partisan politics. Republicans say fraud predominantly took place in cities and communities that vote Democratic, but much less so in the suburban and rural areas where many Republicans live. They also say it stemmed from mail ballots, which former President Trump long railed against, and which favored Democrats in many places. Meanwhile, most say ballots were counted properly in the states Mr. Trump won.

The CBS analysis continues by noting that those who perceive widespread election fraud "attribute more of it to Black communities" than to predominantly white areas.

Views on voter fraud also differ with regard to how ballots were cast, not just where they were cast. More than three in four of those who believe in widespread fraud attribute a lot of it to ballots cast by mail, a method used disproportionately by voters of color and criticized repeatedly by former President Trump. Among our validated voters in 2020, for instance, voters of color are over 10 points likelier than White voters to have cast their ballot by mail.

These white supremacist fears echo the paranoia felt by many white Americans in earlier centuries about the imaginary threat of "Negro domination."

The CBS/YouGov poll also fits within a much larger context of white racism, racial animus, racial resentment and racial authoritarianism, all of which drive support for the white supremacist agenda of the current Republican Party, and for Trump and his neofascist movement more specifically.

Social scientists and others have shown that hostility toward nonwhites is a key determinant of support for Trump. Republicans are also more likely to be racist and hold other anti-Black and anti-brown sentiments than are Democrats. Fueled by hostility to the civil rights movement and other societal changes that attempted to give equal rights to Black and brown people, the Republican Party has now fully embraced white supremacy and white identity politics as its dominant strategy for winning and keeping power.

On these connections between the past and present, Jamelle Bouie explained in his New York Times column that the infamous Jim Crow laws which disenfranchised Black people in the South never specifically said they were doing that:

I raise this because of a debate among politicians and partisans on whether Georgia's new election law — rushed through last month by the state's Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican — is a throwback to the Jim Crow restrictions of the 20th century.
Democrats say yes. "This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end," President Biden said in a statement. Republicans and conservative media personalities say no. "You know what voter suppression is?" Ben Shapiro said on his very popular podcast. "Voter suppression is when you don't get to vote."
The problem with the "no" argument here is that it mistakes both the nature and the operation of Jim Crow voting laws. There was no statute that said, "Black people cannot vote." Instead, Southern lawmakers spun a web of restrictions and regulations meant to catch most Blacks (as well as many whites) and keep them out of the electorate.
One of the lessons of the South after Reconstruction is that democratic life can flourish and then erode, expand and then contract. Democracy is not a solid state, and we should be wary of politicians who would undermine any part of it for partisan advantage.
It took three decades of struggle, and violence, before Southern elites could reclaim dominance over Southern politics. No particular restriction was decisive. The process was halting, contingent and contested, consolidating in different places at different times. It was only when the final pieces fell into place that the full picture of what took place was clear.
Put a little differently, the thing about Jim Crow is that it wasn't "Jim Crow" until, one day, it was.

Today's Republican Party, with its "Birth of a Nation" fantasies, represent a collective effort to whitewash Black America's history of resistance to white supremacy and American neofascism. In the Age of Trump and beyond, the worst parts of America's past have been reimagined as something ideal and aspirational.

In his 1905 book "The Aftermath of Slavery," William Sinclair wrote:

Here is the kernel of a great truth. The white people of the South have voted persistently and solidly against every measure of great national benefit for forty years. The colored people have voted as persistently and as solidly, wherever permitted to do so, in favor of such measures; so that while the white vote of the South has been inimical to the great interests of the country, these have been saved by the colored vote.
Thus the colored vote has proved a veritable godsend to the nation. Without this vote the most important and fruitful national policies would have been impossible of inauguration. The negro vote is a failure only when it is suppressed by the intimidation, fraud, and shot-guns of the whites.

As the Jim Crow Republicans and the white right continue their assault on American democracy, Sinclair's words offer both caution and inspiration.

In a recent interview with Salon, historian Annette Gordon-Reed explained:

African Americans have from the very beginning been the people who tried to make the promise of America real. They believed in the words of the Declaration of Independence. African Americans have tried to uphold those words, in the face of other people who did not seem to take those words and the values as seriously as they did. African Americans have long tried to uphold the values of the Declaration and the notion of equality in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which brought Black people into citizenship and represent the idea that people should be treated as equal citizens. Yet there are people right now here in the United States who do not take those parts of the Constitution seriously. They are imagined as "true" Americans, and are given the benefit of the doubt when, for example, they attack the Capitol building.

If the American people as a group had listened to Black folks' warnings — and in particular Black women's warnings — about the danger represented by Donald Trump, he would never have been elected president in the first place. If the mainstream news media and other prominent public voices had listened to Black and brown folks' warnings about ascendant fascism and white supremacy, the Jan. 6 coup attempt and lethal attack on the Capitol would not have taken place.

Black and brown folks are now trying to warn the Democrats and Joe Biden that American democracy has been imperiled to such an extreme that the 2022 midterms may be the last "free and fair elections" in the United States — and even that is an optimistic prediction.

Black people are demanding the "urgency of now" to save the country's democracy. Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's leadership have instead chosen to celebrate "infrastructure" and "bipartisanship" while refusing to end the filibuster.

If America had listened to Black people's wisdom and warnings across the centuries, it would be a safer, more secure, more prosperous and more free nation today. America's future depends on heeding that wisdom now. There is no time to lose.

Trump is mentally deteriorating -- and his 'sadistic' rhetoric has hit a dangerous new level: psychiatrist

On Jan. 6, Donald Trump attempted a coup to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Thousands of his followers attacked the U.S. Capitol with the goal of preventing the certification of the Electoral College votes, a ceremonial procedure that would formally make Joe Biden the next president of the United States.

Five people died as a result of the Capitol attack. Capitol Police and other law enforcement fought bravely before being overrun by Trump's cult members, political goons and right-wing street thugs and paramilitaries. If not for the valiant efforts of those officers that day, the halls Congress could have been turned into a bloodbath. Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others deemed by Trump and his followers to be traitors could easily have been murdered.

Trump's attack force made no attempt to hide their faces. They carried white supremacist flags and other regalia. They assembled a gallows in the park across the street from the Capitol. They carried a Christian nationalist cross and participated in group prayers before attacking the Capitol. The MAGA flag was viewed as a substitute for the American flag, if not as something superior. These terrorists believed themselves to be "patriots" who were defending the "real America" and of course the man they viewed as its true leader.

As we saw that day, fascist movements claim a special love for the police and military but will eagerly purge them for acts of "disloyalty" to the cause.

Only 543 or so members of Trump's attack force have been arrested by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies so far. Most will not be charged with serious crimes, and very few will face felony charges that could result in substantial prison time. The coup plotters and enablers — most notably Donald Trump and Republican members of Congress — will likely never be arrested or otherwise held properly accountable.

On Tuesday, the House select committee held its first hearings on the events of Jan. 6. Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Officer Michael Fanone, Officer Daniel Hodges and Sgt. Harry Dunn shared their experiences of fighting to defend the Capitol from Trump's attack force.

They told the committee and public how they were attacked and beaten by rioters. They were clubbed, tased, crushed, blinded with pepper spray and other irritants, verbally abused (in Dunn's case, with racial slurs) and forced to confront the fear of death, overwhelmed and alone. The unifying theme in their testimony was that various kinds of fanaticism and rage, fueled by white supremacy, conspiracy theory, religious fundamentalism and cultlike devotion to Donald Trump propelled his attack force forward.

Despite the heroism of those officers and others, the coup continues. Jan. 6 was but one stop in a journey by Trump supporters, the Jim Crow Republicans, and the larger neofascist movement aimed at overthrowing multiracial democracy.

Donald Trump himself spoke at a rally in Phoenix on Saturday. He continued to threaten political violence against the Democrats and others who "stole" the 2020 election from him and his followers. The "Big Lie" was reinforced with a new conspiracy theory about "routers." Trump channeled numerous tropes of white victimology; his thousands of devoted followers basked in their collective sociopathy. The rally was clearly invigorating for Trump's broken and alienated followers, if only for a few hours. Such is Trump's power over his cult following, for whom he acts as a human intoxicant.

The mainstream media largely chose to treat Trump's rally in Phoenix as a sideshow not worthy of extensive coverage. This reflects a logic where if Trump and his neofascist movement are ignored, the danger to the country will go away. It will not. In hopes of better understanding Donald Trump's escalating threat to American democracy and the growing power of his fascist cult and movement, I asked several experts from a range of backgrounds for their thoughts on his speech in Phoenix.

Jennifer Mercieca is a professor of communication at Texas A&M, and the author of "Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump."

Former President Donald Trump is America's first "pretender to the presidency." We've never had a president claim to be president when he is not. We've never had a former president insist that he won the election when he did not. His speech in Arizona was for his partisans only, it wasn't meant to persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with his view of reality. It was awash in conspiracy theories. Trump's main message is "politics is war and the enemy cheats." That claim informs Trump's whole view of politics, including his election conspiracy claims. Trump's "pretender to the presidency" speech was dangerously anti-democratic.

Norm Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a columnist and contributing editor for The Atlantic and co-author (with E.J. Dionne Jr. and Thomas E. Mann) of "One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported."

Donald Trump has tried to overturn a legitimate presidential election ever since last November. He incited a violent and deadly insurrection at the Capitol. He has lied every day, and is a traitor to his own country. Trump's speech in Arizona took the next step by trying to get the state's Republicans to decertify their 2020 election results, another step to undermine our system and divide us further. And of course, Trump is thoroughly corrupt. He does not belong in civil society.

Federico Finchelstein is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research, and the author of several books including "A Brief History of Fascist Lies." His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and the Guardian.

The Arizona speech made clear that Trump desires to be a fascist. He represents a return to the key elements of fascism: a style and substance steeped in political violence, a leader's cult, dictatorial aims and practices (remember the coup), a politics of hatred, religious fanaticism, militarization of politics, denial of science and totalitarian propaganda. Trump lies like a fascist. Fascists believe their lies and try to transform reality to resemble their lies. This is what Trump expected of his public in Arizona.

Dr. David Reiss is a psychiatrist, expert in mental fitness evaluations and contributor to "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump."

People are expressing the opinion that Donald Trump is deteriorating, be it emotionally and/or cognitively. I have not evaluated him, so I have neither a clinical baseline nor an acute clinical opinion. But I know what I see and what I hear. This all leads me to one conclusion: As a person and regarding any possible "diagnoses," Trump is mostly unchanged. Unhappier? Almost certainly. Angrier? Without a doubt. He also appears to be vengeful, vindictive and sadistic to a dangerous level. What is new about that?

Trump has always relied on inventing reality extemporaneously to fit his mood and to connect with his audience. He has always had an expertise in that area, such that by now it comes naturally and without planning. He has always been very "strategic" in the moment — but not much further down the road than a few minutes into the future.

CNN recently featured a headline that read "This is the most unhinged Trump rant about the 2020 election yet." Trump is lying more, but Trump is not "more unhinged." Trump has always responded to being uncomfortable with reality by inventing his own reality to meet his needs. He is more uncomfortable with objective reality since Nov. 4, so of course he is increasingly inventing different "realities" that are even less grounded in reason and reality than the ones previously.

Jean Guerrero is an investigative reporter and author of "Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda." Her writing and other work has been featured by the New York Times, PBS and NPR. She is currently an opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Times.

Trump's speech was pure gasoline on the flames of white extremism. While much of it sounded like incomprehensible and presumably improvised gibberish, the speech also included the trademark pseudo-intellectualism of his former speechwriter Stephen Miller, with the latter's mastery of white supremacist talking points.

The most disturbing element was Trump's calculated and deliberately vague promise that Democrats plan to "get rid of" certain people, dog-whistling a meme that has been spreading on far-right social media called "Ten Stages of Genocide," which implies that liberals are plotting to exterminate Trump supporters. Trump began his presidency persecuting Mexicans, Muslims and Central Americans while conjuring false visions of their violence to justify that persecution, then expanded to target Black Lives Matter protesters and anti-fascists with the same strategy. Trump is now making it clear that if he returns to office he will be going after all liberals and encouraging his supporters to do the same.

He is inciting political persecution against his critics by promoting delusions of persecution among his armed, white supremacist, violence-loving base. It can be tempting to write off white grievance politics as a joke, but as Trump's own DHS acknowledged, it remains among the top threats to homeland security, as embodied in conspiracy theories about white genocide that Trump is openly embracing.

Trump's claim that "woke politics takes the life and joy out of everything" speaks to the fact that his happiness appears to hinge on the ability to freely scapegoat and persecute others without accountability. We can't be complacent about the threat that Donald Trump continues to represent to democracy and the American people's collective grip on reality.

Jason Stanley is a professor of philosophy at Yale University, and author of "How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them" and "How Propaganda Works."

Trump's speech in Arizona brilliantly structured the themes in American politics that are gradually coming into greater clarity as a fascist social and political movement centering on Trump as leader. In fascist ideology, communists are supposedly seeking to destroy the nation by opening the borders to immigrants who will dilute the majority population and give power to ethnic and sexual minorities (currently, transgender persons are the most vilified by the far right worldwide, and Trump's speech was no exception). Fascism requires minorities to vilify to create panic and fear among the dominant majority. The fascist leader represents himself as the nation's savior and only hope against these threats. In the case of the United States, fascist ideology has always taken the form of exaggerating threats to the dominant white Christian population. The fascist leader presents the options as total loyalty to him or subservience to the communist agenda. All of these fascist themes were front and center in Trump's speech.

The Democrats are supposedly controlled by communists and are letting crime and nonwhite immigration run rampant. Cities run by Democrats, such as New York and Chicago, are "worse than any war zone in the world"; "it's a crime wave the likes of which we've never seen before." The Biden administration is controlled by "the extreme left" and nepotistic and corrupt. Immigration is supposedly out of control. The themes of white supremacy are front and center here ("they're coming in from Yemen. They're coming in from all over the Middle East. They're coming in from Haiti. Large numbers are coming in from Haiti. They're coming in from all parts of Africa."). The communists with their "critical race theory" are threatening our children at their most vulnerable, in schools. And most of all, of course, there was fascist projection — the "big lie" was not that the election was stolen, it was that the election was fair.

In reality, of course, the election was fair. New York City in July had one of its lowest homicide rates in history. Violent crime is not sharply up, and certainly not high given historical trends. None of this is relevant in Trump's world, where loyalty to his version of reality is the only possible way of expressing American patriotism. This is fascism in its pure ideological form.

A former Republican calls this 'the most dangerous moment in this nation's history'

Thousands of members of the Trump cult waited outside for hours in the summer heat of Phoenix on Saturday, before gaining entrance to a Turning Point USA event where their personal god and savior appeared as part of his 2021 revenge tour. It was a political rally, a gospel revival, a rock concert, a carnival and a family reunion all in one.

As a show of loyalty to the Trump death cult, most of the attendees refused to wear masks to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus pandemic and its new, even more contagious delta variant. The Trumpists even went so far as to heckle the news media with chants of "No masks!"

These are the people recently described in a recent Washington Post essay by Michael Bender, who has spent considerable time among Trump's most diehard followers:

They were mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer. ...
In Trump, they'd found someone whose endless thirst for a fight encouraged them to speak up for themselves, not just in politics but also in relationships and at work. His rallies turned arenas into modern-day tent revivals, where the preacher and the parishioners engaged in an adrenaline-fueled psychic cleansing brought on by chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded loyalists.

Trump and his neofascist movement inspires such extreme loyalty that his followers are willing to kill or die for him. No one feels that way about Joe Biden and the Democrats.

During his speech in Phoenix, Trump played his familiar roles: bully, mob boss, preacher, public menace, demagogue in waiting and former president who expects to be returned to power by any means necessary. As Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly warned in the weeks after Trump's defeat last November, Trump has channeled the energy and grandiose false claims that propelled Adolf Hitler to power in Germany.

On Saturday night, Donald Trump captivated his audience with a truly Orwellian performance. The event was officially titled, "Rally to Protect Our Elections." But of course the 2020 presidential election only required "protection" from Trump and his allies — protection against voter suppression, widespread lies and subterfuge, an attempted coup against the certification of electoral votes and other attempts to undermine democracy and subvert the people's will.

Trump repeatedly claimed that his "patriotic" movement had been betrayed by the Democrats, President Biden, the news media, social media platforms and other assorted "enemies." He made masterful use of doublespeak, saying, "I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy — I am the one trying to save American democracy."

He even added a new wrinkle to the Big Lie narrative, claiming that votes were supposedly rigged, stolen and otherwise manipulated in Biden's favor — and the truth is to be found in "the routers," the sort of technical-sounding detail that is actually nonsense. Adding new details to a conspiracy theory is an effective way of keeping one's audience engaged, ensuring that the conspiratorial mind finds new channels to follow and new mysteries to be solved.

Trump ramped up his vague threats of political violence, mixing the unsettling and the absurd in vintage style:

  • "Like it or not, we are becoming a communist country. That's what's happening, that's what's happening. We are beyond socialism."
  • "The survival of our nation depends on holding these responsible. ... We have to hold those that are responsible for the 2020 presidential elections scam. It was a scam, greatest crime in history, and we have to hold these people accountable."
  • "These people are crazy. Whatever happened to cows, remember they were going to get rid of all the cows? They stopped that, people didn't like that. Remember? You know why they were going to get rid of all the cows? People will be next."
  • "The Biden administration's action is an outrageous insult to the American people and to our country. The United States of America is the most just and virtuous nation in the world in the history of the world. And I'll tell you, you're not going to have a country very much longer. You're not going to have a country."
  • "Our country is being destroyed by people who have no right to destroy it. People that won an election illegally. People that should not have been elected. They lost in a landslide. Joe Biden and the radical Democrats are wrecking our nation. I don't even believe it's him. I honestly don't believe. I don't think Joe knows where the hell he is. I don't think it's him. Crime is surging. Inflation is soaring. The border is gone. We went from the strongest border ever to the weakest border ever. The border is non-existent. Illegal aliens are pouring in, in record numbers. Critical race theory is being forced into every facet of our society. Free speech is being crushed."

In all, Trump's Phoenix rally was a celebration of lies, white victimology, paranoia and threatened acts of "patriotic" revenge and political violence. Such threats or possibilities are a key attribute of fascism, which proposes scorched-earth tactics to destroy the old social order and create a new one in the image of the leader and the followers.

How did the public respond to Trump's Phoenix rally? The same public voices who have been sounding the red alert about Trump's neofascist movement and its escalating threat to democracy continued to do so. In most important ways, the events of Jan. 6 were just a trial run or harbinger for worse political violence in months and years ahead.

It seems conceivable that the 2022 midterms may be the last "free and fair" national elections in the United States — and given the Jim Crow Republicans' accelerating war on multiracial democracy, that prediction is generous.

Too many voices in the media continue to downplay the dangers to democracy represented by Donald Trump, his movement and the Republican Party. When voices in the mainstream media do speak out, they often lack credibility because they were so late to face the truth about the Trump movement. They may express alarm now, but it's not clear that has much if any impact on public consciousness.

The house has been on fire for several years and now the professional smart people and others with a prominent public platform are finally screaming for help. It is far too late for such belated sounds of alarm to have a real impact on the public's consciousness.

Liberal schadenfreude was in full bloom on social media, which saw a torrent of mockery directed at Trump and his followers, often describing them as ignorant rubes or losers. But laughter will not save America from Trumpism.

In a recent conversation with Salon, physician and psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank, author of "Trump on the Couch," described this kind of laughter in the face of Trumpism as "unhealthy humor" and "defensive in nature."

It's defending against anxiety and fear. Specifically, it is a defensive use of contempt. Through it, people can demean and insult Donald Trump, which in turn means they don't have to be afraid of him. One of the ways a person can express contempt is through laughter. Thus it is a denial of one's vulnerability, because contempt means the other person is harmless, therefore he or she cannot hurt you. In that way, Trump is made into a pathetic fool. "If I laugh, it's not going to hurt me."
Ultimately, defensive contempt is a way of dismissing Trump's dangerousness. However, that type of contempt toward Trump is really an attack on reality. It is also an attack on one's own perception because you have actually undermined your own ability to understand just how dangerous Donald Trump is.

Six years into the Age of Trump, the American people cannot claim ignorance of Trump and his movement. They have been warned repeatedly. They have witnessed the consequences. On Twitter, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt offered these observations after Trump's Phoenix rally:

Ignoring Trump is not an option. Looking away is not an option. Trump is the 2024 presumptive nominee of the GOP. His insanity, conspiracy theories, rage, grievance and lying are dangerous. His words tonight teemed with menace and intimations of violence. Yet, he remains unchallenged except @Liz_Cheney and @RepKinzinger will defy him. He is in complete and total command of the Republican Party and he is waging war on the idea of American democracy. We are at the most dangerous moment in this nations history since the Civil War. Trump is unstable, unfit and addled yet he could be the 47th President. If that happens, we lose the country. We lose our democracy.

Famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein told CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday that Trump exhibits "a kind of delusional madness — such as Gen. Milley was talking about — that's on a scale and a scope that we have never experienced in an American president in our history. I think we need to calmly step back and maybe look at Trump in a different context. He is our own American war criminal, of a kind we've never experienced before."

All Donald Trump has to do to command more political violence is to tell his followers the place, date and time. Can anyone doubt they would eagerly follow his orders? The rest of the American people would be shocked. The mainstream news media would tell readers and viewers that this was "unprecedented" and "unimaginable" and that no one could have imagined such a thing in America. Democratic leadership would bray on about "bipartisanship," "democratic institutions," "norms" and "rules." Such reactions are a choice, born of willful ignorance and learned helplessness — a choice that may well doom American democracy.

Donald Trump rallies the troops in Phoenix: Unfortunately, that's not a metaphor

Thousands of members of the Trump cult waited outside for hours in the summer heat of Phoenix on Saturday, before gaining entrance to a Turning Point USA event where their personal god and savior appeared as part of his 2021 revenge tour. It was a political rally, a gospel revival, a rock concert, a carnival and a family reunion all in one.

As a show of loyalty to the Trump death cult, most of the attendees refused to wear masks to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus pandemic and its new, even more contagious delta variant. The Trumpists even went so far as to heckle the news media with chants of "No masks!"

These are the people recently described in a recent Washington Post essay by Michael Bender, who has spent considerable time among Trump's most diehard followers:

They were mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer. ...
In Trump, they'd found someone whose endless thirst for a fight encouraged them to speak up for themselves, not just in politics but also in relationships and at work. His rallies turned arenas into modern-day tent revivals, where the preacher and the parishioners engaged in an adrenaline-fueled psychic cleansing brought on by chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded loyalists.

Trump and his neofascist movement inspires such extreme loyalty that his followers are willing to kill or die for him. No one feels that way about Joe Biden and the Democrats.

During his speech in Phoenix, Trump played his familiar roles: bully, mob boss, preacher, public menace, demagogue in waiting and former president who expects to be returned to power by any means necessary. As Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly warned in the weeks after Trump's defeat last November, Trump has channeled the energy and grandiose false claims that propelled Adolf Hitler to power in Germany.

On Saturday night, Donald Trump captivated his audience with a truly Orwellian performance. The event was officially titled, "Rally to Protect Our Elections." But of course the 2020 presidential election only required "protection" from Trump and his allies — protection against voter suppression, widespread lies and subterfuge, an attempted coup against the certification of electoral votes and other attempts to undermine democracy and subvert the people's will.

Trump repeatedly claimed that his "patriotic" movement had been betrayed by the Democrats, President Biden, the news media, social media platforms and other assorted "enemies." He made masterful use of doublespeak, saying, "I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy — I am the one trying to save American democracy."

He even added a new wrinkle to the Big Lie narrative, claiming that votes were supposedly rigged, stolen and otherwise manipulated in Biden's favor — and the truth is to be found in "the routers," the sort of technical-sounding detail that is actually nonsense. Adding new details to a conspiracy theory is an effective way of keeping one's audience engaged, ensuring that the conspiratorial mind finds new channels to follow and new mysteries to be solved.

Trump ramped up his vague threats of political violence, mixing the unsettling and the absurd in vintage style:

  • "Like it or not, we are becoming a communist country. That's what's happening, that's what's happening. We are beyond socialism."
  • "The survival of our nation depends on holding these responsible. ... We have to hold those that are responsible for the 2020 presidential elections scam. It was a scam, greatest crime in history, and we have to hold these people accountable."
  • "These people are crazy. Whatever happened to cows, remember they were going to get rid of all the cows? They stopped that, people didn't like that. Remember? You know why they were going to get rid of all the cows? People will be next."
  • "The Biden administration's action is an outrageous insult to the American people and to our country. The United States of America is the most just and virtuous nation in the world in the history of the world. And I'll tell you, you're not going to have a country very much longer. You're not going to have a country."
  • "Our country is being destroyed by people who have no right to destroy it. People that won an election illegally. People that should not have been elected. They lost in a landslide. Joe Biden and the radical Democrats are wrecking our nation. I don't even believe it's him. I honestly don't believe. I don't think Joe knows where the hell he is. I don't think it's him. Crime is surging. Inflation is soaring. The border is gone. We went from the strongest border ever to the weakest border ever. The border is non-existent. Illegal aliens are pouring in, in record numbers. Critical race theory is being forced into every facet of our society. Free speech is being crushed."

In all, Trump's Phoenix rally was a celebration of lies, white victimology, paranoia and threatened acts of "patriotic" revenge and political violence. Such threats or possibilities are a key attribute of fascism, which proposes scorched-earth tactics to destroy the old social order and create a new one in the image of the leader and the followers.

How did the public respond to Trump's Phoenix rally? The same public voices who have been sounding the red alert about Trump's neofascist movement and its escalating threat to democracy continued to do so. In most important ways, the events of Jan. 6 were just a trial run or harbinger for worse political violence in months and years ahead.

It seems conceivable that the 2022 midterms may be the last "free and fair" national elections in the United States — and given the Jim Crow Republicans' accelerating war on multiracial democracy, that prediction is generous.

Too many voices in the media continue to downplay the dangers to democracy represented by Donald Trump, his movement and the Republican Party. When voices in the mainstream media do speak out, they often lack credibility because they were so late to face the truth about the Trump movement. They may express alarm now, but it's not clear that has much if any impact on public consciousness.

The house has been on fire for several years and now the professional smart people and others with a prominent public platform are finally screaming for help. It is far too late for such belated sounds of alarm to have a real impact on the public's consciousness.

Liberal schadenfreude was in full bloom on social media, which saw a torrent of mockery directed at Trump and his followers, often describing them as ignorant rubes or losers. But laughter will not save America from Trumpism.

In a recent conversation with Salon, physician and psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank, author of "Trump on the Couch," described this kind of laughter in the face of Trumpism as "unhealthy humor" and "defensive in nature."

It's defending against anxiety and fear. Specifically, it is a defensive use of contempt. Through it, people can demean and insult Donald Trump, which in turn means they don't have to be afraid of him. One of the ways a person can express contempt is through laughter. Thus it is a denial of one's vulnerability, because contempt means the other person is harmless, therefore he or she cannot hurt you. In that way, Trump is made into a pathetic fool. "If I laugh, it's not going to hurt me."
Ultimately, defensive contempt is a way of dismissing Trump's dangerousness. However, that type of contempt toward Trump is really an attack on reality. It is also an attack on one's own perception because you have actually undermined your own ability to understand just how dangerous Donald Trump is.

Six years into the Age of Trump, the American people cannot claim ignorance of Trump and his movement. They have been warned repeatedly. They have witnessed the consequences. On Twitter, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt offered these observations after Trump's Phoenix rally:

Ignoring Trump is not an option. Looking away is not an option. Trump is the 2024 presumptive nominee of the GOP. His insanity, conspiracy theories, rage, grievance and lying are dangerous. His words tonight teemed with menace and intimations of violence. Yet, he remains unchallenged except @Liz_Cheney and @RepKinzinger will defy him. He is in complete and total command of the Republican Party and he is waging war on the idea of American democracy. We are at the most dangerous moment in this nations history since the Civil War. Trump is unstable, unfit and addled yet he could be the 47th President. If that happens, we lose the country. We lose our democracy.

Famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein told CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday that Trump exhibits "a kind of delusional madness — such as Gen. Milley was talking about — that's on a scale and a scope that we have never experienced in an American president in our history. I think we need to calmly step back and maybe look at Trump in a different context. He is our own American war criminal, of a kind we've never experienced before."

All Donald Trump has to do to command more political violence is to tell his followers the place, date and time. Can anyone doubt they would eagerly follow his orders? The rest of the American people would be shocked. The mainstream news media would tell readers and viewers that this was "unprecedented" and "unimaginable" and that no one could have imagined such a thing in America. Democratic leadership would bray on about "bipartisanship," "democratic institutions," "norms" and "rules." Such reactions are a choice, born of willful ignorance and learned helplessness — a choice that may well doom American democracy.

No, the rich aren't like the rest of us: The secret worlds of wealth

Last Tuesday, Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, soared into space in a rocket many observers compared to a penis. A week or so before that, Richard Branson also blasted himself to the edge of space in a "spaceplane" designed by his company, Virgin Galactic.

After his history-making feat, Jeff Bezos gave $100 million to CNN commentator Van Jones, and another $100 million to chef José Andrés, who has dedicated himself to providing free meals to frontline workers and others in need during the pandemic. They were asked by Bezos to use the money for charitable purposes. This beneficence was a type of "apology" for his grotesque act of hubris and ego: he and most others of his class have no sincere sense of social obligation.

In so many ways these billionaires and their space adventures, during a time of human misery and rising neofascism in America and the world, is like bad science fiction turned to life. It is as if Paul Verhoeven, Mike Judge and Roger Corman collaborated on a film and then found a way to replace reality as we once understood it with their elaborate simulation.

Bezos and Branson's antics are further evidence that America is a plutocratic pathocracy that is cannibalizing itself. In this new Gilded Age, millionaires and billionaires have enriched themselves through a political and economic system in which social parasitism and social Darwinism rule largely uncontested.

In this new world — that in many ways is an old world, with echoes of feudalism and debt peonage — neoliberalism means "socialism" for the rich and "free markets" for everyone else. Even worse, the poor, working classes and middle class directly subsidize the wealth and greed of the very rich, because the latter largely do not pay federal and state taxes.

With the billions of dollars Bezos and Branson collectively spent on their rocket rides to space, they could instead have chosen to provide vaccines for the poor around the world, rid the human race of a deadly disease, help uplift the poor and other vulnerable people worldwide, create a project to address the global climate emergency, or done other good works that would have simultaneously soothed their egos and desperate need for attention while also helping others.

With the money spent on his rocket ride and his gifts to Jones and Andrés, Bezos could have instead chosen to provide a true living wage for his employees (the very people who helped him to obtain his vast wealth) or given each of them a substantial cash bonus.

As seen with the Biden administration's new Child Tax Credit it does not take large sums of money to substantially improve the life chances of poor and working-class people in America. Bezos and Branson could easily choose to do the same.

In response to these billionaire space flights, Deepak Xavier, who heads Oxfam International's global inequality campaign, said this:

We've now reached stratospheric inequality. Billionaires burning into space, away from a world of pandemic, climate change and starvation. 11 people are likely now dying of hunger each minute while Bezos prepares for an 11-minute personal space flight. This is human folly, not human achievement.
The ultra-rich are being propped up by unfair tax systems and pitiful labor protections. US billionaires got around $1.8 trillion richer since the beginning of the pandemic and nine new billionaires were created by Big Pharma's monopoly on the COVID-19 vaccines. Bezos pays next to no US income tax but can spend $7.5 billion on his own aerospace adventure. Bezos' fortune has almost doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. He could afford to pay for everyone on Earth to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and still be richer than he was when the pandemic began.
Billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes for our hospitals, schools, roads and social care, too. Governments must adopt a much stronger global minimum tax on multinational corporations and look at new revenues. A wealth tax, for example of just 3 percent, would generate $6 billion a year from Bezos' $200 billion fortune alone ― a sixth of what the US spends on foreign aid. A COVID-19 profits tax on Amazon would yield $11 billion, enough to vaccinate nearly 600 million people.
What we need is a fair tax system that allows more investment into ending hunger and poverty, into education and healthcare, and into saving the planet from the growing climate crisis ―rather than leaving it.


Bezos and Branson command such vast financial resources and power that they can engage in acts of global spectacle for their own ego gratification. Why are the super-wealthy flying off to space? For reasons of personal glory, or perhaps out of collective narcissism and greed, and perhaps to flee a ruined planet — or just because they can.

In the final analysis we may all share planet Earth, but the very rich live in their own reality. Michael Mechanic, a senior editor at Mother Jones, knows this well. His new book "Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live — and How Their Wealth Harms Us All" explores that private and exclusive world.

In this conversation, Mechanic explains what the wealthy and super-rich understand about money that other people do not. He shares how the lives of the wealthy and super-rich are indeed very much outside the lived experiences and reality of all other human beings. Mechanic also explains how the wealthy engage in sociopathic or antisocial behaviors, while suffering few consequences — other than their own rootlessness and unhappiness. He warns that no society with such extreme levels of wealth and income inequality is stable and that a healthy democracy needs a more balanced economy with a flourishing middle class.

This conversation has been edited, as usual, for length and clarity.

As the saying goes, there's a class war in America and the rich won. Why don't we see any mass resistance or pressure to change this unjust system?

This can partly be explained by an American ethos which emphasizes the myth of upward mobility. So many Americans actually believe, "We can be in the mansion someday, and when we get there, we don't want to be taxed too much." This pervasive wealth fantasy exists much more in America than in other countries. As compared to Europeans, for example, Americans are overly optimistic about the prospects for upward mobility. American politicians are constantly telling these rags-to-riches stories as well. Such stories ignore the structural realities of American society and the fact that upward mobility is more mythical than real. Family circumstances are the biggest predictor of a person's own economic circumstances, unfortunately.

What does the average American not understand about the very rich? What is their world like?

Here is one example. White men have much greater access to a network of people in the worlds of finance, venture capital and other lucrative industries that they can rely upon when they need a step up. If you have a friend who works in finance, you can use that relationship to get funding for your business. Even to get in the room with a venture capitalist you usually need to have a friend or other contact to arrange it. If you don't have access to that network, you are at an extreme disadvantage. Most women, in general, do not have such financial networks. Black people in America tend not to have access to those networks either. If you are a working-class Black person looking for funding for a company, good luck — whereas if you come from a wealthy white family, your dad likely knows somebody who can get you that access.

Wealth is intergenerational. There are many among the rich who actually believe that they "earned" their money through "hard work" as opposed to family money, luck and access to other resources. Donald Trump is one of the most notable examples: he received millions of dollars from his father yet brags about being a "self-made" man who got a "small loan" to start his business. Do the wealthy really believe such things?

It varies. Donald Trump is the least self-aware person on earth. He probably believes these myths about self-reliance and that he did it himself. I believe there are wealthy people who appreciate how lucky they are. When you come from a wealthy family it is easy to downplay all of the structural and institutional factors which helped you and your family and that hurt others in terms of accruing intergenerational wealth.

What is the average day like for one of the super-rich?

There are many different types of the super-rich. There are those people that don't work, who are just socialites and go around to events and so forth. There are people who are in industry and are workaholics. But either way, people tend to travel a great deal. They have massive social calendars and many things of that nature to plan. Super-rich families actually have something called a "family office." This is a private company that handles all their personal affairs and investments, and manages all the properties and household employees, and pays the bills. But mainly, the purpose of the family office is to make you richer and to protect your wealth. The family office also helps them to avoid taxes by whatever means necessary. These family offices just perpetuate a dynastic system.

What is it like to live a life without fears or worries about not having enough money?

Many of the super-rich still care about money a great deal, even though they have a ton of it. They don't need more of it, but they use money as a scorecard for their success. It becomes a big game, a competition when you can buy anything you want and have anything you want. That is a quite surreal experience. It is spending money on stupid things. It creates a mindset of "I don't care about money, I don't need it, I can just do what I want." I believe this hurts the children of the wealthy even more because it allows them to flounder through life, never having to stick with anything.

They just wander through life aimlessly. Many children of the wealthy end up getting into the family business or doing something else to maintain a lifestyle that they do not really care about – and that makes them unhappy. To me, that is a bad way to live.

Because they travel so much, the wealthy are often away from their kids for long periods of time. These very wealthy families outsource everything. There are people who do the cooking, the cleaning, the yard work, who take care of the children, etc. There are also consultants for everything. As one of my sources told me, "I meet these super-wealthy people and they don't do anything. They just sort of live in this bubble where everything's being done for them." I believe this explains why we see the super-wealthy engaging in crazy, high-risk, high-priced adventure activities.

There is much research which suggests that the rich, especially the super-rich and the plutocrats, are more likely to be sociopaths than the average person. Did you encounter any people who fit that profile?

Psychologists have studied these questions and have shown that wealthier people, on average, are less empathetic. They are more prone to antisocial behaviors. They are less socially oriented. On the other hand, there's no data that shows the same person before and after getting these large sums of money. Thus, the question: Is it more that these types of personalities are the ones that pursue wealth, or that wealth actually has these negative impacts on a person's behavior?

Does money change people? I asked that question of many people who are sources for the book. Some of them said, "If you have $50 million and you were a jerk, you're going to be a bigger jerk. And if you are a great person, you'll have opportunity to do greater." Essentially, it amplifies your personality. One thing we do know is that children of wealthy families are at high risk for drug addiction and low-level criminal behavior. The risk is similar for very poor kids. People who are from middle-income families are at much lower risk of such behavior.

What of the children of the very rich? Do they just learn that there are no rules for people like them? Poor and working-class people can't claim that they are sick with "affluenza" when they get drunk and run over people, for example.

I do believe that is the case. There is a sense of entitlement that the rules don't apply. We see this among those who are rich but not super-wealthy as well. It is just the idea, "Oh, I can just do this thing and who cares, right? I can cut in line, whatever." It manifests across a range of small behaviors.

What do we know about new money versus old money?

Professional athletes are a classic example. It's actually getting harder and harder for poor kids to make it into the NFL and the NBA. But there is still a pretty sizable number of people who make it in professional sports and come from financially challenging circumstances. They are extremely talented and have focused like a laser beam on being successful in their sport. Then, all of a sudden, they are getting paid $2 million a month. These are crazy amounts of money. I talked with a business manager whose clients are mostly MLB and NBA players. He told me about the following: "This one kid, he's making a million or two a month. He had to hire a housekeeper. Someone to go fold his clothes, do his laundry. Because this kid had never done his own laundry. He never folded his own clothes."

Many of these professional athletes do not know how to function in normal life. They have lived in a bubble. There are all these hangers-on and others in their orbit who are trying to get money from them. It can be the coaches from before they went pro, family members and others who are trying to get these young athletes to take care of them financially.

There are a lot of athletes who fall victim to that. And if you're a big superstar like a Pat Mahomes or Steph Curry, then you can afford to behave in such a way. But as my contact told me, "If you're a backup point guard for the Grizzlies, you can't support a bunch of family members for very long or you are going to go broke." It happens. They get in serious financial trouble. If you come into all those millions of dollars without any sophisticated knowledge about what to do with it, the whole thing can be really disconcerting.

Many people fantasize about wealth. But when you get that wealth, especially all of a sudden, it really changes your relationships with people – including old friends, your middle-class friends. You want to enjoy the money, and you may also want your friends to enjoy it too. "Can I invite my middle-class friends on this fancy trip where I'm going to pay for everything?" Sure, maybe you can do it once. But what's it going to be like if you keep treating your old friends to these super high-end things? It's going to get weird. Pride's going to get in the way, or maybe you'll feel like they are freeloaders. All that money can create very weird dynamics. Family tensions get involved. Children squabble about inheritances. It can become a total mess.

What are the informal rules about wealth that old money understands and new money does not?

Put that money away to make it last. Preserve it, and do not do what the young athletes do. You do not want to be flashy. Old money? it wants nobody to know it exists. The big wealth dynasties with their family offices generally do not want to be big public figures.

Some years ago, I was acquainted with a husband and wife who won the Lotto. It was a modest sum after taxes, perhaps only $150,000. Everyone knew about it because their names were in the newspaper. I asked them a few years later about what they spent the money on. The husband told me he wished they had never won the money, because all they did was pay off some bills and buy a new pickup truck. That was it. But everyone in their family, friends, the neighborhood, their co-workers, all thought they were rich. He told me it was so much stress with everyone asking him and his wife for money that they wished they had never won it to begin with. Is that a common experience?

Yes it is. The conventional wisdom about winning the lottery is that it ruins your life. And in some cases, it really does. I interviewed a guy who was a hedge fund manager. He had a house on Lake Tahoe right next to Larry Ellison's house. And the neighbor on the other side, it was this young guy in his 20s. It turned out, the guy had won a big lottery and bought this $4 million house on Lake Tahoe. He was always up there, just partying with his friends. He didn't seem to have anything else going on in his life. One day the rich guy pulls up in his driveway and he sees the coroner's van next door. He goes over there and asks, "What happened?" They told him, "The person is deceased. This young guy killed himself."

When you have a lot of money there are issues with trusting other people. You do not know who's coming at you. There are going to be people trying to get you involved in business partnerships, pitching ideas to you or trying to become your friend. But you don't really know whether they're there for some other reason. This includes potential romantic partners.

There was a documentary a few years back about lottery winners, that showed how they got all this money and moved into a new neighborhood, and the people there did not accept them. The interviewer asked one of the Powerball winners, an older Black man who came from a working-class neighborhood, what it was like to have all this money. The man was miserable. He and his wife almost started crying. He told the interviewer, "Look around. All we have is a house full of stuff. I don't want to buy anything because I got everything. The neighbors here don't talk to us because they don't think we belong. We were poor in the projects but now we don't trust anyone. We don't have those friendships or family relationships anymore. All we got is a whole bunch of money and a house full of stuff." Then the interviewer asked the obvious follow-up and the man said, "You know what? I was happier when I was poor."

It's true. If you don't have something to give your life meaning, and if you think money is the meaning of life and you pursue that path, forget it. You are going to be miserable.

So what's the magic number in terms of income and happiness?

There is research that looked at millions of people and their self-reported happiness. Positive emotions peak at incomes over 65 grand. Your negative emotions are minimized at about 95 grand. And then there is what is known as "life satisfaction," which is a type of measure of how you view yourself relative to your peers. That maxes out at $105,000, a modest amount of money.

Once you get above the satiation point where a person knows that their needs are met, it is all just creature comforts and other bonuses in life. As you go past the satiation point, your life satisfaction starts to decrease in wealthy nations. We still do not know why that is. But one of the speculations is that in order to maintain this high-end lifestyle, a person has to work all the time and they lose their social connections. If you take a high-paying job and you're just on-call all the time and have too many responsibilities, there is less time to enjoy your life and your relationships. What good is it, right? You have a large bank account and no friends.

We know a great deal about the poor and the "underclass," but we know very little about the very rich. They are under-researched because as a rule they do not talk to outsiders. How did you get access to them?

It was a very laborious process. I had many rejections. In fact, the billionaires wouldn't talk to me at all. They'll talk to you about other things. But they are not going to talk to you regarding their feelings about wealth. But the wealthy also have lots of middlemen, the PR people and the like, who said no. I got a lot more rejections than I got acceptances, I would say. So I had to fill in the gaps by talking to people who are on the periphery of the billionaire class, people who work with them closely, in financial management, of course, but also in such varied roles as building safe rooms for hedge funders, for example. I spoke to a woman who works security for billionaires and trains their nannies in physical combat. I also spent time hanging out with luxury realtors and luxury car dealers and all manner of people who interact with these incredibly wealthy clients.

What do you want the American people to understand about the super-rich?

By and large they are not bad people. The point of writing "Jackpot" was not to disparage the wealthy, but to point out how flawed our system is in America that allows people to amass such wealth at the expense of others. The policies that enable such an outcome is driving us apart as a society. It's really tearing at the social fabric, because as the rungs of the economic ladder get wider and wider apart, we are losing empathy for the people on the other side. There is now a situation where we are a society of extreme winners versus extreme losers. A healthy society has a thriving middle class. That's what really lifts all boats.

America's history wars get serious as the Texas GOP launches a fascist assault on education

In the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney proclaimed that Black people have "no rights that the white man is bound to respect." Today's Jim Crow Republican Party, and the white right more broadly, have taken the spirit of those words and updated them for the 21st century, effectively by arguing that "white people are not bound to respect historical truth or established facts — at least not as they pertain to Black and brown people in America".

As the next step in their war against multiracial democracy, the Republican Party and its allies have launched a moral panic about "critical race theory." Of course, their version of "critical race theory" is a type of racial bogeyman or psychological projection, a function of white racial paranoia about the "browning of America" and the threat of "white genocide."

Facts do not matter in the right-wing echo chamber. It is of no importance that the white right's version of "critical race theory" has nothing to do with the scholarly paradigm of the same name.

As the truism holds, history is written by the victors. To that end, in dozens of states across the country, the white right is engaging in an Orwellian campaign of rewriting school curricula to prevent the teaching of "critical race theory" -- which in practice means stopping any serious engagement with America's real and often uncomfortable history of racism and white supremacy.

The white right's campaign against the teaching of real American history involves actual thoughtcrimes.

For example, in Florida, a law was recently passed mandating a survey of students and faculty in public colleges and universities to determine their political beliefs. Of course, Florida has also banned the teaching of "critical race theory."

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, perhaps the single most influential voice on the white right, recently suggested that cameras should be placed in classrooms to ensure that no teachers will deploy "critical race theory" or other facts and arguments deemed to be "unpatriotic."

The Republican-controlled Texas Senate recently passed a bill eliminating a requirement that the history of the civil rights movement and other human rights struggles be taught in public schools. The bill also removed a condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan from course requirements as well.

As Yahoo News reports, the requirements removed from the state's curriculum include two speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., any mention of Latino labor organizers Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and any mention of Thomas Jefferson's long-term relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved teenage child who bore six of his children. The bill bars any use of the New York Times' 1619 Project and "prohibits teaching that slavery was part of the 'true' founding of the United States" and removes the requirement to study the "history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

This Republican legislation has been met with widespread outrage. But that reaction should just be the beginning. The next step involves doing the harder work of understanding why so many other (mostly white) Americans actually believe that "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history should be banned. Understanding these beliefs and motivations is essential to defeating American neofascism and its white supremacist social and political project.

Many Americans have been propagandized by their schools, news media, the internet, churches and other social institutions to believe in a large set of interlocking lies and myths about the country's past and present. To intervene against these lies often causes emotional pain and/or narcissistic injury to those who hold such beliefs.

This dynamic is especially powerful for those who are emotionally, psychologically, financially and politically invested in defending and protecting white privilege and white people's control over almost every aspect of American life. In that context, the personal truly is political: Whiteness, as a concept and a social force, has become linked at an individual level to the maintenance of white power.

How does this right-wing fantasy machine work? The Root has exhaustively documented how some of America's most widely used history textbooks misrepresent the real history of the color line and distort such topics as chattel slavery, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and social injustice more generally, through the use of what sociologist Joe Feagin has called the "white racial frame."

Michael Harriot offers this analysis:

So when Mitch McConnell and 38 Republican senators sent a letter to the secretary of education decrying the ghastly prospect of white students having to learn actual facts about slavery, it was not unexpected. For centuries, this country's schools have perpetuated a whitewashed version of history that either erases or reduces the story of Black America down to a B-plot in the American script. It's why they hate Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project and anything factual — because the white-centric interpretation of our national past is so commonly accepted, white people have convinced themselves that anything that varies from the Caucasian interpretation must be a lie. …
This is why they oppose expanding the historiography of our national story. American schools have never taught a version of history that wasn't racialized. But, apparently, it's perfectly fine if the racial narrative skews toward whiteness. They can't be opposed to learning a different historical perspective because they never learned history; they were spoonfed fiction in bite-sized morsels.
To be fair, it's understandable why they are so adamant about what they believe in.
Imagine you are a white man. Now imagine what it's like going through 12 years of school, four years of college, graduate school and an entire career that made you one of the most powerful people on the planet. Now imagine a group of Black journalists, led by a Black woman, told you that you don't know shit.

To that point, the right-wing echo chamber consistently repeats neo-Confederate "Lost Cause" myths, such as the oft-repeated lie that the Civil War was fought over "states' rights" rather than white-on-Black chattel slavery.

The right obsessively depicts the Democrats as "the party of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and slavery". This is a deliberate distortion of history because the pro-slavery, pro-segregation faction of the Democratic Party became solid Republicans after the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Right-wing propagandists also love to claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was a "Republican," or at least espoused Republican values. This is a ludicrous allegation: In contemporary terms King was a democratic socialist or progressive who opposed racism, poverty, military adventurism and injustice of all kinds. King would have viewed the modern-day conservative movement as a great force for evil in American society and the world.

Black conservative propagandists play an important role in the right-wing echo chamber, validating racist fantasies that slavery was a "gift" to Black people because it brought them to America. In this twisted perception of history, chattel slavery is understood as a "necessary evil" because it gave Black people Christianity and taught them the value of "hard work".

These same Black conservatives love to repeat the vicious lie that the Democratic Party is a type of "plantation." In reality, the plantations of the antebellum South were prison camps, charnel houses and places of torture, rape, suffering and death. Black conservative propagandists frequently announce that they are special and uniquely capable of "thinking for themselves," as compared to the vast majority of Black people who support the Democratic Party and are therefore deemed to be ignorant or uninformed.

The campaign against "critical race theory" — and against teaching America's real history — must be understood as part of a larger fascist strategy of attacking public schools and other institutions of learning with the aim of creating compliant followers and a public that is not equipped to participate in democracy — or to defend it.

This plan involves placing white supremacists, QAnon conspiracists, Trump supporters and other right-wing extremists — to the degree those categories of people can be separated — on local school boards and library advisory councils, banning "controversial" books, and the surveillance or intimidation of teachers deemed too "liberal" or suspected of "politicizing" the classroom, i.e., by refusing to teach right-wing dogma and other lies.

The fascist assault on education and critical thinking also involves think tanks, right-wing activists and advocacy groups, along with a network of wealthy funders committed to remaking American society to fit their racist, theocratic and plutocratic vision.

The Texas Republicans' attempt to literally whitewash the Ku Klux Klan out of American history is so ridiculous that it approaches parody. That doesn't make such historical erasure and distortion any less dangerous. Those dangers are further amplified by the crisis of democracy caused by the Jim Crow Republicans and ascendant neofascist movement.

As historian Timothy Snyder warned in a recent essay in the New York Times:

Democracy requires individual responsibility, which is impossible without critical history. It thrives in a spirit of self-awareness and self-correction. Authoritarianism, on the other hand, is infantilizing: We should not have to feel any negative emotions; difficult subjects should be kept from us. Our memory laws amount to therapy, a talking cure. In the laws' portrayal of the world, the words of white people have the magic power to dissolve the historical consequences of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression. Racism is over when white people say so.
We start by saying we are not racists. Yes, that felt nice. And now we should make sure that no one says anything that might upset us. The fight against racism becomes the search for a language that makes white people feel good. The laws themselves model the desired rhetoric. We are just trying to be fair. We behave neutrally. We are innocent.

When viewed in the aggregate, these attacks on "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history echo some of the worst aspects of the country's past. In his book "Trouble in Mind", historian Leon Litwack details how history was taught during the Jim Crow reign of terror:

The history to which Black children were exposed in the classroom and the primers made a virtual gospel of the superiority of Anglo-Saxon institutions and ways of thinking and acting…. What little they learned of their own history consisted often of disparaging caricatures of Black people as the least civilized of the races — irresponsible, thoughtless, foolish, childlike people, satisfied with their lowly place in American life, incapable of self-control and self-direction. The history of Black people was a history of submission gladly endured and of services faithfully rendered. Transported from the darkness of heathen Africa to the civilized and Christian New World, grateful slaves found contentment and happiness…. The treatment of emancipation depicted Blacks passively waiting for Massa' Lincoln to strike off their shackles. And Reconstruction saw the enthronement of Black ignorance and inexperience, with the Ku Klux Klan in some account redeeming Anglo-Saxon civilization from alien rule. The history lessons taught in public schools were calculated to produce patriotic citizens, albeit with a distinctive southern bias.

The Jim Crow Republicans and the white right view this approach to American history as admirable, something to be resuscitated from the dustbin of the country's past.

In the self-serving stories told by the Ku Klux Klan, that terrorist organization had noble origins, represented "Christian values," did charity work and helped the poor, served the community by dealing with drunks and other miscreants, and protected "white families" as well as the "good Blacks". This is the fake history that the Jim Crow Republicans want to see taught to America's young people.

The neofascist movement understands that if it wins the battle over the teaching of the past, it can in turn control the future. In total, the right wing's moral panic over "critical race theory" resembles the kind of hearts-and-minds indoctrination favored by the great villains of history. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler and Goebbels would be proud to see their legacy continued.

America's history wars get serious: Texas GOP wants to dump MLK, whitewash KKK

In the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney proclaimed that Black people have "no rights that the white man is bound to respect." Today's Jim Crow Republican Party, and the white right more broadly, have taken the spirit of those words and updated them for the 21st century, effectively by arguing that "white people are not bound to respect historical truth or established facts — at least not as they pertain to Black and brown people in America".

This article first appeared in Salon.

As the next step in their war against multiracial democracy, the Republican Party and its allies have launched a moral panic about "critical race theory." Of course, their version of "critical race theory" is a type of racial bogeyman or psychological projection, a function of white racial paranoia about the "browning of America" and the threat of "white genocide."

Facts do not matter in the right-wing echo chamber. It is of no importance that the white right's version of "critical race theory" has nothing to do with the scholarly paradigm of the same name.

As the truism holds, history is written by the victors. To that end, in dozens of states across the country, the white right is engaging in an Orwellian campaign of rewriting school curricula to prevent the teaching of "critical race theory" -- which in practice means stopping any serious engagement with America's real and often uncomfortable history of racism and white supremacy.

The white right's campaign against the teaching of real American history involves actual thoughtcrimes.

For example, in Florida, a law was recently passed mandating a survey of students and faculty in public colleges and universities to determine their political beliefs. Of course, Florida has also banned the teaching of "critical race theory."

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, perhaps the single most influential voice on the white right, recently suggested that cameras should be placed in classrooms to ensure that no teachers will deploy "critical race theory" or other facts and arguments deemed to be "unpatriotic."

The Republican-controlled Texas Senate recently passed a bill eliminating a requirement that the history of the civil rights movement and other human rights struggles be taught in public schools. The bill also removed a condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan from course requirements as well.

As Yahoo News reports, the requirements removed from the state's curriculum include two speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., any mention of Latino labor organizers Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and any mention of Thomas Jefferson's long-term relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved teenage child who bore six of his children. The bill bars any use of the New York Times' 1619 Project and "prohibits teaching that slavery was part of the 'true' founding of the United States" and removes the requirement to study the "history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

This Republican legislation has been met with widespread outrage. But that reaction should just be the beginning. The next step involves doing the harder work of understanding why so many other (mostly white) Americans actually believe that "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history should be banned. Understanding these beliefs and motivations is essential to defeating American neofascism and its white supremacist social and political project.

Many Americans have been propagandized by their schools, news media, the internet, churches and other social institutions to believe in a large set of interlocking lies and myths about the country's past and present. To intervene against these lies often causes emotional pain and/or narcissistic injury to those who hold such beliefs.

This dynamic is especially powerful for those who are emotionally, psychologically, financially and politically invested in defending and protecting white privilege and white people's control over almost every aspect of American life. In that context, the personal truly is political: Whiteness, as a concept and a social force, has become linked at an individual level to the maintenance of white power.

How does this right-wing fantasy machine work? The Root has exhaustively documented how some of America's most widely used history textbooks misrepresent the real history of the color line and distort such topics as chattel slavery, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and social injustice more generally, through the use of what sociologist Joe Feagin has called the "white racial frame."

Michael Harriot offers this analysis:

So when Mitch McConnell and 38 Republican senators sent a letter to the secretary of education decrying the ghastly prospect of white students having to learn actual facts about slavery, it was not unexpected. For centuries, this country's schools have perpetuated a whitewashed version of history that either erases or reduces the story of Black America down to a B-plot in the American script. It's why they hate Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project and anything factual — because the white-centric interpretation of our national past is so commonly accepted, white people have convinced themselves that anything that varies from the Caucasian interpretation must be a lie. …
This is why they oppose expanding the historiography of our national story. American schools have never taught a version of history that wasn't racialized. But, apparently, it's perfectly fine if the racial narrative skews toward whiteness. They can't be opposed to learning a different historical perspective because they never learned history; they were spoonfed fiction in bite-sized morsels.
To be fair, it's understandable why they are so adamant about what they believe in.
Imagine you are a white man. Now imagine what it's like going through 12 years of school, four years of college, graduate school and an entire career that made you one of the most powerful people on the planet. Now imagine a group of Black journalists, led by a Black woman, told you that you don't know shit.

To that point, the right-wing echo chamber consistently repeats neo-Confederate "Lost Cause" myths, such as the oft-repeated lie that the Civil War was fought over "states' rights" rather than white-on-Black chattel slavery.

The right obsessively depicts the Democrats as "the party of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and slavery". This is a deliberate distortion of history because the pro-slavery, pro-segregation faction of the Democratic Party became solid Republicans after the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Right-wing propagandists also love to claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was a "Republican," or at least espoused Republican values. This is a ludicrous allegation: In contemporary terms King was a democratic socialist or progressive who opposed racism, poverty, military adventurism and injustice of all kinds. King would have viewed the modern-day conservative movement as a great force for evil in American society and the world.

Black conservative propagandists play an important role in the right-wing echo chamber, validating racist fantasies that slavery was a "gift" to Black people because it brought them to America. In this twisted perception of history, chattel slavery is understood as a "necessary evil" because it gave Black people Christianity and taught them the value of "hard work".

These same Black conservatives love to repeat the vicious lie that the Democratic Party is a type of "plantation." In reality, the plantations of the antebellum South were prison camps, charnel houses and places of torture, rape, suffering and death. Black conservative propagandists frequently announce that they are special and uniquely capable of "thinking for themselves," as compared to the vast majority of Black people who support the Democratic Party and are therefore deemed to be ignorant or uninformed.

The campaign against "critical race theory" — and against teaching America's real history — must be understood as part of a larger fascist strategy of attacking public schools and other institutions of learning with the aim of creating compliant followers and a public that is not equipped to participate in democracy — or to defend it.

This plan involves placing white supremacists, QAnon conspiracists, Trump supporters and other right-wing extremists — to the degree those categories of people can be separated — on local school boards and library advisory councils, banning "controversial" books, and the surveillance or intimidation of teachers deemed too "liberal" or suspected of "politicizing" the classroom, i.e., by refusing to teach right-wing dogma and other lies.

The fascist assault on education and critical thinking also involves think tanks, right-wing activists and advocacy groups, along with a network of wealthy funders committed to remaking American society to fit their racist, theocratic and plutocratic vision.

The Texas Republicans' attempt to literally whitewash the Ku Klux Klan out of American history is so ridiculous that it approaches parody. That doesn't make such historical erasure and distortion any less dangerous. Those dangers are further amplified by the crisis of democracy caused by the Jim Crow Republicans and ascendant neofascist movement.

As historian Timothy Snyder warned in a recent essay in the New York Times:

Democracy requires individual responsibility, which is impossible without critical history. It thrives in a spirit of self-awareness and self-correction. Authoritarianism, on the other hand, is infantilizing: We should not have to feel any negative emotions; difficult subjects should be kept from us. Our memory laws amount to therapy, a talking cure. In the laws' portrayal of the world, the words of white people have the magic power to dissolve the historical consequences of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression. Racism is over when white people say so.
We start by saying we are not racists. Yes, that felt nice. And now we should make sure that no one says anything that might upset us. The fight against racism becomes the search for a language that makes white people feel good. The laws themselves model the desired rhetoric. We are just trying to be fair. We behave neutrally. We are innocent.

When viewed in the aggregate, these attacks on "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history echo some of the worst aspects of the country's past. In his book "Trouble in Mind", historian Leon Litwack details how history was taught during the Jim Crow reign of terror:

The history to which Black children were exposed in the classroom and the primers made a virtual gospel of the superiority of Anglo-Saxon institutions and ways of thinking and acting…. What little they learned of their own history consisted often of disparaging caricatures of Black people as the least civilized of the races — irresponsible, thoughtless, foolish, childlike people, satisfied with their lowly place in American life, incapable of self-control and self-direction. The history of Black people was a history of submission gladly endured and of services faithfully rendered. Transported from the darkness of heathen Africa to the civilized and Christian New World, grateful slaves found contentment and happiness…. The treatment of emancipation depicted Blacks passively waiting for Massa' Lincoln to strike off their shackles. And Reconstruction saw the enthronement of Black ignorance and inexperience, with the Ku Klux Klan in some account redeeming Anglo-Saxon civilization from alien rule. The history lessons taught in public schools were calculated to produce patriotic citizens, albeit with a distinctive southern bias.

The Jim Crow Republicans and the white right view this approach to American history as admirable, something to be resuscitated from the dustbin of the country's past.

In the self-serving stories told by the Ku Klux Klan, that terrorist organization had noble origins, represented "Christian values," did charity work and helped the poor, served the community by dealing with drunks and other miscreants, and protected "white families" as well as the "good Blacks". This is the fake history that the Jim Crow Republicans want to see taught to America's young people.

The neofascist movement understands that if it wins the battle over the teaching of the past, it can in turn control the future. In total, the right wing's moral panic over "critical race theory" resembles the kind of hearts-and-minds indoctrination favored by the great villains of history. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler and Goebbels would be proud to see their legacy continued.

Trump has tossed America into a bottomless pit of political deviance and violence

Last week, the American people learned that leaders of the U.S. military had plans to prevent Donald Trump from ordering the armed forces to stage a coup during the last days of his presidency. These new "revelations" dominated the headlines for a few days. But once again, Trump's crimes and overall perfidy were then thrown down the memory well. The mainstream media has largely moved on. The American people appear to be indifferent, expressing an attitude of "so what?" and "nothing really matters anyway."

This is more evidence of how the normalization of social and political deviance has tightened its hold on American society.

America has long been a pathocracy. But the Age of Trump took this to the extreme; the sickness spread not just among the country's elites but rained down from the White House to the tens of millions of Trump faithful. In turn, the latter amplified and spread their collective pathology across the country.

None of this was caused by Donald Trump and his fascist movement, but Trump's regime nurtured and spread America's pathocracy and social and political deviance, giving them renewed life.

Here are several examples of how such behavior continues to plague the country, most of them largely ignored or rapidly forgotten by both the mainstream media and the public.

Last Friday, two men were arrested in California for planning a terrorist attack on the Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento. CNN reported that the men "allegedly wanted to start a movement to overthrow the government," motivated by Trump's electoral defeat last November:

Five days before the presidential inauguration on January 20 -- which prosecutors believe was to be a key date in the planning of the attack -- the Justice Department apprehended one of the men who had amassed a large arsenal. Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa, California, showed strong support for White supremacy and for Trump, and said in text messages he realized he would be labeled a domestic terrorist, according to Justice Department court filings.
A man Rogers communicated with, Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, California, was arrested in Sacramento this week, DOJ said.
Court records citing extensive encrypted messages between Rogers and Copeland raise the alarm of how the men sought to inspire domestic terrorism toward Democrats -- and how their anti-government motivations may still persist.
In January, Rogers had told Copeland, "I want to blow up a democrat building bad," and Copeland responded in agreement, writing, "Plan attack."
The pair discussed "war" after President Joe Biden's inauguration, the Justice Department said. They also discussed attacking George Soros, a billionaire donor who supports liberal causes, and Twitter, which by then had removed Trump from the social media platform.
"I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn't I will," Rogers allegedly wrote.

During the last week of June, an alleged white supremacist murdered a Black couple in an attack near Boston. The white shooter was later killed in a gun battle with police.

In a different incident, an active-duty U.S. Marine and two other men allegedly planned to launch a wave of white supremacist terror attacks. The Daily Beast reports the men wanted "to assassinate minorities, drug users, and employees of the Democratic National Committee with explosives, rocket launchers, and automatic rifles."

That's according to a newly unsealed FBI search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, which indicates USMC Private First Class Travis Owens and his partners in the unrealized murder plot were influenced by Timothy McVeigh, the former U.S. Army soldier behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead and injured nearly 700. The document also states that one of the suspects had links to the Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi group linked to at least five murders. A handful of active service members and veterans have been identified as being members of Atomwaffen, which calls for the armed overthrow of the U.S. government.

Two weekends ago, a white supremacist militia group marched through the streets of Philadelphia. That was one of many acts of public intimidation by right-wing paramilitary organizations in the months since Jan. 6. National security and other experts have warned that right-wing terrorism, especially involving white supremacists, poses the most significant internal threat to the country's domestic safety and security.

Donald Trump and his movement are valorizing right-wing terrorists as "martyrs" who are to be honored for their "sacrifice." Members of Trump's Jan. 6 attack force are also being reimagined as "political prisoners" and "patriots" who should be freed immediately.

The right-wing echo chamber continues to use stochastic terrorism — and outright and direct threats of violence as well — to encourage violence against Democrats, "progressives" and others deemed to be the enemy.

More than 600,000 people have died during the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican Party and the Trump movement continue to mock and downplay the seriousness of the pandemic, and to weaponize it in an endless "culture war" battle to "own the libs."

The normalization of social and political deviance also corrupts justice and the rule of law. Of the thousands of Trump followers who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, only 581 have been charged with crimes. Most of Trump's attack force was simply allowed to go free by law enforcement on that day. Of those arrested, the vast majority will not face the most serious possible charges.

On Monday of this week, a Capitol attacker was sentenced to eight months in prison, after facing felony charges that could have merited a 20-year sentence. He was the first member of Trump's attack force to be sentenced for a felony conviction.

Can anyone doubt that if this man were identified as an antifascist, a Black Lives Matter supporter, a pipeline protester or a supporter of some other progressive cause, the sentence would have been far more severe? If he were a Muslim, the consequences would be harsher still.

The likely or known ringleaders of Trump's Jan. 6 coup attempt and attack on the Capitol — including Trump himself, Republicans co-conspirators in Congress and those who financed the plot — have not been arrested or prosecuted, and likely never will be.

This is an example of a larger unstated rule in American society, where rich white men rarely if ever face the full consequences of their deeds, however egregious those may be.

By comparison, last Thursday eight protesters, including Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, were arrested by Capitol Police for a peaceful demonstration in the Hart Senate Office Building against the Republicans' nationwide campaign to restrict voting rights for Black and brown Americans. On Monday of this week, 100 protesters were also arrested by Capitol Police as they peacefully marched in support of voting rights on the 100th anniversary of the landmark Seneca Falls Women's Convention, a formative moment for the women's suffrage campaign.

The net effect of this normalization of social and political deviance is to rob people of their capacity for mass outrage and collective action. This normalization process is also disorienting because it limits a society's ability to understand the larger context of history, especially as it relates to questions of struggle and resistance. Thom Hartmann has discussed this question warned in a recent essay:

History shows that most democratic nations don't realize how serious their authoritarian fascism problem is until it overtakes them altogether. We saw it in the 1930s in Italy, Germany, Spain and Japan; today it's happened in Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, The Philippines and Brazil, and is well underway in Poland, India and multiple smaller countries.
Here in America, the GOP today has a serious fascism problem, and it's endangering all of us. It's closer than most of us realize.
Fascism isn't just about the merger of oligarch and state interests; it also requires a repudiation of the rule of law and the institutions of democracy itself.

The normalization of social and political deviance also denies a people the moral language necessary to diagnose and understand the full dimensions of a given crisis. For example, Donald Trump and his regime can be reasonably described as "evil." But most members of America's political class have consistently refused to use that language. The result was to enable the Trump regime's assault on democracy, such that the country now faces an existential crisis that President Biden recently described as comparable to the Civil War.

In a 2019 interview with Salon, philosopher Susan Neiman discussed the question of Trump and "evil":

Donald Trump meets every single criterion for using the word evil — and he keeps meeting it every day. Evil is a word that should be used with caution. … Unfortunately, the description of "evil" has been so overused that many people just believe that it is a type of name-calling.
I disagree. When we relinquish the use of language like "evil" we are leaving the strongest linguistic weapons that we have in the hands of the people who are least equipped to use them. But I do understand the caution and anxiety about using that language. Given the way that Trump's supporters and the broader right-wing movement in America works, I am unsure if describing Trump as being evil would actually bring any clarity to the conversation. That does not mean that accurate language for describing Trump and what he represents should be avoided.

At the recent CPAC conference in Dallas, Trump told his audience, "I didn't become different. I got impeached twice. I became worse."

As he has done on several previous occasions, Trump engaged here in unintentional truth-telling, accurately described the moral shortcomings of too many American elites as well as everyday citizens.

Ultimately, there is no natural end point to the normalization of social and political deviance. It is a bottomless pit, one into which America as a whole has fallen. Some Americans willingly threw themselves into it the pit. Others have jumped in while wearing parachutes — that have not opened. Many Americans were thrown into this bottomless pit by others. A few — the lucky, the wise or those possessed of special insight, have avoided falling into the pit and remain poised on its edge, at least for now.

Only collective action and commitment to a moral crusade can save American democracy now. The normalization of social and political deviance is a process meant to make that impossible.

Why the revelations about Trump and the Kremlin are true -- even if the documents are fake

Joe Biden may be president, but in too many ways the Age of Trump marches on. American political and civic life continues to resemble a spy thriller, a horror movie or a science fiction dystopia that keeps spawning sequels. Most Americans want to escape the theater, but the doors are locked. Those who remain in their seats love these movies and can't get enough of their charismatic star.

The ending of this saga has been obvious since the beginning: Donald Trump is a malevolent force, with no loyalty to the United States and its people; yet his followers worship him as a god and nothing can tear them away from the cult.

Almost every day there are new plot twists. As reported last week, the highest-ranking officers and civilian leaders of the U.S. military were concerned that Trump might try to stage a military coup after his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, considered a plan to resist such a move through mass resignations, a last-ditch effort to save democracy.

As detailed in Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker's new book "I Alone Can Fix It," Trump became so enraged after losing to Joe Biden that some feared he would stage a "Reichstag fire" incident, in the mode of Adolf Hitler, that might allow him to seize absolute power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even asked Milley to ensure that Trump would not launch a nuclear attack and use the ensuing crisis as an excuse to suspend the Constitution and remain in power.

More "revelations" have followed: Last Thursday the Guardian reported that it had obtained classified documents from a 2016 meeting where the Russian government launched its secret campaign in support of Trump:

Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a "mentally unstable" Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia's national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.
The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present.
They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow's strategic objectives, among them "social turmoil" in the US and a weakening of the American president's negotiating position.
Russia's three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin's signature.
Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.
The Guardian has shown the documents to independent experts who say they appear to be genuine. Incidental details come across as accurate. The overall tone and thrust is said to be consistent with Kremlin security thinking.

At this purported Kremlin meeting, Putin and the Russian intelligence services concluded that Trump could be easily manipulated to serve Russia's strategic goals because he is an "impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex." This document concludes, "It is acutely necessary to use all possible force to facilitate [Trump's] election to the post of US president."

The Guardian further concludes that the Kremlin's internal report was likely the work of Vladimir Symonenko, a senior Kremlin official who "provides Putin with analytical material and reports, some of them based on foreign intelligence." He discussed various "American weaknesses" Russian agents could exploit, including "a 'deepening political gulf between left and right," the U.S. 'media-information' space, and an anti-establishment mood under President Barack Obama."

The Guardian report has been met with considerable skepticism, some of it from the usual suspects who continue to claim — despite an abundance of known and proven facts — that the scandal sometimes dubbed "Russiagate" was all a hoax, or at least grossly exaggerated. But it's also fair to say that some respected national security experts are suspicious about the timing of the Guardian story, and the authenticity and provenance of the documents in question.

But other national security and intelligence experts believe the Guardian story is true and the Kremlin documents are authentic. Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer and author of several bestselling books who serves as an intelligence and security analyst for CNN, believes the Kremlin document is legitimate and was likely leaked to the Guardian by British intelligence.

In a recent conversation with journalist Ian Masters, Baer said that Donald Trump may indeed have served as a "useful idiot" on behalf of Russian interests, sent into the heart of American democracy as a "Trojan horse to cause problems." He suggests that Russian intelligence used the technique of "framing a guilty man" to muddy the waters around Trump and make him a more effective chaos agent.

Writing at Esquire, Charles Pierce explains how he reconciles concerns about the veracity of the Kremlin papers:

Are experts within the Western intelligence agencies divided about the authenticity of the documents, and did someone who believes them to be the smoking gun leak them in order to force the action? I'd certainly want to know more about their provenance than I do now.
Frankly, my impulse is to believe what The Guardian reported. The revelations certainly seem believable given some of the otherwise inexplicable actions of the previous president* and his administration*, and they also conform to the methods of ratfcking Russia has used in other democracies in Europe. (What up, Estonia?) And they also track with what we've learned recently about the former president*'s rabid-badger attempts to stay in power after he'd clearly lost the election — and, for that matter, his continued attempts to undermine confidence in this country's electoral system.
But my innate caution against leaping to conclusions based on leaks from intelligence services of any kind makes me cautious about this being a conclusive Eureka moment. Too many shadowy people have too many shadowy agendas for me to accept anything emerging from those shadows too readily. But there is one conclusion I will stand by, based on the Guardian story and its conformity to what a lot of us suspected was true about the previous president*: We simply have got to get rid of the Electoral College. Now.

Whatever one concludes about the authenticity of these Kremlin papers, one conclusion is obvious: Their observations about Donald Trump, and about the vulnerability of American society to disinformation and subversion, are correct.

Both Robert Mueller's report and the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the 2016 election (the latter completed under Republican leadership) have conclusively shown that Russia interfered to help Donald Trump win as a way of advancing its strategic goals. Moreover, it is a matter of public record that Trump's inner circle included at least one Russian agent.

At almost every key juncture in his presidency, Trump made decisions that advanced Russia's interests to the disadvantage of the United States. In both public and private, he was strikingly submissive and deferential to Putin. Whether that reflects blackmail and control, or simply hero worship and admiration, is an unsettled question.

Even members of Trump's administration and Republican elected officials questioned his loyalty to the country, especially after the astonishing Helsinki summit of 2018.

In the end, Russia's strategy would prove to be brilliant: Trump left the White House with the U.S. a weakened world power, gripped by a plague that has killed at least 600,000 people, along with a neofascist insurgency that shows no signs of dying out. Right-wing terrorism and other violence is escalating, and the nation has become irreparably polarized by the increasing radicalism of Republicans and the right.

In recent weeks I have reflected a great deal on my 2019 conversation with the late Dr. Jerrold Post, the founding director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. In Post's long and distinguished career, he served as the CIA's head psychological profiler under five presidents of both political parties. He described Donald Trump this way:

If one were to subtract from the ranks of political leaders all those with significant narcissistic personality features, the ranks would be perilously impoverished. I see Donald Trump as representing the quintessential narcissist. Using that phrase, though, is not to make a diagnosis, but to say he has a preponderance of these traits. Someone such as Donald Trump with that trait has no capacity to empathize with others, no constraints of conscience. Donald Trump also demonstrates a paranoid orientation. Whenever anything goes wrong, there is someone to blame.
There is also unconstrained aggression. This is very important. Never apologize, never admit you're wrong. That is part of Donald Trump's political style. But negotiating foreign policy is different from negotiating how to buy a skyscraper. Donald Trump also shows through his behavior a deep underlying insecurity. His grandiosity aside, Donald Trump is extremely fragile, and that trait is associated with extreme sensitivity.

Post also warned, nearly two years before it happened, that Donald Trump was unlikely to leave office peacefully:

In the last chapter of my new book I quote one of my favorite poems, which is, "Do not go gentle into that good night, but rage, rage at the dying of the light." I do not believe that Donald Trump will go gentle into that good night. In a close election, there is a very real hazard in terms of both potential outcomes. Should Trump win, as he did in 2016, he will make it a much bigger win and talking about the fraudulent election support on the Democratic side. But should Trump lose narrowly, I think we can be assured that he will not concede early. Trump may not even recognize the legitimacy of the election.

How will the American people deal with these continuous "revelations" about Trump and his regime? To this point, the response seems to be impotent rage. Because Trump and his inner circle are almost entirely rich white men, they will face no serious punishment for their crimes and other wrongdoing. Many Americans feel justifiable rage about a system which has one set of rules and laws for the rich and powerful (who are white) and another set for everyone else.

America is not just experiencing a democracy crisis caused by the Trump movement and the Jim Crow Republicans. The problem goes much deeper: America's political and social institutions are experiencing a legitimacy crisis, in which Trumpism is one symptom of a much larger disease.

The American people must decide whether their rage can be turned to productive or regenerative possibilities, or whether they continue to live in a state of learned helplessness, shrugging their shoulders as even more of the Trump regime's crimes are revealed. On that decision rests the future of democracy.

America after Trump: Mental health expert says 'Dystopian science fiction ... is actually happening'

Donald Trump's regime continues to reveal its "secrets." But these are largely confirmations of what was both publicly and privately known for years about Trump and his allies' perfidious and despicable conduct, disregard for human life, and scheming against American democracy.

New reporting has confirmed what was long predicted: Trump was willing to do anything to stay in power after being defeated in the 2020 election, up to and including ordering the U.S. military to turn against the American people.

As detailed in the new book "I Alone Can Fix It" by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with other high-ranking military leaders, feared Trump as a potential Hitler and saw the potential for a "Reichstag fire" incident. Milley reportedly expressed concern in private that Trump would command his neofascist followers, both within and outside the government, to support a coup attempt and otherwise create chaos and violence.

Perhaps most worrisome, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others at the highest levels of government were concerned that Donald Trump would use nuclear weapons in an act of spite, perhaps to create a global disaster that would permit him to remain in power indefinitely.

If Trump had successfully ordered the United States military to keep him in power by usurping the will of the American people, the result could well have been a second American Civil War. The nation was saved from such an outcome, at least for the moment, through good fortune and the choices of a few real patriots such as Gen. Milley and his allies.

Unfortunately, Trumpism was not routed or finally defeated, and the Trump coup is ongoing. Trump remains in firm control of the Republican Party. At least 30 percent of the American people have been seduced by the Big Lie that the 2020 election was "stolen" from Trump and that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.

The Jim Crow Republicans are escalating their war on multiracial democracy by proposing laws in numerous states designed to stop Black and brown people and others who support the Democratic Party from voting. The end goal of this anti-democratic campaign is to turn the United States into a plutocratic theocratic fascist state where dissent is not allowed and the Trump-Republican Party rules uncontested.

In a recent interview on MSNBC, historian Timothy Snyder, author of the bestselling book "On Tyranny," described this state of peril: "A failed coup is practice for a successful coup. ... We're now working within the framework of a Big Lie ... so long as we're in that framework of a Big Lie, we can expect one of the parties to try to rig the system."

Like other fascist and fake populist movements, Trumpism draws its power and a type of life force from the slavish loyalty of Trump's followers. Normal politics is fundamentally ill-equipped to grapple with fascism and its commands to ignore reality in deference to the Great Leader, the elevation of that leader into a type of God and extension of the self, and its collective celebration of narcissism and other anti-social behavior including violence and hatred. Ultimately, Trumpism is a cult movement: If Trump and other leaders are the brain and the arms, Trump's followers serve as a hammer meant to smash multiracial democracy.

At the Washington Post, Michael Bender, author of the new book "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost," writes about his interactions with Trump's followers.

They were mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer. ...
In Trump, they'd found someone whose endless thirst for a fight encouraged them to speak up for themselves, not just in politics but also in relationships and at work. His rallies turned arenas into modern-day tent revivals, where the preacher and the parishioners engaged in an adrenaline-fueled psychic cleansing brought on by chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded loyalists. Saundra Kiczenski, a 56-year-old from Michigan, compared the energy at a Trump rally to the feelings she had as a teenager in 1980 watching the "Miracle on Ice" — when the U.S. Olympic hockey team unexpectedly beat the Soviet Union. ...
Kiczenski was in Washington with friends for the Jan. 6 rally. She was convinced beyond a doubt that Trump had been reelected on Nov. 3, only to have his victory stolen in what she described as "a takeover by the communist devils." She said she believed that, in part, because she had crossed paths with Corey Lewandowski, a well-known and ubiquitous Trump adviser, in the Trump International Hotel the previous summer. Lewandowski told her, she said, that the only way Trump could lose was if there was massive election fraud.
"If someone put a gun to my head and said: 'Did Donald Trump win, yes or no? And if you're wrong, we're going to shoot your head off!' I would say yes," Kiczenski told me. "I'm that confident that this stuff is not made up."

Since at least 2015, many of the country's leading mental health experts warned that Donald Trump was psychologically unstable if not sociopathic or psychopathic, that his movement constituted a cult, and if elected he would bring mass death and human suffering to the United States. These mental health professionals (and others who shared similar concerns) were demeaned as "hysterical" or accused of "Trump derangement syndrome." Many were cautioned to be silent for violating the obsolete and misunderstood "Goldwater rule," which held that mental health professionals are not to warn the public about obviously dangerous people if they have not examined them in person.

Dr. John Gartner is one such voice. He is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and former professor at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School and also the founder of Duty to Warn. He was a contributor to the 2017 bestseller "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President," and was featured in the recent documentary "Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump."

In our most recent conversation, Gartner reflects on the uncanny accuracy of his predictions that Donald Trump would unleash death, destruction and mayhem on the United States if elected president. He also explains how the pathological knot of control between Trump and his followers continues to hold because of the deposed president's unique "gift" of being able to stimulate the most primitive and violent parts of the human mind. Gartner reflects on the events of Jan. 6, and discusses why Trump's attack force was so excited and aroused by the violence of that day.

How does it feel to have been right about Donald Trump and all the destruction he has caused? Few people heeded your warnings.

The first word that comes to mind is "exhausting." This has been a long war. We keep thinking that we're going to wake up from this nightmare and we never do.

Why are Trump's followers and other neofascists still energized so right now? On the other hand, it appears the so-called resistance has had its will broken.

Some people's minds are organized in a more primitive way. Such people are more action-oriented, as opposed to being thought-oriented. The primitive-minded do not reflect, they don't consider, they don't create. They live in a world which is black and white. In such a mindset they are threatened by "bad people" and therefore must respond aggressively to protect "the homeland." People whose minds are organized in a more primitive way are essentially on a permanent war footing. Compared to other people, that is actually a type of advantage in terms of raw aggression.

Trumpists and other neofascists are engaged in an existential battle. They are fighting a life-and-death struggle, and will not stop until they win. A person who is committed to "normal" politics and the old ways of "consensus" and "bipartisanship," and who believes that somehow things will always turn out fine because of "the institutions" is not able to understand the peril the country is facing.

For these people it is not situational: it is a type of fundamental orientation. People who are organized at this more primitive level are fundamentally angry people. They are also fundamentally paranoid people, and ethnocentric. People who are organized at this more primitive level, who are closer to their evolutionary roots, have a program that a demagogue can activate.

Reviewing all the predictions that you made regarding the Age of Trump, what is the one you wish people had taken more seriously?

Even the people who believed us about the nature of Trump's psychopathology did not believe our warnings about how far he would go. Trump was so deviant from everything that we have ever experienced in America from a president. I remember saying, "He's going to form concentration camps. He will do that." When I was comparing Trump to Hitler, one of the things that people said was, "Oh, come on, you're going too far."

I was wrong about Trump starting a war. I am grateful to be wrong on that prediction. But what I did not realize then was that Trump would engage in germ warfare. I did believe that Donald Trump was going to kill hundreds of thousands of people, and he has. With COVID-19, Trump has killed more than 600,000 people.

Why are so many Americans still surprised by these "revelations" about Trump's wrongdoing as president? Based on his public behavior and what we already knew about him, none of this is a surprise at all.

In a way, we as a society have been so protected and privileged, and lived such a life of peace and sanity, that we don't believe that the dystopian science fiction that we are living today in America is actually happening. There's a certain default option of normality. Nobody wants to give up that default assumption that we are still living in a world of facts and sanity.

How do you assess the events of Jan. 6, with the attack on the Capitol and Trump's attempted coup?

The four traits of malignant narcissism that I've emphasized in my discussions and warnings about Trump and this era are narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. The one trait that is the most important, and the least recognized, is sadism. On Jan. 6, during that attack on the Capitol, there was a sense of carnival for Trump's mob. These people were having fun. There was a weird manic joy, a kind of euphoria, pleasure and excitement at harming other people.

Trump is a sadist, but he's also arousing and tapping into the sadism in his right-wing authoritarian followers. He liberates a level of aggressive energy because one of the beliefs of the right-wing extremist is that aggression should be used for dominance and to enforce conformity and submission. And so aggression is sexualized and celebrated. Freud said there were two kinds of energy, sexual and aggressive. So when you liberate aggressive energy, it's euphoric, elating, you feel alive. So these people felt more alive on Jan. 6 than any other day of their lives.

How does Trump transmit this violence to his followers?

They are already primed for it. Trump just encourages it. The interaction between Trump and the followers creates a whole new state of being. It is almost as if Trump's followers are sleeper cells waiting to be activated by him or some other similarly inclined leader.

How do you explain the connections between the Big Lie, Q-Anon and conspiracy theories more generally?

Noted psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton developed the concept of "malignant normality." This explains how a malignantly narcissistic leader can change the reality of the society so that people actually believe the Big Lie or other propaganda. It becomes the new conventional wisdom.

Right-wing authoritarians are fundamentally paranoid. Their paranoia functions such that everything that is "bad" is projected outward. It is like a mirror reality for them. Using the Republican Party as an example, they use projection to gaslight: "Whatever I am doing, I will accuse you of doing." Joseph Goebbels said much the same thing: "Accuse them of whatever you're doing."

For the psychopaths at the top who are perpetrating these things, it is not an unconscious psychological process. Instead, it is an intentional strategy. The people who are vulnerable to such a tactic exist in a social context where they live in a bubble of information. They also have personalities ready to believe any paranoid conspiracy theory. It's fundamental to their personality to believe that other bad people are doing crazy things that need to be defended against, and there's really no limit to what those bad people could be doing or what theories you could have about them — especially if you and your group are doing some of those bad things.

I receive many emails and other messages from people who are upset when I issue warnings about Trumpists, Republicans and the white right and their collective commitment to using terrorism and other forms of violence to achieve their goals. Trump's followers are willing to kill and die for him and his movement. What would you tell such people who, even now, are still in deep denial about the reality of the crisis facing the United States?

They are very serious about hurting people. They are very serious about criminalizing resistance to their fascistic one-party rule over the country.

The new book by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker reveals that during the final days of the Trump regime the highest levels of the military were preparing to disobey Trump's orders in order to save the country's democracy from a coup. They were worried that Trump was behaving like Hitler and could be capable of starting a nuclear war. The Guardian also obtained a document, supposedly from a secret meeting held at the Kremlin, suggesting that Trump was the chosen candidate of Russian leaders because they concluded he was mentally unstable and would be easy to manipulate. I'm wondering how you feel about these apparent confirmations of your warnings?

It's ironic that we were so severely criticized for diagnosing Trump as a malignant narcissist, when it was precisely this diagnosis that proved to be the best predictor of his most dangerous behavior. Diagnosis was destiny. If we really allowed ourselves to consider the implications of a leader being this ill, we could have done more to protect ourselves. This would have included invoking the 25th Amendment, which we later learned was widely discussed within his administration.

For example, malignant narcissists don't peacefully transfer power. Period. That's why we warned back in 2017 that there was a high risk that he would initiate a coup or start a war, maybe even a nuclear war, to stay in power. Recent revelations from "Only I Can Fix It" show that both warnings should have been taken more seriously. Gen. Milley felt compelled to take steps to block a coup, and Nancy Pelosi called him to demand a promise that he would not allow "an unstable president" to use the nation's nuclear arsenal.

This [alleged Kremlin document] also validates our contention that Trump is the real-life "Manchurian Candidate," which many have known for a long time. What's new is that his mental instability was a feature, not a bug, for Vladimir Putin, who assessed Trump as an "impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex" and whose election would lead "lead to the destabilization of the U.S. sociopolitical system." This gives new meaning to psychological warfare. A Russian stooge as president is unthinkable enough, but a mentally unstable one could bring the whole country down. The result has been to cripple us. We are almost incapable of shared reality-based thinking and collective action in our national interest on almost anything, including areas that always rallied the nation, like public health and national defense.

If Donald Trump somehow returns to office, either by election or through a successful coup, what will happen?

I believe it will make "The Handmaid's Tale" look like a vacation.

The power of the Big Lie: Why do 30% of Americans cling to Trump's dark fantasy?

There is the Big Lie — Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud that are driving all manner of anti-democratic beliefs and behavior. But that Big Lie is supported and reinforced by all the little lies that make it real. In a highly polarized society where one political party is attacking the foundations of democracy and the neofascist movement continues to grow, public opinion is no longer a basic matter of collective beliefs about matters of public concern. Public opinion is now a function of personal identity, existential core values and the understanding of reality itself.

As political scientists and other researchers have shown this dynamic is especially true for Republicans and other "conservatives."

In that way, the Age of Trump and its aftermath resemble a science fiction dystopia where people exist in their own personal realities, through a type of experience machine that connects them to others who believe the same things — however untrue or fantastical they may be. That hive-mind has taken shape around us in the form of TrumpWorld and the MAGAverse.

The Big Lie that unites the Trump political cult — and unfortunately a large number of other Americans as well — is that Trump is still the legitimate president and that the 2020 election was "stolen." As seen on Jan. 6, this Big Lie and its associated little lies are a way of encouraging political violence and legitimating the Jim Crow Republicans and their war on multiracial democracy.

How many Americans have been willingly seduced by the Big Lie in its various forms? It appears the number is around 30 percent. Philip Bump of the Washington Post reports that since no credible evidence of widespread election fraud has ever emerged, we might have assumed "that the burst of speculation that the election had somehow been stolen might fade over time. That Americans predisposed to assume that President Biden had taken office only after a massive effort to steal the vote would consider the collapse of every effort to prove that point as evidence that perhaps that wasn't what happened." As we now know, such was not the case. Bump continues:

On Monday, Monmouth University released polling showing about a third of Americans think Biden won only because of voter fraud — the same fraction of the electorate that held that view in Monmouth's polling in March, in January and in November.
Despite the lack of credible evidence for the claim and the amount of time that has passed during which such evidence could have emerged, Americans are as likely to ascribe Biden's victory to unfounded claims of fraud as they were seven months ago.
That's driven by Republicans, as you might expect. Six in 10 Republicans think Biden won only because of fraud. That number is down from January, but Monmouth's pollsters explain the apparent drop is largely a function of more respondents identifying themselves as Republican-leaning independents. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, about two-thirds have consistently said they think Biden won only because of fraud.

To this point, belief in the Big Lie shows little sign of dissipating. The negative implications are many: Democracy is undermined when there is no shared understanding of basic facts and empirical reality; political violence becomes seen as acceptable when a Democratic administration is viewed by Trumpists and neofascists as illegitimate; any notion of the common good and shared public interest becomes impossible, which in turn makes the neofascist movement and its "solutions" more attractive to potential followers.

In total, the 30 percent of Americans who have been propagandized by the right-wing have abandoned the critical thinking skills and decision-making abilities required of responsible citizens in a healthy democracy.

How did this happen? The primary explanation is that decades of exposure to the right-wing disinformation news media conditioned conservative viewers to believe that lies are truth, and that right-wing dogma is equivalent to empirical evidence and proof.

There are other causes as well. These include individual and collective narcissism; a neoliberal regime of economic uncertainty and extreme wealth and income inequality; social atomization, loneliness and the culture of cruelty; a broken public education system that increasingly produces human drones and not critical thinkers; a debased culture in which people increasingly define themselves as consumers or even "brands"; white racial resentment and white supremacy; fear of social change; anti-intellectualism and anti-rationality, manifesting in such social forces as conspiracy theory and right-wing Christian fundamentalism; and a hollowing out of social democracy.

In search of further explanations, I reached out by email to Texas A&M communications professor Jennifer Mercieca, an expert on political rhetoric and author of the recent book "Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump." She responded:

There are several things going on here that prevent Republicans from believing that Biden legitimately won the election: first, is the "filter bubble" effect — the news conservatives trust tells them that Biden did not win legitimately and the news that they don't trust tells them that he did. It's easy to ignore the news that they distrust, they may never even hear the correct facts. Second, the "illusory truth" effect, which says that if something is repeated enough that people will believe it. Conservatives have heard since 2016 that Democrats cheat at elections, that they can't be trusted and Trump could only lose if they cheat. Third, the "self-sealing" nature of conspiracy in general. Once a conspiracy takes hold it can never be disproven. Fourth, motivated reasoning. Conservatives want to believe that they won, so that means that Biden had to cheat. Fifth, the issue falls into what persuasion theorists call the "latitude of rejection." When people have their minds made up about something, then they aren't open to persuasion — especially if they have their minds made up against something.
This is still an open issue on conservative news channels. Every day there is a new update to the story of how the election is still being litigated and investigated. People who consume that media have reason to hope that the proof will be found, and Trump will still win. That hope is being nurtured by the media they consume. Others may prudently decide not to make up their minds until all the facts have come out, which means they'll continue to entertain the possibility that Biden cheated.

But what of the remaining 70 percent of Americans, and their relationship to propaganda and disinformation more generally? How are the 30 percent of Americans who have succumbed to the Big Lie and the MAGAverse different from others?

Writing at the Daily Beast, David Rothkopf offers a sobering observation:

Six months after the attack on the Capitol triggered by that lie, commentators, political scientists, and families around the dinner table still struggle to come to grips with perverse reality. It is natural to want to understand how we got here. The fate of our democracy turns on not just what our electorate believes but why they believe it. Why are a third of us such gullible rubes? ...
We were raised on lies — including many lies that are much, much bigger than the big one that troubles us today.
That's the problem. We are as a society — and by "we" I mean virtually all of us on the planet — brought up to believe howling absurdities, ridiculous impossibilities, and insupportable malarkey from our very first moments on Earth. We have massive lie-delivery systems that are the core institutions of our society. And we have created cultural barriers to even questioning those fabrications which are most deserving of skeptical scrutiny.

TrumpWorld will not magically disappear even if policies are put in place that protect the right to vote, rein in the right-wing disinformation machine or otherwise inhibit the neofascist assault on democracy and freedom. As historians, political scientists, philosophers, social psychologists and other experts have repeatedly warned, fascism is as much a cultural problem as a political one.

Solving America's democracy crisis will require a broad strategy of renewal and reckoning. To that end, if American society is to be made immune to fascist demagoguery, the country's people and leaders must ask and answer hard questions about their values and behavior. Trumpism and neofascism are much more than a question of whether our "institutions" will hold. They are a fundamental test of national character — one it is not yet clear whether America will pass or fail.

After the monster's ball: CPAC celebrates the coup, and offers hints of the turmoil ahead

Last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in Dallas was a virtual monster's ball of fascists, con artists, coup plotters, political street thugs, white supremacists and QAnon cult members, along with a deposed and twice-impeached president, various theocrats, professional liars and other disreputable elements who are the "mainstream" of the Trumpified conservative movement.

This article first appeared on Salon.

In keeping with its macabre origins, the CPAC monster's ball both celebrated and encouraged right-wing political violence in its various forms. Donald Trump's presidency gave full permission for such violence. His coup attempt and the attack by his followers on the U.S. Capitol was but one more step in the normalization of right-wing political violence in service to the neofascist cause. As seen at CPAC and across the right-wing echo chamber, stochastic terrorism — in which violence is encouraged and implied but not directly endorsed — is increasingly being replaced by overt and direct threats.

The Big Lie that Donald Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him, is still the "real" president and will somehow be returned to office next month (or at least soon) is accepted as truth by the CPAC faithful and large numbers of Republicans.

Likewise, the coup attempt and right-wing terrorism of Jan. 6 are also understood to be the acts of "patriots" who are now understood as "political prisoners" and "heroes." Alleged participants in the Jan. 6 attack were also present and feted at CPAC. They were not shamed or condemned for their treasonous behavior and overall support of sedition.

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a featured speaker, mocked the hundreds of thousands of people who have died during the COVID pandemic by encouraging people not to be vaccinated, calling the lifesaving coronavirus vaccine "Fauci's ouchie."

Donald Trump and his regime's response to the coronavirus pandemic was a combination of sabotage, indifference and self-interest, acts which in total constitute democide against the American people. That crime against humanity is now being celebrated by Trump's Republican Party and his followers.

During her speech at CPAC, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stuck to the right-wing moral panic script over "critical race theory," understood as a danger to white children, who are being indoctrinated into Marxism and taught to hate themselves.

On Sunday, Noem would tell her audience that "Critical race theory is hate, division, and it's not American. It's offensive. We do not have racism in our DNA in this country." And what does one do, of course, when told that the the well-being of one's children is being threatened by such evil and devious forces? Understandably, one resorts to violence.

In one of the most direct commands to commit acts of right-wing violence and terrorism, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama said that conservatives must act in the spirit of George Washington during the Revolutionary War and be prepared to "fight for America." The message was clear enough: Right-wing "patriots" must be prepared to kill and die for their beliefs. This summary is from the Independent:

Representative Mo Brooks asked the crowd at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference whether they are willing to "sacrifice" themselves as their "ancestors" did during the American Revolutionary War encampment at Valley Forge, where hundreds of soldiers died of disease.
The Alabama congressman — running for a Senate seat in the state with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump — is facing a censure effort and a lawsuit from Democrats in the House of Representatives after he joined a months-long campaign to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election, culminating in a speech telling the former president's supporters to "start taking down names and kicking a**" before the riot at the US Capitol.
"Our choice is simple: We can surrender and submit, or we can fight back, as our ancestors have done," he told the CPAC attendees on 9 July.
Continental soldiers at Valley Forge "didn't fight the British — they fought for survival", he said at the political conference. "Twelve thousand Continental soldiers arrived. Five, six months later, 2,000 died. Think about what they went through. Burying your brothers, your fathers, your sons, 10 to 15 a day, every day for six months."
He added: "That's the kind of sacrifice we have to think about, and I ask you – are you willing to fight for America?"

These are not empty threats: Brooks is one of alleged ringleaders in Trump's coup attempt, which aimed to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Of course Trump himself was the featured guest and keynote speaker. He would tell the CPAC faithful that:

Democrats are ruthless, but they are united. They don't have these Romney types. They don't have them. It must be wonderful to live like that, but they have bad policy and they have policy that's going to destroy our country. Like socialists and communists movements throughout history, today's leftists do not believe in freedom, they do not believe in fairness, and they do not believe in democracy. They believe in Marxist morality. Anything is justified as long as it hurts their political opponents and advances the radical agenda of their party. It's a radical agenda like nobody has seen before. Before our very eyes, the radical left Democrats are turning the law itself into a weapon for partisan persecution. …
Our glorious American inheritance was passed down to us by generations of American patriots who gave everything they had. Their sweat, their blood and even their way of lives to build America into the greatest nation in the history of the world, and we are not going to let it be taken away from us by a small group of radical left Marxist maniacs. We're not going to let it happen.

Perhaps the most dangerous escalation of Trump's appeals to fascist violence is his attempt to canonize followers who die in service to him and the movement. As seen in the wake of Jan. 6, such people are now "martyrs" to the cause. This kind of myth-making is a common propaganda strategy among political death cults, from the Nazis to ISIS. Joseph Goebbels would be very proud of the Trump movement's elevation of terrorists into heroes.

Ultimately, the implicit and explicit calls to violence at CPAC are symptomatic of a larger problem in America. With neofascism in the ascendant, the Republican Party and right-wing echo chamber are amplifying violence as a means of keeping and holding political power. It's an understatement to say that such values and behavior are dangerous to democracy.

By email, I asked Dr. Bandy Lee, one of the world's foremost experts on violence and public health, how she perceives Trumpism's increasing public embrace of violence and physical threats against its enemies. She began her response by noting that violence, whether directed at others or the self, "is best considered a contagious disease":

In science and in medicine, the distinction between physical and psychological diseases has all but dissolved. People debate whether Donald Trump is a symptom or a cause, but he is both. If he were removed as soon as specialists identified him and made their public health prognosis, he would have remained a symptom. Unfortunately, he was not, and his violence-proneness has spread as never before from a president.
This is why I try to emphasize the concept of "shared psychosis," whereby a severely symptomatic person in a position of power transmits his symptoms through exposure and emotional bonds. Symptom transmission differs from ordinary persuasion, or the convincing of ideas, in that it "catches" through compulsion, or irresistible emotional drives that are not amenable to logic or evidence. The results are quite dramatic in family settings or in street gangs, but we now see this at national scale because of the influential position he held.

Given the events of Jan. 6 (and the Age of Trump more generally), law enforcement and national security experts are warning that the United States may experience a sustained right-wing violent insurgency. Such experts also warn that, once it becomes clear that Trump will not miraculously be returned to power, we are likely to see acts of domestic terrorism directed at Democratic elected officials, Black and brown people, and others targeted as "the enemy."

On this pattern of escalating violence, Lee warns:

Fascism is more of a mental pathology at societal scale than a political ideology. Since we failed to intervene at the seeding phase, the spread has become exponential, just like any pandemic, but it is still not impossible to reverse the tide.
Donald Trump's being "gone" has not been much of a remedy because he was allowed to stay in power for so long, and even now we are far from containing him.
Over four years, he had "infected" and hence created many more mini-Trumps who act individually or at local levels to transmit symptoms.
Indeed, there was rapid escalation of suicides following his election, and we are now seeing homicide levels that reflect his presidency in 2019. We can mitigate the violence more directly through local means, but a truly preventive intervention needs to happen at the presidential or national level.

As illustrated at the CPAC gathering, Joe Biden may be president, but America remains in the grip of a national nightmare fueled by Trumpism, the Republican Party and the larger white right. What can or will the Democrats do to break this cycle? What are they doing right now to save American democracy from the ferocious energy of fascism and political violence, seen in miniature this past weekend?

What have we learned from Jan. 6? Not enough to stop it from happening again

Six months have passed since the historic and horrible events of Jan. 6, 2021. What have we learned since then?

This article first appeared in Salon.

More than 550 members of Donald Trump's attack force have been arrested, including nearly 40 charged with conspiracy. The ringleaders, including Donald Trump and his inner circle, who instigated, funded and organized the attack on the Capitol have not been punished. Given the Department of Justice's timid approach to investigating and prosecuting the Trump regime's many obvious crimes, it is unlikely they ever will be.

Trump and his Republican Party's plot to overthrow the government by nullifying the results of the 2020 presidential election were far more extensive — and far more likely to succeed — than was previously known.

Public opinion polls show that a growing number of Americans simply want to "move on" from the events of Jan. 6. Predictably, this is especially true of Republicans.

There will be no bipartisan committee to investigate what happened that day. The Republican Party has obstructed such investigations because of its obvious guilt and complicity. Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will convene a select committee, which will presumably have less power and authority than a proper commission.

Those who want to move on have deluded themselves into the fantastic belief that climbing into the memory well will magically keep them safe. In reality, the memory well is a type of purgatory or prison.

In keeping with how fascism spreads in a failing democracy, Trump and his propagandists are now elevating right-wing terrorists into "heroes" and "political prisoners" who should be freed from prison immediately. But the most important fact remains unchanged: The events of Jan. 6 were a trial run, and proof of concept. If the Republican Party loses a presidential election in the future, we will in all probability see a second coup — and it will likely be successful.

These last six months have also been a time of public events, commemorations and other important dates that signal to an American story of violence, freedom won in blood, racism and white supremacy, destruction and creation, freedom dreams and authoritarian nightmares — with the color line intersecting it all.

Specifically, in that time we have seen the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa white-on-black race massacre, the one-year anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, the first Juneteenth to be a national holiday, and the first Memorial Day and Fourth of July since the Capitol attack.

On this, James Baldwin wrote in 1963 that "American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it."

In total, America's unresolved history its and accompanying need for a moral reckoning gave birth to the befouled creature that is Trumpism and American neofascism — and continues to give it life. In the maelstrom of this half-year there was an important moment that received little attention, but that explains much about the events of Jan. 6, the motivations of the attackers and coup plotters, and the likelihood that such political violence will happen again.

On June 29, the House of Representatives voted to remove Confederate statues on display in the Capitol. All Democrats voted in support of the bill. Most Republicans voted against it. It will now go to the Senate where the Republicans will almost certainly kill it with the filibuster.

Of course, those who defend displaying Confederate statues in the home of American democracy, and in public places more generally, will summon up intellectually dishonest claims about how such objects represent "history" and "heritage," perhaps even a "noble cause." They may also offer nonsense claims that the treasonous cause of the Confederacy was about "states' rights" instead of about protecting the vile institution of white-on-black chattel slavery.

The Confederacy was dedicated to white supremacy, racial authoritarianism and a particular kind of "white freedom" in which the human rights of Black and brown people were not to be respected. Today's Republican Party — in which the Southern slaveocracy and Jim Crow South have been reborn — largely shares the same values and beliefs, albeit presented in a different (and less honest) form.

When Trump's followers launched their lethal attack on the Capitol, some waved Confederate flags, which are symbols of white supremacy and hatred. The Trump attack force wore and displayed other white supremacist symbols and regalia. Many carried crosses to symbolize their commitment to the fascist "Christian identity" movement. It is no coincidence that open white supremacists including Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other right-wing paramilitary groups played such a prominent role on Jan. 6.

Trump's attack force was not just attacking the rule of law and the Constitution, but also the idea of multiracial democracy itself. Those who have been arrested have repeatedly told law enforcement that they were acting out of "patriotism". The traitors in the old Confederacy used similar language.

Because it can no longer win free and fair elections, the Jim Crow Republican Party is trying to keep Black and brown people from voting. To that end, in nearly all states Republicans have proposed anti-democracy laws that disproportionately target Black and brown people and other members of the Democratic Party's base. This new Jim Crow apartheid is explicitly designed to subvert the people's will and to rig elections so that Republicans — the world's largest white supremacist political organization — literally cannot lose. As in the old Confederacy, the ultimate goal is to create a type of white "Christian" plutocracy and racial authoritarian state.

The Republican Party and the larger white right's moral panic about "critical race theory" (which in practice means any substantive and truthful discussions of racial and social inequality) is an attempt to literally whitewash American history in the service of white supremacist fantasies. The Confederacy and its loyalists did much the same thing. That project continues in the present.

Moreover, what the Jim Crow Republicans and other neofascists now describe as "patriotic education" is in practice white supremacist Orwellian brainwashing. As seen in Florida and elsewhere, those who dissent from such a regime will be punished for thoughtcrimes.

The Republican Party's commitment to the neo-Confederate cause is not something being imposed on its voters and followers by outside forces. Public opinion polls and other research shows that white Republicans (and especially Trump supporters) are committed to white racial authoritarianism, are afraid of the "browning of America." and subscribe to the paranoid view that they are somehow being "replaced" by Black and brown people. These same fears motivated white Southerners during white-on-black slavery and through to the end of Reconstruction and beyond.

A 2019 Economist/YouGov poll reported that 53% of Republican voters believed Donald Trump was a better Republican president than Abraham Lincoln.

The thousands of Trumpists who attacked and overran the Capitol on Jan. 6 wore their signature red MAGA hats and other markers of loyalty to the Great Leader and his neofascist cause. Those red hats were not something outside of American history or entirely without precedent. More than a century ago their forefathers — in spirit, and in some cases literally as well — donned red shirts and other garments to symbolize their dedication to white power as they engaged in a campaign of terror against free Black Americans and their white allies during Reconstruction and after.

Writing at the Daily Kos, journalist David Neiwert connects that past to Trumpism and white supremacy.

Banning the Klan simply did not work. Southerners instead began forming "rifle clubs" whose purpose was in fact to sow political terror. The participants in these clubs began wearing bright blood-red shirts as a way of mocking the "bloody shirts" supposedly waved about by their Northern foes. Thus, the Red Shirts came into being.
Southerners called their strategy — which essentially entailed overthrowing Reconstruction-era Republican rule by means of organized threats of violence and suppression of the black vote — "the Mississippi plan," whose name came from the violent skirmishes that broke out in Vicksburg, Mississippi, which culminated in the deaths of several hundred black people and the assassination of the black sheriff. Similar strategies emerged when organized whites staged a coup in Louisiana that ultimately overthrew the Republican governor, as well as a "race riot" in Alabama that achieved similar results for Barbour County.
However, it was in the Carolinas that the Red Shirts became a notable presence that persisted for decades. In the 1876 elections, an organization of Red Shirts from both South Carolina and Georgia converged on the border town of Hamburg (which no longer exists) to provoke a bloody confrontation that culminated in the massacre of a number of black freedmen, many of them executed in cold blood. Even worse violence broke out in Ellenton, South Carolina, resulting in the deaths of dozens of black people. …
However, the Red Shirts were far from finished. They remained an active voice in Southern politics for another two decades, in every instance serving to threaten and intimidate black voters, passing Jim Crow laws and then enforcing them through both legal and extralegal means.

Neiwert warns that the descendants the Red Shirts are visible around us today amid the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, the "patriot" movement and elsewhere, with the identical aim of depriving disadvantaged groups "with long histories of political oppression their access to the political and legal franchise."

Did the Confederacy really lose the American civil war? On the battlefield the Confederates were defeated. However, in many ways the Confederacy won the long cultural and political war. The current battle against the Jim Crow Republicans, Trumpism and an ascendant neofascist movement is the American civil war continuing into its third century.

The Confederate army could never conquer Washington and overrun the Capitol. On Jan. 6, Trump's forces were able to accomplish that goal within a few hours. Their victory served as inspiration and fuel for the American fascist movement. They will never forget that day and their triumph.

And what about those other Americans, who have convincing themselves that organized forgetting offers safety and salvation? They will soon learn that it does not.

The GOP’s sociopathic agenda has just been exposed: Bring democracy to a standstill -- then end it

Today's Republican Party is a fascist, criminal, sociopathic, anti-democratic, white supremacist, theocratic, plutocratic and cultlike organization. Its leaders (and followers) have repeatedly and publicly shown the world that they embrace such values and behavior.

In response, the Democratic Party, the mainstream news media and too many average Americans have responded to the Age of Trump and its horrors by trying to convince themselves that the Republican Party and larger right-wing movement are something other than what they have shown themselves to be.

And of course there is the fetish of "bipartisanship." Under its sway, the Democratic Party's leadership and too many among the mainstream news media and commentariat have convinced themselves that compromise with Republicans, no matter how radicalized and extremist they have become, is something virtuous in itself.

If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, that truism is especially correct here. President Biden and the Democrats have attempted to work with an opposition that has at almost every moment shown itself to be an enemy of democracy, up to and including its support for Trump's ongoing coup attempt and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

As I have previously written, "white identity politics and white rage are more important than pocketbook issues for many of today's Republican voters." The only meaningful way Biden and the Democrats can fight back must begin with "acknowledging that this crisis of democracy is existential" and acting accordingly:

This means not cooperating with the Republicans on any policies in the name of "bipartisanship." Protecting American democracy should be the Democrats' No. 1 priority. To work with Republicans is to legitimize them as responsible partners in government, when in reality today's Republican Party is an extremist, anti-democratic and white supremacist criminal organization.

Today's Republican Party is ultimately incapable of being a partner in responsible governance. It rejects basic principles of democracy and compromise towards a shared goal of serving the public good. Instead, the right-wing movement's primary goals are chaos, obstruction and destruction, with the aim of delegitimizing the very idea of democracy itself — except as a meaningless term used to describe one-party Republican rule.

Republican leaders, officials and other spokespeople know this is the strategy and have repeatedly admitted to it. Leaked video footage of Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, saying precisely that is only the latest example. As reported by Common Dreams:

Newly leaked video footage of a recent event hosted by the right-wing group Patriot Voices shows Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas openly admitting that his party wants "18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done" as President Joe Biden, a bipartisan group of senators, and congressional Democrats work to pass climate and infrastructure legislation.
"Honestly, right now, for the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow all of that down to get to December of 2022," Roy says in the clip, referring to the month after that year's midterm elections. Republicans need to flip just a handful of seats to take back the House and Senate.
"I don't vote for anything in the House of Representatives right now," Roy says in response to an audience member's question about the sweeping infrastructure and safety-net package that Democrats are planning to pass unilaterally alongside a White House-backed bipartisan deal.

As Indivisible co-director Ezra Levin noted on Twitter, "Chip Roy got caught saying it out loud, but to be clear this has been [Mitch] McConnell's plan all along."

What does Roy's "18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done" mean in practice? Of course it means blocking specific legislation, such as President Biden's infrastructure bill and investigations into the Trump regime and its obvious crimes. More important still, it means further restrictions on Black and brown people's voting rights in a 21st-century version of Jim Crow.

Over the last several decades, Republicans and movement conservatives have shown that for them democracy is not a primary virtue or a sacred principle. Instead, they view democracy as a means to an end, a tool for acquiring and holding as much power as possible so they can impose their will on those Americans targeted as the enemy.

Such political behavior is typical of failing democracies, where an extremist, authoritarian faction infiltrates government and then uses the institutions of democracy to destroy it from within.

As Nancy MacLean, Heather Cox Richardson and other scholars have shown, one of the main tensions in American society is the relationship between democracy, property and the value of human life. Should capital and profit reign over all other considerations? Or should the United States be a social democracy where human rights have primacy over profits and property rights?

From before the founding to the present, America has been a racialized society structured around the dominance of white people over nonwhite people, and for much of that history Black people were defined as human property. So these debates about "freedom" and "rights" can often be reduced to a basic question: How much power, wealth and control should a small minority of rich white men hold over everyone else?"

In an interview last year with Yale News, political scientist Jacob Hacker explored how Republicans have built an implausible coalition rooted in "plutocratic populism," combining "organized money and organized outrage to win elections, tilt the playing field in their favor, and govern for the top 1%." In order to draw voters to support economic polices that were beloved by "big donors and big corporations but unpopular among voters, and even many Republicans," the party created an "infrastructure of outrage," notably the NRA, the Christian right and the right-wing propaganda media.

There's an obvious contradiction at work here, Hacker notes, but to this point Republicans have managed to conceal that from their own voters:

[T]he steep rise in inequality after 1980 created a sort of conservative dilemma for Republicans in the United States. Essentially, there's a growing tension between those at the top and the rest of society. It's a tension between the goals of the plutocrats — the richest people, big business, and the organizations they create to influence policy — and the ideas that Republicans need to articulate to attract ordinary voters.
In particular, Republicans have become increasingly reliant on white working-class voters. These are [Lee] Atwater's populists. But to do so, Republicans basically divorce their economic policies from their electoral strategies. Those strategies rest more and more on radicalizing voters and getting them to see electoral politics as "us versus them" identity wars. They use racial imagery, demonize government and Democrats, and basically create a kind of tribal identity around whiteness, conservative Christianity, rurality, gun ownership, and the like. The goal is to shift the focus from the growing economic divide and instead incite outrage that reliably gets their voters to the polls but doesn't challenge the party's plutocratic aims.

Unless Joe Biden and the Democrats jettison the totem of "bipartisanship" — which is largely a concern of the political class, not average Americans — the Republican Party's chaos campaign against democracy will keep on winning.

Next year's congressional midterms and the 2024 presidential election will be two of the most important elections in American history. Democracy is literally on the ballot. The Republicans and their allies and foot soldiers are following through on an aggressive plan to end multiracial, majoritarian democracy by nullifying the people's will, and have made clear they are willing to endorse right-wing terrorism and political violence to win and hold power.

What will it take for the Democratic Party, its leaders, the press and the American people to take the Republican Party's existentially dangerous behavior more seriously? Or is it already too late to stop America's accelerating descent into neofascism and a "whites only" pseudo-democracy?

Biden's infrastructure bill is great -- but it won't save us from GOP fascism

Trumpism and other forms of American fascism are not acute illnesses in the nation's civic life and society. They are more like chronic illnesses; the infection runs deep.

New research by Morning Consult reveals the extent of this problem, reporting that "26% of the U.S. population qualified as highly right-wing authoritarian." Using researcher Bob Altemeyer's right-wing authoritarianism test and scale and building on work he has conducted recently with the Monmouth University Polling Institute, Morning Consult "found that U.S. conservatives have stronger right-wing authoritarian tendencies than their right-of-center counterparts in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom":

Altemeyer defines authoritarianism as the desire to submit to some authority, aggression that is directed against whomever the authority says should be targeted and a desire to have everybody follow the norms and social conventions that the authority says should be followed. Those characteristics were all on display in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, culminating earlier this year in the attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. ...
Take views on the rioters themselves, for example: More than a quarter of high-RWA respondents and conservatives said those that broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6 were protecting the U.S. government rather than undermining it, compared with roughly 9 in 10 liberal or low-RWA respondents who said the opposite.
Similar divides cropped up on the questions that helped lead to the Jan. 6 riot, with most right-leaning and high-RWA Americans agreeing that Joe Biden won the presidential election due to widespread fraud. A slim majority of those respondents also said they were more likely to believe Trump than U.S. judges when it comes to the existence of evidence of voting irregularities.

These findings complement new research from the Voter Study Group finding that 46% of Republicans believe state legislatures should have the power to overturn the results of the popular vote — specifically, to nullify Biden's victory by giving electoral college votes to Donald Trump, irrespective of the actual vote.

Political scientists and other experts have described the political system that Republicans want to impose as "competitive authoritarianism" or "managed democracy," which is used by Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Nearly one in three Republicans reject the basic premise that in a democracy the candidate who loses an election should admit defeat and respect the outcome. These new findings complement earlier research showing — that Republican voters – especially Trump supporters — are willing to reject democracy and embrace authoritarianism if it means that white people remain the dominant and most powerful group in the United States.

There are many more examples of the ways the Republican Party and its voters have rejected democracy and embraced authoritarianism.

The Jim Crow Republican Party is currently engaged in a nationwide campaign to keep Black and brown people and other likely Democratic voters from voting at all. Republican voters have been propagandized and programmed with racist lies about "voter fraud" and "election integrity," and overwhelmingly support these attacks on democracy.

New research by the American Enterprise Institute shows that almost 40% of Republicans are willing to support political violence if they deem it necessary to "protect the country" or America's "traditional way of life."

As a result of the Big Lie strategy and repeated claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, approximately 70% of Republicans believe that Trump is still president and see Biden as a usurper. Furthermore, 30% of Republicans have managed to convince themselves that Trump will be "reinstated" as president as soon as August. (There is no legal or constitutional way to accomplish that.)

The Department of Homeland Security has warned that Trump's followers may engage in acts of political violence and terrorism, as they did on Jan. 6, if he does not return to power.

Other polls show that 21% of Republicans support Donald Trump's coup attempt and attack on the U.S. Capitol, with 30% of Republicans describing those who stormed the Capitol in January as "patriots."

How are President Biden and the Democratic Party responding to this rising tide of fascism and authoritarianism and its toxic hold over tens of millions of (white) Americans? In fairness, Biden has repeatedly voiced his profound concerns about the Republican Party's ongoing attempts to overthrow America's multiracial democracy.

But Biden's response to this democracy crisis is to focus on "bipartisanship," creating economic growth, fighting the coronavirus and passing an infrastructure bill and other legislation as a way of improving the lives of all Americans — including, of course, Trump supporters and Republicans. To this point, Biden's approach to governance has relied on ignoring the right-wing rage machine and its attempts to bait him into "culture war" fights.

Biden's core logic is as follows: If his administration and the Democrats in Congress can improve people's material circumstances and day-to-day lives, democracy will be redeemed as the best form of government. In a new essay at CNN, Frida Ghitis describes this strategy:

The President has not changed his mind about how important democracy is; he didn't just decide that bridges and highways are a higher priority than the right to vote. Rather, Biden has made a tactical choice. He is wagering that improving infrastructure, creating jobs and raising standards of living for the bulk of Americans will prove a more effective way to show democracy works than shifting procedures on how to vote. It's a gamble, and like every gamble, it may or may not pay off. …
Biden understands that voting rights are paramount to safeguarding democracy. But from what he has said we know that he believes the future of democracy depends on something beyond everyone's right to cast a ballot. What matters more is persuading the public that this is a system that produces tangible results for them. If the system doesn't give you a better life, some may ask, why is it so important to protect it?

Ghitis concludes with this warning:

The risk is that, as Biden allocates his finite political capital toward longer-range programs, even as Republicans focus sharply on strangling Democrats' efforts to strengthen voting rights, he is allowing the most fundamental mechanism of democracy, the act of voting, to become increasingly difficult for citizens to exercise.
If his gamble fails, he could end up creating prosperity and well-being, just in time for the party that is undercutting democracy to take power.

Unfortunately, Biden is in error here: Like other forms of fascism, Trumpism is fueled by resentment, fear, collective narcissism and an almost primordial belief that one's own racial or ethnic group is superior to others. Improving the material circumstances of Trump's followers may peel a few of them away on the fringes, but the base and core will remain.

Biden's error reflects a more general mistake in reasoning that all too often hobbles Democrats, liberals and other members of the so-called left in their confrontations with fascists, authoritarians and other illiberal forces: Yes, the economy and "class" are important, but fascist movements are also fueled by dreams of a fictive past and a return to "greatness," power, and dominance for one's social or demographic group.

Trump's followers are not, as a group, economically impoverished. "White working-class" Trumpists have a median household income of $72,000. As seen on Jan. 6, it is not the white poor or the working class who are being most severely radicalized into right-wing extremism. Rather, it is middle-class white people who have become afraid of being "replaced" by nonwhites.

Joe Biden is receiving high marks from Democrats as well as many Republicans for his approach to stopping the COVID pandemic and reinvigorating the economy. Nonetheless, Republicans overwhelmingly oppose him and view his presidency, along with the Democratic Party and its voters, as an existential threat to white power.

Writing at CNN, Matt Egan offers this warning about how Trumpism distorts Republicans' perception of the state of the economy:

Unemployment is shrinking. The stock market is booming. Americans are returning to the skies and even to movie theaters. And yet Republicans are deeply worried about the state of the economy.
Even though the US economy is expected to grow this year at the fastest pace in decades, consumer sentiment among self-identified Republicans is worse today than during the height of the pandemic, according to the University of Michigan.
In fact, Republicans are more pessimistic than at any point since September 2010, when the economy was just beginning to dig out of the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, consumer sentiment among self-identified Democrats is higher than at any point during the presidency of Donald Trump — even though unemployment was far lower then than it is today.
This polarization of consumer sentiment across party lines is not entirely new, but it got significantly worse during the Trump era and continues to this day.

Unfortunately, white identity politics and white rage are more important than pocketbook issues for many of today's Republican voters. How can Biden and the Democrats and Joe Biden fight back? They must start by acknowledging that this crisis of democracy is existential — and then act with extreme urgency.

This means not cooperating with the Republicans on any policies in the name of "bipartisanship." Protecting American democracy should be the Democrats' No. 1 priority. To work with Republicans is to legitimize them as responsible partners in government, when in reality today's Republican Party is an extremist, anti-democratic and white supremacist criminal organization. The Senate filibuster, long an impediment to democracy, must at last be eliminated.

The Democrats should learn from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's cruel tutelage in realpolitik. "What would Mitch McConnell do?" should be a principle that Democratic leaders internalize — and they should then turn McConnell's ruthless tactics on the Republicans.

The Democratic Party must develop better messaging that attacks the core brand identity of the Republican Party. To that end, the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election must become a referendum on democracy versus fascism.

In a recent conversation here at Salon, political scientist and polling analyst Rachel Bitecofer summarized the Democrats' predicament:

The GOP is running this very strategic, very intentional branding campaign, and we're still talking about politics in terms of policies and things like that. We're ... making a huge mistake when we're tinkering around in the branches of electioneering infrastructure on the left, because our real problem lies at that root level, where we are not engaged in a campaign technique that matches the moment.

Finally, Biden and the Democrats must understand that time is once again their enemy. Bold and forceful action to save American democracy is needed, right now. It is better to act boldly and with confidence than to wait for salvation at some future moment — because the Trump movement and the Jim Crow Republicans are working to foreclose all such future options. If Democrats, and all Americans, are going to lose this existential struggle for the future, it would surely be better to go down swinging rather than to sit there passively, hoping for the best.

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