Full Frontal Fascism
After years of claimed color blindness, Donald Trump has returned a deep and frightening bigotry to the public discourse of the so-called center. Hatred has a long history in the US and, while we must be outraged, we should not be surprised that it rears its ugly head in times of crisis. Racism has always been the default division among “we the people.”
Trump’s form of bigotry is easy to identify and invites open resistance. The coalition of immigrant, youth and people of color that shut him down in Chicago and the Latinx lead protest movement against Trump in California, Texas and elsewhere are the leading edge of a movement with wide appeal and great expectations.
Much more difficult to address than blatant racism and much more subtle and dangerous are the institutionalized forms of violence and repression aimed at people of color, the young and the poor.
Hidden in Plain Sight
How is it that a new system of racial oppression came to be created in a liberal world supposedly blind to race? How did new forms of racial oppression become institutionalized at a time when public statements of racism were considered unacceptable? Read The New Jim Crow for a complete answer. The short answer is that it did. And, the new jim crow took the form of a vast militarized penal system.
The penal system relies on mass incarceration, slave-like prison labor, extrajudicial killings, and the militarization of the police forces. Are these racist? Are these fascist? If not, they are the closest thing to fascism we have in the US today. Did the Clinton machine help construct this system? Yes, they were among the architects of the system. Obama simply maintained it. This is not something you can just apologize for or easily dismantle. It is an institution hard and fast, legal, well-funded and a centerpiece of the social order.
If we cannot see it for what it is, it’s because institutionalized racism and the vast militarized penal system has become the new normal in labor relations for many corporations. When you eat at McDonalds, Wendy’s or Starbucks, shop at Walmart or JC Penny; make a call on Sprint or Version Wireless; book a reservation on Avis or American Airlines; enjoy Victorias’s Secrets lingerie or invest with Fidelity you are consuming slave labor. And that is just the start of it.
We miss this fascism, hidden in plain sight, because it is legal and accepted. Hannah Arendt, Jewish-German immigrant and great American thinker, went face to face with the fascist nightmare as a reporter at the trial of notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. To the world’s surprise, Arendt found not a monster but a colorless machine operative, a bureaucrat, a climber with an eye toward his own career. He was just doing his job and obeying the law.
The mass face of fascism is deceptive, its banality and routine masks grave danger. One the other hand, fascism demands a flamboyant demagogue like Trump to brashly voice the fear, anxiety and pride that both compensates and distracts people from the dumb obedience and despair of life in the machine.
If this is fascism, it is also just good business. Maximizing profit is standard operating procedure, isn’t it? After all, Trump did not come to power on the shoulders of streets toughs or the KKK. Trump is the “made man” of the corporate media. Giant media corporations gave one of their very own millions of dollars of free publicity. Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Poltics and Public policy have documented the media’s positive treatment of Trump during the decisive “invisible primary” during which big media shapes public opinion and expectations before a single vote is cast.
Trump’s candidacy was made by the very same corporations that made Clinton the frontrunner and “presumptive” nominee and marginalized Sanders for ten months only to finally recognize his campaign as a doomed and senseless spoiler harming Clinton. And who is Jill Stein anyway? Trump is very much the corporate media’s boy and yes its the same media that launched the preemptive strike on the California primary.
We live in an age of consequences. Trump is the consequence of three decades of dragging the Democratic party to the right which redefined the so-called center around the extremism of mass incarceration, endless war, propaganda and corporate power. At first triangulation was a cunning play for the Clintons. If they could steal conservative issues, the logic went, the Republican would have nothing left to peddle. But the Republicans simply resorted to ever more explicitly rightwing and fanatical politics and in the US that means racism and bigotry. The great recession of 2008 and Obama’s failure to do much of anything beside secure the interests of the corporations finally pushed millions of Americans away from the extreme center triangulation created. The game could go on forever as long as no challengers appeared to state the obvious: the machines no longer represent or serve the American people.
The Movement Can Stop Trump
There are answers to Trump far better than Clinton. The super delegates have but one redeeming possibility: they are supposed to pick the best candidate not simply perpetuate the machine. If they do so Sanders is the only choice. If not the options get tricky. If we write in Sanders we risk dispersing the movement. Perhaps the best long term choice is to build the Green Party, get our 5% of the vote for Jill Stein and move forward. Stein is currently polling at 7% and is likely to finish much, much stronger. But the threat cannot be beat back at the ballot box alone. We need to push our unions toward social movement unionism, and expand the pro-democracy movement.
The movement can stop Trump or has a far better chance of doing so than voting for Clinton.
And the progressive white-working class, reawakened by Sanders, is in a pivotal position to help fight Trump. The work and vision of Showing Up For Racial Justice needs to be taken national. Their face-to-face organizing approach and focus on bringing white people into anti-racist activism is just what we need. A multiracial organizing conference focused on “Organizing Poor and Working Class Whites,” in Greensboro, NC is also setting plans in motion. The ground-breaking scholarship of Theodore W. Allen, a white working-class intellectual that pioneered the concept of white skin privilege is gaining wider acceptance.
Maybe Trump is our rendezvous with our own roots. That means so much more than debating fine points in a room full of radicals. Any social movement worth a damn was built through millions of conversations that encouraged organizing and action. Consciousness raising, organizing into units of power and acting peacefully but disruptively. These are our roots and must be our future.
For as bad as Trump is, there are fears far worse: environmental destruction. Lead by Exxon and the Koch brothers, the corporate power is wrecking the planet. Even under pressure from Sanders and the science community the Clinton machine can not bring itself to even symbolically support modest measures such as a ban of fracking or keeping fossil fuels on public lands in the ground. The defense of the fossil fuel industry allows Trump the political space to indulge in equally dangerous climate denial.
One of the most subsidized industry in the world, fossil fuel giants exemplify the corporate power. Fossil fuel companies recycle vast sums of money to Clinton and almost every other important political figure in the US government in return for subsides, tax breaks, oil wars, and access to public resources. Untold trillions in environmental costs are paid by the public. No free market here.
A mass environmental movement would obstruct the exchanges between government and capital and disrupt the inner workings of the corporate power while exposing it as a threat to every nation, culture and life form. What should be our greatest fear, points us right toward the movement and issue with the potential to mobilize millions and upset the existing order.
Martin Luther King’s intersecting “giant triplets” of racism, militarism and economic exploitation have morphed into the new “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:” ecocide, racism, empire and the corporate power. We are fighting for our future and we must not fail.
We have to start by knowing what time it is and what battles lie ahead. Strategies, like the lesser of two evils, have failed. We should not be deceived into using outmoded weapons that not only lost the last war, but backfired because we surrendered our power and lowered our expectations. Movements that win innovate strategies to fight the war they are actually in. The inside/outside strategy is a starting point. We must move millions into action.
Will movement-building triumph over fear and fascism? Will Sanders or Stein prevail? Can we unseat the Four Horseman? How much more will the people tolerate?