On Getting Your Mind Right For November
Excerpt from WesRecs Vol. 44
OK, we’re all having a monster of a year here.
WesRecs, as the name suggests exists, as a way for me to share the articles, videos, books, movies, memes, ideas, etc. that I’m personally excited about or invested in on a given week. No one asks for any of this of course, but I enjoy putting it out there and if a few people happen to find it worthwhile then I really do get a kick out of that. If you’ve been subscribed since the beginning you know that I’ve always been fairly political here and pretty to the left. I’ve definitely noticed that that’s become a bit more strident/overt in the last few months and that’s due both to 1.) me just seeking out and engaging with more political/radical content in my random reading & watching and 2.) a rapidly deteriorating sociopolitical hellscape in this country that occupies more of my psyche on a daily basis.
I guess all this preface is kind of a warning/justification/explanation for the urgency in what I’m trying to highlight here. I think about this for literal hours everyday at this point, not because I want to but because it seems prudent to do so and foolish to not. In another time this sort of apprehension might be seem a little tin-foil-hattish or overly exaggerated, or unrealistic or whatever, and I would LOVE for that to turn out to be the case but I don’t think that’s where we’re going here.
Basically American democracy is on the ropes and it’s looking grim, and we might be able to avoid the worst but it sure does look like we are in the early stages of an autocratic dictatorship. Like for real for real. Not idiomatically “dictatorial” in the way that we tend to throw that term around as an insult against authority figures we don’t like, but an actual dictatorship in the way of a government-monitored press, the absence of free elections, the segregation and brutalization of minorities, an abandonment of the rule of law, etc etc etc. Like not quite Nazi Germany, but definitely (at least) modern Russia where there are “elections” and a “press” but if you fall out of line you stand a decent chance of being thrown in a prison on bogus charges or at least losing your job and housing and being roughed up by goons.
Perhaps you dismiss this all out of hand as paranoia, maybe you feel the same. Either way here’s where my head is at laid out as plainly as I can.
So it seems to me there are 3 basic scenarios here:
- Trump wins re-election outright. I don’t think most people in this country who vote will vote for him but given the way the electoral college works whether or not that happens isn’t particularly relevant. This win would involve the usual amount of GOP voter suppression, foreign social media/fake news influence, and will be incredibly hindered and confused by pandemic related mail-in voting system stresses, delays etc. But in the end, as in 2016, enough people in the right states check his name and he gets elected like he did 4 years ago.
- Trump “wins” but there is clear/persuasive evidence of outright fraud, ballot tampering, election official misconduct, premature claims of victory, counting interference, etc. There are congressional calls for an investigation, protests, court actions, etc etc.
- Biden actually pulls it off and Trump is officially defeated. Not quite a landslide but seemingly clear.
You need to understand that in ZERO of those scenarios does Trump admit defeat and walk into the sunset. In scenario #1 he’d have no reason to and we’re just f**ked. Should #s 2 or 3 happen you are 100% delusional if, at this point in the game, you believe that this dude would ever “do the right thing”, or concede defeat, or bow to tradition/propriety/the national interest/opposition pressure and simply leave office. Not a chance. None.
Remember the day after the election in 2016? That is an election which he won mind you, and he immediately started making baseless claims of millions of fraudulent votes cast because his ego, despite having officially been the winner, his ego could not handle the fact that more Americans preferred his opponent over him. What do you think he’d have done if he lost? Now what do you think he’ll do if, as the incumbent, he should happen to lose, or else the vote counts get delayed and it’s up in the air for a bit like in 2000? Here’s a hint: he’s already spent months on every platform available to him spewing the baseless claim that the upcoming election is rigged and that if he loses it can only be the result of a sham. In scenario #2 he will do everything possible to block/undermine/disrupt any recount or verification process, and if such a process were to declare ultimately that Biden was the winner he would reject it as a “crooked fraud” and simply not leave office. In scenario #3 he will keep up the message he’s been saying all this time, declare Biden’s victory a fraud and not leave office.
The State of Affairs:
“But! But! He can’t do that!” you say. “What about the constitution?!?!” Yeah. What about that huh? This is the essence of what I’m trying to get at here: He will not leave office willingly and no one is coming to save us. Should you have trouble accepting this (and that’s understandable given that it would break 224 years of stable presidential transition), I want you to ask yourself: if we did have an autocratic dictatorship led by a leader with a cult of personality among his followers what would that look like and how would it differ in essence from what we have right now???
- Trump has publicly admitted that he is seeking to thwart adequate funding and preparation of the Post Office in order to limit mail-in voting which he (correctly) perceives to be disadvantageous to him in the election. We are all aware of this and its implications yet his unqualified donor-crony is still the Postmaster General and the USPS is still being actively weakened. Congressional hearings on the matter have done nothing to stop this other than lip-service.
- Trump has inserted militarized federal law enforcement officers into cities where citizens are protesting police violence. These agents wear no standard uniform and do not display badges, name tags, or the insignia of the agencies they represent. They have abducted (not arrested) people from the streets into unmarked vehicles without the reading of their rights or the filing of charges.
- Trump has stated that he plans to place these same federal paramilitary storm troopers at polling places in Democratic locales which constitutes unambiguous voter intimidation.
- Trump has attacked the free press more or less every day of his time in office and at every moment works to de-legitimize this essential element of a free democracy.
- Trump has frequently and publicly expressed fondness for and approval of iron-fisted & murderous foreign autocrats while aligning himself against the leaders of traditional democratic ally nations.
- Trump has urged his followers to break the law by engaging in fraudulent voting practices.
- Trump removed congressionally mandated oversight personnel from their positions in monitoring the uses of federal COVID relief funds and frequently skirts congressional oversight of his agency nominees by designating them as “acting” or appointing them to proximate positions that do not require Congressional approval.
- Trump has dismissed warnings from his own intelligence service about Russian interference in the 2016 election and done nothing to prevent their continued interference in the upcoming election.
- During the ongoing COVID crisis, in addition to his gross ineptitude and insensitivity in its handling Trump unambiguously stated that his deployment of Federal aid to states in need would be contingent on their governors being nice to him.
- The U.S. has 110 Federal prisons with 226,000 inmates. That’s just a small fraction of the total U.S. jail/prison population with far more people in state prisons and local jails but…that’s still enough to call it a gulag system and it can expand at any time.
- Trump (and his Republican enablers in the senate) simply danced around the primary check that this “democracy” has against an unfit executive: impeachment. He was impeached for withholding congressionally approved military aid from a U.S. ally in order to force that ally to dig up/make up dirt about his political rival in the upcoming election. That is wrong on so many levels and an impeachable offense. That he did it is not in question since both he and his chief of staff admitted as much. However the Senate refused to hear relevant witness on the matter or review relevant materials and he was cleared of something that…again…he himself said he had done. That was the one silver bullet aside from the ballot box that this country has to remove a president. And the issue over which it was attempted was exactly his unethical manipulation of the ballot box outcome.
I could go on but I think you get it. Whatever a dictator does (at least in the period that they’re consolidating power) is 100% what Trump is doing right now. This is not a “what if”?
As Americans we’ve grew up with starry images of defeating the British, and “liberty and justice for all”, and “this is a free country!”, and Rocky IV and all the rest of it. Our entire national self-image is based on FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY (often at the point of a gun and always on the backs of the poor and melanated…but who am I to nitpick?) so we are wildly unprepared to recognize internal threats to that identity when they are right in our face and wrapped in a flag while occupying the highest office of the land but…that’s what this is. No doubt. (And let’s just say, hypothetically, that he did leave. Not going to happen, but let’s just say: he will still have tens of millions diehard supporters (many of them heavily armed) and he will still have a massive platform with which to disseminate lies/hate/conspiracy theories. In the *best* case scenario we still have a massive national threat.
Again, no one is coming to save us. Congress is the natural check on the president but as you can see they have had zero effectiveness (or…in the case of Republicans, willingness) in stopping him. The military is often cited here but given Trump’s free hand in withdrawing troops from Syria, ignoring the incredibly serious issue of Russian bounties on US forces, and his consistent undermining of their values and their chain of command with no concrete effects I really don’t think you can guarantee that they’ll be effective against him (if they even tried). And let’s not forget Trump’s army: that unmarked ragtag (but still heavily armed and very scary) collection of CBP, ICE, and Federal Bureau of Prisons guards that showed up in Portland. They will do what he says. And then there’s the militia: the individuals and groups of gun-loving, body armor hoarding, war games playing, zealots & boogaloo boys who see him as their fastest ticket to the race war and federal overthrow that they’ve been jonesing for years. I don’t know how many of these guys there are, but if there were 20,000 in the whole country that would be…scary. That’s an American ISIS. What do you do against all that?
Again, I have never hoped to be wrong more in my life and if I am I will welcome it with more relief than I can imagine…but I don’t think I’m wrong here. And what I’m predicting is not a reflection of either baseless paranoia or any kind of special prognostication talent. Everything I say and dread here is based on nothing more than:
- Reading History
- Reading The News
- A basic understanding of human nature and the specific understanding of a specific person who is neither difficult to read nor shy about expressing himself.
So what do you do aside from voting, which, while not meaningless, doesn’t really help with any of the above scenarios except maybe Biden winning in a an incontestable landslide which…yeah…won’t happen.
I recommend structuring your life and behavior as if you are already living in a fascist dictatorship and working to resist it while still maintaining the safety and well-being of your loved ones. That includes things like:
- Have a way to feed yourself that doesn’t rely on your local supermarket being stocked and open.
- Know your neighbors and be part of aid networks that can reciprocally provide the members with food, shelter, medical care, defense, and information as needed.
- Tool up.
- Review and tweak the security settings on your social media and communications tools. Anonymize your online activity as much as possible.
- Read relevant histories in order to get a sense of what to expect and how to resist it. (Weimar Germany is particularly appropriate here).
- Get it into your head that this is happening, and much of it already has happened. The point isn’t to fall into despair but rather to get you past the supremely unhelpful “Well that will never happen here!” mindset and into the “how do I survive this and defeat this?” mindset.
At the same time I think it’s important to step back, enjoy the small things in life, really appreciate, and take a while each day to not think about this. For me, as time goes on it feels harder and harder to justify things like reading a book for pleasure, or watching Star Trek, or researching grilling techniques and BBQ preps. I find myself both feeling bad about these kinds of activities when I “should” be doing something…anything to fight the evil I see coming AND wanting to do them more than ever because who knows if they’ll even be an option in a year or two. The main thing is to get your head right for what we are actually facing because the media and Congress and far too many people are approaching this moment like it’s something it’s not.