“It was not the least of Hitler’s formidable powers that he knew how to drain his opponents (at least in continental Europe) of all hope.”
Eric Hoffer, THE TRUE BELIEVER
“You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you.”
George Orwell, “1984”
To stay in power, rulers must convince their underlings that they are always right, and invincible. In 2020 a rightwing dictatorship was on the cusp of seizing America’s government, and supporters of that coup are dedicated to destroying the hope the election inspired, allowing them to retake power. Their plan is to stonewall extremely popular legislation, so they can vilify Democrats for getting nothing done; stop investigations into the January 6 uprising at the Capitol; and restrict Democrats’ ability to vote. Republicans smugly behave not as if they are going to regain power, but as if they never lost it. Watch rightwing media gloat after Virginia’s 2021 election, as they continue to deny the reality of the 2020 national election. Watch Mitch McConnell veto voting rights legislation before it is even debated, much less passed. Their condescension, if we validate it, could provoke hopeless despair. Still, if I had lost all hope, I would not be posting for all to see my opposition to fascism and its American adherents. I have no delusions about the extent of this blog’s influence, but I know that paranoia drives despots to crush even the smallest dissent. Since there is nowhere to hide, we all must stand together. I write in hope that we will stand.
Fascists in our land of the free know that their policies: State help for the rich while freeing the rest of us to struggle and compete for whatever is left; are unpopular with most Americans. Therefore, they redirect the attention of the faithful MAGA base—thwarting investigations of the Capitol riot. Few Republicans want public proof of what most of us know: the attack was instigated from high in the national government. The country is deeply divided between different concepts of freedom: Americans who want to know the truth, and those who want to avoid it; those who seek freedom to think, and those who seek freedom from thinking. In any case, most Republicans in and out of government show scant concern about a violent attack on the home of our democratic republic. Watch Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows ignore Congressional subpoenas, as though in their country, the rules do not apply to them. And while Trump is being investigated for multiple high crimes and misdemeanors, his fans remain loyal. During America’s last existential crisis, the Watergate scandal of the seventies, most citizens wanted to know what actually happened. Once Richard Nixon’s guilt became obvious, many Republicans dropped him. Today’s story is different.
Nixon’s downfall enabled the rise of Ronald Reagan (who skillfully boasted about having no connection to the Watergate crimes, while pretending the crisis had been cooked up by Nixon’s enemies. By championing states’ rights, Reagan retained the unreconstructed confederate voters from Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” and by opposing abortion, stole the loyalty of Jimmy Carter’s fellow evangelists, bringing them securely into the Republican fold. The coalition of racists and fundamentalists, led by big businessmen (an ingenious alliance of God and Mammon) stays strong despite forty years of corruption, mismanagement, economic inequality and needless warfare. Minor setbacks, such as the elections of conservative Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, only solidified right-wingers’ determination to gain more power. In 2021 (as they did throughout Obama’s presidency) Republicans have defied Joe Biden’s every attempt to improve most Americans’ quality of life. Then suddenly, some Republicans (perhaps hearing from their voters) reluctantly cooperated, to help pass watered-down programs. This gives me hope that the will of the people could overcome the cult of personality.
Rightwing politicians, claiming that God is on their side, do seem to get away with lying, cheating, stealing, and doing what all the world’s major deities forbid. Their apparent political invulnerability suggests one more reason for us to follow the autocratic playbook and abandon hope. Democrats won the election of 2020—close, but they won. Republicans, following the practice of losers in past elections, would be expected to reach out to their opponents, try to forge compromises, and try to make their positions seem more palatable to the voting public. Instead, they are relentlessly restricting Democrats from voting in several states, scientifically gerrymandering electoral districts so more of their candidates can win, and doubling down on the hostile bigotry that has gotten them this far. Their arrogance and contempt suggest certainty of winning. Should the rest of us ditch hope and flee? Why waste energy standing against them?
I can instantly think of one vital reason to expend the energy: a healthy fear of the direction our country has been going under rightwing dominance, toward government of, by, and for the obscenely rich. But I also believe that we Americans who support genuine democracy can actually win. Victory will not be easy, it is never guaranteed; yet I believe we can keep winning if we act on our hope. Hopeful action won the election of 2020, by finding sixteen million more votes for Biden than Hillary Clinton received in 2016—which Biden needed, because Trump received twelve million more votes than he got four years earlier. But voters came out in 2020, and hope lies in their continued participation. America’s corporate rulers know they can never win on issues. They must rig elections in order to win. They are counting on a Supreme Court with two-thirds support for corporate rule to uphold their restrictive voting laws. But our hope lies in the record number of voters, who did not simply come out of the woods—they resulted from shrewd, steadfast organizing efforts to get people to the polls, even in red states. Those organizers braved neighborhood hostility, COVID-19, and other obstacles to do that job. That they are still doing it gives me hope.
People willing to keep up the good fight for real democracy are not remotely ready to give up. I glean hope from their continued and growing resistance to voter restrictions, which are aimed at disenfranchising minorities, the poor, and progressives in many states. Texan Democratic lawmakers escaped to Washington, D.C. to thwart a revival of Jim Crow voting laws. Though the effort ultimately failed, their fight to the last inch inspires hope by keeping the resistance active. The enemies of democracy put up obstacles, but we continue fighting to overcome them. The 2020 election came down to a few thousand votes in a few swing states, despite millions of voters for democracy nationwide. Republicans, cynically trying to cut off those voting trends by cheating, could succeed in the short run. But when people get organized and continue to make a stand, as they are doing now, we can eventually stop America's slide into oligarchy. Many Americans keep working on the still unfinished business of strengthening, expanding, and nurturing democracy. At protests and demonstrations I have attended through the years, I always noticed that people who campaign for the benefit of all Americans—for social, economic and political democracy—are cheerful, pleasant, and fun, even though many of our causes have been losing ones. Those who demonstrate on behalf of bigotry and suppression seem old before their time, as if their negativity and anger are wearing them down. It gives me hope to be on the cheerful, life-affirming side.