This is Part 1 of our journey in the series, “Democracy in Crisis: We’ve Been Headed Here for Decades.” Events signaled an overthrow was coming at least 20 years ago. It’s all been predictable. Why?
(I wrote this article before Biden took office and later updated it but before all the voter suppression bills.)
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | …
Arguably, America has never experienced so many crises at one time: economic, health, and racial disasters plague our nation, including a worldwide pandemic and an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol, among other actual and impending political catastrophes. During various periods in the past, we have experienced some of these issues, like the extreme polarization that led to the Civil War; the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans; and the Great Depression era, which included the threat that democracy would fall to fascism or communism. However, today we are facing crises like these all at the same time. They are related and indicative of broader problems.
There is good news relating to some of our problems. We developed vaccines for COVID-19 and a COVID relief package that offers hope for saving lives and restoring our focus on the many other challenges of our nation.
Also, there is, before us, a tremendous opportunity to fix our democracy and move this country forward to a more perfect union, a nation where all are created equal and are treated accordingly.
There are two main reasons for hope: (1) the nature of the crises, and (2) our changing demographics.
History Shows Crises Spur Activism & Massive Government Reforms
There is never a bigger incentive to motivate people toward making massive reforms than a crisis of national scale. History shows that widespread misery can make people realize that their government is not working for them.
When a nation puts the needs of big businesses ahead of the needs of its people, its citizens are forced to become activists and reform government policies. This happened in our past — like during the start of the Great Depression when a Republican president, Herbert Hoover, bailed out large businesses and left “Main Street” to fend for itself. A critical mass of angry Americans organized to change government for the better. They elected Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and demanded massive reforms, resulting in the New Deal.
In our present situation, more people than ever are realizing that we are the people who must effect the necessary change to save our country. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Changing Demographics Favor Democrats
Hope for our future also springs from our nation’s changing demographics. There is a coming generational shift in voting. Our population has been growing more racially diverse, skewing older, and becoming more educated. Center for American Progress (CAP), a public policy research and advocacy organization, details these changes in their 2020 report America’s Electoral Future. They expect these trends to continue over the next several decades.
There are major differences between younger and older generations that affect how they vote. Besides being more racially diverse, younger voters are, for the first time in our nation’s history, actually worse off economically than their parents. Also, younger voters tend to vote for Democrats, while older voters tend to vote for Republicans. Millennials and Gen Z populations outnumber Boomers, yet the older population is much more likely to vote. Therefore, getting younger Americans to the polls is a critical goal for progressives.
CAP believes it is likely by 2024 that younger voters will turn out in larger numbers than older voters. If they are correct, the population voting for Democrats will be increasing in number before the next presidential election and will continue to increase through 2036. It’s important to stress that this is a prediction. We must overcome voter suppression to help maximize our voting potential.
People who want democracy to die see these same numbers and are panicking. If we fix government to work for all, they stand to lose power, thwarting their plans for a dystopian society for the rest of us. They realize that their ideas are very unpopular with most Americans. Jane Mayer at The New Yorker released a leaked audio of the Koch-backed effort to block election reform. (Many other groups are doing the same.) Listen to their frustration with how popular election reform is across the political spectrum.
The Bad: The Crises & Our Big Structural Problems
Why is America experiencing so many crises at once? They are all connected and have been decades in the making. Like our crumbling highways, our democratic infrastructure has been disintegrating over the past 40+ years through neglect and attacks by super-rich and anti-democratic elites.
More than half a million Americans died as a result of President Donald Trump’s policy promoting herd immunity. It was, effectively, a form of genocide. Trump’s refusal to shut down the U.S. economy required that workers keep laboring despite risk of sickness and death. This decision allowed the coronavirus to run rampant through the population which was especially devastating to low-income, disabled, elderly, homeless, or incarcerated people. In a nation where its most marginalized individuals are people of color, the wait for herd immunity was highly skewed to the White population.
The U.S. Healthcare System Crisis
For decades, relentless cost increases and a general failure to provide adequate care to a large minority (38 million people) of the nation’s population have plagued the U.S. healthcare system. While President Trump didn’t create the current situation, his leadership in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic intensified the weaknesses of an already dysfunctional healthcare delivery system. “Racial Disparities in COVID-19: Key Findings from Available Data and Analysis.”
Lack of access to affordable healthcare is a huge problem. While millions of people can’t afford to pay for healthcare, others reside in access deserts. This is particularly true in communities of color and rural areas where the populations affected by these issues have received the lowest percentages of vaccine.
An additional infrastructure problem is a profits-at-all-costs mentality by venture capitalists, hedge-fund managers, and others who buy, invest, or run healthcare businesses. During the Covid-19 pandemic, some brave doctors and nurses spoke out about this problem. In many instances, management hoarded masks and other personal protection equipment, putting the doctors, nurses, and their patients at risk. A “profits-at-all-costs” mentality is an anti-people, malignant ideology.
The Economic Crisis
The pandemic created a widespread economic crisis on the scale of the Great Depression. Millions of people lost their jobs and small businesses or became underemployed. As a result, huge numbers of people were waiting in food lines as of March 2021, reminiscent of the bread and soup lines of the 1930s, and many found themselves on the verge of losing their homes.
There is no clearer example of an anti-people ideology than the Trump bailouts. Trump, like Hoover, bailed out large corporations and left Main Street to survive with little to no help. Jim Cramer of CNBC [nofollow link] said the pandemic produced “one of the greatest wealth transfers in history.” He also said, “This is the first recession where big business … is coming through virtually unscathed.” The wealth transfer was staggering, as reported by Business Insider. “American billionaires' net worths have grown to $4 trillion during the coronavirus pandemic.” This is rugged individualism (hyper-individualism) for us—trying to survive with few to no safety nets.
As mentioned before, the U.S. was already in an economic crisis before the pandemic hit, even if most people didn’t realize it. Massive inequality destroys democracy. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan cut taxes for the wealthy and nearly destroyed labor unions—the political arm and voice of millions of lower-income workers. Since Reagan, little has been done to reverse the damage or to return the stolen political power to the American people.
We, as a nation, are worse off for it. Our middle class has nearly disappeared, and inequality has skyrocketed over the past forty years. CBS This Morning highlighted the huge wealth inequality problem in their segment: “Americans know wealth inequality is a problem, but what does it look like?”
As of January 2020, the wealthy among us owned 90% of all household wealth. The middle class had nearly disappeared, owning only 10%, while our working class are buried in debt. After the $4 trillion transfer, the American middle class owns a smaller percentage of the wealth and our working class owes even more money. In fact, as of October 2020, 8 million more Americans were living in poverty due to the pandemic.
The Racial Crisis
The racial crisis in America cuts across all other crises because of our state-sponsored caste system. In the article, “It's More Than Racism: Isabel Wilkerson Explains America's ‘Caste’ System,” Wilkerson describes “caste” [as] “an artificial hierarchy that helps determine standing and respect, assumptions of beauty and competence, and even who gets benefit of the doubt and access to resources.” Our unjust system restricts people of color from accessing resources.
Systemic racism is nothing new in America. Most of our policies and infrastructure are rooted in inequality and injustice. Policies that target and prey on people of color, especially Native Americans and Black citizens, have impacted them in all levels of society. This includes state-sponsored police brutality and murder.
Our racial problems began with overt genocide and enslavement, and they continue today with Jim Crow laws — the most damaging of which is redlining, the name given to certain policies of federal, state, and local governments, banks, and others that aim to deny goods and services to people of color.
Redlining began with the National Housing Act of 1934, which was part of the New Deal. While the New Deal helped save democracy, many in Congress demanded racist policies be included to protect White people before passing the legislation. This practice has persisted for decades, keeping people of color out of White communities and denying them affordable housing. Perpetrators still use redlining to charge people of color more for mortgages even when they have better credit than White borrowers.
Read “The Surprising Ways Race Remains a Factor in Mortgage Lending.”
Redlining has created enormous oppression and destruction. Charging more for loans and limiting home ownership determines where people of color may live, the schools their children attend, wealth accumulation, opportunities, etc., creating the pandemic risk factors that resulted in a disproportionate number of deaths among people of color.
Julia Howard-Gibbon, public interest attorney, wrote about redlining:
The implementation of this federal policy accelerated the decay and isolation of minority inner-city neighborhoods through withholding of mortgage capital, making it even more difficult for neighborhoods to attract and retain families able to purchase homes. The discriminatory assumptions in redlining exacerbated residential racial segregation and urban decay in the United States.
Due to this shameful American caste system, people of color have the largest percentage of COVID cases and deaths, least amount of wealth, largest percentage of student debt, largest percentages of unemployment, lower benefits, lowest percentages of vaccinations against COVID, etc.
When a nation fails to protect the rights of all its citizens, the result is destabilization. All Americans pay a hidden price for upholding an immoral system. Not only do we need to close the gaps in healthcare, education, debt, wealth, etc., we must shut down the caste system and eliminate all racist policies.
The Ugly: The Insurrection & 5GW
During President George W. Bush’s administration, Karl Rove brazenly told us that there would be a permanent Republican Party in charge. That's not democracy. That's a plot to overthrow democracy.
Rove, the Koch brothers, Sean Hannity, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Fox News, and others have been seeding an insurgency for decades. Taking the long view, the Capitol insurrection we saw on January 6, 2021, wasn’t planned in a few weeks by Donald Trump and his co-conspirators; it was more than forty years in the making, an outgrowth of the same conditions that allowed Trump to seize power in the first place.
Fox News and the “Big Lie”
Fox News started in 1996, mainstreaming a propaganda machine (which includes talk radio, social media, and others) to spin an alternate reality, what Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, called the “Big Lie.” Spewing racism, misogyny, and other bigotry, this machine also demonizes Democrats. The goal is polarization, which is Stage 6 of the 10 stages of genocide. Fox News’ existence signaled a coming civil war, the overthrow of democracy, or both.
The “Big Lie” is part of psychological warfare. The Atlantic article, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President” gives a chilling account of how this strategy worked to instigate an insurgency in 2016 to elect Trump and then again to reelect him in 2020. It talks about Steve Bannon's and Cambridge Analytica’s role. Christopher Wylie, the former director of research at Cambridge Analytica, said, “We were essentially seeding an insurgency in the United States.”
The Impact of Technology on Democracy
Most people think of a war as a conflict fought with armor, guns, and soldiers. They don’t recognize 21st-century combat on a modern cyber-battlefield. Tyrants, like Donald Trump and other oligarchs worldwide, employ technology to conquer nations, including the U.S. This fifth-generation warfare (5GW) is a cultural and moral battle of perceptions — fought mostly in the shadows by non-State players.
Donald Trump, a Continuing Threat
The self-proclaimed puppet master of the Republican Party, Trump possesses a similar psychopathology to Adolf Hitler. Trump used the Big Lie to conquer America in much the same way that Hitler used propaganda to conquer Germany. In a 2018 Vox article titled, “A leading Holocaust historian just seriously compared the US to Nazi Germany,” the GOP is revealed to have, indeed, become an American fascist party.
Hitler attempted a coup, in 1923, to overthrow a broken German democracy. For his treason, he was sent to a cushy prison and got out on good behavior after eight months. In his absence, the insurgent attitudes that he had fomented continued to grow, owing to the miserable conditions endured by the German people and their bombardment with propaganda. In 1933, Hitler came to power as the leader of Nazi Germany.
Hitler’s story offers us a warning. Democracy in America won’t be safe for many years, perhaps more than a decade because the power to control the U.S. government has shifted away from the American people. It is now consolidated into the hands of a few ruthless corporations, wealthy people, and others with power. Miserable conditions for the American people, coupled with their continuing bombardment with propaganda, are leading this nation into the hands of a tyrant.
The present situation is urgent. To save our democracy, we, the American people, must take our power back. This will require a multi-pronged strategy. We must educate ourselves regarding the patterns of history and the factors that have brought us to this present crisis. Also, we must demand major reforms to rebuild our democratic infrastructure and protect the voting rights of U.S. citizens.
The next article in this series will explore the nature of power and our struggle against the oligarchs.
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