Momentous times

On Janurary 6 insurrectionists, coordinated by a defeated presidential candidate and his cronies, stormed the capital in an attempt to overturn the results of a properly and legally conducted election two months earlier. Never before had this happened. The peaceful transfer of power was considered sacrosanct. Bloody clashes might substitute for an orderly and peaceful transition in some other country or region of the world, but not here, not in the citadel of democracy. But then, with the whole world watching the unthinkable and unimaginable happened – a bitterly contested, bloody, and messy transition of presidential power. So much for the myth of “American Exceptionalism.”

While the coup failed, the Republican Party, the MAGA movement, and right wing social media, the trifecta of authoritarian rule and lawlessness, didn’t exit the political stage though. Did anybody think they would?

And until they do, two things are clear. First, we still face an existential danger to democracy, equality, and everything else that we hold dear. Even with a calcified and evenly divided electorate, things could go south real fast.

What is also obvious is that any major rebuff to this retrograde bloc will do its dance on the terrain of electoral politics. Other terrains of struggle shouldn’t be abandoned. Quite the contrary. But a qualitative shift in power in a progressive, consistently democratic direction requires, as a first condition, the decisive defeat of this retrograde bloc at the ballot box. Such an outcome will likely take more than one election cycle and its consolidation will hinge in no small measure on what is done between as well as during election cycles.

We live in momentous times!

Not great odds

I hear it said that Ron DeSantis is Trump without all the drama and personal excesses. He is more calculating, more focused, and smarter on the one hand and less ego driven and unpredictable on the other.

But what this comparison misses is Trump’s innate ability to energize, direct, sustain, and manipulate a mass base. When it comes to giving voice to people’s basest passions and assembling a cross class constituency on a national level, Trump so far is in a class by himself. Nor does DeSantis or any other Republican have the daring to recklessly act, to roll the dice like Trump demonstrated on January 6.

And it is naive to think that Trump won’t clean up some of his mistakes, including acting in a more measured way in some situations, if there is a ‘next time.’

Right wing extremist authoritarianism, fascist or some other variety, is in many ways an irrational system and its politics therefore rest to no small degree on demagoguery, lies, and perfomative politics as well as force. On this count, Trump stands above DeSantis, admittedly no novice, by a considerable margin. That could change, but I doubt the odds makers in Vegas would give you great odds on that bet.

Class dimensions

The anti-working class dimension of the maga movement is either obscured or doesn’t figure prominently enough in the conversation and practice of the anti-MAGA coalition. Nor does the dominant role of sections of industrial, commercial, and finance capital that sit at the top of the movement see the light of day enough. This is a mistake. After all, the obscuring of the class dimensions of the MAGA movement narrows the reach of the anti-MAGA movement, masks its nature, demagoguery, and aims, and makes a decisive victory over this revanchist and retrograde movement a very steep climb.

Cut from a new cloth

Once again in the aftermath of the police assassination of Tyre Nichols, we hear from many good people, “This has got to stop.” But we said much the same at the time of the last execution and the execution before that and the execution …

This almost predictable response should tell us that whatever has been done to address this national shame and crisis isn’t enough.

Which begs the question: What would be enough?

I’m not sure, but it seems to me that one beginning would include not simply a disbanding of this or that police unit, but instead a full blown reimagining of policing, along the lines of what activists and academics in this field have been advocating for a while now.

To this end, I would think that President Biden should name, after broad consultation, a representative commission to study and come up with proposals that would do exactly that and then put the full power of the White House and federal government behind its recommendations.

Others, with far more expertise and a far bigger voice than I have, may well have better suggestions as to how to proceed. The main thing here is that the approach be holistic and cut from a new cloth.

Culture of policing

The elimination of policies and practices that result in the horrific deaths of young people of color is imperative, but that will only happen with a total reshaping, among other things, of the “culture” of policing – a culture that is racist, misogynist, homo, trans, and xenophobic, anti-working class, and lawless. Bad apples there are, but weeding them out of a culture that routinely breeds bad apples is no solution.

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