The Age of Trump and the Rise of Authoritarianism
I like the title of this conference, flirting with Fascism, because what is happening in this country right now – has some vestiges of fascism – although this is not a settled question. We still have democratic forms and some democratic rights – that we must use to advance a more just and democratic society. However, what are some of these vestiges?
There is a form of authoritarianism that has emerged where power is at the top – decisions are made – and we feel powerless to do anything about it. This is an authoritarianism that focuses on specific issues that raise emotions and have no context other than to benefit those in power, the wealthy – confuse working people – and divide our movements. This authoritarianism threatens what vestiges are left of democratic institutions and social movements in our society. The term democracy is thrown around and used by the Trump administration and the alt-right to advance policies based on quantity of profit over quality of life. There are many, such a Noam Chomsky – who I agree with – that what is being promoted as democracy – is now presented in the realm of an authoritarian top-down government and state – where we have a never-ending war, more power being given to corporations, manipulation of the media, an increase in repression, and policies of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. – to foment division. These are blatant Policies that are aimed at blaming the problems in the economy on immigrants, women, and working people – to blame the problems on them – and advance an ideology that the problems will be solved if their power is diminished, if they are incarcerated, kept from voting, and deported. This authoritarianism lives off of the politics of resentment, alienation, frustration, anger and fear. It is here especially – where the economic problems of working people – who are angry at their conditions – are used, much like they were used in Germany against Jewish people – to scapegoat and to dehumanize. It involves power – controlling the power of the state and to violate all principles in ensuring that power.
An emphasis on the quantity of profit over quality of life has led to what I call a form of genocide to make sure that our potential power is scattered and decapitated – through deregulating and allowing corporations to spew chemicals in the air that result in more of us dying (particularly in people of color and low-income communities); through the cutting of our health care; through incarcerating us (we have more African Americans in jail now – than we had in slavery) and keeping us from voting through gutting the voting rights act and unjust gerrymandering – and of course through increased enforcement, deportation, and limits on asylum of our immigrant young people, families, and refugees. This authoritarianism is waging a war against our communities – and particularly those who have been in the forefront of any gains made in civil, human, and environmental rights in the last decades. This authoritarianism is using deficits in the economy to cut Medicare, Medicaid, – to threaten social security – and ensures that the power over the future of our health stays in the hands of the profit-making health and drug industry.
We have the Alt-Right, the Bannons, the Rockford Institute, the neo-conservative movements in this country who promote white supremacist,racial-nationalist and neo-fascist ideologies — who push a deregulated free enterprise system, more funding for the military, and stand against anything that promotes a system based on equality. This is an authoritarianism that has allowed for the privatization of our economy and institutions to run rampant – that has resulted in more of our people in debt – and remaining on the margins – with the result of creating a foundation of anger among working people – allowing for a politics of scapegoating.
It is a form that, rather than advancing spaces and places of a more just and equal world – is seeking to destroy our educational institutions, our unions – our research and science – to foment a politics of individualism and ignorance about global warming and the economy.
This authoritarianism promotes an unregulated economic system where corporations rule – where the needs of our communities are put aside for the priorities of profit-making interests – and advances a form of neoliberalism that places emphasis on privatization and consumerism – with the outcome of destroying any ideology that truly builds a collective community or engages in practices for the collective good.
To combat this authoritarianism – we need a program that transforms power at the top – that abolishes a structure that allows the wealthy, the corporations, and businesses to manipulate the tax system in their favor; that reverses banking concentration and supports a system of decentralized community accountable banks and credit unions – that combats unjust gerrymandering, abolishes the electoral college, moves toward a form of proportional representation and builds a social movement in support of a living wage; health care with universal coverage; accessibility for everyone to a quality education; a guaranteed basic income; investment in pre-school, k-12, and higher education; public financing of elections; and trade agreements that ensure environmental and labor standards.