Radical Centrism Policy Papers: It’s War, Nothing Less – Part 1
Republicans and Democrats to the barricades!! Our republic is under attack by hyper-partisans who would destroy our democracy to win their cause. They would destroy, jail or kill their opponents and willingly succumb to — and actively enforce —authoritarianism or fascism if they were so directed by their cult leaders. They have been manipulated with suspicion, racial grievance, and fear. They are an army that turns on its heel and marches obediently in whatever direction their manipulators point.
Even as their effect is to dismantle democracy and abandon the rule of law, they have been convinced they are the heroes defending it. They and their manipulators have hijacked the words “Patriot” and “Treason” and “Hero.” We normal people — who love ALL of our country, not just the parts that agree with us — need to take those words back. We need to join together as patriots to take our country back.
Even as some of this manipulated army are fine people in everyday life, they are the like the jack-booted brown shirt army in Nazi Germany: no one, no institution, no branch of government is safe from them once they form their ‘mob.’ Once directed at their target — whether it’s the FBI, or NATO, or defending the President they adore — their bloodlust for the wanton destruction of every institution of our democracy appears to know no bounds.
The infection has entered our bloodstream. Those of us who recognize the existential threat to our republic must stop treating it as a harmless temporary virus that will go away on its own. It has become the AIDS of our political system, and we are growing weak from it.
This post is a universal call to Radical patriotism! Those who love our country, love our democracy, are beginning to recognize the threat. We are Democrats, Republicans, Socialists and Libertarians and we need to separate this extreme threat to our country from our usual policy differences. Patriots are far in the majority, but party affiliations and an era of hyper-partisanship have prevented an organized political response from emerging. Is the Doug Jones victory in Alabama — which depended in part on principled Republicans, like Richard Shelby and Jeff Flake, as well as the candidate’s message of reconciliation — the unlikely birthplace of this groundswell?
To paraphrase (and adapt) Winston Churchill: We must fight them in public forums. We must fight them in political parties. We must fight them in their manipulated media. We must fight them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We must fight them until the norms, manners and customs of a lawful democracy achieve complete and total victory over the forces of dissolution.
Is the Doug Jones victory in Alabama — which depended in part on principled Republicans, like Richard Shelby and Jeff Flake, as well as the candidates message of reconciliation — the unlikely birthplace of this groundswell?
Bottom Line: Our political traditions, manners and laws have been carved out over years of effort across the political spectrum. That work has created a social and political space for different cultures, gender orientation, and skin colors, political perspectives, to come together to hammer out long-term stable agreements in our politics — to act as ONE country. This culture has contributed mightily to making our democracy the greatest and most important one in the world. It is urgent for true patriots to consciously recover — and DEFEND — this space before we lose it for good.
Multiple threats to democracy are emerging from the last years and especially in the last year as “drain the swamp” turned into “destroy every vestige of democratic norms.” We have three tools to face down the threats: a focus on finding a level of consensus about truth and facts before beginning to focus on policies, a wider understanding and exposure of the mechanisms of manipulation, and a return to comity, manners, and consensus — our operating manual for a workable democracy.
Republicans in particular will need to check their patriotism: they won all three branches of the government with this destructive strategy of division, and tactics of obstruction of effective governing, and casting aspersions on our institutions (and political leaders) across the board. A President as determinedly ignorant as a post, and hell-bent on destroying every vestige of our democratic norms is the result, not the cause, of the Republican tactics for the last two decades. And now, the unseemly caving in to an authoritarian President and his partisan media masters by Republicans who actually know better, is the biggest threat to our system of checks and balances.
Is it worth our the destruction of our country to win these political battles?
As partisan political battles rage on many fronts, the war to save our democracy is faltering because too many cannot break away from the battle they are fighting to help win the war to save the country.
- The willful politically-motivated destruction of democratic institutions — including all government functions, as well as the independent judiciary — being conducted at the top levels of the Trump and his Republican Party, the right-wing Never Truthers, and their craven fellow travelers in the government.
- The abandonment of consensus-seeking, and just plain decent manners in our political interactions and especially as crystallized in the dysfunctional Senate — formerly the “greatest deliberative body in the world,” now a partisan shoot-fest dispensing with every custom of respect for the opposition.
- The rise of Fake News spread through social media, Hyper-partisans mindlessly passing on lies and misleading posts and helping to make them “viral,” not to mention extremely manipulable by hostile actors intent on dismantling our once universally-respected democracy. .
- The Continuation of Fake News intentionally put out by advocacy media outlets. Distorting and misreporting the news in order to gin up political outrage among partisans and a willingness to destroy any government institution for partisan advantage.
- Consultant-generated “talking points” poll-tested to gin up blind party loyalty and rage at the “opposition,” and repeated endlessly by partisans on both sides. It’s a wall of obstruction and misdirection intended to defeat any attempt to get at a shared truth. It’s called “message discipline,” but it might be more appropriately labelled “truth camouflage.”
We possess weapons for the fight, if we will make it: truth, patriotism and love of country; the fresh energy and engagement of millennials who thirst to make a difference, and have discovered a new proclivity for voting (!); and serious people beginning now to prioritize our country’s democratic traditions ahead of particular political beliefs. We’ll need all of them.
My companion post to this call to arms, It’s War, No Less – Part 2, will explore some specific strategies to resist this decline into an authoritarian despot state. I hope you will read and add your ideas! We truly need all hands on deck.