It’s Time to Reimagine Activism for an Authoritarian State
I voted last week as part of our larger American community fighting for democracy. Yet, I know this election is like a game that’s been extensively rigged to prevent us from winning. We play the game because there is no better option.
Twenty Ways Republicans Steal Elections made clear to me that the existing Republican majority was a fraud even before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates allowing states to massively purge voters. It’s possible that election day in red states will be plagued by chaos as registered voters are turned away or forced to cast untabulated provisional ballots.
I shit you not, I check my voter registration once a month. Guess who was purged some time in the past month? It was me, check your stuff people.
— ??Ⓙⓞⓝ Ⓛⓤⓒ Ⓟⓘⓒⓐⓡⓓ?? 7 days (@OriginalJLP) October 6, 2018
We know from Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004 and nationally in 2016 that challenging initial returns after the fact is rarely successful in Republican-controlled states.
Perhaps we will outrun the wide array of Republican manipulations to a victorious outcome, but I’m not sure we can. Ultimately, we may need to reimagine activism for an authoritarian United States.
Mueller Probably Can’t Save Us
If we cannot reclaim the House, it’s possible the approaching climax of Mueller’s investigation will lead to indictments of Trump himself as well as his family members and other leading Republicans. But, as Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa say, “Mueller’s not going to save us,” we have to save ourselves.
If Democrats don’t at least take the House, God help us. But even if they do, we’ll be facing a nightmarish political scene. Republicans will claim that the election was stolen, and deny the majority’s legitimacy 1/ pic.twitter.com/M21pkFiIOw
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) October 21, 2018
And even if we win the House, Trump has eight weeks before the 116th Congress is sworn in January 3rd, 2019. Bizarrely, he’s planning to meet with Putin in Paris the week after the election. Trump’s already threatened violence if Republicans lose Congress (though he also did in 2016). The time between November 6th and January 3rd may be the most dangerous period we’ve faced. It’s likely Trump and Putin are meeting to plan post-election operations and if necessary to re-establish permanent control of our government.
Rethinking Our Tactics
In Moving America Beyond Single-Issue Activism, I raised the issue of whether the tactics we’re using as activists are effective against a corrupt Republican majority:
Issue-based activism in a corrupt system like ours wins just enough battles to keep us believing it works. But ultimately, we’re losing the war and we’re increasingly vulnerable.
Election manipulation and voter purges ensure that Republicans control elections in red states and its illicit Supreme Court majority will cement their control.
If the 2018 elections are compromised, it would be unwise to follow the instinctual path of rebooting and devoting our primary resources on the next rigged election cycle, 2020.
Instead we should consider new approaches to non-violent resistance and collaboration. This is something we don’t talk about enough in the mainstream left. We certainly applaud successful activism but we don’t focus and brainstorm together on improving our overall effectiveness.
What can we learn from effective activists? How can we best undermine and disrupt the Republican majority? And, how can we establish a representational democracy in America with free and fair elections?
Partly, It’s the Economy Stupid
Apart from fascism and white supremacy, the underwriters of the Republican party are driven by greed. As consumers, we’re quite forgiving of American corporations role in funding and supporting the Republican vision. We spend a lot of money with corporations that contribute to the Republican mission.
For example, we are very forgiving of Amazon’s support of the Republican party. There are 95 million Prime subscribers in America while Amazon actively includes the GOP in its both sides political contributions and is actively anti-tax and anti-labor. “Mr Bezos and his wife ‘perceive themselves to be pretty nonpartisan’.” At this point, nonpartisan is pro-Republican.
Grab Your Wallet has shown that when we collaborate to pressure corporate brands, we can successfully change their behavior. But, we have not focused on scaling collaboration and refocusing our consumer activities nationally.
We underestimate the tremendous impact we can have together when we:
- Direct our spending as much as possible away from corporations (especially those that support Republicans) and towards local alternatives
- Reduce unnecessary spending
- Reduce driving and overall energy use
Collaborating in large numbers, we can impact markets and alter corporate behavior. In turn, we can eliminate the willingness of corporations to go along with the undemocratic activities of the Republican party.
One positive outcome from November 6th will be large state legislative gains in blue states. It’s past time that these legislatures collaborate apart from the federal government. California and New York represent 20% of the country’s GDP.
Building a Blue State Congress enumerates a variety of policies we can fund on our own such as universal healthcare, intensifying the fight against climate change, raising the minimum wage and strengthening our election systems.
The Blue State Congress could create a trust fund for our federal tax payments until our national government’s legitimacy is restored and we could reject rulings from the illegitimate Supreme Court until Kavanaugh and Gorsuch are removed. For example, blue states could claim the right to begin regulating guns in 2019.
The Power of Disruption
Moving Beyond Single-Issue Activism also describes how our NGOs and organizing traditions divide the left into silos that are easily manipulated into predictable action by Republicans.
It’s why they relentlessly attack immigration, gay marriage, abortion rights, marijuana laws and gun control. Not only does this strategy solidify their base, it also triggers us into action, drains our resources and dilutes our energy. Many wealthy Republican donors don’t have an ideological stake in these wedge issues but they’ve mastered them as tools to win elections, cut taxes and delay common sense reform. We’re increasingly puppets in preserving their status quo.
Rather than fight a corrupt Congress separately on our individual issues, let’s fight together to resist and disrupt its power.
If the democrats actually wanted to stop Kavanaugh, they would have pulled some shit like this….THIS is how you stop a vote. pic.twitter.com/jlQ9bbhVbg
— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) October 7, 2018
During many of the marches in D.C., Trump flew away to go golfing. Whereas the Lafayette Park protests sought to infest the White House with continuous noise he could not escape. To fight a solidified fascist Republican government, we will need to creatively disrupt the comfort and status quo for corporations and communities that support them.
Preparing for November 7th
FiveThirtyEight predicts Democrats have an 86% chance to take the House. I trust their analysis. In the final days of 2016, they gave Trump a reasonable 35.4% chance of victory while The New York Times gave Clinton an unfounded 90% chance. FiveThirtyEight also called Obama’s victory over Romney in 2012.
But FiveThirtyEight didn’t figure in possible Russian vote manipulation in 2016 nor have they calculated the impacts of the SCOTUS-backed voter purges and the ongoing vulnerability of wirelessly-connected voting machines this year. That’s outside their practice.
It’s possible we will defeat Trump and the Republicans and take back the House and possibly the Senate but I’m very concerned that we may still lose both.
In a democracy, elections aren’t stolen in large margins but small, seemingly reasonable margins. It’s likely that Democrats will lose the house by just two to three seats which all end in close red state races.
If we cannot win the house back, beginning November 7th, we will need to collaborate together fighting firstly for our democracy. This will require a new level of creative, daring and ingenious action. And as activists and influencers, we need to start building the conversation around this now.