“Liberate!”

11 mins read
President Donald Trump at a Make America Great Again rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Oct. 9, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times) (CC BY 2.0)

It wasn’t a coincidence that Trump tweeted “liberate” on Friday morning, and by the afternoon people were demanding that places be liberated.

This post will cover:

  • Trump’s “liberate” comment
  • why chaos agents are particularly dangerous right now, and
  • what we need to do.

Spoiler: Trump’s way to win the election is to get the fighters fighting and keep them fighting. It’s cynical and desperate.

He knows how to read the polls. He can see he’s about to lose the election. So what does he do? He reaches into his bag of tricks, and pulls out one of his favorites: Get the fighters fighting and keep them fighting.

It’s obvious why Trump and the GOP are desperate: Elections since 2016 have been consistent. Democrats perform about 8% better than they did in 2016. GOP demographics are shrinking. In 2016 we were hit by a disinformation attack the likes of which we’d never experienced. More people get it now, which explains the Democrats’ 8% improvement.

It appears that Trump has a floor of about 38% approval and a ceiling in the mid-40s. This is from the 538 polling aggregate:

Fascism is all about winning. Losing will destroy Trump’s brand. Look what happened in Wisconsin: Trump endorsed Daniel Kelly. Kelly lost. I found this exchange interesting:

Trump supporters feel embarrassed by the political losses. That wasn’t part of the deal. The deal was, “Vote for me and we’ll have so much winning you’ll get tired of winning.” Remember that?

To quote a 1930s German Nazi Schulze-Wechsungen, “Even the best propaganda cannot conceal constant political failures.”

Mussolini also promised he’d make Italy win. When Italy lost, Mussolini was doomed. Losing by big numbers is more devastating than a narrow loss.

Trump therefore needs to keep his base from deserting while he’s losing.

How?

By appealing to their deepest fears. Hence “liberate!”

These protestors are an insignificant minority. Most Americans disagree with them. Their only use is to try to enflame passions and create trouble. Trump’s talk of the “second amendment” is similarly intended to rile, scare, and outrage everyone.

The key to understanding Trump is that he wants to hold power by any means necessary. He doesn’t care if people die. The key to understanding Trump’s base lies in Hofstadter’s work:

I wrote a brief summary here.

Hofstadter conducted a thorough review of American history and noticed a paranoid element on the fringes of American politics. This fringe element believes that unseen satanic forces are trying to destroy something larger in which they belong. They “feel dispossessed” and that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind.” (This was written decades ago!)

They are “determined to repossess it and prevent the final act of subversion.” They are even willing to die to prevent that “final act of subversion.”

The current Trump-Fox-GOP sees the final act of subversion coming after a Democratic win in November. They understand that if Democrats take power next year, they will do things like end gerrymandering, which will give rise to the America they fear: An America with whites no longer holding the majority of power.

Interesting that Trump is protecting himself while sending other people to die:

I guess the “troops” are okay with the “general” saving himself.

Yesterday Trump tweeted “Liberate!” to try to derail a Democratic win in November by keeping his base riled (he can’t afford to lose votes) and by wearing out the opposition.

Prof. Jason Stanley calls this “us v. them” politics.

We have other forces working against us as well: Chaos agents, like this one:

This person (troll) wants to persuade you that democracy and rule of law are dead so that you give up and abandon democracy. This also requires ignoring facts (like Wisconsin and the midterms).

These chaos agents make arguments intended to rile you: “Trump has faced no consequences! The Democrats are doing nothing!”

If both sides abandon democracy, it’s all over.

We don’t need to resort to violence to save democracy because we still have meaningful elections. (That’s why Trump is scared!)

So what do we do?

Step #1: De-escalate the rhetoric.

Don’t play. Don’t take the bait. Point out the absurdity of their position from the vantage point of the calm, rational, mature adult. Rep. Ted Lieu does this well:

Besides, Civil War is really hard if the enemy is sheltering in place.

The problem, of course, is that these protests are endangering the lives of medical professionals and making the pandemic worse.

This brings me to the next step.

Step #2: See what you can do to help your community through this.

In particular, find ways to identify and help the vulnerable members of your community. There are supply chain issues: Food intended for restaurants is spoiling. Families don’t have enough.

With the federal government in chaos and governors putting out fires caused by the US president, communities will have to step up.

It’s up to us.

Step #3: Focus on the election — that thing in November that has Trump in a panic.

If you live in a state that allows absentee ballots without excuse, get yours ASAP. Help everyone you know get their hands on their ballots.

If you’re in an early vote state, vote early. The polls will be less crowded. Vote in November as if you’re a soldier in a war. Because you are. You’re a soldier fighting for democracy in a nation that still has meaningful elections.

Take it from Dana’s Grandma. She’s 91:

“So far I have been in isolation now for almost 6 weeks,” Grandma says. “I’m going to survive this so we can see the end of Donald Trump.”

[View here as a Twitter thread]

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

On another topic (from yesterday): Two conspiracy theories are floating around: In China, there’s a theory that Covid-19 was engineered by Americans as a bio weapon.

Americans are similarly being told by conspiracy theory mongers that COVID-19 was engineered in a lab as a bio weapon. But Americans are told that the Chinese did the bioengineering.

I’m currently researching a history of Russian Active Measures. This is consistent with that playbook: Active Measures has a history of setting two sides against each other in exactly this manner.

Trump himself suggested that the virus originated in a lab in China.

(The claim here, remember, is that the respective militaries engineered the virus as a bio-medical weapon. This is different from the concern that scientists in China were studying the virus and it got out. The claim is that the engineering of Covid-19 was intentional and that the virus was released into the population with the intent to do harm.)

Unfortunately, this is also consistent with the kind of racist and xenophobic conspiracy theories advanced by the President of the United States and the major political party backing him.

Trump is also pushing the “blame China” narrative, claiming that they weren’t transparent, implying worse.

In other words, we really can’t tell whether the trouble maker here is Trump or Putin.

See how much more we know now then we did 4 years ago?
With an election around the corner, all that really matters is that a highly motivated majority of voters see the truth.

My optimism isn’t from faith in institutions or expecting institutions to hold. Institutions are nothing more than people agreeing to play by certain rules.

My optimism comes from having seen no evidence that a majority of Americans want what Trump stands for.

I’ve studied enough history to know what a motivated majority can do. We have a majority and Wisconsin proves we’re motivated. (What do I mean? See this post.)

And (as I’ve said) my husband experienced the Pinochet dictatorship so I have a different perspective.

A motivated majority can get out of this.

Originally posted on Musing About Law, Books, and Politics.
Re-posted with permission.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

1 Comment

  1. This article is very well written…. except for some small details. This is case of bringing an intellect to a street brawl.
    1. In light of the article, explain why our country has a military? Oh, that’s right, at some point, you just plain have to fight it out. For example, see the so-called “Civil War”, WWI and WWII.
    2. What might have happened if, instead of what did, if Hilter and the NAZI party had been stopped before it grew to national power? It can be suggested that our country is at that decision point now.
    I do wish, as the author would like, that things play out in the rosy manner being suggested that they will.

    Call me a pessimist, if you will, but the key phrase is “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Someday soon, you may have to answer the question: “Why didn’t you do something?”

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