Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Fascblican Party: an ugly word for an ugly force

William E. Connolly
Author of Aspirational Fascism(2017) and Facing the Planetary(2017)

Note a few recent events:
--Donald Trump and his allies repeatedly excoriate the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt and then Trump installs a Hack as acting Attorney General with the intent to short circuit that very investigation by dubious legal means.

--Trump talked about a rigged election during the 2016 campaign at the same time his campaign conspired secretly with Russia to shape the American election.

--Trump insists there is rampant fraud in Florida, etc. without issuing any evidence, as he supports policies in many states to suppress the minority voting.

--Mitch McConnell first refuses to bring legislation to the floor to protect Mueller on the grounds there is no need to do so and then, after the Hack is appointed, still quietly refuses to bring it to the floor.

--Trump repeatedly tells Big Lies to incite his base—all the way from the birther charge in 2012 to the charge of the threat to American sovereignty posed by the “Caravan”—and hardly any neoliberal Republicans feel called upon to correct him or point to how dangerous such Lies are to democracy.

--Lindsay Graham interrupts an orderly hearing on Judge Kavanaugh by charging Democrats with mob rule. A notable irony: Kavanaugh himself had participated in a mob to forcibly block the recount and intimidate the counters in Florida in 2000 and the Republican leadership refused to release a lot of official data on his record during the Bush years.

--Trump, Grassley and others pick up the charge of mob rule, meaning to them any dissident social movement—however official, legal or nonviolent--that objects or challenges the rule they intend to impose.

--Trump attacks American allies relentlessly while cozying up repeatedly to Putin, the guy with whom he conspired to shape the 2016 election.

--Trump and Sessions initiate a ruthless border policy to separate children from their parents in the interests of stopping the flow of migrants and asylum applicants on the southern border.

--Sessions reverses a series of agreements with American cities to stop the killing of young, unarmed Blacks by members of police departments in those cities.

--Trump tells his followers that he loves the word “nationalism”, because it means America First, knowing full well that to its active proponents its means white nationalism. He also barely criticizes Nazi and other vigilante groups, while issuing numerous winks, nods, strategic silences, and rhetorical flourishes to encourage them.

--Hannity and Limbaugh attend a Trump election rally while serving as a newscasters at Fox and radio, as Jim Acosta, a CNN newscaster trying to get Trump to answer a question at an official news conference, has his White House credentials lifted.
These instances and many others reflect consolidation of the Fascblican Party in the United States. The Fascblican Party is a creative, ruthless formation forged out of the old Republican Party, several agents of neoliberalism and white evangelicalism, extremist donors, the right wing media, and the Alt-Right. Its most renowned leaders include Trump, Bannon, Hannity, McConnell, King, Nunes, Miller, Mercer, Limbaugh, Adelson, Ingraham, Grassley and Kavanaugh. They mix together functions such as governing, judging and reporting, highlighted by the recent presence of Hannity and Limbaugh at Trump election rallies, the bold lies by McConnell about the effects of a tax cut for the rich on the deficit, and the successful effort by the Kavanaugh gang to force a recount to stop in Florida during the Bush/Gore election shortly after an attempt to impeach a Democratic President. They support or cover up Trump’s conspiracy with Russia to turn elections; they perfect the Big Lie Scenario in which you accuse the other of what you are doing and then repeat the charge endlessly; they deploy extreme gerrymandering; they regularly join minority voter suppression to evidence free falsehoods about voter fraud; they support deficit reduction and austerity until a big tax break for the rich is available (and then lie about its effects); they adopt extreme tactics with asylum seekers, including separation of parents and children; they constantly demonize Blacks, gays, transgender people, refugee seekers, Latinos and many others, while accusing others of prejudice whenever they are called on it--the regular repetitions of false equivalence; they repeat endless charges of Fake News against the non-Fox and Breitbart media to undermine the public credibility of a free press; they often support a perverse theocratic variant of Christianity that insists the country is not intact until it becomes a Christian nation; they adopt dangerous tactics to break down the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department and the courts until they become reliable arms of the movement; they advance thinly deniable support of vigilante tactics (as revealed recently by Trump’s failure to even contact the numerous Democratic targets of a right wing bomb attempt); they assert endlessly equivalence between their ruthless tactics and anything the Left does to oppose them; and they do much more. The consolidating Party also has numerous allies in other countries such as Russia, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, Italy, and elsewhere. It is becoming an international movement, designed to break up and displace the old alliances.
Some American participants in this movement are cowed by the Party, but many are active proponents of it. The latter know that they cannot govern without the Media-Trump repetition of Big Lies and voter suppression of minorities and the poor, so they deploy those tactics with growing belligerence and self-confidence.
We must today be militant, public, willing to engage in repetition, honest in our vigilance, and nonviolent as we identify and expose the tactics of the Fascblican Party. It is also time for us to become better wordsmiths: Introduce more short phrases, repeat them, and explain what we are doing. Hence my introduction of an ugly phrase-- “Fascblican Party”--to delineate an ugly phenomenon. You may even stutter as you repeat it.
    The Fascblican Party has scattered the flutter of feathers in the old Republican Party. In fact, the neoliberal and fascist wing of the party have been drifting together for years, even before Trump accelerated the drive. They have pressed others to dissemble, as Susan Collins has done for them so recently. A few old Republicans are now exposing this new Party, as Steve Schmidt has been doing. They are to be admired, even as we dissent from their positive vision. 
     Enthusiastic Fascblicans are ruthless, dishonest and dangerous. They are already trying to intimidate the Democratic House even before it convenes. Today, I am interested in hearing views about how to proceed in the aftermath of an election in which a significant majority voted for Democrats, even though these numbers are not proportionately represented in the House victory and Senate defeat. 

Here are a few things, perhaps, to fold into the conversation:

First, we must publicize the dilemma of electoral politics while we nonetheless include elections as one of the institutions in which to participate. The dilemma is that when you do participate a host of factors—including gerrymandering, the biases of the Electoral College, the initiating power of corporations outside of government, Citizens United, and so on—limit the effectiveness of electoral politics alone, while refusal to participate in elections threatens to give the Fascblicans long term control of the three branches of government.
Second, while capitalism, in its numerous forms, is a powerful set of forces to contend with, we must overcome temptations to withdraw from the world and action unless and until it faces a revolutionary overthrow. The immediate dangers are too great for that luxury. And yet, the reforms and demands we do advance must show promise of overcoming the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism over the next decade. Open up new lines of flight.
    Third, we must participate in interfolded local, regional, state and cross-regional movements to put pressure on elected officials, corporations, churches, banks, universities and localities at the same time. For democracy both includes and exceeds elections: it also requires social movements to move and shape elected officials. The Fasblican party has indeed recognized and transfigured this duality into a series of ruthless and lying campaigns, as it escalates the initiating powers of banks and corporations outside the state through massive state deregulation and subsidies. The Left is now beginning to move with real integrity on both of these fronts.
     Fourth, we must dramatize the effects of climate change on a whole series of regions and constituencies, including wild fires, droughts, acidification, and extreme storms. As we do so we must show how technologies already exist to move to noncarbon sources of energy and to reshape the established infrastructure of consumption. Recent studies that show how significant carbon emission reduction can succeed in dramatically reducing CO2 emissions through new farm practices and reforestation are very pertinent here. 
Fifth, while the effort to draw more suburban women into an enlarged Democratic Party is both critical and precarious, and while attracting and running minorities for office is absolutely essential, it is also necessary to win back a larger section of the white working class now often dispersed in small towns, small enterprises, and rural areas. They have provided one pivot of the Trump base. Such a constituency recovery can be launched by positive policies that speak to health care, income distribution, cost of living, strong labor unions, authoritarian working conditions, rural soil management policies, enhanced job security, and so forth. A group of activists both within and on the edges of the Democratic Party recognize this, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and William Barber leaders among them. One way to put it is that you might possibly win a Presidential election without cracking this constituency—though that very strategy by Clinton failed—but you cannot govern without cracking into rural and small town areas that have played important roles in shaping the obstructionist strategies of the Fascblican Party for a couple of decades. Another way to say it is that justice requires including the precarity of the white working class as one minority in the positive coalition to be mobilized.
Sixth, while it is essential to intensify micropolitical strategies in localities, universities, corporations, and unions it is also important to draw creative sustenance from a host of young, charismatic leaders who can inspire people in several walks of life to support anti-Fascblican, pro-pluralist, and egalitarian practices. Democratic organization and democratic charisma re-enforce one another.
Seventh, we must expose the tactics and long term strategy of the Fascblican Party at every step, even as we learn from them more about how affective communication proceeds. For there can be no pluralist, egalitarian culture until the oppositional movements combine positive affective contagion, charismatic leadership, refined ideological formulations, and egalitarian policy initiatives into a larger assemblage. It is time to learn the lesson: There is never a vacuum on the visceral register of cultural life.
Eighth, we must often hold the feet of the dominant wing in the Democratic Party to the fire, as they are too ready to seek to win the next election with minimum boldness and readiness to rebuild.



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