Condition Orange: Crisis in Democracy is Immediate Threat
November 14, 2016
As dire as the Climate Crisis is, our immediate problem, and one of the greatest threats the planet has ever faced, is that our Governing apparatus is about to be turned over to straight up, loud and proud white nationalist fascists.
Key message: This is not Normal. This is not politics as usual. This is a 5 alarm fire for Democracy.
IN particular, the media’s overwhelming drive to normalize a Russian intervention in an American Election is the 5 million pound Gorilla in the Room, and anyone with any network or platform should make sure their contacts and networks keep this front and center.
Begin conversations about this with people you know and agree with, as well as those who you do not know, but who need to be part of this.
Contribute to organizations that will defend constitutional rights, ACLU etc, as well as environmental and civil organizations like Environmental Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, or other groups of your choice.
Steve Bannon, former president of the incendiary Breitbart News and more recently chief executive of Trump’s campaign, is taking on a role as “chief strategist and senior counselor.” Bannon’s ascension is the clearest sign yet that Trump will maintain his ties to the populist white nationalism that helped propel him to the White House against overwhelming opposition from party leaders and traditional media.
“The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office,” John Weaver, who advised Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, tweeted in response to the news. “Be very vigilant America.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement on Twitter congratulating Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ appointment to White House chief of staff, but also denouncing Bannons’ appointment.
“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premiere website of the ‘alt right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house,'” Greenblatt said in the statement. “We call on President-elect Trump to appoint and nominate Americans committed to the well-being of all our country’s people and who exemplify the values of pluralism and tolerance that make our country great.”
But on Monday Reince Priebus, who Trump announced would be his chief of staff Sunday, defended Bannon’s hire and called on people not to make judgements.
“I don’t know where [criticism is] coming from that’s not the Steve Bannon that I know,” Priebus said on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday.. “I find him not to be way that’ he’s being accused, I find him to be the opposite.”
“Don’t judge people based off what other people say,” he continued.
Maybe it’s because I grew up at the tail end of the McCarthy Era and in the heart of the Cold War, and maybe because I spent 13 awful days in 1962 waiting for the missiles to fly, and maybe it’s because I believe that, Tsarist or Communist or Kleptocracy, Russia behaves in pretty much the same way, but I honestly believe that this should be the only story dominating the news right now.
At least, I think it warrants as much space in our various media as was devoted to the BREAKING NEWS about what John Podesta had for lunch last year. Per The Washington Post:
The statement came from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who said in an interview with the state-run Interfax news agency that “there were contacts” with the Trump team. “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said. “We have just begun to consider ways of building dialogue with the future Donald Trump administration and channels we will be using for those purposes,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying. Ryabkov provided no further details, and his remarks drew a swift denial from Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who said the campaign had “no contact with Russian officials” before Tuesday’s election.
Why in Christ’s sweet name isn’t this thundering through the news cycle right now? Why aren’t hundreds of national-security reporters all over it? We have elected a guy who may well have traded what little integrity he has to a vicious autocrat and his thieves-in-law. (Note to anyone who takes exception: This is not “red-baiting” because these crooks are not Red.) We know he can’t get a loan from most American banks, so he has to go overseas for a lot of his financing. What banks is he tied into, and are any of those banks tied into the Russian government? Whom does he owe and how much does he owe them? And how do they plan to collect?
Two pieces that I think are particularly critical to read in understanding the new players are below.
While Russian leaders consciously work to hollow out the idea of democracy in their own country, they also seek to discredit democracy abroad — including, this year, in the United States. Russia’s interventions in our presidential elections are not only the opportunistic support of a preferred candidate, Donald J. Trump, who backs Russian foreign policy. They are also the logical projection of the new ideology: Democracy is not a means of changing leadership at home, but a means of weakening enemies abroad. If we see politics as Ilyin did, Russia’s ritualization of elections becomes a virtue rather than a vice. Degrading democracy around the world would be a service to mankind.
If democracy is merely an invitation to foreign influence, then hacking a foreign political party’s email is the most natural thing in the world. If civil society is nothing but the decadent opening of a rotting society to foreign influence, then constant trolling of media is obviously appropriate. If, as Ilyin wrote, the “arithmetical understanding of politics” is harmful, then digital meddling in foreign elections would be just the thing.
For a decade, Russia has been sponsoring right-wing extremists as “election observers” — most recently, in the farcical referendums in the Crimea and in the Donbas region of Ukraine — in order to discredit both elections and their observation. Since democracy is a sham, as Ilyin believed, then it is right and good to imitate its language and procedures in order to discredit it. It is noteworthy that the Trump campaign has now imitated this very practice, supplying both its own private “observers” and the advance conclusion about the fraud they will find.
The technique of undermining democracy abroad is to generate doubt where there had been certainty. If democratic procedures start to seem shambolic, then democratic ideas will seem questionable as well. And so America would become more like Russia, which is the general idea. If Mr. Trump wins, Russia wins. But if Mr. Trump loses and people doubt the outcome, Russia also wins.
There is, it turns out, a small network of young, educated white nationalists braided into the conservative apparatus in the capital, working at small anti-immigration PACs, right-wing media websites and libertarian think tanks. A number have taken courses at the Leadership Institute, a conservative organization founded by Morton Blackwell to train grass-roots activists (alumni of Blackwell’s earlier programs include Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove.) At Leadership, Heimbach learned how to write press releases, organize events and engage the media through what he called “street theater.” He encourages all his TWP chapter leaders to go through the institute’s youth leadership course. “They trained this entire next generation of white nationalists,” said Heimbach. Blackwell, who is still the Institute’s president, confirmed that Heimbach studied there. He told me that the Institute strongly repudiates Heimbach’s ideology and has an “open-door policy” toward admissions to protect its tax status.
“I never heard of this guy until today. And I don’t know who his associates are but anybody can apply to our schools and we have people from a wide variety of backgrounds and political philosophies.”