The politics of fear! It’s the economy, stupid! The big lie psychology!
As we marshal forces toward a strong progressive push in 2018 and beyond at all levels of government, it’s important to understand and correct the mistakes that allowed Trump and hard-line right-wing Republicans to seize power behind the same big lie psychology that Hitler and other dictators have used with such success.
One of the biggest short-comings on the progressive side was letting Trump and the right define the narrative surrounding the loss of industrial jobs in the heartland. While Hillary and the Democrats touted how well the economy was doing, it fell on unreceptive ears among predominantly white factory workers and miners who saw good paying jobs disappear. And while employment picked up to some extent in these areas, the jobs paid less and offered fewer benefits.
Preying on the anger and fear of this segment of the population, Trump and the GOP garnered support with a supposedly simple three-part explanation that seemed plausible. As quoted in an article in The Nation:
“First, that industry left this country because unions destroyed productivity and made labor costs too high, thereby making us uncompetitive. Second, corporations were the victims of over-regulation and a bloated government that overtaxed them to pay for socialist welfare systems. Third, illegal immigration has resulted in the stealing of American jobs, increased competition for white workers, and depressed wages. Together these three factors led to the collapse of manufacturing in America. This, sadly, is a story that many Americans believe.”
None of this is actually true, but with huge contributions from wealthy conservatives and the angry rantings of fringe radio hosts, like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, and fake news websites, like Breitbart, InfoWars, Daily Caller and WND, the big lies were told so often that even sensible people who should know better “drank the Kool-Aid®” and voted against their own best interests. Even worse, once they bought in, they became susceptible to conspiracy theories spouted by the administration that the legitimate news media is untrustworthy when they catch Trump and his advisors lying to the public about everything from crowd size to highly questionable contacts with the Russians. And it’s not so hard to understand — once people commit to a position, a party or a candidate, they tend to consider any news that’s contrary to what they believe as being biased. That again accounts for the rise of Fox News, although even they are having trouble with Trump’s outlandish media attacks, and the totally bizarre sites like InfoWars and Breitbart.
The truly scary part is that, like so many dictatorships in the past, the far right is using their unprecedented power at the moment to try and cement their control permanently with a multi-faceted approach. Take Trump’s outrageous contention that millions of illegal voters skewed the popular vote, which he lost. It’s totally unproven, although the far right sites are echoing it with imaginary evidence. However, Republicans will try to use this to further restrict voting rights until only reliable Republican voters will be allowed to vote, if they don’t cancel elections outright as a threat to security.
Of course, by casting the legitimate news media as pushing fake news, Trump and the right are trying to get people to believe only them so they can lie and their followers will accept the lies as gospel. And, the GOP in the Senate and House are doing a disservice to their constituents by doing the bidding of their masters by following in lockstep to approve Trump’s cabinet nominees who are grossly unqualified for these posts.
As if this isn’t disturbing enough, there is a shadowy organization pulling the strings behind the scenes for this power grab — the Council for National Policy. This secretive cabal of staunch conservatives and alt-right extremists advocates an unholy alliance of corporate and religious interests to place America under their own. supposedly Christian form of sharia law.
Fortunately, we still have time to change the narrative, but the window is narrow. First, while taking our usual stand for human rights, we need to remember the mantra of the original Clinton campaigns — “It’s the economy, stupid!” When people are worried about losing their homes and their futures, they are not particularly receptive to any messages that don’t address their economic situation. We have to grab the high ground by talking straight about their needs with messages that support lower taxes on them, but not the rich; investment in re-training and attracting new industries in depressed areas; a national single-payer healthcare plan that’s not employer dependent; employee cooperatives that buy and run existing plants; and affordable vocational education opportunities as a start.
While we won’t solve all the issues in one blog post or one election, it’s taking the message to the people that need to hear it and backing it up with actions. Force the GOP to either get on the bandwagon or be seen for the true liars that they are.
Together we can make a difference across the board!
Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the lies and expose the true!