Understanding Our Fellow Voters

I read one of those “understanding Txxxx voters” articles at Salon today (no link provided). If you can find it, you can read every word and won’t find anything concrete. The author says the Democratic Party must “start changing its approach”; “a great number of people in the country . . . simply feel unseen, and in desperation they reach out to anyone who even appears to care about them”; and “people are looking for a sense of belonging, looking to be heard, looking for professional and educational opportunity, looking to feel valued and loved”.

These are his explanations for the president getting 70 million votes. He must think the president “appears to care about” his supporters, that he sees them and loves them. If the president appears to care about them, it’s because they think “he tells it like it is”. He expresses opinions they agree with. He makes them think he’ll protect them from Spanish-speaking immigrants; Islamic terrorists; uppity black people; leftist protesters; feminist writers; Whole Foods customers (but just the liberal ones); people with advanced degrees; and the uncaring Democratic politicians who tell us to wear masks, use acronyms like LGBTQ, worry about pollution, and want to raise taxes on the rich and increase the minimum wage.

Democrats say over and over that we’re all in this together, that everyone should have an opportunity to succeed. Txxxx supporters don’t like the sound of that at all.

Here’s another view. Two professors, Brad Evans and Henry Giroux, have written an article called “American Fascism”. An excerpt:

Fascism is a mutable beast. Like society itself, it is prone to transformation. We cannot underestimate the importance of this. Since so much of our understanding of fascism is informed by history, too often we fixate on the final acts of its destruction. The destruction of life, the destruction of cities, the destruction of politics. Whilst this concern with end state fascism does allow us to emphasise how truly nihilistic and deadly its violence can become; it nevertheless works in an apologetic way insomuch as fascism cannot be named if democracy hasnโ€™t fully been suspended or gas chambers built and people led to certain death. . . We must recognize that fascism is a process, parasitic to everyday fears, anxieties and insecurities. . . . It is adept at seducing the masses, so they desire their oppression as though it were their liberation.

We do not accept the notion that talk of a fascist politics emerging in the United States and in the rise of right-wing populist movements across the globe can and should be dismissed as a naive exaggeration or a misguided historical analogy. In the age of leaders such as Txxxx, Bolsonaro, and Erdogan, such objections feel like reckless efforts to deny the growing relevance of the term and the danger posed by a number of societies staring into the abyss of a menacing authoritarianism.

In fact, the case can be made that rather than harbor an element of truth, such criticism further normalizes the very fascism it critiques, allowing the extraordinary and implausible, if not unthinkable, to become ordinary. Under such circumstances, history is not simply being ignored or distorted, it is being erased. Not only in such cases does one run the risk of repeating the worse elements of the past, but also becoming complicitous with them.

In the current historical moment, a growing fascist politics connects the ravages of [contemporary] capitalism, . . . media perversions of truth, and authoritarian practices with fascist ideals . . . This unprecedented convergence includes: a disdain for human rights, a rampant anti-intellectualism, a populist celebration of white nationalism, the cult of leadership, the protection of corporate power, the elevation of pejorative emotion over critical insight, rampant cronyism, a disdain for dissent and intellectuals, and the โ€œmore or less explicit endorsement of violence against political enemiesโ€.

What this new political formation suggests is that fascism and its brutalizing logics are never entirely interred in the past and that the conditions that produce its central assumptions are with us once again, ushering in a period of modern barbarity that appears to be reaching towards homicidal extremes . . . While there is no perfect fit between Txxxx and the fascist societies of Mussolini, Hitler, and Pinochet, the basic tenets of hypernationalism, racism, misogyny, rootlessness, and manipulation of the rule of law, โ€œthe essential message is the sameโ€. Fascism is never entirely interred in the past and as Hannah Arendt reminded us in her discussions of totalitarianism, it can crystallize in different forms. It may go into remission, but it never entirely disappears.

So when another commentator says “we need to learn to say ‘yes’ to each other”, we should consider what we’re saying “yes” to.

A woman who identifies herself as a nurse in South Dakota wrote this on Twitter last night:

I have a night off from the hospital. . . I canโ€™t help but think of the Covid patients the last few days. The ones that stick out are those who still donโ€™t believe the virus is real. The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA. All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm. They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that โ€œstuffโ€ because they donโ€™t have COVID because itโ€™s not real. Yes. This really happens. And I canโ€™t stop thinking about it. These people really think this isnโ€™t going to happen to them. And then they stop yelling at you when they get intubated. Itโ€™s like a fucking horror movie that never ends.ย 

Just say “yes”?