“These are the times that try men’s souls.” Our nation is still far more stable and secure than during the winter at Valley Forge when Thomas Paine penned those iconic words. Yet there is just as much fear and doubt of the future of this nation as when the American Revolution seemed doomed to collapse not long after it had begun.
There are doubts about the American economy’s ability to provide for all this country’s citizens. Other countries are rapidly rising in competition with us while our own nation’s economic growth grinds to a snail’s pace. And what growth there has been has largely gone to the Americans who are already the wealthiest. As a result of these trends, the middle class is disintegrating and this nation is slowly but unmistakably becoming one of the super-rich and a stagnant servant class working at minimum wage.
Meanwhile the Middle East and northern Africa have become increasingly unstable. Terrorist groups that seek to attack and murder Westerners in general and Americans in particular have continued to multiply. In spite of massive effort put forth in conducting the War on Terror, especially two costly and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the flames of radical Islamic terrorism are burning no lower than they were before September 11th 2001.
With such pressing problems clear for any American to see, people have become afraid. This fear has led to anger at America’s two main political parties who seem to be more interested in keeping power for its own sake than in helping the American people thrive in this increasingly complex, globalized, and rapidly-changing world. And in American conservativism, this anger is metastasizing into hatred.
This rise in anger and fear has manifested for all to see in the ascension of extremist candidates in the Republican Primary. For the past generation the Republican Party establishment has been pandering to extremists and fueling their dissatisfaction with the current system. And now forces long thought dormant in American society such as racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance are back to the forefront. Worst of all, these forces seem poised to seize a vice grip on the Republican Party and are in danger of irreparably poisoning American democracy. Their leading Presidential candidates have promoted as their core platform policies that are costly, simple-minded, guaranteed to do nothing or worse to solve America’s pressing problems…and which will be anathema to America’s democratic government and inalienable rights.
No candidate in the 2016 election has more clearly demonstrated this than Donald Trump. Trump has promoted wild conspiracy theories about the Mexican government vindictively pushing off its criminals onto our soil and the Democrats flooding certain states with Syrian refugees to punish those states for electing Republican governors. He has further been willing to pander to bigots with slanderous tales of American Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the Twin Towers fell and that 81% of white homicide victims are killed by black people.
In any healthy political system candidates that espouse views like Trump’s would be considered completely unelectable in a mainstream conservative party. But Trump has become the frontrunner of the Republican Party for President of the United States.
An important attribute for any democracy to prosper, or long endure, is having knowledgeable, active groups of citizens willing to do everything within the bounds of constitutional law and morality to keep their republic and improve the lives of their fellow citizens in times of crisis. It is abundantly clear that now is a crucial time in the history of American democracy. America can no longer afford political parties that think only of short-sighted goals. However both parties are sticking their heads in the sand on the rise of economic inequality, terrorism, and extremism in this nation.
So now it falls solely upon intelligent and engaged American citizens to help keep the republic. Because all governments, to an extent, rely on the consent of their people. With sufficient numbers, planning, organization, and/or discipline, even the harshest of dictatorships must yield to the popular will. This site is named after an important demonstration of this principle. The Rosenstrasse protests were done by “Aryan” German women in 1943 Berlin when their Jewish German husbands were arrested for deportation to concentration and death camps (who were named after the building at 2-4 Rosenstrasse where their husbands were being temporarily kept for deportation). These women would not let their husbands be taken away from them and murdered. Through hard work, dedication, and commitment to the men they loved, they saved hundreds of Jewish men from death at the hands of the Third Reich. Think of it: one of the most feared and ruthless regimes in history, one that already had murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews, could not take the lives of even a few thousand men because their wives did everything in their power to prevent it. Imagine how different, and probably how much better, the world would have been if a few million more non-Jewish Germans had been as steadfast and committed to keeping their Jewish friends and neighbors from Auschwitz’s ovens and the Nazi war machine from brutalizing the continent.
Now with calls from the Republican Party front runners for religious tests for refugees, national ID cards and databases for all Americans of a minority religion, hunts to find and deport all “criminal” foreigners, building a massive wall on our southern border, and carpet bombing people already brutalized enough by indiscriminate warfare, we need similar action and dedication to an America that defends peace and justice for all its citizens. In the short term it means defeating the Republican Party in the 2016 election, because whoever ends up their candidate for president will almost certainly make the fear, hatred, and bigotry that is festering in this country (and in particular, American conservatism) all the worse.
This is not the 1930s in Germany. The situation is not so dire in this election year, and it won’t be the next election year or the one after that. But our nation’s democracy cannot survive for long if bigotry, and the conditions that create the fear in which bigotry flourishes, continues to thrive. Trump is almost certainly not the American Hitler, but he has the potential to be the American Karl Lueger and inspire the man (or woman) that becomes the American Hitler. As a man of Jewish ancestry and a born citizen of the United States, I feel to my core a need to repay the debt I have to the Righteous of Nations, many who paid the ultimate price to save my people from extermination, as well as men like Nathan Hale who gave their lives to ensure I would live in a free country. As such, it is my responsibility to help protect the lives and freedom of people who are being defamed and scapegoated.
But this site, this Rosenstrasse Project, should not be about one election, one candidate, or even a group of candidates. Trump did not appear out of thin air nor will those that swallow his lies wholesale disappear back into thin air if the Republican Party loses in 2016. This fight will also require dealing with the problems like the economy, income inequality, the ongoing divide between the various races and religions, terrorism, and education that exacerbate the worst in the American people.
It is my hope that this blog serves as a forum for discussion on how to fight the rise of prejudice and authoritarianism in America, to promote activism in supporting policies to deal with the nation’s pressing issues for this election cycle and beyond, and to create a long-term strategy for withering the influence of extremist xenophobia in the Republican Party. With effort, skill, planning, and discipline, we will drive bigotry back into the realm of Facebook rants and hyperbolic chain letters where it belongs.
As passionate as I am about these issues, I am one man and a Johnny-Come-Lately to the political arena. I am committed to defeating Trump, and political candidates like him, but I am still uncertain of all the intricacies that have created the bigotry he feeds off of to fuel his campaign. Furthermore, I do not yet have a concrete, fully fleshed out plan to counteract these forces. I am still gathering data from primary exit polls and other sources about what leads people to vote for extremist candidates like Trump and how to fix the issues that make race-baiting bigotry gain votes for Republican Party candidates.
It is up to all of us to solve the problems of this nation and in doing so, create a better future for us all. We will make an America where the prosperity and security of the American middle class no longer hangs by a thin thread but steadily grows. Together we will build an America free from the fear of terrorism, where people of all faiths and races have their fair share in this nation’s government and work together to enrich each other’s lives, and where our children are given the education and skills they need to make the future ever brighter.
Currently my strategies are incomplete, and I intend to keep filling in the data as the exit polls come in for the Republican primaries. In the meantime, I hope everyone reading this post can provide any information they can, be it detailed statistics or personal anecdotes, on the appeal of bigots and race-baiting candidates like Trump and Cruz and any ideas they have to support the Democratic Party in the short term and break the hold that prejudice has on the GOP in the long term. And feel free to invite any friends you know who are interested in helping fight the forces threatening our democracy to join the discussion. The idea and desire for this blog may have started on the Slacktivist’s blog (And by the way, I highly recommend following this link, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/ if you are interested in a very intelligent man discuss religion, politics, and all the various reasons why the Left Behind books are the Worst Book Series Ever) but there is no reason not to get everyone we can working together to identify the sources of right-wing extremism and combat it for the 2016 elections and beyond.
On a concluding note, the “Block der Frauen” memorial commemorating the Rosenstrasse protest contains an inscription that declares, among other things, “…the vigor of love overcomes the violence of dictatorship….” As the adage goes, prevention beats any cure. So let the discussion begin with the tagline of this site, “By the vigor of our love, our democracy will not perish.”