Lift Every Voice

Now for the first and most important step in counteracting right-wing extremism in the United States: Registering new Democrats and getting them to vote. “Get Out the Vote” efforts are common to any election campaign’s efforts, so this point may seem obvious. Regardless, it is the most important one. Right-wing extremists are not going to recognize the danger and immorality of their racism and xenophobia by November, if they ever do. Moderates conservatives will take some time to either gather the conviction to finally break off from racist and nativist forces that have a vice grip on the Republican Party, and also currently make up a large chunk of its membership. So it will be up to us to register as many people as we can find who will vote for the Democratic Party in 2016.

I can’t even say I discovered this particular insight on my own. My father is an exceptional data analyst and a proud and active supporter of the Democratic Party in my home state. I’ve been taking a crash course with him on how to defeat the GOP and their extremist candidates in November and work on the more long-term fight against right-wing extremism in general. According to him, there are large numbers of individuals in every state who are not registered to vote. And many who are unregistered would vote for the Democratic Party if they were registered.

My first question for my father after he informed me of this was, “Well, how do we know who will vote Democratic?” My father answered unequivocally that it was an issue of demographics. There are large numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, unmarried women, and young adults (i.e. 18-29) who are unregistered to vote. And the vast majority of each of these groups consist of individuals who sympathize with progressive ideals and social programs, and so would likely vote for the Democratic Party if they were registered and got to the voting booth on Election Day. Moreover, these different groups account for 82% of the new population growth since the turn of the millennium, making their underrepresentation at the polls in elections all the more jarring. He informed me of an organization called the Voter Participation Center that is focused on registering these groups, whom they collectively refer to as “The Rising American Electorate” (RAE.) I have been reading their website, which I will link here: http://www.voterparticipation.org/. We must all focus on organizations to get out the vote of the Rising American Electorate and I fully intend to join this group once the primaries are over in my state (which will be soon enough) and assist them in their efforts.

One subject my father brought up that isn’t discussed on the Voter Participation Center site is that for many of these individuals they choose not to register because they don’t think their vote matters or that the government is interested in serving their needs. I asked him why and he said, “Nobody knows. Nobody has ever been able to find out.” This is one mystery that we cannot afford to remain unsolved. We must learn the main reason(s) why members of the nation’s largest-growing demographics are utterly disaffected with a political system that is supposed to be responsive to their needs and desires.

What we need is meticulously collected data and studying. Since this is a blog with currently a small reader base, what we must start off with is collecting anecdotes. While you’re canvassing to register RAE individuals, or even just talking to your friends who are part of this demographic group, and gently probe them about why they feel like their vote really wouldn’t matter. Don’t press them too hard if they really don’t want to talk about it, we don’t want to antagonize these folks. However, try and keep an interested and open ear to their viewpoints. While you’re doing so keep a mental note of what they say and the general themes or any interesting points about how they view the American political system. Maybe you remember a conversation in this regard that everybody reading the blog can discuss. Post it on this site in the comment sections of my posts whenever you get the chance to, I try and keep a close eye on everything, and then there can be more posts and discussions in the comment section to theorize about what disenchants the RAE with the government. The Voter Participation Center also has a data collection center for the Rising American Electorate, which I will link here: http://data.voterparticipation.org//. Perhaps we can use the information we gather to select ideas on what they might study to convince the RAE to register and vote in progressive candidates for political office. Then the RAE demographics can show just how powerful they really are and they can lead the charge as we finally show the extremist right that the next generation of Americans is far more powerful than their fearmongering and lies. And it is our generation who will make America the greatest it has ever been.

Action, Not Disruption (also, Operation [Citation Needed])

I did not want my first posts regarding tactics for opposing reactionary politicians in the Republican Party to be about this topic, but some topics are too important to put off. What Thomas Dimassio did was not only morally wrong, but also stupid. As were the actions of the protestors in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago did when they forced Trump’s rallies to shut down.

Donald Trump is most certainly a race-baiting demagogue, but there were race-baiting demagogues spewing bile to the American people long before Trump and there will be race-baiting demagogues spewing bile after Trump’s dark star finally falls. They will never deserve to be physically attacked or harassed. There is a reason why the ACLU has defended even utter scum like the KKK. Because legally even the worst movements have the constitutional right to peaceably assemble and express their views. Donald Trump and his supporters at his rallies were not about to murder every black person, Muslim, and Latino in Chicago, Dayton, and Kansas City. They were expressing their support for Donald Trump and his positions. As bigoted and anti-American as these positions are it would be even more anti-American to resort to physical violence to stop their spread.

And even if anyone reading this is morally comfortable with resorting to physical violence to try and combat Trump’s nativism and authoritarianism, I promise it will backfire. The protestors haven’t shown Trump’s supporters rallies a sign of strength or that they’re hateful and evil people. The attendees of these rallies, and Trump supporters who watch these rallies get shut down, have not been cowed or shamed. If anything I am certain they are more emboldened and adamant in their support of a Trump presidency now. I would even go so far as to say that every time a Trump rally has to be shut down to avoid violent confrontation between his supporters and protestors, his vote goes up one percentage point on the day of each state primary. Because when his rallies are shut down, his supporters will probably feel their right to freedom of expression has been threatened by vigilantes. And as repugnant as those views may be, there’s no way to honestly say that this view isn’t partly correct.

The people at Donald Trump’s rallies aren’t Stormtroopers ready to beat innocent people to death. Certainly some have been proven to sucker-punch unarmed and peaceful protestors, some of Trump’s supporters may be willing to if given the opportunity, and some might even be willing to go farther than that if Trump asked them too. Instead, most of the people at these rallies deeply disillusioned with the current political system, often facing serious issues at home, especially in making ends meet; and want to support a candidate who gives them a sense of pride in their nation and hope for their future. They may be the source of the success of Trump and authoritarian conservatives like him and might remain silent or even applaud him if he used his executive power in blatant defiance of the Constitution, but this doesn’t make them depraved sadists, just victims of the banality of evil, something most people do at least once.

And every time that a Trump rally is shut down it only gives him more justification to advocate harsher measures against his opponents. He’s already lamented, “There used to be consequences to protesting. There are none anymore. These people are so bad for our country, you have no idea, folks.” He has suggested loosening free speech protections to make it easier for him to sue his critics. Maybe he’ll suggest laws to crack down on protestors that use violence or “harassing language” and make that later term exceedingly broad. And if Trump’s supporters feel that if they don’t curtail his opponent’s free speech then their right to free speech is at threat…well, it’s no surprise they’d protect their own free speech first and might very well go to extremes to feel that their rights are secure.

Make no mistake, Trump must be opposed. From this day until his thinly-veiled bigotry is finally and definitively rejected Americans in general and the conservative electorate in particular, he must be stymied and kept from any and every position of political power. However it must be done peacefully, legally, and by our long-held positions of free speech. And we must do this by showing their fears as being misplaced and helping them deal with the sources of their real problems. Trump’s lamentations about his free speech rights being infringed by violent thugs are utterly hypocritical in light of his pathetic justifications and denial of the violence against peaceful and civil protestors at his rallies by his supporters and his own comments suggesting he will not respect the free speech of his political opponents if he is seated in the Oval Office. However, the right of free speech without fear from the muzzling of authoritarian governments and the silencing power of overzealous vigilantes that use harassment to bully peaceful citizens into silence (no matter how distasteful their views really are.)

Unless actual genocide is about to be conducted, which I doubt Trump is morally bankrupt enough to do, there will never be a place for violence in American society. We’ve already had enough of that. This country does not need a second American Civil War. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of this nation’s history can see we haven’t healed from the scars of that bloody catastrophe. You will never hear me advocate for war or terrorism on this blog nor will I support calls for violence or abuse of any kind on Trump’s followers. These people will be just as much a part of an America free of the shadow of demagogues as the Latinos, Muslims, blacks, and leftists Trump is willing to demonize to gather his supporters to him. It’s their prejudices that must be undone to make this future happen, so we must not fall victim to prejudice ourselves.

I still believe that even though there are issues liberals (like myself) and conservatives will always disagree on and argue over, that Americans can still learn to respect one another, even our political rivals. I refuse to believe that conflict between conservatives and liberals is inevitable. Nor do I want a race war between white conservatives against minorities and white liberal sympathizers. If I thought either were inevitable or good, I wouldn’t be adamantly opposing Trump’s campaign. I would be voting for him.

I believe there is another way to attack Trump’s demagoguery at his rallies. We all know what his talking points are and how full of bullshit they are. For all the talk of his supporters about his “honesty” (which is why GOP primary voters that rate “Tells it like it is” as a presidential candidate’s most important quality overwhelmingly vote for Trump) his talking points are all canned lies. So since we know what they are, we can predict them and make quick, punchy counterarguments to them and put them on protest signs. So for our first operation against the Monster from the Id and his campaign, I propose a different strategy: “Operation [Citation Needed.]”

If you are going to protest a Trump rally, get together with all your friends beforehand, make a list of Trump’s common talking points, racist screeds, and flat nonsense and write up protest signs consisting of everything from clear, cutting, and true statistics that totally contradict his views; anecdotes that reveal how hateful one of his particular lies is, or even just a snarky comment regarding how idiotic or evil his ideas are. Make sure everybody has different signs addressing different points so you can hold them up as needed. And it need not just be protest signs. You might try to come up with a batch of different songs that you can sing together based on what his concluding statement is that mock the last note in his speech. Feel free to come up with any ideas in the comment section.

Just make sure whatever you do, you don’t give him or the police any excuse to shut down his rallies to stoke the sense of indignation and paranoia in his followers and their hypocritical accusations that we are the fascists rather than the sentient hairpiece with a mouth that they support for President. What you should be doing is getting Trump’s supporters and the media to look at your counterpoints to the garbage he spews from his mouth.

There are no easy or quick solution to the problems that Trump represents. I reiterate, if I wanted quick and simple “solutions” to what I believed to be this nation’s problems that were misdirected, morally dubious, and guaranteed to make things worse I would be voting for Trump instead of opposing him.

The Next American Crisis

“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.”