Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”
So began Toni Morrison’s 1995 address to Howard University, entitled Racism and Fascism, which delineated 10 step-by-step procedures to carry a society from first to last.
Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.
Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices – ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.
Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.
The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.
My father, raised in Berlin under the Nazis, saw in European fascism a course that any country could take. He knew that US democracy was not exceptional in its capacity to resist the forces that shattered his family and devastated his youth. My mother, a court stenographer in US criminal courts for 44 years, saw in the anti-Black racism of the American legal system parallels to the vicious antisemitism she experienced in her youth in Poland, attitudes which enabled eastern European complicity with fascism. And my grandmother, Ilse Stanley, wrote a memoir, published in 1957, of her experiences in 1930s Berlin, later appearing on the US television show This is Your Life to discuss it. It is a memoir of the normalization years of German fascism, well before world war and genocide. In it, she recounts experiences with Nazi officers who assured her that in nazism’s vilification of Jews, they certainly did not mean her.
Philosophers have always been at the forefront in the analysis of fascist ideology and movements. In keeping with a tradition that includes the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, I have been writing for a decade on the way politicians and movement leaders employ propaganda, centrally including fascist propaganda, to win elections and gain power.
Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.
Fascist propaganda takes place in the US in already fertile ground – decades of racial strife has led to the United States having by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. A police militarized to address the wounds of racial inequities by violence, and a recent history of unsuccessful imperial wars have made us susceptible to a narrative of national humiliation by enemies both internal and external. As WEB Du Bois showed in his 1935 masterwork Black Reconstruction, there is a long history of business elites backing racism and fascism out of self-interest, to divide the working class and thereby destroy the labor movement.
The novel development is that a ruthless would-be autocrat has marshalled these fascist forces and shaped them into a cult, with him as its leader. We are now well into the repercussions of this latter process – where fascist lies, for example, the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, have begun to restructure institutions, notably electoral infrastructure and law. As this process unfolds, slowly and deliberately, the media’s normalization of these processes evokes Morrison’s tenth and final step: “Maintain, at all costs, silence.”
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Lincoln County is trying to close all but one polling place for next year’s elections, a move opposed by voting and civil rights groups.
Relocating voters from the county’s seven precincts to a single location will make voting “easier and more accessible” and eliminate the need to transport voting equipment and staff the remaining sites, according to a news release. Community members disagreed.
“Lincoln County is a very rural county. Some people live as far as 23 miles from the city of Lincolnton,” said Denise Freeman, an activist and former Lincoln County school board member. “This is not about convenience for the citizens. This is about control. This is about the good old boys wanting to do what they’ve always done, which is power and control.”
The move was made possible after the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year disbanding the Lincoln County Board of Elections. The chief sponsor of Senate bills 282 and 283 was Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, whose district includes Lincoln County. The newly-appointed board agreed to move forward with the “consolidation” plan and was expected to vote on it last week, but appeared to lack a quorum, several said.
Multiple public interest groups including the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Common Cause Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Augusta’s Interfaith Coalition are taking a stand against the effort.
Aunna Dennis, executive director for Common Cause Georgia, said the move is an extension of Senate Bill 202, which tightened restrictions on voting and gave the state the authority to take over elections boards.
“They’re trying to do this undercover precinct consolidation, so we’re going to go ahead with the canvassing drive,” Dennis said. Obtaining signatures from roughly 20% of the population of a single precinct would appear to have the effect of blocking the move, at least temporarily.
Dennis attributed the Lincoln County effort to a larger push across rural Georgia.
“I think there are bad actors who are wanting to pilot precinct consolidations and takeovers of elections boards in smaller counties,” she said.
With multiple voting changes from Senate Bill 202 already underway, adding the precinct closures in a county that lacks a public transportation budget – and attempting to pass them over the holiday season – is too much, Dennis said.
“There’s no real justification for something this drastic,” she said. “This is something that is trying to be steamrolled outside the public eye.”
This is exactly what I said would happen after Georgia's "election integrity" bills became law: entire county election boards purged of Black election workers, replaced with white Republican appointees, and voting precincts removed from Black neighborhoods entirely.
This is also exactly the kind of racist voter suppression nonsense that the Voting Rights Act preclearance measures were supposed to stop, but that was gutted by the Roberts Court years ago and will never be fixed.
So now, Black voters will have to drive 20+ miles to vote, and it will be their fault if they don't "want to take responsibility to vote" when it will take them hours to do so.
It's the same tune across the country. Republicans gain and keep power with intensive gerrymandering, voter suppression, and spreading the Big Lie, and outright stealing elections.
A member of Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign arranged and participated in a meeting at which a Georgia election worker says she was pressed by a Chicago publicist to falsely admit voting fraud.
The revelation directly ties a senior figure in the former president’s political operation to an extraordinary late-night Jan. 4 meeting in which a $16-an-hour election worker faced pressure to implicate herself in a baseless conspiracy theory, stoked by Trump himself, as he sought to overturn his Georgia election loss.
Harrison Floyd - who was executive director of a national campaign coalition called Black Voices for Trump in 2020 - told Reuters on Monday that he asked Chicago publicist Trevian Kutti to visit the Atlanta area to speak with 62-year-old temporary election worker Ruby Freeman. Floyd said he then participated by phone in a meeting Kutti held with Freeman at a police station in Georgia’s Cobb County.
Kutti was accompanied at the meeting by another Trump campaign figure: Garrison Douglas, who was a Georgia leader in Black Voices for Trump during the campaign and now works as a Republican Party spokesperson in the state. Douglas confirmed to Reuters that he was present at the meeting. Floyd said he recruited Douglas and Kutti because he was unable to attend himself.
In a statement to Reuters on Monday, Douglas said: "On January 4th, I was unemployed and received a call to serve as a volunteer driver, as I had many times in the past. I had no involvement in the meeting beyond the task of driving."
In a phone interview Monday, Floyd said he was asked if he’d be willing to set up the meeting by a man he described as a chaplain with “connections” in federal law enforcement. He declined to name the clergyman or to detail what those connections involved. Floyd said the chaplain, who is white, wanted him to approach Freeman, who is Black, to discuss an immunity deal for her, out of a belief that she would not trust a white stranger. Floyd, Douglas and Kutti are Black.
Floyd said that he had left his role in the Trump campaign before the Jan. 4 meeting. Trump himself “never asked me to go” to Georgia, he said, and board members of the Black Voices for Trump group “had no involvement in this.”
Floyd said he arranged the meeting in an effort to help Freeman. He said he himself believed she was seeking assistance, including immunity from prosecution over claims from the Trump camp that she had committed voting fraud.
Freeman, through a spokesperson, said she never reached out to anyone to seek immunity. Her lawyer, Von DuBose, declined to comment further.
- New CDC figures confirm that COVID was the third-leading cause of US deaths in 2020, behind only heart disease and cancer for last year.
- News networks will commemorate coverage of the January 6th insurrection with several days of specials, Donald Trump says he plans his own news conference that day with "new evidence".
- San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank is the latest major US employer to delay employees returning to the office amid America's COVID Omicron surge.
- President Biden says he's considering lifting the travel ban from Southern African nations where COVID Omicron was first identified last month based on CDC advisors.
- Jury deliberations in the criminal fraud trial of Theranos co-founder Elizabeth Holmes continue as both sides made their closing arguments on Monday.