Liberals are finally listening to Thomas Frank about what’s wrong with the Democratic Party

From The Chicago Reader:  http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/listen-liberal-thomas-frank-democratic-party-critique-trump-obama/Content?oid=25948366

The author of Listen Liberal looks prescient in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory.

By
March 22, 2017

Perhaps Thomas Frank should have added an exclamation mark to the title of his latest book. As it was, Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? largely fell on deaf ears when it was initially released in April 2016. Echoing arguments frequently made by Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, Frank’s pointed polemic attacked the Clintons, Rahm Emanuel, and the mainstream Democratic Party for abandoning America’s working people in favor of Wall Street and the professional classes. But the mainstream media and political commentators mostly shunned the book until after Election Day—when it suddenly looked prescient. On November 9, it was listed in the New York Times article “Six Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win.”

The liberals, in other words, are listening now—even if it’s too late to avoid the horrors of a Trump presidency. Back on the road promoting the paperback edition, Frank will appear for a reading at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park on March 27. But despite the recent attention his analysis is getting, the onetime Chicagoan and cofounder of the Baffler isn’t necessarily more hopeful about the Democratic Party than he was a year ago.

When we spoke last year, there was a media silence around your book. How much has that changed?

The book has sold well, lots of people have read it, I get a lot of e-mails, and people talk about it all the time. But the national American media is still not interested, by and large. It’s weird because in other countries I’m on TV and radio all the time. I just came back from Australia and Scandinavia, and both places were very interested in it. The same is true in Canada and in the UK.

How do you explain the greater interest abroad?

They’re very worried about Trump overseas. In Australia they’re worried he might get them into a war. The other thing is that a lot of these countries think they’re going to have their own Trump one of these days. If you look at what’s happening to these left parties in Europe—they’re getting slaughtered. It’s happening all over the place.

What do you think blinded the Democrats and liberals to your critique?

That’s a good question. The Democrats had all these postmortems and “What went wrong?” inquiries, but they refuse to admit they did anything wrong. For a long time, these people denied that the working class was walking away from the Democratic Party. Now they see it’s plain and then switch to a new line of thinking: “Well, there’s nothing we can do to win those people back, because the only possible appeal is to become a more racist party, and we’re not interested in that.”

So they’re determined not to adopt left populism, which is what the Democratic Party used to do. The problem is that for the Clinton wing of the party, it’s essential to their identity that they turn their backs on that kind of politics. That’s who they are. They can’t go back now.

It also seems like a lot of Democrats have used the Russian hacking scandal and the alleged Putin-Trump ties to paper over flaws with their own party. It was like, “Putin hacked the election so why should we change?”

Yes, they’ve made plenty of excuses. And as far as excuses go, it’s pretty lame. The Comey intervention had a much bigger impact. And you know what had a bigger impact still, which they never talk about? The big increase in Obamacare premiums a few weeks before the election. I couldn’t believe that Barack Obama didn’t move heaven and earth to keep it from happening. Secondly, the [Trans-Pacific Partnership]. What the hell was Obama thinking pushing it right up until the end while poor Hillary was out there trying to distance herself from it? When you talk about blunders, those were worse than Russia—if it was Russia—stealing John Podesta’s e-mail.

Continue reading at:  http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/listen-liberal-thomas-frank-democratic-party-critique-trump-obama/Content?oid=25948366

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If We Don’t Act Now, Fascism Will Be on Our Doorstep, Says Yale Historian

From Bill Moyers:  http://billmoyers.com/story/dont-act-now-fascism-will-doorstep-says-yale-historian/

Timothy Snyder warns: History gives us a bunch of cases where democratic republics became authoritarian regimes.

By Steven Rosenfeld
March 15, 2017

How close is President Donald Trump to following the path blazed by last century’s tyrants? Could American democracy be replaced with totalitarian rule? There’s enough resemblance that Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, has written a book warning about the threat and offering lessons for resistance and survival. The author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century talked to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld.

Steven Rosenfeld: Three weeks ago, you said that the country has perhaps a year “to defend American democracy.” You said what happens in the next few weeks is crucial. Are you more concerned than ever that our political culture and institutions are evolving toward fascism, resembling key aspects of the early 20th-century European regimes you’ve studied?

Timothy Snyder: Let me answer you in three parts. The first thing is that the 20 lessons that I wrote, I wrote on Nov. 15. The book, On Tyranny, was done by Christmas. Which means if people read it now, and people are reading it, and it’s describing the world they are in, that means I’ve successfully made predictions based on history. We’re going to talk about what is going to come, but I want to point out that timeline — it was basically completely blind. But the book does describe what is going on now.

The year figure is there because we have to recognize that things move fast. Nazi Germany took about a year. Hungary took about two and a half years. Poland got rid of the top-level judiciary within a year. It’s a rough historical guess, but the point is because there is an outside limit, you therefore have to act now. You have to get started early. It’s just very practical advice. It’s the meta-advice of the past: That things slip out of reach for you, psychologically very quickly and then legally almost as quickly. It’s hard for people to act when they feel other people won’t act. It’s hard for people to act when they feel like they have to break the law to do so. So it is important to get out in front before people face those psychological and legal barriers.

Am I more worried now? I realize that was your question. No, I’m exactly as worried as I was before, in November. I think that the people who inhabit the White House inhabit a different ideological world in which they would like for the United States not to be the constitutional system that it now is. I was concerned about that in November. I’m concerned about it now. Nothing that has happened since has changed the way I see things.

SR: Let’s talk about how this evolution takes place. You’ve written about how “post-truth is pre-fascism.” You talk about leaders ignoring facts, law and history. How far along this progression are we? I’m wondering where you might see things going next.

TS: That’s tough because what history does is give you a whole bunch of cases where democratic republics become authoritarian regimes; sometimes fascist regimes, sometimes communist regimes. It doesn’t give you one storyline: A, B, C, D. It gives you a bunch of clusters of A, and a bunch of clusters of C. But factuality is really important and more important than people realize, because it’s the substructure of regime change.

We think about democracy, and that’s the word that Americans love to use, democracy, and that’s how we characterize our system. But if democracy just means going to vote, it’s pretty meaningless. Russia has democracy in that sense. Most authoritarian regimes have democracy in that sense. Nazi Germany had democracy in that sense, even after the system had fundamentally changed.

Democracy only has substance if there’s the rule of law. That is, if people believe that the votes are going to be counted and they are counted. If they believe that there’s a judiciary out there that will make sense of things if there’s some challenge. If there isn’t rule of law, people will be afraid to vote the way they want to vote. They’ll vote for their own safety as opposed to their convictions. So the thing we call democracy depends on the rule of law. And the things we call the rule of law depends upon trust. Law functions 99 percent of the time automatically. It functions because we think it’s out there. And that, in turn, depends on the sense of truth. So there’s a mechanism here. You can get right to heart of the matter if you can convince people that there is no truth. Which is why the stuff that we characterize as post-modern and might dismiss is actually really, really essential.

The second thing about “post-truth is pre-fascism” is I’m trying to get people’s attention, because that is actually how fascism works. Fascism says, disregard the evidence of your senses, disregard observation, embolden deeds that can’t be proven, don’t have faith in God but have faith in leaders, take part in collective myth of an organic national unity and so forth. Fascism was precisely about setting the whole Enlightenment aside and then selling what sort of myths emerged. Now those [national] myths are pretty unpredictable, and contingent on different nations and different leaders and so on, but to just set facts aside is actually the fastest catalyst. So that part concerns me a lot.

Continue reading at:  http://billmoyers.com/story/dont-act-now-fascism-will-doorstep-says-yale-historian/

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Trump is greenlighting the harassment of transgender kids

From Think Progress:  https://thinkprogress.org/trump-greenlights-harassment-transgender-kids-7a2a1dd979ce

“I think it’s entirely his fault. Every single bit of it.”

Emma Margolin
Mar 27, 2017

In the weeks since President Donald Trump’s administration revoked federal guidance aimed at protecting transgender students, school has been a nightmare for 17-year-old Lyle Howard.

“Ever since Trump rescinded the guidance, I’ve been harassed and bullied and yelled at in the halls,” said Howard, a sophomore at Ozark High School in southwest Missouri. “I have been declared not a person. I am an ‘it.’”

Howard, a transgender boy, says he had been using the boys’ bathroom at his public high school since the beginning of the school year without any problems. But that changed last month, when the Trump administration reversed Obama-era guidelines affirming transgender students’ right to use the bathroom in line with their gender identities. One day later, Howard says, he was chased into a bathroom stall by another boy, who banged on the door and yelled in the halls that there was a woman in the wrong bathroom. As he sees it, the timing of the incident was no coincidence.

“It’s definitely had a huge impact,” Howard said of the federal government’s reversal on transgender protections.

Trump’s decision to pull federal support for transgender students has already begun to significantly affect the lives of thousands of kids. Though the rescission itself did not change existing law, it did create a climate where schools could potentially feel safe rolling back trans-inclusive policies or ignoring cases of harassment. Many LGBTQ advocates, parents and students now say they’re concerned the administration’s action will embolden bullies and opponents of nondiscrimination protections, while exacerbating the already disproportionate rate of anxiety and depression among transgender youth.

Legally, the administration’s move also had a major impact. The Supreme Court was set to hear arguments this week in a case brought by 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy suing his Virginia school district for the right to use the bathroom matching his gender identity. By the end of the school year, that case could have settled once and for all the question of whether barring transgender students from the bathroom of their choice amounts to unlawful sex discrimination under Title IX, a statute prohibiting such discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities. But after the Trump administration rescinded the guidance on transgender protections, the justices decided early this month to return the case to a lower court for reconsideration, delaying much-needed clarity on the issue.

Continue reading at:  https://thinkprogress.org/trump-greenlights-harassment-transgender-kids-7a2a1dd979ce

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