I have finally settle into some feeling of confidence that we will not have an unending rule of Trump. I have stopped the 4 years of breath holding, as I watched the march towards the "signs of fascism" check list playing out in my country of birth. See previous post written 4 years ago when Trump won: for the actual list from historians on the steps towards fascism.
So as we emerge into a new ruler of Corporate America or Empire in Decline 2020, I am clear on some important agenda items clearly revealed by the last 4 year debacle. These are agenda items for if we ever want to reclaim a democracy, for if we don't want to live in Oligarchy.
1) Serious Election Reform: It means passing absolute protections for voters right to vote. This would include figuring out the least tamperproof way of voting and making it the standard for our country (to hell with every county having a different way of doing it and different technology and some poor counties having inadequate machines). It means making registration be automatic with getting a drivers license (as hugely freed the Black vote in GA) and an easy way for people who don't drive to also register. It means passing national protections for physically safe voting during an election. In other words that it is guaranteed on the Federal level so no state court can ever again block a governor for ordering changes to accomodate protecting people's health during a pandemic or other health threat. Also perhaps by determining a national standard for how we vote it will take care of this but assuring that access to polling places cannot be restricted to make voting burdensome and that options are always available to people who work on voting day. Working should never be an obstacle to voting.
2) Overturn Citizen's United - or election finance reform. This will also need to be accomplished from a national bill. We need to outlaw dark money, and the best way to get the influence of money out of politics is just to set a ceiling for total amount of campaign advertising any candidate can spend. It will level the playing field and bring those of us who were harassed by hateful ads full of lies and endless robocalls some peace. Maybe then candidates would have to campaign on the strength of their message!
3) Police reform nationwide - we are tired of the murder of BIPOC people in our streets by the police. This must stop. This cannot be regulated, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, or state by state. Just like the passage of the civil rights bill reformed Jim Crow obstructions to voting (till over thrown by a biased Supreme Court) this problem of police violence must be solved on a national level. All of the standardly understood reforms like: de-escalation training for police, anti-bias training, body cams, no choke holds, etc. etc must be passed on a national level. In addition we must start seperating out on a national level the jobs that really belong to social workers - like responding to mentally ill citizens or wellness checks and start removing those jobs from police jobs and shift the funding. We also must demilitarize the police. There is no reason, never was, and never should be a reason for our police departments to be the "used equipment" sale ground of the military. Military level weapons should be banned from police departments! What might you say does this have to do with fascism? The increased militarization of police and use of them to control civilian populations is part of every facisist state.
4) Assure the Teaching of Science in our public schools - between climate change and the pandemic it is clear that a scarily high percentage of Americans don't really understand how science comes to its outcomes or believe in science. It is time this changes. It will only really change if we teach it in our schools.
5) Protect a Free Press and its role in a democracy. Between the effects of more and more people getting news online and more and more papers dying and less actual reporters in the world a free press is at risk and it is actually considered one of the cornerstones of democracy. It has also been under attack for 4 years by Trump which is typical under fascism that press becomes centralized, controlled and delegitimized. So I am going to stop treating press as service to choose or not choose and treat it as a cause to support because I believe in it. So I am going to buy actual online subscriptions as "donations". But beyond that it is very clear that anti-trust law will have to be applied to the consolidation of media which has brought us things like Fox news. We may also need some laws that clarify the line between opinion and the reporting of facts and return us to an era when the "editorial page" or the anchor opinion piece were distinct and the line was not blurred. The marriage between Fox news and the President more closely mirrored a propaganda channel or state sponsored news then a free press.
6) Decriminalizing the PIBOC community - It is time to end the disproportionate prosecution and longer sentencing of people of color. It is a long haul to a complete redo of our justice system. However, some good first steps would be mandatory anti-racism/anti-bias training for all prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges. We also need to move to a restorative justice model for all non-violent crimes. There is a long list of what needs to be done in this arena
7) Defining the 25th Amendment. While there are many things I do not agree with Nancy Pelosi about, I do agree that the 25th Amendment if not clear enough. Even before Trump it left a lot of grey areas about what to do if a President was simply under anthesia for a brief procedure, or was temporarily disabled by heavy drugs, or temporary medical symptoms. It sort of relies on the person holding the office to use good judgement before being disabled and to act in good faith. However, as we have seen under Trump if a presidents mental health deteriorates they maybe the last person to admit it. Thus we need a procedure which has been agreed to years before it is needed and which both parties recognize could be relief for a country from a bad situation. It needs to be spelled out very clearly! Given that we now know 6 presidents were deeply disabled/ill/dying at the end of their terms (and a few wives were secretly running the country) we just really need this reform.
8) Election disclosure reform. Before the 2016 election it had been "tradition" for a long time that the Presidential candidates released both their tax returns for a number of years and also their annual medical exam results. I think it is fair for the voters to know if someone who is going to rule this country is playing fair, paying their share, and is healthy enough to lead. Once again Trump proved these traditions are only as good as someone operating in good faith. I believe that once not shielded, we will learn of the depth of both his health problems and the depth of debt he was in that would have made him ineligible for national security clearance, if not elected, because of the risk of blackmail or influence peddling. This should never happen to our country again and can be prevented by passing a bill requiring these two disclosures of Presidential candidates.
9) Ethics reform - rather than counting on meaningless promises to "drain the swamp" followed by just the opposite - lets make it law that someone who has been a lobbyist cannot be hired onto a cabinet post of head of a dept for at least 4 years after serving as a lobbyist. (This may also help some people not take lobbying position at the end of an administration if they hope in another 4 years to serve another President). Let's also in that same bill make nepotism illegal. No hiring of family members into white house positions or cabinet positions.
10) The End of the Electoral College! This one is so past due! Given that 2 of the 5 times that a President has gotten into office without winning the popular vote have happened in the last 20 years. It beyond clear that this structure was put into place by a land owning aristocratic founding fathers who did not fully trust the popular vote, and attempted to have a way to "correct" it through privileged electoral college voters "if needed". All this had really done is leave a way to manipulate away from the will of the people. Previously people have argued that some populist nut case could get it in if there was no electoral college. Quite the opposite, given that the electoral college, not the popular vote gave it to Trump in 2016, there is literally NO justification for this elitist institution. This will be hard to correct thru a constitutional amendment, as nothing is easy to do that way. But if a few more states pass the interstate compact against the electoral college it will be done! If you live in a state that has not passed it yet...please do this work!
11) End Gerrymandering - As some have become painfully aware in the past 4 years - how one party has kept itself in power especially in state houses but also in the House is by creating districts that are so absurdly drawn that they look like paint splats on a map. It should be federal law that a bi-partisan commission draws the map, and it stops being the work of the party in control assuring that it remains in power. The same new legislation should protect the Census gathering which sets us up for the redrawing of districts. Protections should be put in place to prevent the politizing of basic data collection.
12) Restrictions on Pardons - Again the founding fathers imagined that whoever would be elected President would be a fair and honorable person. They never would have imagined the cronism and deceit of pardoning colleagues who are charged with committing crimes on behalf of the sitting administration. Since that has happened under the most corrupt Presidents (Nixon and Trump) let's place a limit on Presidential pardons. Presidents should be restricted from pardoning anyone who is charged with committing a crime in service of the current administration.
13) Protection of whistle blowers - It is critical to accountability within a democracy that whistleblowers can bring to the attention of the public and the press wrong doings that are happening within the government without fear of loss of life, career or reputation. The active firing and punishment of whistleblowers has a chilling silencing effect that breeds loyalty to authoritarian leaders and a climate of fear rather than openness in government service. Although we have a national whistleblower law apparently it again needs to be actually made law that whistleblowers cannot be fired. I hope the incoming President will restore the title and retirement benefits of everyone who was wrongfully fired.
14) Protection of civil servants- this country has always had civil servant positions in DC that were bipartisan. People were career civil servants and served under each administration of either party, faithfully carrying out administrative duties. Under Trump various employment protections were removed so they could be fired at will - again making the workings of government hinge on loyalty rather than faithful duty. This was particularly troubling when applied to immigration judges so they became vulnerable to being fired for a decision that the Administration did not like - jeopardizing the notion of a free and seperate judiciary. I hope the incoming administration will restore the protections for civil servants and immigration judges and also reemploy any who were removed for opposing the lawless behavior of the previous occupants of the White House. This is part of why Hitler had so much power is because all levels of government were loyal to him and operated in the fear of being perceived as not loyal.
15) The end to enemies and racial targeting - the hallmark of fascism is the identifying and targeting of enemies. In Nazi Germany it was Jews - as well as LBGQT folks, and radicals. In Trumps America it has been Muslims and Mexicans and Black people. It is time for this 4 year reign of hate and terrorism to end! We have a lot of children and parents to reunite, and a lot of restitution to be paid for the trauma's that have been induced. Clearly we will need to work hard on the teaching of tolerance and anti-racism. We need to correctly identify right wing hate groups and white supremist groups as national terrorist groups. I look forward to the day where when they march in a state capitol that the President speaks out condemning the behavior and when attempts to kidnap a governor is met with support from the national level and is followed by aggressive prosecution of actions like this that simply bring fear and unrest to our communities. I look forward to when peaceful protestors are not treated as threats and violent protests are stopped.
16) No National Service - we MAY have stopped just short of instituting a Nazi like Hitler's Youth. For the last two years the Trump administration has been positioning in reaction to a lawsuit that rightfully pointed out that drafting only men is sex discrimination, to make a youth service corp for all young people between the ages of 18 and 24 to serve two years. Some would serve in the military and some in civilian service such as building the hated wall. It would be better to end compulsory service for either gender and move toward the ending of our endless wars. Militarism is another sign post of fascism, nationalism, and empire. Our military is $100 billion dollars more in 2020 than it was in 2016. Let's cut the bloated military budget.
17) The end to rampant sexism...and isms. It will be such a relief to not have a President who is charged with 16 sexual assaults on women and who constantly displays blatant disrespect and misogyny. (President Biden is also charged with sexually inappropriate behavior). But it is nice to have a cabinet that is not an old boys club. It will be nice to not have sexism, racism, able-bodiedism, classism and homophobia and Xenophobia modeled by the most visible position in the nation to our children. Facicism uses the control of women as one of the ways to control a population. By stacking the Supreme Court to overthrow Roe Vs Wade, despite the vast majority of Americans supporting it...we were well on the way to returning to a state imposed control over female bodies. We will have to work hard in the next few years to counter the stacking of the courts and for the passage of the ERA so we can end the legal ability to suppress women.
18) The end of censorship - a classic tool of fascism used to control the expression of ideas. No more will government websites forbid the use of terms related to climate change, or dismiss or silence climate scientists who work for the federal government or scientists or doctors attempting to tell the truth about the virus even if it is inconvenient to the occupants of public office whose policies maybe flawed. It maybe necessary to pass laws prohibiting the censorship of government employees.
19) National neighbors - fascist countries/Imperialist nations terrorize other countries. We have been doing so for decades. But it would be nice to go back to keeping our treaties, not insulting other leaders at every turn with culturally inappropriate behavior, and being in some way participants in global efforts to work on global problems.
I am under no illusion that President Biden is some sort of saint; he is neo-liberal. I do not expect all these things to be done. I do expect some of them to be done. Some of this will depend upon what happens in the Georgian Senate racism and if Congress is able to act with some unity. But mainly I name these things because this is OUR work to do if we want a democracy.