Hey liberal friends. Yes, you. You who’s been telling people frightened for their lives that “it won’t be that bad”. And you who keeps posting links to obscure constitutional loopholes that might make Bernie president. And you, who told me yesterday with a straight face that May was the British Trump (and I agree that a case can be made here) and then proceeded to talk about how to disentangle our message from that of more left-wing, more diverse campaign groups. We need to have a talk, because I don’t think you have even begun to realise yet how out of your depth you are. You simply don’t have the frame of reference: you have never lived in a state that was openly, actively, viciously hostile to you, there’s nothing in your set of life experiences to date to help you process this. And that is a problem, because your cluelessness and flailing is playing into the hands of fascism and doing damage to the rest of us.
Here are three pieces of reading for you to help you build a frame of reference:
Masha Gessen’s rule for surviving in an autocracy. She speaks from experience, she grew up in Putin’s Russia. Rules 1 and 3 in particular are what liberals seem to be struggling with. 1: Believe the autocrat. When Trump says he will deport 3 million people, don’t even for a second think that he doesn’t mean it, that it was just an election soundbite. Believe him, he will do it. Think about what you can do to resist this, to help those he is targeting. 3: Institutions will not save you. The electoral college is not going to swoop to the rescue. Neither are constitutional loopholes going to make Bernie president. Instead, Trump is going to stack the Supreme Court his way for the foreseeable future, and if the Democrats lose one more state legislature, the Republicans, already falling in line behind Trump like ducklings, are going to eviscerate the constitution. These are the stakes. You need to realise this, and accept it, and work out how you can keep people around you alive.
Here’s pookleblinky’s Twitter thread on how fascism is an exponential process. This, frankly, is a terrifying read. But honestly, I’d rather work on this premise and be wrong than keep going with the “it won’t be that bad” narrative and be wrong about that. Some key points: for most of its gestation time, fascism is basically invisible and seems like a joke; by the time you see the exponential ramp of its growth, it’s ubiquitous and overwhelming; you are always playing catch up – by the time you think of a strategy to deal with it, that strategy is no longer effective; the time window of effectiveness for each new strategy is shorter than the last; last time fascism reared its ugly head, it had horses and telegraphs – now it has instantaneous global communication, nukes, pervasive normalised surveillance, and biometric databases of close to the entire population. I honestly don’t have a good answer for this. I can only reiterate: start working out how you’re going to keep people alive.
And finally, just in case you’re still not convinced that what we’re dealing with is the real thing, just in case you still think the fact that Trump and his staff don’t know anything about the scope of the Presidency will save you, here are the 14 characteristics of fascism. Trump and those around him exhibit all 14. May… is getting close. Disdain for human rights, obsession with national security, protection of corporate power and suppression of labour power, disdain for intellectuals… If those don’t ring a bell, you have not been paying attention. We also need to acknowledge that liberalism has enabled many of these. Something to think about if we come out the other side of this.
So, liberal friends. You simply do not have the tools to fight this. Hell, most of you still don’t even believe that there’s anything to fight. You’d better start believing it, and fast. By the time it gets so bad you can see it, people and communities more marginalised than you will be wiped out. So. Listen to those people, to those communities. Listen to black and brown women. Listen to Black Lives Matter. Listen to queer people – and to trans women in particular. Listen to migrants, documented or otherwise. Listen to those of us who have lived experience of an actively hostile state. Take your lead from us. And start figuring out how you’re going to keep us alive, because without us you’re lost.