Thursday, January 7, 2021

Where do we go from here?

Stanley - Thursday

'Where do we go from here?' is a question I have been asking since the phone of my hosts at a socially-distanced dinner last night beeped an urgent news alert. "Trump tilhængere stormer den amerikanske kongres!"

We rushed to the TV and gawped at the scenes from Capitol grounds in Washington D.C. What I saw was what I had feared since my university days when I read Nobel laureate Elias Canetti's chilling Crowds and Power: a charismatic leader urging a mob to violence to destroy the form of government I believed in. However, I never thought it would happen in the USA. 

As long-time admirers of the USA. my host were in shock. We were all in shock. My fears were raised by the apparent lack of law enforcement. How was it possible for domestic terrorists to gain entry into the seat of American democracy? Did that mean that the president had ordered the various police forces to keep away? What about the military? Had he exercised his authority as commander-in-chief and ordered it to support him in overthrowing the election?

Ready for battle

I'm not sure why some were dressed as Vikings.

In Nancy Pelosi's office

Fortunately, it soon became apparent that this was not a coup, but Trumpian thuggery. Those inside the Capitol weren't trying to seize power for themselves, but rather were venting their frustrations over an election they thought had been stolen - a frustration fanned by the loser of the election.

I think it was Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, who provided the most compelling reason of why Trump supporters were behaving they way they were. He suggested that their anger emanates from a fear that their traditional way of life is disappearing, a fear that I think really took hold when Obama became president. The whiteness of their country was threatened and with it their jobs and their political influence. And their ability to look down on another group.

If Goldberg is right, and I think he is, we have to ask where do we go from here. The more people, like Stacey Abrams, register Black voters, the less influence the Trump base will have at the polls and the more afraid they will become as they realize their increasing irrelevance. 

Stacey Abrams - perceived as a threat

Will this lead to increased violence of the sort we saw last night? Probably - unless we can find a way to ease the fears of the Trump base. 

The perpetrators of last night's violence deserve all the criticism they receive, as well as appropriate application of the laws of the land. However, they also deserve understanding and a commitment by the new administration to improve their lot in life. 

The problem is that I see no quick way to do this. An improved education system takes years to implement and more years to reap benefits. Improving economic circumstances is likely a better and quicker approach, but the arc of economic prosperity is headed down. How does a country so deeply in debt improve the lot of all of its people, especially when so many of its citizens choose individualism over cooperative behavior, when the rich get richer and the rest poorer? 

And finally how can the country accomplish this while simultaneously addressing racism in a meaningful way? And protecting the country from further ravages of the pandemic?

I am an optimistic person, but my optimism is being severely challenged this morning.

Help! Where do we go from here?


  1. All good points, Stan. However, many economists (led by Paul Klugman) believe that with interest rates at historic lows (negative in some cases), the US really doesn't have to worry about borrowing money. One can invest in infrastructure and the like, and the economic growth resulting over time will pay it back. I'm not the backside of an economist, but people like Klugman have plenty of evidence for this.
    On the other hand, the model of tax cuts generating growth is "voodoo economics" - it's been tried often and succeeded never. Hopefully, Biden will use his two years (minimum) of congressional control to get things moving.

  2. In the long arc of history, these guys are dust. The country is 'browning' at a rapid pace. For many people growing up now, not being racist (and not being white-elitist) is a "Duh!" It may take much of the rest of this century (unfortunately, I won't be around that long...), but much of this will shake out. That is, if we can survive the great divide caused by modern communications...

  3. Great post, Stan. I agree that some people have felt threatened when they see Blacks in govt roles and as successful creators of books and films and music. The power of #ownvoices is so widely accepted as normal that it makes some feel their own voices will disappear. I think the hugest danger going forward is Q Anon and other conspiracy theories continuing. My daughter (in her 20s) encountered Q Anon posts in her Facebook feed and believed them until I argued it to death. Conspiracy theory messaging, likely assisted by both domestic and overseas enemies to democracy, is done in a way that it appears like a real article or photo.

  4. Stan, Well done! You raise such crucial questions. I don't think, however, that the underlying beef of the insurgents is only (maybe not even mostly) economic. I think what is there (with the election of Obama and the successes Sujata raises) is that they have lost their sense of superiority. While people used to be automatically powerful because they were white. Being white still means being advantaged, but does not guarantee ones right to strut. Soon it will not mean much in and of itself. Even white people will have earn their power. Former and disgraced president Trump and many Republican politicians tapped into that sense of loss.

    BTW, the many Viking costumes are part of Q-anon conspirators' schtick. The Vikings, being symbolic of white supremacy.

  5. There will always be a sizable number of citizens willing to resort to terror and violence to achieve their ends. The danger is allowing them to find a rallying cry that attracts and galvanizes masses of otherwise innocent followers. Well, that battle's been lost with the "election was stolen" ruse. Now it's a matter of swift and firm punishment for those who foment and participate in violence. Otherwise, there will be a new game in town. An expanding, violent one.