Archives for category: Fascism

Peter Greene tells the ignominious story of the Spottsylvania, Virginia, school board. One of the school board members, Kirk Twigg, is a conservative Christian who is very fearful of books that might have any sexual content. He wants them burned. He was recently elected chairman of the school board and promised to fire the superintendent. Which he did.

Greene writes:

You may recall the story about Spotsylvania school district in Virginia, where books were being protested and pulled and two board members thought maybe the books should be burned.

Well, one of those guys is now the board chairman, and things are blowing up in a hurry.

The board is a 4-3 board (though those who didn’t want to burn the books were supportive of banning them), and the 4-person conservative majority installed Kirk Twigg as the president.

Scott Baker has been with district in various capacities for years before becoming superintendent in 2012; he won some awards for his superintendenting prowess, but there’s a portion of the local populace that are not fans. There’s a whole blog devoted to laying outhis many alleged sins, but not being hard enough on dirty books has drawn the most criticism in the recent past, along with agitation over school closings.

Baker was on his way out, with departure negotiated for the end of this school year. That was not fast enough for Twigg, who has been vocal in his opposition to various books. The ban was centered on “sexually explicit” books, but Twigg, besides expressing his interest in burning objectionable material also added that he would like to broaden the criteria for rooting through the school libraries, saying, “There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at.”

Twigg promised that, if elected chair of the board, his first action would be to fire Baker effective immediately. Last Monday night, in a meeting characterized as chaotic and contentious, he did just that. He called an unscheduled closed session during the meeting, then came back to announce that Baker had been terminated–before being reminded that the board had to take an actual vote.

No reason has been given for the firing, but it’s Virginia, a right to work state, and no reason has to be given.

Keep your eyes on Spotsylvania, where one day soon there might be a public book burning.

Peter Navarro was Trump’s Trade Advisor. He recently published a book about his time in the Trump administration. The most fascinating part of his book, according to those who have read advance copies, is his story about the plan to overturn the 2020 election and keep Trump as president. He has done several media interviews. This account in Rolling Stone relies on this one that appeared in The Daily Beast.

Navarro says that he and Steve Bannon orchestrated a plan called the Green Bay Sweep.

Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson writes:

The plot sought to keep Trump in office by exerting maximum pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of the Electoral College votes from pivotal swing states, by drawing out the proceedings on national television for as long as 24 hours. “It was a perfect plan,” Navarro told the Daily Beast. “We had over 100 congressmen committed to it

Navarro is a Harvard-educated economist whom Trump tapped, originally, to escalate his trade war with China. But as coronavirus struck, Navarro’s role at the White House expanded to include pandemic response, in which he pushed the quack treatment of hydroxychloroquine. By the bitter end, Navarro was compiling cockeyed dossiers of (now-exhaustively-debunked) allegations of election fraud — “receipts” Navarro believed justified tin-pot measures to keep Trump in the White House.

So what was the Green Bay Sweep? The plot, Navarro writes, was named after a famous football play designed by storied 1960’s NFL coach Vince Lombardi, in which a Packers running back would pound into the end zone behind a “phalanx of blockers.”

For the 2021 Green Bay Sweep, Navarro writes, Bannon played the role of Lombardi. The plan was to have members of the House and Senate raise challenges to the counts of Electoral College votes from six pivotal battleground states.

“The political and legal beauty of the strategy,” Navarro writes, is that the challenges would force up to two hours of debate per state, in each chamber of Congress. “That would add up to as much as 24 hours of nationally televised hearings,” Navarro writes. The hearings would enable Republicans to “short-circuit the crushing censorship of the anti-Trump media,” Navarro hoped, and broadcast their Big Lie that Democrats had stolen the election “directly to the American people.”

The goal was not to get the election overturned on Jan. 6. Instead, they aimed to create such a spectacle that Pence would be forced to exercise his authority as president of the Senate to “put the certification of the election on ice for at least another several weeks” while Congress and the state legislatures pursued the “fraud” allegations. The dark particulars for how Trump would remain in office after that are not spelled out, and Navarro did not immediately answer an email seeking clarification. But he writes that the Green Bay Sweep was the “last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats’ jaws of deceit.”

The problem with the plot was that its success hinged on “Quarterback Mike” — and Pence wasn’t solidly on board. Navarro writes that he tried, with Trump’s backing, to brief Pence on his claims of election irregularities, but that Pence was kept off-limits by his chief of staff, Marc Short. (Navarro seethes that Short was part of the Koch brothers wing of the GOP, having previously worked for a nonprofit backed by the Kochs. When Short came to work for the vice president, Navarro writes, “it was like the Soviet Union taking over Eastern Europe. As an Iron Koch Curtain fell over the vice president, the only way you could speak to VPOTUS was to go through Short.”)

Regardless, Jan. 6 began auspiciously — to Navarro’s view of things. He told the Daily Beast that Trump was “on board with the strategy,” which he writes also had the backing of “more than 100” members of Congress. Navarro elaborated that the plan started off “perfectly” as Congress opened the proceedings to count Electoral College votes. Rep. Paul Gosar objected to results from his home state of Arizona, seconded by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — an action that received standing applause from GOP colleagues in the chamber.

Navarro insist that the violence at the Capitol disrupted the Green Bay Sweep by putting pressure on Congress to conclude the certification. Apparently he forgot to tell Trump to keep his mob away from the U.S. Capitol, because Trump urged them to march to the Capitol, told them that they had ”to fight” or they would lose their country, and egged them on to do what they did: Storm and ransack the Capitol. some were chanting ”Hang Mike Pence,” which may have stiffened his spine.

Two things are clear: Mike Pence didn’t deliver for Trump, Bannon, and Navarro, and Trump was too dumb to remember that he was not supposed to send his mob to disrupt the Congressional proceedings.

On January 4, PBS “Frontline” ran a chilling documentary about the armed groups that are behind domestic terrorism.

The program is called “American Insurrection,” and it is an eye-opener.

You no doubt have heard about or read about all the groups that are interviewed–the Proud Boys, the Bougaloo Bois, and many others–but this documentary ties them together.

They are armed, and they are dangerous.

One of these groups plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and kill her.

They want a revolution or a civil war.

It is not clear what their grievances are.

They hate the government.

They love Trump, who validated their existence when he said in Charlottesville that “there are fine people on both sides” of the violent encounter between white supremacists and their opponents.

This is a gripping program. It is worth your time to watch.

The people of Chile are expunging the last traces of the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet. They elected Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old member of the Chilean Congress and a former student activist, as President of Chile. The election was expected to be close but Boric won by a 56-44% margin.

Boric was engaged in national protests over the past decade against inequality. A decade ago, he led protests against Chile’s privatized education system. He will be the youngest person ever elected to the Presidency of Chile. His election is a decisive rejection of the policies of the dictator Pinochet. His rival defended Pinochet and ran on a law-and-order platform and a pledge to cut taxes and social spending.

An Army General, Pinochet seized control of the government by a coup d’etat. He imposed a reign of terror, and thousands of his opponents were murdered, imprisoned, tortured, or disappeared. Pinochet called on Milton Friedman and the libertarian “Chicago Boys” to rewrite Chile’s Constitution. They baked the primacy of the free market and neoliberalism into the new Constitution. Pinochet’s regime cut social benefits, privatized social security and many government functions, reduced benefits, and introduced vouchers and for-profit schools. The economy grew, but so did inequality. Pinochet ruled from 1973-1990.

Protests against the nation’s privatized and deeply unequal education system rocked the nation a decade ago. Many Chileans were barely subsisting because of cuts to social security. More protests broke out in 2019 against the country’s entrenched inequality and corruption. Boric was active in all those protests.

Last year, Chileans expressed their demand for change by voting for a rewrite of the national constitution, the one written by the “Chicago Boys” and implemented by Pinochet.

The BBC reported:

Once the most stable economy in Latin America, Chile has one of the world’s largest income gaps, with 1% of the population owning 25% of the country’s wealth, according to the United Nations.

Mr Boric has promised to address this inequality by expanding social rights and reforming Chile’s pension and healthcare systems, as well as reducing the work week from 45 to 40 hours, and boosting green investment.

“We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, and we no longer will permit that the poor keep paying the price of Chile’s inequality,” he said.

The president-elect also promised to block a controversial proposed mining project which he said would destroy communities and the national environment.

Chile’s currency, the peso, plunged to a record low against the US dollar after Mr Boric’s victory. Stock markets fell by 10%, with mining stocks performing particularly badly.

Investors are worried stability and profits will suffer as a result of higher taxes and tighter government regulation of business.

In a profile of Gabriel Boric, the BBC described his message:

When Mr Boric won the candidacy of his leftist bloc to run for president, he made a bold pledge. “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” he said. “Do not be afraid of the youth changing this country.”

And so he ran on a platform promising radical reforms to the free-market economic model imposed by former dictator Gen Augusto Pinochet. One that, he says, is the root of the country’s deep inequality, imbalances that came to the surface during protests in 2019 that triggered an official redraft of the constitution.

After a polarising campaign, Mr Boric defeated far-right rival José Antonio Kast in the second round of the presidential election by a surprising large margin, ushering in a new chapter in the country’s political history.

“We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business,” Mr Boric said in his victory speech to thousands of supporters, most of them young people…

Mr Boric, who says he is an avid reader of poetry and history, describes himself as a moderate socialist. He has abandoned the long hair of his activist days, and jackets now often cover his tattoos on both arms.

He has also softened some of his views while keeping his promises to overhaul the pension system, expand social services including universal health insurance, increase taxes for big companies and wealthy individuals, and create a greener economy.

His resounding win in the run-off vote of the presidential election, after trailing Mr Kast in the first round, came after he secured support beyond his base in the capital, Santiago, and attracted voters in rural areas. A supporter of same-sex marriage and abortion rights, he was also backed by huge numbers of women.

In his victory speech, when he was joined by his girlfriend, he promised to be a “president for all Chileans”, saying: “Today hope trumped fear”.

I watched this wonderful film—They Survived Together—on public television by happenstance. It is absorbing.

It is the story of a family that managed to escape the Warsaw ghetto just as the Nazis began to eliminate the Jews who lived there. They encountered the face of evil, they looked down the barrel of the gun pointed at them by the Butcher of Krakow. They endured unimaginable hardships. The story is told by the family, mostly through the eyes of children.

Watching the film is an excellent way to learn about the Holocaust and to see heroism, courage, persistence, luck, and the kindness of strangers, all of which made this story of survival possible.

I strongly urge you to see it and to ask your children to watch as well. It will be shown again on December 12 and will be streaming.

The film was made possible by a GoFundMe campaign. It includes a dazzling array of archival footage, from prewar Poland and wartime.

Governor Gregg Abbott wants to win the competition to be the most immoral, dishonest, loathsome, and extremist Governor in the nation.

Pastor Charles Foster Johnson, leader of Pastors for Texas Children, called out Abbott for his latest, most disgusting ploy.

Pastor Johnson writes:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued not one but two letters this month calling for Texas public schools to “ensure no child is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content.”

The first letter on Nov. 1 to the Texas Association of School Boards stated that “Texas public schools should not provide or promote pornographic or obscene materials to students,” and that “the organization’s members have an obligation to determine the extent to which such materials exist or are used in our schools and to remove any such content.”

Dan Troxel, executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards, responded in a Nov. 3 letter reminding the governor that his organization “has no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set the standards for instructional materials, including library books. Rather, we are a private, nonprofit membership organization focused on supporting school governance and providing cost-effective services to school districts.”

Charles Foster Johnson

Furthermore, Troxel took the opportunity to give the governor a civics lesson, informing him that the responsibility for the review of schoolbooks and materials belongs to the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Association — two organizations over which the governor himself has responsibility and authority. Both organizations are led by individuals appointed by Greg Abbott.

Presumably now embarrassed, but not to be outdone, Abbott then issued a second letter to the two bodies his appointees oversee, instructing them “to immediately develop statewide standards to prevent the presence of pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries.”

Instead of apologizing for his error in misidentifying the role of the Texas Association of School Boards, the governordoubled down on his attack on them, saying “Instead of addressing the concerns of parents and shielding Texas children from pornography in public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter. Given this negligence, the State of Texas now calls on you to do what the Texas Association of School Boards refuses to do.”

What is going on here? Why, after seven years of gubernatorial tenure, is Greg Abbott now launching a crusade against public school books? If the governor believed our Texas public schools were teaching objectionable material, why didn’t he address the issue years ago? Why is he only now concerned about it?

Here’s why: Greg Abbott knows it is open season on public schools in our current political climate, and he is cynical enough to capitalize on every single misconception of it.

“Greg Abbott knows it is open season on public schools in our current political climate, and he is cynical enough to capitalize on every single misconception of it.”

Abbott faces not one but two opponents in the upcoming primary elections next spring, former State Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas and former U.S. Congressman and state Republican Party chairman Allen West of Garland. Both are rightwing firebrands who constantly question Abbott’s conservative credentials and bona fides. And his own lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, continues to pressure Abbott from the far right.

Nothing like a good old-fashioned book ban to throw some red meat to his right flank.

With the rampant COVID chaos afflicting our nation at this time came opportunity for well-funded forces of confusion to wreak their havoc on our most cherished institutions, including medicine, science and education

In September 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, listens to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, left, during a news conference where they provided an update to Texas’ response to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

This is what spawned the national meltdown over so-called Critical Race Theory alleged to be taught in our public schools. When cooler heads finally prevailed, one could hardly find a K-12 public educator who knew what Critical Race Theory was, much less committed to teach it. But that didn’t prevent national fringe organizations from funding the disinformation campaign against our public schools on the basis of it.

What resulted was trumped up legislation all over the country, including Texas, that was designed to put a chilling effect on any content or curriculum that addressed complex issues of race and our country’s sordid history surrounding it. Abbott and his counterpart, Lt. Gov. Patrick, pushed such a bogus bill in Texas, and it passed.

But with the 2022 election season upon us, and with chaos and confusion on the winning ticket, why let clarity and calm prevail? Having wielded the ruse of reverse racism so effectively, Abbott reached into the demagogue’s favorite bag of tricks again and found — voila! — that old saw of adolescent sexuality as his next contraption of chaos.

“Abbott reached into the demagogue’s favorite bag of tricks again and found — voila! — that old saw of adolescent sexuality as his next contraption of chaos.”

Anyone with a lick of sense knows we have long-established and effective safeguards to prevent inappropriate content in local public schools. With such content readily available on the world wide web, child protection is one of the main responsibilities of our public educators, and they discharge this moral duty with astonishing distinction.

Pastors for Texas Children sees through this stunt. We are not amused.

To imply that our public schools are centers of pornography and our educators purveyors of smut is a devil’s lie. Greg Abbott knows it. And does it anyway.

Here is the real moral crisis: The highest office in our land advancing his political ambition on the backs of dedicated, deeply moral public school teachers, who work hard all day at low pay in the work of love for our children, most of whom are poor. It is beyond cynical. It is morally reprehensible.

The de rigueur political attack on public education is based on lies. Our children suffer from it. We must find the moral courage to stop it now.

Charles Foster Johnson is founder and executive director of Pastors for Children.

Five members of the white-nationalist “Proud Boys” showed up at the New Hanover County School Board meeting, dressed up in their organization’s colors.

They did not speak, but they gave a standing ovation to anyone who spoke against the mask mandate.

Ironically, the meeting occurred on November 10, the same date as the infamous “Wilmington Massacre” of 1898.

NPR wrote about this sordid episode in North Carolina’s history.

On Nov. 10, 1898, a mob descended on the offices of The Daily Record, a Black-owned newspaper in Wilmington, N.C. The armed men then moved into the streets and opened fire as Black men fled for their lives.

Finally, the rabble seized control of the racially mixed city government. It expelled Black aldermen, installed unelected whites belonging to the then-segregationist Democratic Party and published a “White Declaration of Independence.” Historians have called it a coup d’etat. The number of people who died ranges from about 60 to as many as 250, according to some estimates.

Will teachers in North Carolina be allowed to teach about the Wilmington Massacre, or will they be punished for teaching “critical race theory”?

Al Franken is the former Senator from Minnesota. He wrote this retrospective on Rush Limbaugh in the New York Daily News.

Rush Limbaugh died this week. His impact on our nation’s discourse and polity will long outlive him.

Many Americans had been puzzled when President Trump bestowed upon Limbaugh our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After all, previous honorees include Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King and the crew of Apollo 13. I, however, was not surprised. Because without Limbaugh, there is no (former) President Trump.

Rush was the first broadcaster to take full advantage of the FCC’s little-noticed 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. Since its adoption in 1949, the rule had required broadcasters to present controversial issues in a fair and balanced manner. Its repeal cleared the way for disreputable broadcasters to present manifestly dishonest and unbalanced content, and Rush, it turned out, had a real talent for just that kind of thing.

And when I say talent, I mean it. Limbaugh created right-wing talk radio, holding court three hours a day, five days a week for 32 years, attracting an audience of 20 million listeners because he was compelling, sometimes funny, always provocative, if routinely sexist, homophobic and racist.

Racist? He once asked his audience, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

Homophobic? In 1990, Limbaugh ran a recurring segment entitled “AIDS Update,” in which he’d mock the death of a gay man who had just recently died of AIDS, cheekily playing ironic popular songs like Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.”

Sexist? You may remember Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress in 2012, on an exception within the Affordable Care Act that would allow religious institutions to opt out of covering contraception. Here’s Limbaugh referring to her testimony that contraception can cost as much as $3,000: “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke (sic), who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

Rush went on like that for quite a while. He had three hours to fill.

But mainly, he was a shill for the right wing of the Republican Party. Along the way, he promoted conspiracy theories: Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered; global warming is a hoax; Barack Obama was born in Kenya; COVID-19 is no worse than the common cold and is being used by the media to prevent Donald Trump’s re-election. And, yes, the election was stolen.

Here’s what he told his listeners on Jan. 7: “There’s a lot of people out there calling for the end of violence…lot of conservatives, social media who say that any violence or aggression at all is unacceptable regardless of the circumstance…I am glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn’t feel that way.”

In 1995, I wrote a book, “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot And Other Observations.” The book was satirical, but its intent entirely serious. Limbaugh’s radio show had become an effective arm of the right wing of the Republican party. The previous November, Republicans had won the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, and the new Speaker, Newt Gingrich, named Limbaugh an honorary member of the class of ’95.

At the time, Limbaugh had a TV show in which he referred to “The White House dog” while the control room put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton.

The show’s producer, Roger Ailes, would go on to run Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel, whose slogan, ironically, would echo the “fair and balanced” language of the Fairness Doctrine, purporting to provide a balance to the liberal mainstream media.

Fox’s right-wing propaganda machine had built a huge, rabid audience by relentlessly attacking Democratic administrations and then functioning as virtual state TV for President Trump. Currently, the network is faced with a $2.7 billion lawsuit from election software company Smartmatic, for spreading false rumors that the company had helped Joe Biden steal the election in several states (none of which, by the way, had used Smartmatic’s software).

Right-wing radio. Right-wing TV. Then came the internet, where websites like Newsmax and Breitbart and social media platforms like Facebook have created a more opaque world where far more extreme and untethered worldviews fester and grow.

This is how you get QAnon. How not a small number of Trump supporters believe that not a small number of Democrats are blood-sucking pedophiles. It’s how you get a member of Congress who blamed Jewish lasers for starting the wildfires in California. It’s how you get Jan. 6.

The most dangerous problem facing America today is the existence of two universes of information. The second universe, a universe of disinformation, has been expanding since 1989. Rush Limbaugh was the Big Bang.

Bette Midler wrote about Limbaugh’s death on Twitter and was not as polite as Franken.

Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu interviewed people who were in the “room where it happened,” the meeting where Trump’s lawyers duked it out with conspiracy theorists in the White House on December 18. Their account of the meeting is gripping.

Four conspiracy theorists marched into the Oval Office. It was early evening on Friday, Dec. 18 — more than a month after the election had been declared for Joe Biden, and four days after the Electoral College met in every state to make it official.

“How the hell did Sidney get in the building?” White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann grumbled from the outer Oval Office as Sidney Powell and her entourage strutted by to visit the president. 

President Trump’s private schedule hadn’t included appointments for Powell or the others: former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, and a little-known former Trump administration official, Emily Newman. But they’d come to convince Trump that he had the power to take extreme measures to keep fighting. 

As Powell and the others entered the Oval Office that evening, Herschmann — a wealthy business executive and former partner at Kasowitz Benson & Torres who’d been pulled out of quasi-retirement to advise Trump — quietly slipped in behind them.

The hours to come would pit the insurgent conspiracists against a handful of White House lawyers and advisers determined to keep the president from giving in to temptation to invoke emergency national security powers, seize voting machines and disable the primary levers of American democracy.

The Axios’ story is a dramatic account of a turning point that led to the Insurrection on January 6 and the second impeachment of Trump for inciting sedition.

The New York Times published a dramatic account of the 77 days in which Trump and his faithful allies planned and plotted to overturn the election he lost. I hope you can open the article. It’s Kong and well-worth the time to read. Trump has a faithful base of people who will believe anything he says, no matter how far-fetched, no evidence necessary. One thing they all have in common: they are ignorant about our Constitution and the norms of our democracy.

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Timothy Snyder, a historian at Yale University, specializes in the history of fascism, wrote a powerful essay about Trump and his Insurrection for the New York Times. It is called “The American Abyss.” Snyder is the author of the best-selling book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. I urge you to subscribe to the New York Times so you can read this essay and see the powerful photographs taken by photographs from the newspaper.

In this essay, he writes:

When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version.

Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.

People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.

In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.

Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.

Yet for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence, in charge of the formal proceedings, to pervert them. And on Jan. 6, he directed his followers to exert pressure on these elected representatives, which they proceeded to do: storming the Capitol building, searching for people to punish, ransacking the place.

Of course this did make a kind of sense: If the election really had been stolen, as senators and congressmen were themselves suggesting, then how could Congress be allowed to move forward? For some Republicans, the invasion of the Capitol must have been a shock, or even a lesson. For the breakers, however, it may have been a taste of the future. Afterward, eight senators and more than 100 representatives voted for the lie that had forced them to flee their chambers.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years, scholars have discussed the legitimacy and value of invoking fascism in reference to Trumpian propaganda. One comfortable position has been to label any such effort as a direct comparison and then to treat such comparisons as taboo. More productively, the philosopher Jason Stanley has treated fascism as a phenomenon, as a series of patterns that can be observed not only in interwar Europe but beyond it.

My own view is that greater knowledge of the past, fascist or otherwise, allows us to notice and conceptualize elements of the present that we might otherwise disregard and to think more broadly about future possibilities. It was clear to me in October that Trump’s behavior presaged a coup, and I said so in print; this is not because the present repeats the past, but because the past enlightens the present.

Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term “fake news” echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse (“lying press”); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as “enemies of the people.” Like Adolf Hitler, he came to power at a moment when the conventional press had taken a beating; the financial crisis of 2008 did to American newspapers what the Great Depression did to German ones. The Nazis thought that they could use radio to replace the old pluralism of the newspaper; Trump tried to do the same with Twitter.

Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet. Yet so long as he was unable to enforce some truly big lie, some fantasy that created an alternative reality where people could live and die, his pre-fascism fell short of the thing itself.

Some of his lies were, admittedly, medium-size: that he was a successful businessman; that Russia did not support him in 2016; that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Such medium-size lies were the standard fare of aspiring authoritarians in the 21st century. In Poland the right-wing party built a martyrdom cult around assigning blame to political rivals for an airplane crash that killed the nation’s president. Hungary’s Viktor Orban blames a vanishingly small number of Muslim refugees for his country’s problems. But such claims were not quite big lies; they stretched but did not rend what Hannah Arendt called “the fabric of factuality.”

One historical big lie discussed by Arendt is Joseph Stalin’s explanation of starvation in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33. The state had collectivized agriculture, then applied a series of punitive measures to Ukraine that ensured millions would die. Yet the official line was that the starving were provocateurs, agents of Western powers who hated socialism so much they were killing themselves. A still grander fiction, in Arendt’s account, is Hitlerian anti-Semitism: the claims that Jews ran the world, Jews were responsible for ideas that poisoned German minds, Jews stabbed Germany in the back during the First World War. Intriguingly, Arendt thought big lies work only in lonely minds; their coherence substitutes for experience and companionship.

In November 2020, reaching millions of lonely minds through social media, Trump told a lie that was dangerously ambitious: that he had won an election that in fact he had lost. This lie was big in every pertinent respect: not as big as “Jews run the world,” but big enough. The significance of the matter at hand was great: the right to rule the most powerful country in the world and the efficacy and trustworthiness of its succession procedures. The level of mendacity was profound. The claim was not only wrong, but it was also made in bad faith, amid unreliable sources. It challenged not just evidence but logic: Just how could (and why would) an election have been rigged against a Republican president but not against Republican senators and representatives? Trump had to speak, absurdly, of a “Rigged (for President) Election.”

The force of a big lie resides in its demand that many other things must be believed or disbelieved. To make sense of a world in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen requires distrust not only of reporters and of experts but also of local, state and federal government institutions, from poll workers to elected officials, Homeland Security and all the way to the Supreme Court. It brings with it, of necessity, a conspiracy theory: Imagine all the people who must have been in on such a plot and all the people who would have had to work on the cover-up.

Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them. Social media provides an infinity of apparent evidence for any conviction, especially one seemingly held by a president.

On the surface, a conspiracy theory makes its victim look strong: It sees Trump as resisting the Democrats, the Republicans, the Deep State, the pedophiles, the Satanists. More profoundly, however, it inverts the position of the strong and the weak. Trump’s focus on alleged “irregularities” and “contested states” comes down to cities where Black people live and vote. At bottom, the fantasy of fraud is that of a crime committed by Black people against white people.

It’s not just that electoral fraud by African-Americans against Donald Trump never happened. It is that it is the very opposite of what happened, in 2020 and in every American election. As always, Black people waited longer than others to vote and were more likely to have their votes challenged. They were more likely to be suffering or dying from Covid-19, and less likely to be able to take time away from work. The historical protection of their right to vote has been removed by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, and states have rushed to pass measures of a kind that historically reduce voting by the poor and communities of color.

The claim that Trump was denied a win by fraud is a big lie not just because it mauls logic, misdescribes the present and demands belief in a conspiracy. It is a big lie, fundamentally, because it reverses the moral field of American politics and the basic structure of American history.

When Senator Ted Cruz announced his intention to challenge the Electoral College vote, he invoked the Compromise of 1877, which resolved the presidential election of 1876. Commentators pointed out that this was no relevant precedent, since back then there really were serious voter irregularities and there really was a stalemate in Congress. For African-Americans, however, the seemingly gratuitous reference led somewhere else. The Compromise of 1877 — in which Rutherford B. Hayes would have the presidency, provided that he withdrew federal power from the South — was the very arrangement whereby African-Americans were driven from voting booths for the better part of a century. It was effectively the end of Reconstruction, the beginning of segregation, legal discrimination and Jim Crow. It is the original sin of American history in the post-slavery era, our closest brush with fascism so far.

If the reference seemed distant when Ted Cruz and 10 senatorial colleagues released their statement on Jan. 2, it was brought very close four days later, when Confederate flags were paraded through the Capitol.

Some things have changed since 1877, of course. Back then, it was the Republicans, or many of them, who supported racial equality; it was the Democrats, the party of the South, who wanted apartheid. It was the Democrats, back then, who called African-Americans’ votes fraudulent, and the Republicans who wanted them counted. This is now reversed. In the past half century, since the Civil Rights Act, Republicans have become a predominantly white party interested — as Trump openly declared — in keeping the number of voters, and particularly the number of Black voters, as low as possible. Yet the common thread remains. Watching white supremacists among the people storming the Capitol, it was easy to yield to the feeling that something pure had been violated. It might be better to see the episode as part of a long American argument about who deserves representation.

The Democrats, today, have become a coalition, one that does better than Republicans with female and nonwhite voters and collects votes from both labor unions and the college-educated. Yet it’s not quite right to contrast this coalition with a monolithic Republican Party. Right now, the Republican Party is a coalition of two types of people: those who would game the system (most of the politicians, some of the voters) and those who dream of breaking it (a few of the politicians, many of the voters). In January 2021, this was visible as the difference between those Republicans who defended the present system on the grounds that it favored them and those who tried to upend it.

In the four decades since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have overcome the tension between the gamers and the breakers by governing in opposition to government, or by calling elections a revolution (the Tea Party), or by claiming to oppose elites. The breakers, in this arrangement, provide cover for the gamers, putting forth an ideology that distracts from the basic reality that government under Republicans is not made smaller but simply diverted to serve a handful of interests.

At first, Trump seemed like a threat to this balance. His lack of experience in politics and his open racism made him a very uncomfortable figure for the party; his habit of continually telling lies was initially found by prominent Republicans to be uncouth. Yet after he won the presidency, his particular skills as a breaker seemed to create a tremendous opportunity for the gamers. Led by the gamer in chief, McConnell, they secured hundreds of federal judges and tax cuts for the rich.

Trump was unlike other breakers in that he seemed to have no ideology. His objection to institutions was that they might constrain him personally. He intended to break the system to serve himself — and this is partly why he has failed. Trump is a charismatic politician and inspires devotion not only among voters but among a surprising number of lawmakers, but he has no vision that is greater than himself or what his admirers project upon him. In this respect his pre-fascism fell short of fascism: His vision never went further than a mirror. He arrived at a truly big lie not from any view of the world but from the reality that he might lose something.

Yet Trump never prepared a decisive blow. He lacked the support of the military, some of whose leaders he had alienated. (No true fascist would have made the mistake he did there, which was to openly love foreign dictators; supporters convinced that the enemy was at home might not mind, but those sworn to protect from enemies abroad did.) Trump’s secret police force, the men carrying out snatch operations in Portland, was violent but also small and ludicrous. Social media proved to be a blunt weapon: Trump could announce his intentions on Twitter, and white supremacists could plan their invasion of the Capitol on Facebook or Gab. But the president, for all his lawsuits and entreaties and threats to public officials, could not engineer a situation that ended with the right people doing the wrong thing. Trump could make some voters believe that he had won the 2020 election, but he was unable to bring institutions along with his big lie. And he could bring his supporters to Washington and send them on a rampage in the Capitol, but none appeared to have any very clear idea of how this was to work or what their presence would accomplish. It is hard to think of a comparable insurrectionary moment, when a building of great significance was seized, that involved so much milling around.

The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?

On Jan. 7, Trump called for a peaceful transition of power, implicitly conceding that his putsch had failed. Even then, though, he repeated and even amplified his electoral fiction: It was now a sacred cause for which people had sacrificed. Trump’s imagined stab in the back will live on chiefly thanks to its endorsement by members of Congress. In November and December 2020, Republicans repeated it, giving it a life it would not otherwise have had. In retrospect, it now seems as though the last shaky compromise between the gamers and the breakers was the idea that Trump should have every chance to prove that wrong had been done to him. That position implicitly endorsed the big lie for Trump supporters who were inclined to believe it. It failed to restrain Trump, whose big lie only grew bigger.

The breakers and the gamers then saw a different world ahead, where the big lie was either a treasure to be had or a danger to be avoided. The breakers had no choice but to rush to be first to claim to believe in it. Because the breakers Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz must compete to claim the brimstone and bile, the gamers were forced to reveal their own hand, and the division within the Republican coalition became visible on Jan. 6. The invasion of the Capitol only reinforced this division. To be sure, a few senators withdrew their objections, but Cruz and Hawley moved forward anyway, along with six other senators. More than 100 representatives doubled down on the big lie. Some, like Matt Gaetz, even added their own flourishes, such as the claim that the mob was led not by Trump’s supporters but by his opponents.

Trump is, for now, the martyr in chief, the high priest of the big lie. He is the leader of the breakers, at least in the minds of his supporters. By now, the gamers do not want Trump around. Discredited in his last weeks, he is useless; shorn of the obligations of the presidency, he will become embarrassing again, much as he was in 2015. Unable to provide cover for their gamesmanship, he will be irrelevant to their daily purposes. But the breakers have an even stronger reason to see Trump disappear: It is impossible to inherit from someone who is still around. Seizing Trump’s big lie might appear to be a gesture of support. In fact it expresses a wish for his political death. Transforming the myth from one about Trump to one about the nation will be easier when he is out of the way.

As Cruz and Hawley may learn, to tell the big lie is to be owned by it. Just because you have sold your soul does not mean that you have driven a hard bargain. Hawley shies from no level of hypocrisy; the son of a banker, educated at Stanford University and Yale Law School, he denounces elites. Insofar as Cruz was thought to have a principle, it was that of states’ rights, which Trump’s calls to action brazenly violated. A joint statement Cruz issued about the senators’ challenge to the vote nicely captured the post-truth aspect of the whole: It never alleged that there was fraud, only that there were allegations of fraud. Allegations of allegations, allegations all the way down.

The big lie requires commitment. When Republican gamers do not exhibit enough of that, Republican breakers call them “RINOs”: Republicans in name only. This term once suggested a lack of ideological commitment. It now means an unwillingness to throw away an election. The gamers, in response, close ranks around the Constitution and speak of principles and traditions. The breakers must all know (with the possible exception of the Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville) that they are participating in a sham, but they will have an audience of tens of millions who do not.

If Trump remains present in American political life, he will surely repeat his big lie incessantly. Hawley and Cruz and the other breakers share responsibility for where this leads. Cruz and Hawley seem to be running for president. Yet what does it mean to be a candidate for office and denounce voting? If you claim that the other side has cheated, and your supporters believe you, they will expect you to cheat yourself. By defending Trump’s big lie on Jan. 6, they set a precedent: A Republican presidential candidate who loses an election should be appointed anyway by Congress. Republicans in the future, at least breaker candidates for president, will presumably have a Plan A, to win and win, and a Plan B, to lose and win. No fraud is necessary; only allegations that there are allegations of fraud. Truth is to be replaced by spectacle, facts by faith.

Trump’s coup attempt of 2020-21, like other failed coup attempts, is a warning for those who care about the rule of law and a lesson for those who do not. His pre-fascism revealed a possibility for American politics. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. Four years of amplifying a big lie just might get them this. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished.

Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.

Our big lie is typically American, wrapped in our odd electoral system, depending upon our particular traditions of racism. Yet our big lie is also structurally fascist, with its extreme mendacity, its conspiratorial thinking, its reversal of perpetrators and victims and its implication that the world is divided into us and them. To keep it going for four years courts terrorism and assassination.

When that violence comes, the breakers will have to react. If they embrace it, they become the fascist faction. The Republican Party will be divided, at least for a time. One can of course imagine a dismal reunification: A breaker candidate loses a narrow presidential election in November 2024 and cries fraud, the Republicans win both houses of Congress and rioters in the street, educated by four years of the big lie, demand what they see as justice. Would the gamers stand on principle if those were the circumstances of Jan. 6, 2025?

To be sure, this moment is also a chance. It is possible that a divided Republican Party might better serve American democracy; that the gamers, separated from the breakers, might start to think of policy as a way to win elections. It is very likely that the Biden-Harris administration will have an easier first few months than expected; perhaps obstructionism will give way, at least among a few Republicans and for a short time, to a moment of self-questioning. Politicians who want Trumpism to end have a simple way forward: Tell the truth about the election.

America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good. The racism structured into every aspect of the coup attempt is a call to heed our own history. Serious attention to the past helps us to see risks but also suggests future possibility. We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.


Timothy Snyder is the Levin professor of history at Yale University and the author of histories of political atrocity including “Bloodlands” and “Black Earth,” as well as the book “On Tyranny,” on America’s turn toward authoritarianism. His most recent book is “Our Malady,” a memoir of his own near-fatal illness reflecting on the relationship between health and freedom. Ashley Gilbertson is an Australian photojournalist with the VII Photo Agency living in New York. Gilbertson has covered migration and conflict internationally for over 20 years.