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Democracy is Hanging By a Thread
Its Survival Depends on You
Dear Readers hello. This newsletter is a call to action in two parts. In the first piece – “Reality Bites – So Bite Back,” we outline the case for immediate, aggressive, and collective progressive action to preserve American democracy. In the second – “Just Nation Movement Strategy,” we outline both the collective movement we’ve determined is required to preserve democracy, and the optimal movement strategy given current realities.
Reality Bites – So Bite Back
If we don’t win, nothing else matters.
The struggle to preserve some semblance of democracy in the United States is the major struggle that subsumes all others. Whatever your issue area, whether it’s tackling climate change, or addressing police brutality, or even preserving migrating birds, the looming fascist threat will render more difficult, if not impossible, any meaningful progress.
Let’s be clear, the house is on fire. And when the house is on fire, you don’t go around re-arranging the drapes. And let’s be clear, much of the current response to this all-hands-on-deck emergency amounts to little more than empty gestures. Biden’s President, there’s a march here or there, and all the while the Republicans eviscerate voting rights and lay the groundwork for the next coup.
We have, at long last, arrived at recognition, in most of the commentariat class, of the point being made by many voices in the wilderness from even before Trump’s inauguration: this doesn’t end well. There’s not a lot of pleasure in saying I told you say when the subject matter is the dissolution of Democracy, but here we are. We fucking told you so.
Yet those in the greatest positions of power to address this rising threat are those doing the least to counter it. To wit, the Democratic Party, with few exceptions, is treating the Republican Party as a co-equal and legitimate partner in governance, instead of the center of gravity for a political movement fueled by violence, untethered from reality and hell-bent on the acquisition of power at the detriment of democracy. The single greatest threat to the United States is the GOP. Democrats should be unified to hold them accountable, to weaken their centers of gravity, and preserve the rule of law.
Democrats aren’t doing anything to meaningfully hold accountable the Republican Party. Paul Gosar was recently censured for threatening the life of a co-worker. He shouldn’t have been in the position to do so to begin with. A Party that took seriously the threat of the Republican Party would have long since made the expulsion of seditionists a priority. Gosar has been palling around with Nazis. Democrats couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it.
Why are the COVID response hearings behind closed doors? Why aren’t the efforts to tackle white supremacists in the military and law enforcement more aggressive? Why are Democrats so afraid to say hell yeah, we’re going to go after people who threaten school board members? Why do they keep saying ‘we have to get to the bottom of who was behind January 6th?’ His name was on all the hats and flags, it’s not exactly a mystery. You think the Republicans would be afraid to issue a subpoena to Hilary Clinton if they thought they could? They held 18 hearings on Benghazi.
There could be any number of explanations for the fecklessness of the Democrats. They could be afraid. They could be corrupt. For each individual failure to respond appropriately, it could be some admixture of the above. For our purposes, it doesn’t really matter WHY the Democrats have failed to respond appropriately, only that they have, and we must therefore respond accordingly.
We’ve outlined a multi-partite strategy for meaningly and forcefully countering and turning back the right-wing assault on democracy, the second piece in this newsletter. Please read and disseminate it widely.
If you take away nothing else from the urgent call to action, know this: the single most important step is showing up. Our crisis requires greater action than other times. Showing up, now, means more than just going to the polls and registering people to vote. It means confronting the ugly escalation of the right-wing. The escalating violent rhetoric, from the Proud Boys marches to the moms for Liberty types shouting at school board meetings, is having its intended effect. Election officials are retiring. People are afraid.
We cannot allow the right’s fear tactics to work. We must have the courage to mobilize. Thankfully, the numbers are on our side. There are more of us. That’s the thing. These people are so worked up because they know that they are in the minority. The right is driven by fear and are making use of classic strategies of asymmetric warfare to win the day. Some of this stuff is complicated. Some of it is simple. We just have to start showing up.
If we don’t win now, nothing else matters. The struggle from here, if we don’t win, only gets more difficult.
Let’s get to work.
Just Nation Movement Strategy
Republicans have a strategy, Democrats do not. * The Republican strategy is replete with achievable objectives, campaign plans, resourcing options, communications plans, and flexible tactics. Republicans even have a long-term, if hidden, meta objective known as an “ideality.” Their ideality is the maximum possible accrual of power and money for its elite with the least possible accrual of responsibility, transparency, and accountability. Achieving this has been their utopian objective for over fifty years, and they have all but achieved it with the left firing nary a shot in defense.
A strategy has many purposes; it indicates a seriousness of purpose; it serves as a rally point for mobilization of resources and energy; it serves as a powerful amplifier of resources and energy through focus and the reduction of waste; it indicates perseverance to adversaries, and it bolsters that of its adherents. But most importantly, it signals worthiness of the cause and the single-minded intent to fight for it no matter the opposition. This same signal is a hologram messaged slightly differently to adversaries, to third parties, and most important of all, to its own ‘troops.”
It is long past time to stop waiting for the Democratic Party to develop a strategy, indeed, to lead in any meaningful manner. They are welcome as members of the Just Nation Movement coalition but cannot be allowed to usurp or retard it. At this point the party functions more like Switzerland in World War II, although they position themselves as if they were Great Britain.
We posit the requirement for a new American progressive movement combining the resources, goodwill and aspirations of extant liberal, progressive, human rights, democracy advocacy groups, and the Democratic Party. We suggest the Just Nation Movement is a useful placeholder name. The Movement organizes as a multi-leader network.
*To be fair, the Democratic Party does possess a strategy, it’s just for the wrong war. Moving to the center to win competitive Congressional districts, attempting to placate so-called “independents,” “getting out the vote,” -- this is the best they’ve got, they don’t do it well nationally, and it fights a competitor who has long since left that battlefield to fight over ground on which they hold home field advantage.
The Just Movement strategy consists of: sequential phases; Campaigns, long-term effort composed of multiple lines of effort organized to achieve a strategic objective; Lines of Effort that link multiple tasks and missions using the logic of purpose—cause and effect—to focus efforts toward establishing operational and strategic conditions; and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs): tactic is the highest-level description of the behavior; techniques provide a more detailed description of the behavior in the context of a tactic; and procedures provide a lower-level, highly detailed description of the behavior in the context of a technique, which cross-cut phases, campaigns and Lines of effort. It is predicated on the military principle of mass, because the majority of Americans wish to see democracy preserved but they are dispersed and often isolated from each other. The majority must be aligned, mobilized, vectored, and protected for the strategy to succeed. We must also directly attack the right’s center of gravity – money. Mass mobilization will get their attention, attacking their revenue streams will force them to yield to Movement objectives.
We envision a phased approach, each with its own over-arching objective:
Phase 1 – “Save and Preserve.” Phase 1 objective is to live to fight another day. It is characterized by actions that: establish the movement as a strategy entity and power base; ensure the safety, security, and rights of citizens; halt the right’s momentum and seize initiative for the movement. Unfortunately, it will require single issue progressive movements to delay pursuit of those objectives and prioritize the preservation of Democracy – without which their movements do not stand a chance. We do not pretend to be movement experts, so this list is incomplete, but we’re certain that the following things must happen now — and quickly -- to preserve American Democracy:
· Found the Just Nation Movement; enroll and mobilize the national majority
· Align American progressive efforts and funding streams to the Movement; build and deploy an offensive-minded strategy to seize initiative from the authoritarians
· Make Movement presence known and felt through continuous actions, including:
o Pressure on Office Holders (to take principled stands and heroic actions when necessary) and government officials (to simply execute their responsibilities, abide by their oaths of office, and do what we pay them to do)
o Voting and running for office
o Participation in politically contested forums – such as School Board Meetings
o Economic Boycotts
o Work Stoppages and Strikes
· Enroll American businesses, press, athletes, and entertainers
· Contest all attempts to commandeer public spaces, including most importantly cyberspace
Phase 2 – “Stabilize.” Phase 2 primary objective is to establish a broad societal framework preventing the erosion of progress. It is characterized by a transition from representative to participative democracy; a new Constitution; a new framework for justice; mutual accountability of citizens and officials to national commitments, agreements, laws, and objectives with justly enforced sanctions.
Phase 3 - “Flourish.” Phase 3 primary objective is to optimize the wellbeing of citizens and our global ecosystem. It is characterized by: the establishment of mutually reinforcing objectives and their relentless pursuit through all societal mechanisms.
What does the journey to save American Democracy look like? First, we’ve got to come to agreement on what we stand for -- our principles. To simply stand against Republicans, authoritarianism, and neoliberalism -- does not generate the right or sufficient energy to prevail. We remember fondly the “Arsenal of Democracy” World War I slogan, but probably not the “Stop the Mad Brute” anti-German poster of the same period, right? It is also important to lay down what we really want beyond simply overcoming the reactionary forces now plaguing us --because it is just this lack of faith in and focus on the future that has opened the door to creeping authoritarianism.
Here’s what we stand for, our Declaration for Democracy, which can hopefully serve as a rally point and organizing principle:
“We the People of the United States: affirm life; embrace our civic responsibilities; and declare our support for Democracy, the United States as a democracy, the inalienable rights of people, and the enumerated Constitutional rights of American citizens. To honor those on whose shoulders we stand, preserve that which we have built, and leave the world a better place than we found it, we will defend all transgressions of our principles to the last full measure of devotion.”
Let’s examine our declaration in some detail.
The shoulders we stand on: first, the untold millions of people who advanced the cause by simply doing the right thing, whether that was just raising a good family, resisting tyranny of kings and tyrants, or refraining from using power when doing so was wrong. Paradoxically to some, we owe the English heavily in this regard, as they led the way towards representative government and constraints on the use of power and led the charge against chattel slavery. Second, those who made defined contributions to American Democracy, including Salem Poor, Phyllis Wheatley, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Lyndon Johnson, and Stacey Abrams. Finally, those who served without public recognition in the cause to which we also now devote ourselves, with special consideration to those who were injured or lost their lives so that we might have a better world.
The value we seek to preserve: things are not perfect, far from it, even in the last best hope of earth -- and they were never so despite the revisionist history of white supremacists. They are downright dreadful in much of the world. But in the aggregate, people are freer, live longer, healthier lives, fear less violence from each other and their governments, have more physical safety, have more agency and more opportunity to express themselves than the millions who came before us did. Thanks to previous social capital built, technology, representative government, democracy, the state of health care and its trends, international organizations, rule of law, and the signal contributions of the United States as global leader -- we can climb higher now and, in the future, than we could without all these things. To willingly give them up due to collective frustration, depression, ignorance, or religious belief is to turn our backs on all the good work, sacrifice, endured pain, and successful striving of our own species – it is in fact a collective suicide and a type of future genocide. These have not been the values of any religion, any serious ideology, or of America -- why are we so willingly accepting them now?
The better world we seek includes all of the following for all people -- now: democracy; equality of opportunity; equality of restraint; dignity; compassion; justice and just outcomes; freedom from coercion and discrimination; lawfully bounded power. Am I describing a utopia? You bet. Why wouldn’t we seek that which we want and deserve? Why should we instead eat the dystopia shoved down our throats by those suffering from collective psychosis? That is the height of cowardice and inconsistent with the spirit and sacrifice of those who came before us. To accept dystopia and fail to strive for utopia is itself an injustice.
The things we’re willing to do: resolve to prevail; execute our civic responsibilities; inspire our allies; persuade the ignorant; buttress the faltering; fight and, if necessary, perish. We may appear to be in a post-truth, post-accountability, post-honor, post-commitment world -- but this is an illusion, a deliberately constructed ‘gain of function matrix’ created by a combination of neoliberalism, late-stage capitalism, evangelical eschatology, and political opportunism. Yet let us not compound this historical, suicidal, nihilistic heresy with our own naïve belief that “the moral arc of history bends towards justice” on its own – it bends towards equilibrium on its own, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so averred. The bending towards justice that does occur over time is not teleological, but, according to King and confirmed by our analysis -- the result of deliberate human action. We’re willing to join the long line of people who bent the arc -- with courage and in full recognition of the potential near-term futility of our efforts. The Revolutionary War, Civil War, and both World Wars started badly and looked grim for the ultimate victors – but this did not deter our forebears, and the grimness of our current situation must not deter us.
Additional Strategy Components: (Boring but Necessary)
Assumptions and Hypotheses:
· The Republican Party won’t reform itself.
· Time works in favor of the Right; Demographics won’t outrun disenfranchisement efforts.
· The Supreme Court won’t save us; it will favor the right and will draw no red lines in support of democracy.
· Institutions won’t save us; they are teetering already.
· The Democratic Party won’t lead, in in some aspects won’t even participate in executing, the strategy required for victory. They must be included and artfully leveraged; but cannot be allowed to constrain the movement.
· National Election results not yoked to the movement’s strategy won’t change the balance of power or trend lines – they are simply “the noise before defeat.”
· Unguided citizens won’t learn fast enough; change fast enough or turn out in sufficient numbers to tilt the power balance.
· Liberal and Progressive Organizations will be reluctant to cooperate with each other; but their cooperation is seminal.
· Small Wins, Momentum and Enrollment are the keys to victory.
· Hierarchical movement governance won’t work fast enough to prevail; a network structure is required.
· The Right will not be constrained in tactics, level of violence or resource expenditure in this war; however, Progressives will constrain themselves, in some cases unduly and unnecessarily, regardless of circumstance. This is a constraint to be addressed and accounted for in strategy.
· The movement will be tactically and strategically weak in the near term; solid campaign plans leveraging emerging tactics will be keys to victory.
· Victory will be a close won thing in any event; engaging the enemy using this strategy must start now.
High Level Threat Description:
· Center of Gravity: Money
· Major Strengths: Movement Cohesion; Lack of Principles and Morals; Geo-political concentrations
· Weaknesses: Constitute a minority nationally; Ignorance and false beliefs limit movement attractiveness and sustainability, and limit the value of Intelligence; cannot decisively control the military
Just Movement Credo: Accept reality; acknowledge uncertainty; embrace diversity and inclusion; tolerate dissent; act with discipline
Friendly Forces Centers of Gravity:
1. Network Communications
2. Intelligence and Sensemaking Capability
3. Objectives Development Process
Risks and Mitigations (Mitigations to be Elaborated):
· Individual and Organizational Safety
· Individual and Organizational Privacy
· Individual Job and Financial Security
· Individual and Family Retribution Post Future Elections