By Coco Das
- What the hell is political theater and “performative authoritarianism?”
- Why are you waiting for this to come to your city instead of flooding the streets now to say no to a fascist police state?
- What makes you think you can vote this out?
The Trump/Pence regime has sent in a federal occupying army into Portland to “quell” ongoing protests. Overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and cobbled together from a number of federal agencies, including Customs & Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, these anonymous thugs in camouflage, looking virtually indistinguishable from right-wing militias, have seized the authority to kidnap protesters.
This is Trump’s Gestapo and secret police, but the regime has hardly been secret about its intent. Trump himself, who once said he longs for the days when protesters are carried out on stretchers, said, “I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. …Look at what’s going on – all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left. If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, “You’ll see something rolled out this week as we start to go in and make sure that the communities — whether it’s Chicago or Portland or Milwaukee or some place across the heartland of the country.”
Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of DHS, said, “You can expect that if violence continues in other parts of the country, the president has made no secret of the fact that he expects us where we can cooperate or have jurisdiction to step forward and expand our policing efforts there to bring down the level of violence.”
Clearly the regime only supports states’ rights when they are defending the Confederacy.
Using any allegation of “threats to federal facilities and officers,” or a “spike in crime,” these fascist law and order forces can be “rapidly deployed” to anywhere they see fit. In his July 22 press conference, Trump said, “…Portland’s a very different place than Chicago, but Chicago should be calling us. And so should Philadelphia and Detroit and others to go in and really help them. Because when you’re losing many people a weekend, many, many people, you see the same numbers as I do. When you’re losing these people, they should call us and they should say, ‘Come on in.’ And it’s incredible to me, but they’re not doing it. At some point, they will. At some point we may have no other choice, but to go in.”
In fact they are going in, sending a “surge” of 150 federal agents to Chicago, 35 to Albuquerque, 200 to Kansas City. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said she will cooperate with these agents as long as it’s an “actual partnership,” not a “dictatorship.” Trump has targeted Chicago as the bogeyman of urban violence since his campaign in 2016 and has been threatening to take it over for years.
It is tragic that the Black and brown masses of these cities are killing each other in such large numbers, but a white supremacist regime has no intention of fixing it in a way in which those communities will not suffer even more. Like “free speech” and “freedom of religion,” “public safety” is a mantle for advancing their program. A regime that routinely calls for violence to deal with their enemies does not actually care if the people they hate take their violence out on each other. Fascist law and order means the regime and the “volk” they represent are the law, and can legitimately use as much violence as they see fit to enforce their power.
Portland is different from the more diverse cities Trump is targeting now, and if they’re kidnapping the mainly white protesters and tear-gassing moms and the mayor there, imagine what they can do to thousands of Black and brown youth around the country, already facing severe repression from local police, under a regime that has unleashed open white supremacy and called on cops to be more brutal.
And while Portland mayor Ted Wheeler rightly said on CNN that “sending federal troops into cities based on the political affiliation of the people who run the cities” is a “blatant abuse of federal policing power,” he also ended a different interview with this message to the protesters: “You’ve been heard…but let’s stay safe and let’s remember we’re in the midst of a pandemic. It’s time to end it.”
No, it’s not time to end it but to grow to a nationwide uprising of millions of people in the streets refusing to accept a fascist police state. These are not just any federal troops. They are Trump’s federal troops infused with his fascist fervor and lunacy. As Jamelle Bouie wrote in the New York Times, “…Trump actively cultivated both the leadership and the rank-and-file of the border police and ICE. In turn, they gave him his support — unions for both agencies endorsed Trump for president. Under his leadership, these agencies have shown themselves to be deeply simpatico with the administration’s draconian approach to immigration at the southern border, with aggressive action against migrants, asylum-seekers and unauthorized immigrants.”
Considering all this, I have 3 questions for those who are alarmed by the federal crackdown on Portland but see no need to get in the streets everywhere now to demand the removal of a fascist regime consolidating its ability to use every tool and lever of power at its disposal to kill the right to dissent and eliminate all opposition to its program.
What the hell is political theater and “performative authoritarianism?”
To all those calling this a political stunt, political theater, performative authoritarianism, and whatever other cute phrases you can think of to hide the danger of kidnappings by secret police, enough already. These are not actors, this is not a stage play, and this is not a stunt just to see Trump through the election or encourage more protests to be used as campaign ads. Actual lines are being drawn, with catastrophic consequences for all of humanity. If we lose the right to protest – through legal or extra-legal means – all bets are off. Fascism is not just the worst of a pendulum swing. It is a qualitative change in how society is governed. Dissent is piece by piece criminalized. The truth is bludgeoned. Group after group is demonized and targeted along a trajectory that leads to real horrors. All this has been happening for more than three years, yet with concentration camps at the border, Trump acquitted in a sham impeachment trial, and an executive order to protect monuments while First Amendment rights are criminalized with actual jail time, too many still want to bask in the comfortable delusions that this is not really happening. This is fascism. It is happening, and time is running out to stop it.
A special note to those who say Trump must be doing this because he wants us to protest. Someone who wants protest doesn’t attack football players who kneel for the national anthem, encourage his followers to use violence against protesters, call for criminal penalties for protesting, and clear out protesters with hovering helicopters and the military. You are drawing the conclusion you want to based on an unintended outcome – the “dictator’s dilemma” – that heightened repression sometimes creates more resistance – with no evidence from Trump’s actual history to support that claim. Stop with the intellectual laziness and start connecting some actual dots.
Why are you waiting for this to come to your city instead of flooding the streets now to say no to a fascist police state?
The people of Portland have responded appropriately. Resistance has grown, with the Wall of Moms and others taking a righteous stand against the divide and conquer slander that the feds have to “go and take over” liberal cities to protect its citizens from “domestic terrorists.” Too many outside of Portland, while taking inspiration from this, have said the equivalent of “Get ready for when this happens to your city.” This is a hammer coming down on your right to dissent, and the time to stop it is now. The forces cohered around Trump have seen him accomplish what they’ve wanted for decades – confirming a record number of pro-fascist judges and voicing the “grievances” of a population that can’t stand the social progress of the last fifty years, and they will not give up power easily. What’s happening in Portland should tell you that you’ve waited long enough.
- What makes you think you can vote this out?
How many hints do you need that Trump may not step down if he loses the election? Ever since he won the last election, the regime has been laying the groundwork to declare any defeat illegitimate. He just did it again in his Fox News interview with Chris Wallace. And if the results are contested, whose hands will be on the levers of power to enforce his removal? They are showing you now that those levers of power will be deployed not to stand by the Constitution or maintain peace by marching Trump and Pence out of the White House but to brutally put down any uprising of the people. The Democrats cannot be relied on to stop this – even now, as they come under ruthless political attack and face constant erosion of the rule of law, the Democratic Party leadership will not call for Trump’s resignation and will not call their base into the streets to demand an end to all this.
And what will you do if he wins?
Our power is in the streets. Dangerous regimes all over the world have been driven out by the people in sustained, non-violent protest demanding the removal of the regime and refusing to go home until their demand is met. To stop an American fascism that threatens the very future of humanity and the planet, the necessary demand is Trump Pence Out Now! This must grow to millions, and we must not stop until our demand is won.