Sunsara Taylor interviews Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez (@kkdumez), author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, about the rise of militant and militaristic patriarchy among Christian fascists as a major social force in this country (originally broadcast on The RNL Show).
Then, Sam Goldman (@SamBGoldman) and Coco Das @coco_das talk about how and why the call for continuous non-violent mass protests to drive out the Trump/Pence regime didn’t take root – and why that means we still face a serious threat of fascism in the United States.
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Sam Goldman 01:01
Welcome to Episode 54 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers, and host of this show. A special welcome to all our new subscribers and listeners who learned about our show through our friends at the Daily Beans podcast, who had me on their show this past Friday. We are so glad to have you as part of this community.
This week, we saw that the fascists are still moving, filled with revanchism. The Republi-fascists show no signs of backing down in resurrecting Jim Crow voter suppression. As we reported last week, Georgia Governor Brian “KKK” Kemp is doubling down. The Republican-dominated Texas State Senate just passed a sweeping voter suppression bill outlawing drive-thru voting, cutting early voting hours and preventing election officials from sending mail-in ballot applications, even to qualified voters. A gathering of Republican leaders and top donors in Florida this weekend is taking place. At a speech in Mar a Lago, Trump repeated the lie of a stolen election and celebrated his actions, including the rally that precipitated the storming of the Capitol. The Save America Summit is Trump and his fascist goons plotting their eventual comeback. And who is the host of this four day summit to save America at Donald Trump’s Doral Resort? It’s Women for America First, one of the — perhaps THE main — organizer of the rally that took place on January 6.
Before week three in the trial of white supremacist, killer cop, Derek Chauvin, the cop who murdered George Floyd, white supremacists planned to have today, nationwide protests to “revive the white racial consciousness and to unify white people against white hate.” And fascist mouthpiece, Tucker Carlson, this past Thursday continued to show his Nazi stripes defending white supremacist conspiracy theory on Fox News, saying that the Democratic Party is “trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots with new people, more obedient voters from the third world,” he said. He continued to say, “but they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it. That’s true. Others have correctly pointed out that this Xenophobic white supremacist diatribe was the ideology that fostered El Paso, that brought to you Christ Church, that brought to you Pittsburgh.
And this week was also a reminder of how we are still just learning the full scope of harm done by the Trump/Pence regime as more continues to come out about the January 6th coup attempt. Documents from the Pentagon garnered by the Associated Press provide more insight into the timeline for responses from federal government leaders on the day of January 6th, including a call from then Vice President Mike Pence pleading to clear the building hours before order was actually restored. And we learned that Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on the Coronavirus as the Washington Post reported, based on documents from a House probe. Trump appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services celebrated their efforts to block, silence, and change scientific findings on COVID to conform to Trump’s lies. Trump loyalists actively suppressed science at a time of deadly pandemic.
In today’s episode, we’re sharing two interviews along these lines. First, we’re sharing an interview with Kristin Du Mez, Professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin University. She discusses her latest book, ‘Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation’ with Sunsara Taylor. This interview originally aired on Thursday as part of the RNL show on YouTube. Then you’ll hear from Coco Das, contributing editor to RefuseFascism.org as she and I take on some of the burning questions involved in summing up the experience of the last four years as a necessary part of charting the course forward.
Andy Zee 05:51
We have one last segment, an interview with Kristin Kobes Du Mez. So why don’t you tell the audience about what you’re going to do and why we’re doing it?
Sunsara Taylor 05:59
I’m going to introduce it in just a moment in the interview itself. But I want to say you know since doing this interview, and really sitting with it, and also in light of this declaration that we’ve started the episode with, I wanted to draw something from Bob Avakian’s New Year’s statement: ‘A New Year, the Urgent Need for a Radically New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity’. He writes: “even as it’s critically important that voting in this election has resulted in a defeat for the Trump/Pence regime and its attempts to more fully consolidate fascist rule, this must not be allowed to obscure this crucial truth. The polarization between Democrats and Republicans, as expressed through the electoral process in this country involves contention over how to uphold and pursue the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system, and the rule by the capitalist class. It does not represent the fundamental divisions in society and the world, nor the fundamental interests of the masses of people in this country, and in the world as a whole. Nor can the profound problems confronting humanity be solved, in fact, they can only get worse, within the confines of this murderously oppressive and exploitative system, and the chaos and destruction it will continue to unleash on a massive scale, so long as it continues to dominate the world.”
So in this segment, I’m going to talk with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, about her expertise, which is the emergence of this white evangelical, what we would call Christian fascist movement, and the strength and the power of it. As we are reflecting on this and sharing it with you, we really cannot allow the polarization to remain confined within the terms that it is way too much right now, Democrats, Republicans, the kind of crisis this system is in, which these Christian fascists are a major part of driving society in a very extreme direction. It’s actually got to be worked on to bring forward revolution, a real alternative to this. So hopefully, this will give you a deeper understanding of what we’re confronting and one key dimension. And I think with that we should go to the interview. Regular viewers will be familiar and I’m happy to make sure that new viewers know that we here at the Revolution, Nothing Less show are followers of the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian. And in the second season of the RNL show, we’re really rooting ourselves in the analysis, the framework and the direction that Bob Avakian gives for the revolution he’s leading in a new year statement he issued: ‘A New Year, the Urgent Need for a Radically New World for the Emancipation of all Humanity’, and this statement looks at the political and historical moment humanity finds itself in with the Trump/Pence fascist regime out of power, but the political forces and social forces and underlying dynamics that gave rise to this regime very much alive and the ongoing dynamics of capitalism-imperialism, continuing to hurtle humanity towards catastrophe, and what must be done about this. And in this statement, BA struggles with us to confront the reality of what it means that 74 million plus people voted for this open white supremacist, this open misogynist, that hater of women, this xenophobic, America First fascist, and what it means that we live in a country where really, two halves of this country have diametrically opposed views on major fault-line social questions, like the position and role of women and differently-gendered people in society, on white supremacy and the humanity of Black people, towards immigrants and refugees, and even towards basic questions of science, epistemology and reality based recognition of facts.
So it’s very important to understand the changes in the last several decades that have led to this situation which BA analyzes in some depth in this statement, and I’m very happy to bring on to the RNL Show somebody whose insights and research and understanding and perspective we want to help shed light on the situation, whose work Bob Avakian draws from in this statement, as well as in a previous piece he did last summer on the links between patriotism, and patriarchy. She is an author and a professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin University, whose research focuses on the intersection of religion, gender, and politics. And her most recent book is called ‘Jesus and John Wayne’ – it’s a great title – ‘Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation’. Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez, welcome to the RNL, the ‘Revolution, Nothing Less Show’.
Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez 10:36
Oh, thank you for having me.
Sunsara Taylor 10:38
There’s so much I want to ask you about I really appreciated your book. And I wanted to start by asking you to speak to and maybe unpack for our viewers a bit, a quote that Bob Avakian puts in his New Year’s statement that concentrates, I think, a lot of the theme and the import of what’s in your book. You write: “White evangelicals have pieced together this patchwork of issues. And this nostalgic commitment to rugged, aggressive militant white masculinity serves as the thread binding them together into a coherent whole. A father’s rule in the home is inextricably linked to heroic leadership on the national stage, and the fate of the nation hinges on both.” So obviously, I haven’t described the network of issues bound together there, but maybe you could speak about that, and how this patriarchy is such a thread through them.
Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez 11:33
So when I first started to explore of evangelical masculinity, I was very quickly struck by the fact that in the personal was political, is political. That what was seen on the one hand as a set of domestic issues, very intimate, you know, related to family, related to what it means to be a Christian man, how to be a Christian father, was always closely connected to American power, to American militarism. And it was connected rhetorically in much of the popular literature that I was reading. I first kind of stumbled across this literature on popular Christian masculinity in the early 2000s. And in that literature, I saw this very militant, militaristic conception of “Christian manhood.” And this was in the early years of the Iraq War, when I came across this and, and so on the one hand, I saw this very militant conception of Christian masculinity being promoted by pastors and in church networks. And then I was also seeing this survey data come my way, that white evangelicals were far and away more likely than other Americans to support the Iraq War, pre-emptive war in general, to condone the use of torture. And so I started to ask the question of what might one have to do with the other? When I went back and looked historically, over the past several decades, going back to the early Cold War era, I saw that this really was a consistent theme, that this kind of white patriarchal authority was always linked to, to American power and American militarism, and often explicitly so.
Sunsara Taylor 13:15
And when I read your book, I definitely got the sense that you are tracking kind of two movements happening, I mean, not movements, but the motion of two things at the same time, sort of the most extreme elements of Christian fundamentalist – or Christian fascism, we often call it here on the show – movements to becoming more mainstream within white evangelicalism, at the same time that white evangelicalism was becoming more mainstream and government policy culture throughout society. And I wonder if that’s a correct reading, in your sense, and if you could describe how you see that and why you see that?
Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez 13:52
Yeah, when I first encountered this literature, it was an open question to me, what do I do with this? Because on the one hand, it felt really extreme and extremist. It was deeply misogynistic, again, deeply militaristic, and to me as as a Christian myself, it seemed pretty unbiblical. And in so I really wrestled with this question, “Is this just a really fringe movement? Does this really warrant our attention?” And for that reason, and a couple of others, I ended up actually setting this research project aside for a long time. So back in 2005-2006, I picked it up, I set it aside, and I didn’t pick it up again until the fall of 2016. And that’s when the question of “how mainstream is this?” was answered for me to a certain extent when we saw the robust support among white evangelicals for Donald Trump, including in the weeks after the Access Hollywood tapes release.
I noticed at that point that the rhetoric that evangelicals were using. that many evangelicals were using to justify their support for Trump, was very similar to the rhetoric that I was very familiar with from this literature of militant Christian manhood; we need a protector. President Trump, or at that point candidate Trump, promised to protect Christianity. He was their strong man. He was their ultimate fighting champion. And he was exactly the kind of guy that they needed, who would do whatever needed to be done, unconstrained, unrestrained by civility or traditional Christian virtue in the religious sense. And so I noticed those similarities, but that’s absolutely a theme that I weave through this book.
Sunsara Taylor: 15:31
So for anybody who doesn’t remember, and having clear focus, the Access Hollywood tape was when Donald Trump came out, or it was revealed from several years past during the middle of his campaign, him bragging about sexually assaulting women. And it was a moment when in popular culture, a lot of people said “Oh, okay, maybe this will be the moment that the Christian fundamentalist evangelical base will fracture from Trump.” And instead, they really rallied to him, and which they had, and they saw in him, and actually, this is something that Avakian said at the time and since – not just around the Access Hollywood tape, but in a number of other dimensions – that they saw in Trump, somebody willing to break the norms, and just completely defy any norms of decency, rule of law, you know, things that were subtext became openly trumpeted sexual assault, the white supremacy, all of this. And I think that really, it surprised a lot of people that the Christian evangelicals went with that. And I just wonder if you could say a little bit more about that.
Kristin Kobes Du Mez: 16:36
In the wake of the Access Hollywood tape release, and we saw evangelicals – a handful briefly wavered people like Wayne Grudem, and others – and then they were right back supporting Trump, those who had been before the tape release. And that’s really when it clicked for me, because I thought we have seen this before. We have seen this so many times before, in Evangelical organizations, in churches, in families, even. We’ve seen evangelicals rally behind an abusive leader, for a variety of reasons. Their teachings on sexuality tend to promote the idea of men will naturally have an aggressive sexual drive. Again, they’re filled with testosterone, that’s kind of the way God made them. Ideally, they should absolutely contain that. But it’s very hard for them because of the way they’re made. And so that’s really up to women. And so in cases of sexual misconduct, even sexual assault, it’s not at all unusual that women are blamed, even young girls for not being appropriately modest, or in the case of wives, for not fully satisfying their husband’s sexual drive so that he had to look elsewhere outside of heterosexual marriage. So there’s, there’s that kind of tradition in terms of teachings on sex and purity, and power.
But then there’s also this impulse to respect authority, to respect the God-appointed authorities, the patriarchal authorities, and to defend those people in power, and to protect the brand or in their words, protect the witness of the church or the organization, protect the ministry. And this is a very powerful impulse, and it ends up silencing a lot of voices of dissent. And this deference is kind of demanded. It’s the way the authority is structured. And this is inculcated generation after generation to defer to the people placed in authority over you. And this is kind of the the authoritarian tendencies I’m talking about. I was not prepared, as somebody who kind of grew up in and out of these spaces, for just how authoritarian some of the teachings ended up being when I took a close look at them.
Sunsara Taylor 18:47
You know, I’ve heard you speak about this phenomenon and make the point, not just including on the sexual politics, but also more broadly, this whole emergence of a more and more extreme militaristic, muscular, masculine, white evangelicalism, in terms of a political movement, more so than a theological movement. And you point to a number of larger world events, economic changes, global changes, international, you know, the loss in Vietnam, the US lost the war in Vietnam, and how this influenced a section of these evangelicals to really be moving to this more extreme version, and how that became useful to broader society that wanted to reassert sort of American dominance. So I just wonder if you could trace some of the key nodal points that you think – how you see the the larger political events influencing this, what most think of is just a religious phenomenon.
Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez 19:49
Yeah, I cannot emphasize the Vietnam War enough, really, in terms of catalyzing this particular kind of white patriarchal religious identity. The feeling that initially in the Cold War era, that men need to be protectors, protectors, not just of America, but of Christian America. And that’s where evangelicals believe that they had the most critical role as kind of the most Christian of American Christians to defend American Christianity, and also to defend Christian America. And to do that, with the rise of feminism in particular, that meant that it was kind of up to them to raise young boys into strong men so that they could fight the nation’s wars. And in Vietnam, it was almost traumatic, I think, for white evangelicals, who had really formed their identity around this kind of Cold War militarism and understanding that to be simply God’s call for them.
Because in the late 40s, and early 50s, they were not that different from many other Americans, right, this was the post war baby, boom, “Leave it to Beaver,” certainly for white middle class Americans, this was the height of civil religion, Eisenhower in the White House, and Cold War consensus. So evangelicals were not that distinctive in holding these values dear. They thought that they were the most Christian and the most essential in this battle, but they were not in opposition to most other Americans, as far as they were concerned. That changes in the 1960s. And it’s in the 1960s, that many Americans start to question American greatness and American goodness, because they’re seeing what’s going on, on the battlefields in Vietnam. It’s coming into their living rooms, and with the evening news, and that’s when Evangelicals really double down, and it becomes this oppositional identity. And so Vietnam is really critical.
The Equal Rights Amendment was also really formative. So you have this foreign policy front in terms of Vietnam, you have the Equal Rights Amendment and the challenge of feminism, and that really mobilizes a lot of conservative evangelicals, and especially conservative evangelical women kind of mobilize in response to a perceived threat that the Equal Rights Amendment posed to their personal lives, their identities. And so Vietnam and the ERA are really two critical things. But I will say that, you know, we’ve got what’s going on politically, then you do have internal to these religious organizations, changes that are going on theologically as well. And so we could look at the Southern Baptist Convention, and the conservative takeover or conservative resurgence, whatever your preferred terminology is, depending on your vantage point, that’s going on, to really start to weed out more progressive Southern Baptists. To weed out those who are promoting women’s ordination and women’s religious authority and more progressive social views. And so you have what’s going on the national front, and then you also have internal to these organizations. And I try to kind of weave those stories together, because they are really happening together.
Sunsara Taylor 23:04
I think that, you know, I know it took a certain courage of your own conviction and intellectual courage to pursue what you are uncovering that thread and follow it through. So I want to thank you for the work that you’ve done on this. I want to thank you for taking the time to come on the Revolution, Nothing Less show. I really appreciate it. I think our viewers will learn a lot from this.
Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez 23:22
Oh, thank you very much for having me.
Sam Goldman 23:25
You can find Kristen Du Mez on Twitter @kkdumez. A link to her book is in the show notes. You can find the RNL show on Youtube @theRevComs. Next, I talk with Coco Das. Why did it matter that Refuse Fascism called for, in 2016, for driving out this Trump/Pence regime because it was fascist, with the potential to consolidate fascism in this country with potentially catastrophic consequences for humanity?
Coco Das 23:59
It mattered that Refuse Fascism was calling for this regime to go – to be driven out – because it’s fascist, because that was born out to be true. We recognized the white supremacy, the misogyny, the xenophobia and the vengeful violence, the revenge- fueled rhetoric that was going to make life a nightmare for millions of people. And on top of that, the constant lying, the hatred of science, the denial of even the idea of objective truth. All of this then contributed to a situation where actually hundreds of thousands of people needlessly died from COVID. And that blood is on the hands of the Trump/Pence regime to think that the cruelty of celebrating that they had this win and changing the verbiage of the CDC, which is tasked to tell people the truth and give people the scientific knowledge to be able to protect themselves from these deadly diseases, that they would celebrate that that, really concentrates actually what this regime in this fascist movement is about. It’s just this cruel, ultimately genocidal hatred of people who are not who they think are not the true human beings. And that includes people who died from COVID, because their immune system was not up to par. And Trump himself went to I can’t remember which rally it was, I think it was in Wisconsin, and said: “you have good genes.” This is more than a dog whistle. This is the harkens back to Nazi ideology.
At the same time, there was very little confrontation of what this actually represented in the media. Nobody wants to use the F word. Nobody wants to say it was fascist, it took January 6, for a lot of people to confront that this was a fascist ideology. One of the tenets of fascism is that elections don’t matter. They should remain in power, no matter what. And that elections can be overturned through violence and intimidation. So that forced some people to confront it. But still, we don’t have enough people who really talk about that what happened in those four years under Trump, and that we were actually on the road to the fascist movement consolidating state power. And what that would have meant for not only all the people that they hate and demonize, but what it would have meant for what are supposed to be democratic rights, what it would have meant for the right to dissent, what it would have meant for the right to abortion and birth control, with already the courts being stacked with these Christian fascist judges. And if they had won, they would have been full of vengeful arrogance. So I don’t know if I answered your question. But I think there was just tremendous import to what Refuse Fascism was calling for and what we were organizing towards for four years.
Sam Goldman 26:45
I know that one of the things that has frequently been used throughout the Trump regime’s reign, and similarly in other places where there have been fascist leaders where they have been labeled as unfit and incompetent. And I think it was very important that that wasn’t the thrust of our message, and the basis on which we were calling people into the streets. I think that it was really important that Refuse Fascism identified this triad that fascism foments, and relies upon the xenophobia, the misogyny, and the white supremacy, and then it does that are as part of creating a new form of rule, a fascist form rule, for which once it’s consolidated, there’s no avenues of redress, there’s no rights for the people. The law is shredded or rewritten as a means to terrorize and rule by brute force. I think that it mattered because that it identified the danger that we faced, it was the only thing that was commensurate.
Coco Das 27:49
Yeah, it really went beyond unfitness. Trump as a person is deranged. But as a fascist leader for a long time, actually, he was quite effective. He wasn’t incompetent. And he advanced a lot of the things that this fascist movement wanted or for years, and was getting frustrated about not having achieved. And yet Trump wasn’t the only one actually who was willing to completely tear up the norms. And you saw that with the combination on January 6, people in that movement don’t really see that as a failure, we might say it’s incompetent to let hundreds of thousands of people die from COVID. But that’s not at the heart of why that happened. At the heart of why that happened is is ideology that says that the truth is what we say it is, and that has a hatred of scientific reasoning. And in that kind of intellectual thought we should talk about the Christian fascist elements in that too, because although Trump himself I don’t believe that he’s a Christian, for a moment, the Christian fascist backing, they were the most organized elements of that helped to get him into the White House. And that also advances a worldview. That’s very anti-science. There were a lot of factors that went into the way that the COVID response happened. But it wasn’t mainly that it was incompetence. We know from that interview that he did with Bob Woodward, he knew what this was about. He knew what the disease was going to do. He knew it was very deadly, and he made a choice. And the choice was consistent with what this fascist movement beliefs about the world.
Sam Goldman 29:23
I think that your comment on the destruction of the truth, I think, is it’s a really important one. What this regime did in terms of bludgeoning reality and creating a culture where the truth didn’t matter. And not only did it not matter, but people would be attacked for merely speaking the truth, the fascism and the escape from reality and how connected they are, how synonymous they are. Something that we explored in a previous episode, Episode 49, with Federico Finchelstein, and I encourage people who have not read ‘Fascist Lies’ to do so, but to listen to this interview, which digs more into it, including on the genocidal component of COVID. These were lives that were expendable to this regime. Yes, everyone can get COVID, but the way that it disproportionately has impacted Black and brown communities, those who are in the prisons, those are in the camps that this regime created at the border, those are lives that are expendable to Trump and Pence, they didn’t matter. And people have talked about the willingness to kill their own, but it was very much also a willingness to kill others and then it was all in service of this fascist program. And that being what is our mouth. What might have been different in how things developed, and the situation we confront today had Refuse Fascism succeeded at different points during the four years in this massive mobilization we called war?
Coco Das 30:52
I mean, it seems like there are so many different scenarios that may have – could have – been completely avoided if we had mobilized in our millions, even at times hundreds of thousands. The response of the people to outrage after outrage was shameful, in some ways. But if we had really mobilized when we found out that immigrant children were being torn from their parents’ arms, and they were being thrown into concentration camps in overcrowded conditions, denied soap, denied basic health care, it was really a campaign of torture, the regime really didn’t try to hide what they were trying to do. If we had done it at that point, you know, could we have prevented [the mass killing in] El Paso? Could we have prevented the shootings in Pittsburgh? And then of course, could we have actually saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who died from COVID?
I think that’s one thing that there were actual lives on the line, and people who are sacrificed because people were just waiting for the normal channels to resolve this. Waiting for the blue wave, waiting for the election, instead of doing what we would expect in any other country. If these kinds of things were going on, we would expect the populace to protest, to hit the streets. This fascist movement, although they’ve been set back with this electoral defeat – and that electoral defeat was in no way guaranteed. If not for COVID, would Trump had been defeated? I can’t guess what all of the factors were. I know turnout was very high. People were motivated to get Trump out. But it was not guaranteed that he was going to lose.
And then there was the whole attempted coup for months, where they were trying to hang on to power and that became like a dress rehearsal for next time. Okay, they didn’t succeed this time, but can they succeed again, at some future point? They are now plotting, their re-seizure of power. The main thing that I think would have changed is that this fascist movement would have been set back much further than it was. You know, there are still many of them in power in all branches of government. They’re still in the courts. On the state level, they’re on a rampage and in the streets, this movement of people, the White Lives Matter rally, as this trial of Derek Chauvin is going on that they have the gall to gather in the streets to say, “white lives matter.” This problem of the 74 million. The only thing that will really resolve this problem of the 74 million people who back this fascist movement, who are Trumpists think there is now something called Trumpism, or we can label as Trumpism. The only solution to that is to overwhelm them and drive them back, drive them out of every corner of society. And that’s not going to happen with us just sitting around and waiting for the people at the top or the normal channels or waiting for the next election.
Sam Goldman 33:42
You had written an article that was up at RefuseFascism.org, it’s still up at RefuseFascism.org, so people can go and check it out there. “The left coalition that kept you off the streets and won’t stop fascism.” And you wrote it in early February. When this uploads, it’ll be April 11, and to be honest Coco, I think it’s just as relevant in terms of people looking at what implications of what would have been different if people had been mobilized to act, and were actively told to not protest. And I just wanted to share some of what you wrote: “For months they conspired, this coalition, to keep people in a wait and see mode, instead of mobilizing their followers, numbering collectively in the millions, into non-violent demonstrations that could have shown the world the strength of our side. A non-violent but determined force in the streets willing to stand up against a rolling fascist coup. If this coalition had been ready, thousands of Trump supporters would not have thought that they had a shot at disrupting Congress by returning to DC for the third time since Election Day. If they’d really been ready, Trump and his backers in and out of government could not have kept spreading the lie of a stolen election without massive opposition.
In reality, there was only one thing this coalition was ready for: stopping the millions who hate Trump from taking to the streets to express their outrage.” You go on to talk about what the 2020 election was really about a showdown for the form of law in this country. You then say how in many ways we saw this coming, that he tried lawsuit after lawsuit, that his backers attempted to cancel millions of ballots, that his followers vowed to come back to DC to fight for Trump. And then you talk about how this has emboldened the fascist movement. Coco then says: “With this election, 81 million people did something extremely rare. They voted a fascist out of power, narrowly stopping a second Trump term that would have allowed the Trump Pence fascist regime and the virulent movement they coalesced to consolidate their power was truly great stakes for humanity. But the unique convergence of circumstances leading to Trump’s electoral defeat, marked by a disastrous response to a global pandemic may never come around again. Trump and Trumpism still maintains a stranglehold over the Republican Party. And the current likelihood…” you wrote “…at this time voting to convict Trump in the upcoming impeachment trial is extremely low.” And you end by saying “The people of this country will have to fully confront the danger and find the means to publicly repudiate and stop the still-powerful American fascist movement, even if the so-called progressive coalition doesn’t want us to.” I guess my question is two-fold: What would you add today? How do you see this playing out more? And second: Why do you think this coalition emerge and existed in the first place?
Coco Das 36:37
I guess what I would add is that the GOP, the Republican Party has been completely hollowed out. It is now a fascist, openly white supremacist party with even QAnon supporters, once completely fringe ideas, now actually mainstreamed into that wing of the Republican Party. But the Republican Party as a whole is a fascist party now. They are actually taking the lesson of this defeat, and trying to avoid that in the future. So I don’t know in how many states, you just saw Georgia pass these voter suppression laws. And these are coming up in many states across the country, including where I live in Texas, and they are going harder at this idea that you can vote them out of power. I’m still seeing people say the answer to that is to vote harder, or it’s not really that big a deal, because it’s really not that easy to suppress votes, it’s not that easy to suppress turnout. There was an article in The New York Times saying that, and you think about how the right to vote was even won in this country by women and by Black people.
And there are times where if you are going to change things for the better, you have to be in the streets, you have to step outside the normal channels. And these voter suppression laws are just the tip of the iceberg. They’re not only aimed at suppressing Black votes, they’re aimed at actually disenfranchising and undoing the progress that Black people have made since the Civil Rights Movement. It’s very ominous, and we need to answer that with just a resounding culture of refusal to go along with it. Why this particular coalition emerged? You know, I think that Democrats were playing a certain strategy. And in the progressive movement as a whole, there was this idea that you should not provoke Trump. You should not provoke his followers. And that this would give Trump the excuse to clamp down. So it was all these fears that this is actually fascism, and that he can actually employ those fascist tactics, but yet not calling it fascism and not doing anything that actually would stop the fascism.
Sam Goldman 38:45
As we close out our interview, I want to look forward. And in looking forward, I’d like to talk about why it matters that we talk about what happened, why conversations like this matter. Why we can’t just “move on.” What do you see us facing regarding the danger of fascism in America? And how can we build on the networks that we built over the last four years to compel more people to confront this danger? Another way to think about it is why does it matter that people understand this fascist movement, where it came from? Why does it matter that we pay attention to where it’s going? Given that Trump’s out of power, what does it mean now to refuse fascism?
Coco Das 39:32
And I think it’s going to re-emerge and it has the potential to re-emerge very quickly if we don’t talk about what happened and if we don’t actually confront the aims of this movement. And they are regrouping and they are plotting and planning their re-seizure of power and if we are not prepared for that, then they can come back – they can be back in the White House. Maybe not with Trump but with someone different. And they’re going to learn lessons from what they achieved in this period, and also their failures in this period. And they’re going to come back stronger unless we are prepared to drive this out of society, and also to meet them when they are really on the offensive again. When Trump was campaigning, that was a time when people really should have said this is unacceptable. How did somebody like him who bragged about sexual assault who started his campaign demonizing Mexican immigrants… How was that even allowed to be become the candidate that won the election? So at every turn, when fascism is rearing its ugly head, we need to be able to respond and be prepared for a response. And, you know, we have to learn from our failures, what we did achieve in changing the conversation in getting people to confront that this was fascism. But we have to also learn from what happened under our watch and what we fail to stop and what we conceded.
Sam Goldman 40:59
What does it mean to build up a network of people to Refuse Fascism? What does that mean today?
Coco Das 41:05
I mean, I think one of the things that Refuse Fascism achieved, and that also did take on more of a society-wide momentum was this confrontation with the fact that fascism can happen here and the network of people who really did want to act, they did want to speak out and not let their morals be continually degraded by the continual assault on decency that was happening. So, I think there is a network that exists now that didn’t exist in 2016, and I think that is something that’s very precious that we need to maintain. And I think that we just need to be vigilant, we say this a lot at Refuse Fascism, but we need to be vigilant and be ready to act and ready to take to the streets when the need comes. These “white lives matter rallies” should not take place without counter protests, massive counter protests. But I think continuing to help people to see what our power is. Our power is our collectivity and our ability to actually step outside of the normal channels and not just wait passively for an election. There’s tremendous power in that.
Sam Goldman 42:17
I want to thank you so much Coco, for chatting with me about these questions that we really should all be talking about. Coco, do you want to share a way that you would like people to get in touch with you?
Coco Das 42:28
You can DM me on twitter @Coco_Das. I think these are really good questions. And it’s really important for people to get together and talk about them. As much as people do want to move on. There is no moving on, really, because this threat is not gone. And if we bury our heads and insist on moving on then when it is in a position again to try to seize state power, then we can be blind-sided again.
Sam Goldman 42:56
Visit RefuseFascism.org for more from Coco Das, and share your thoughts on these questions with her on Twitter @Coco_Das. Thanks for listening, and I hope today you’ll follow and subscribe to stay in touch and rate and review the show to help us reach more listeners. And yes, you can chip in to support the show by donating at RefuseFascism.org. And I want to hear from you. So share your thoughts on this episode, the show in general, your ideas for topics and guests questions you have. You can write me on twitter @SamBGoldman, or email [email protected] And if you want to hear more about the central role, Christian fascism played in the Trump pence regime ascending to a maintaining power for four years. Check out Episode 46 with Sarah Posner, Episode 32 with Chrissy Stroop and Episode 31 with Jeff Sharlet. You can also scroll back to some of our first episodes when we spoke with Sarah Posner and Jeff Sharlet, where we dug pretty deep. Again, thanks for listening, and I’ll be back next Sunday with more. As always, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America. Stay safe, not silent.