Sam Goldman interviews Brynn Tannehill (@BrynnTannehill) about her new book American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy. Then, Coco Das and Sam talk to a couple of local organizers with Refuse Fascism chapters in Philadelphia and Texas, summing up their activism under Trump and going forward
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Brynn Tannehill 0:00
The Trump base is still devoted, they’re still out of touch. They’re still angry, they still want vengeance. He’s not going away. There’s nothing that says that he can’t come back and run again and win next time, particularly with the voter suppression laws. The courts have been filled by Trump appointees. If there isn’t that sense of urgency if we don’t understand what the opposition is, what they intend to do and what they’re going to do with that power. Once they seize it. Once they come to power again, they’re never going to let go. We can’t let that happen.
Sam Goldman 0:46
Welcome to Episode 60 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 the show. And yeah, we said Episode 60. 60 episodes! Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. Today, we are bringing you a conversation I had with Brynn Tannehill on her new book, American fascism, how the GOP is Subverting Democracy, followed by a conversation Coco Das contributing editor of RefuseFascism.org and myself had with two organizers with Refuse Fascism. Before we get into it, there are a couple of developments from this week that need to be addressed. 1) In case anyone that that Trump and Trumpism had lost their grip on the GOP. Completely sticking with pattern, 175 republicans voted against a bipartisan independent commission into the deadly January 6 coup attempt. While it passed, I believe that it lacks any hope of making it through the Senate in any bipartisan way. One must note that 35 Republicans broke rank and voted in support. To me this all underscores there is no coming together. There is no reconciliation with fascists, except on their terms. Let’s stop being surprised when fascists, involved in a failed coup, don’t want a historical, independent commission for accountability. It’s on all of us to dig into how we got into this situation to confront that the fascist danger hasn’t disappeared and work together to Refuse Fascism. 2) the Supreme Court of the United States with a stacked fascist majority, including three supreme court justices, appointed by Trump granted Mississippi’s request to review Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health regarding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. As the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote: “This case represents a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and violates 50 years of Supreme Court precedent.” Center president and CEO Nancy Northrup stated: “The consequences of a role reversal would be devastating. Over 20 states would prohibit abortion outright. 11 states, including Mississippi currently have trigger bans on their books.” This truly is a five alarm fire moment for the right to legal abortion. We must demand abortion on demand, and without apology. Without this most basic right, women have no chance of freedom. This underscores that the fascist threat is not gone, and is a powerful reminder that relying on the Democrats is what got us here in the first place. I wrote earlier this week that there was a cost for not flooding the streets to Refuse Fascism. During the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, there should have been thousands, tens of thousands, flooding the streets. A cost for listening to those who told you to wait when you should have been screaming and who kept you off the streets, subordinating women’s lives to the Democratic Party. It’s time we learned the lesson, we must rely on ourselves. Following the continued fascist danger, understanding what they are doing, and working to oppose them continues to be critical work. It’s the work that every week you are a part of when you tune in, spread, and discuss this podcast. With that in mind, I’m excited to share this interview with Brynn Tannehill, author of ‘American Fascism’, how the GOP is Subverting Democracy.
Today we’re welcoming back Brynn Tannehill to discuss some provocations off of her latest book. Before getting into what I found most provocative, challenging and some questions that I had, by talking to folks a little bit about the last time Brynn was on our show. She came on in Episode 57 and talked about the Republi-fascist tsunami of anti- trans laws sweeping the country, and I wanted to share a comment that a friend of mine wrote on Facebook. “The Refuse Fascism podcast had a topic this week, that scared the crap out of me. The anti trans attacks that are sweeping the country. At the end, Brynn states that people who survived Nazi Germany are the ones who left before it was too late. aka people going to have to escape to survive the end games of these attacks, elimination of trans people, and that’s just the beginning.” So after today, go back, check out Episode 57. Listen to it. Let us know what you think and share it. I want to first welcome Brian back. Welcome. Thanks for coming on.
Brynn Tannehill 5:50
Thank you for having me back. I really appreciate it.
Sam Goldman 5:52
So today, we’re going to talk about your new book, ‘American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy’, and I want to start with just telling listeners a little bit about some of the highlights of the book for me. It’s a book that goes through the original sin of this country, slavery, to having a substantial section about the religious right Christian nationalism. It talks about permanent single party rule and is Trumpism, fascism? and what makes the death of democracies? And for me, I found so much from just the data that bring you provide in your book After four years of what we endured with Trump, you kind of lose track of so much pain and suffering that was inflicted, and so much that we now see as normal. And just like another day, how extreme this program was, when you read Brynn’s book, that is something that you are given a crystal clear reminder of the scope and magnitude of what was the Trump/Pence regime. It’s also a very clear look at the white supremacy at the heart of this fascist movement, and a no holds barred look at the damage done by American exceptionalism. The reality that we have millions people seething with revenge, it is a book that is stark. It is a book that leaves you scared, because you should be if you’re paying attention at all. I wanted to start with that. And I wanted to ask you, can you tell us why you decided to write this book? What questions were driving you? And why do you think those questions need to be discussed now, months after Trump has left office.
Brynn Tannehill 7:38
So this book is kind of a culmination of four years worth of work, looking at what happened and why it happened and what it means and where we’re going. I recognized in the days after the election, and I share that in the preface of the book of you know, on November 16 2016, I wrote something that basically said: Wow, this is going to be bad, and there’s going to be violence. I don’t know when, I don’t know where how, but a lot of it is going to be related to race and grievance. And it was also a recognition of how woefully unprepared we were that discussions I had with people before the election on October 31 2016: “Well, what do we do if Trump wins? And the answers is, we’ll figure it out. It can’t be that bad, right? Does the system hold? Well, you know, yeah, it’s gonna suck, but we’ll be fine.” Well, we’re not exactly fine. We’re still stuck with a system that’s broken, where popular legislation can’t move through, where the Republican Party is still absolutely beholden to Trump. And just today threw out the third-ranking Republican in the House for daring to say that Trump did not, in fact lose due to voter fraud, and trying to break the party away from Trump. We see the instincts of the Republican Party continue to be towards authoritarianism, towards suppressing the vote, towards winning any way they can. And we can clearly see that they’re clearing out anyone who would try and stop the altering of the result of election that they didn’t like. In 2020, we saw that Trump leaned heavily, and so did other Republicans, into state and local officials to refuse to certify the election. We saw that two thirds of Republicans in the House voted to not certify the election. As much as we want to think: “Yay, Biden won!” We’re saying no, we’re not. 1) because right now, we can’t move the vast majority of legislation we need to shore up democracy through because of the filibuster. And because of a few Democrats, because of the slant towards smaller states, due to non- proportional representation, we see that in the courts they are going to make it much more difficult to check voters rights, workers rights, protect corporate interests in politics. And all of this means that the next time around, and this is kind of the conclusion of my book, is that the Republican Party tried to enact a violent coup last time and attempt to soft coup. They failed, but they’ve learned their lessons and they’re setting things up such that there won’t be a violent coup next time or a violent insurrection; they’re going to trust that they have sufficiently put the pieces in place to overturn the election if they don’t like the results.
Sam Goldman 10:21
There was a recent piece, I believe it was in The New Yorker, about next time that the coup happens, it will be done with full Republican support.
Brynn Tannehill 10:31
That’s absolutely what we’re seeing. The removal of Cheney, the fact that Trump is facilitating challenges to Raffensperger and other attorney generals who didn’t agree to go along with the scheme to overturn the election results. That they’re forcing out Republicans who didn’t vote to overturn the election. There, very clearly, is the intent. And looking at it from the Republican perspective on in my book talks about this in the evolution of the Republican Party since Newt Gingrich. Power is everything, winning is everything. They recognize that their ideas aren’t popular and can’t possibly win the popular vote. Things like same sex marriage, lower taxes for the rich. Most Americans are for same sex marriage, most Americans are for raising taxes on the rich, most Americans are for greater control on access to firearms, more people are for raising the minimum wage, better health insurance, access to child care. These are all very popular initiatives. But Republicans are opposed to all of them. And they recognize that their ideas aren’t popular. And by the mid-2000s, the religious right had more or less given up on the idea that they could make their ideas popular. And by the mid-2010s, the book talks about this, the oligarch class Republicans recognized that tax cuts for the rich and trickle down economics weren’t pixie dust that they could sprinkle on elections in the Republican Party to get people to vote for Republicans. So Republicans at this point recognize that they have zero chance of winning the popular vote with their positions where they are. And with their base and their bases shrinking to some extent – old white guys without college educations is not not a growing demographic, particularly evangelical ones. The white evangelical population is either steady or declining slowly as a percentage of the American population, depending on what data source you look at. So they have determined that they are going to try and win with a minority. Recognizing that it’s going to get harder and harder to do that, they are looking for ways to ensure that they always win with a minority. Because power and their agenda and creating a nation for God, and for the rich in the long run – but mostly for God – that’s where the power base actually is. That’s more important than democracy to them.
One of the most startling things that I uncovered in my research is quotes by Republicans and religious right leaders in the early 2000s, who met Vladimir Putin, saw how he was working and went. “Hey, look at this, we’re getting a country that’s becoming very, very socially conservative, and they’re doing it without democracy, and by getting rid of democracy… Okay, we can live with that trade off, that’s a good trade.” So that’s where we have the Republican Party today is. If they have to overturn the elections, if they have to prevent as many people as possible from voting, if they have to gerrymander their way to a permanent minoritarian rule in order to keep stacking the courts with people who are going to, you know, not just ban trans people, but reverse gay marriage, overturn Roe vs. Wade, get rid of all gun laws, get rid of all workers rights laws, all protections for unions, that’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make. But for the most part, that’s not really a sacrifice. That’s actually okay. Because it means they get to be in power forever. They could call the shots and they’re working towards that. And anyone who says otherwise is naive and foolish. Just the other day, eI read an article by Mona Sharon. And if you know who Mona Sharon was, she was George W. Bush’s biggest freaking cheerleader. She is not some commie pinko lib, right? Mona Sharon is old school 90s and 2000s, vintage Bush Republican. And she basically called it, said yes, this is exactly their plan, this is their best move on the table for them, because the only other option is to blow up the party and move to the left and piss off our base. And then we’ll have to move radically to the left to become a centrist party again. And they don’t want that because their base does not want that. And this is where the danger of the authoritarianism lies because that is in fact one of their goals. They put their goals ahead of the belief in democracy. And that’s incredibly dangerous because, as other people point out, what their base wants is radical. It is against human rights. They want to go back to the 40s and 50s. And if you know anything about the progress of history, 40s and 50s weren’t so good for brown people, women, gays.
Sam Goldman 15:02
One of the trends that we’ve heard over and over again, throughout the Trump/Pence regime’s time in power was that they were done. We were told when the Mueller report came out, he’s done. We were told when he was being impeached, the first time that he was done. We were told that he would be done in the midterms, we were told he would be done on the second impeachment. We were told Trumpism’s done when the election came, we were told Trumpism was done when he was out, and I’ve seen the hashtag GOPRIP, you know, like, as if this is coming to an end, instead of them becoming stronger, more hardened, more resilient, that they have not become more fascist. And I’m wondering, where does this come from this insistence, despite all evidence that Trumpism is over?
Brynn Tannehill 15:57
So it comes from a couple places. One is that people like to project linearly, right, they see things getting a little bit better, so they want to project things will keep getting better. The other thing is that Trump has been banned from most social media sources, so he’s less visible, and that creates the assumption that he has less influence, that he’s going away, he’s less visible. People don’t get to see the continual stream of crazy, angry, vindictive out there to remind them of just how nuts the Trump administration was, and remind us just how bad a second round would be. So, but there’s this assumption that because things are getting a little bit better, they’re gonna keep getting better. And because Trump is off of social media, out of sight, out of mind. And that’s not the case. He is still the kingmaker, he still has the ability, it appears, to have Republicans primaried. We still see a steady flow of Republicans going to Mar-a-Lago to make sure that they’re still they’re still tight with him, that they’re so good with him. It’s going to refresh the stiffel on the ring, so to speak. He’s not going away. The only two scenarios I really foresee where he drops out of the picture significantly is if he’s incapacitated or incarcerated.
Sam Goldman 17:15
One of the things that you wrote in your book that I found provocative. I mean, one of the many things, was about how devoted Trump’s base is. You wrote: “Thus, literally, nothing can dissuade Trump’s base from full-throated support of him. Not screaming children in cages, not the lies that led to the carnage that Bob Woodward recorded, not his disdain for American troops, not his observation that COVID-19 might be a good thing because he wouldn’t have to shake hands with so many ‘disgusting people’ at rallies. Not even hundreds of thousands of Americans dying to his lies, incompetence and desire to put the stock market and reelection first”. And I’m hoping that you can share, where do you think this allegiance comes from?
Brynn Tannehill 17:57
So it’s a combination of things. One of the chapters in the book discusses the emergence of the right wing media ecosystem that started out with Rush Limbaugh and evolved into Fox News and Hannity, and Carlson, Breitbart, OANN and Newsmax. And one of the things that we see is that conservatives and Republicans tend to get their information from a much narrower spectrum of news, and to use an aphorism from the Bush administration: those outlets tend to be a lot less “truthy”. So this leads to a base that is out of touch, right? They don’t want to believe. There’s confirmation bias, that they are primed to instinctually and emotionally reject any information that contradicts their pre-existing beliefs. As we all are, but they’re much less exposed to a constant stream of things that might change their minds. They’re also exposed to intense social pressure not to change their minds. A kind of tribal epistemology, is a term I use, where there’s things that your tribe is allowed to know, and is supposed to know, and how they’re supposed to know it. And if you know something, based off the things outside the right wing media ecosystem, social media system, then that’s forbidden knowledge; that’s heresy. So we can see that with Liz Cheney is that she got exiled for essentially saying the emperor has no clothes. And this is part of the bigger picture of why the Republican base just cannot hear anything bad about Trump. And there’s even kind of this meme within right wing ecosystem, you know, “orange man bad.” Which is any criticism of Trump is simply a form of liberal derangement. The other thing that the book points out, is that Trump connects with them in a way that your Cruzs and Hawleys and others don’t. Cruz and Hawley and Rubio are effectively particularly nasty lawyers with lip from Harvard and Yale. And they can try and pander their way to the volksgeist, spirit of the people, but they really can’t do it because that’s not them. After President Obama, the base didn’t want to be hearing from another Harvard-educated lawyer as much as most Republicans tried to do that. They wanted a president, they wanted a leader that sounded like the people they trusted the most, they believed in the most, who said the things that they want to hear the most, like Hannity and Limbaugh, and Carlson and Beck. And if you’ve ever listened to their programs, as time went by, they got more and more unhinged, and more and more reality-challenged, more and more conspiratorial. Most those guys are college dropouts; particularly Limbaugh and Hannity. So when Trump was talking and echoing their kinds of talking points, he was speaking to the white evangelical Christian nationalist, no college degree male base of the Republican Party using words and phrases and images and concepts that they like and wanted. And he was willing to say it in a much more blunt and straightforward way than Cruz was. Whereas other Republicans want to tap dance around the racism. “They’re murderers, rapists, drug mules, and some of them I assume, are good people”, when speaking about Mexicans, and Mexican Americans. We all assumed in 2015 and 2016 that when he said these things he was done. But the truth of the matter is, is no, he was saying things that confirm the biases of the Republican base. And he points out in the book that when you hear things that confirm your own world-views, that confirm your own thinking, you get a little hit of endorphins, and that’s kind of like a drug hit, right? So when Trump was doing these rallies, saying all these just awful, mind-boggling things that we thought would end the campaign. No, he was tossing Bolivian marching powder to the crowd. And it wasn’t the first one is free, it was, no, keep coming back to me and it’s gonna be free forever.
Sam Goldman 21:55
And that that danger I think, continues. And others have kind of, even though you don’t hear from Trump on social media, others, have continued to do that that same work of taking a hint from him and saying the quiet part out loud. In your book, you say that “Trump may be gone from the White House, but every other thing that made him possible remains, and this creates an incredibly dangerous environment in the long run.” And I was wondering if you could just speak briefly about what are those conditions? And how do those conditions intersect, if they do with the rise of fascism globally?
Brynn Tannehill 22:31
The things that the book zooms in on that made Trump possible include things like racism, things like a right wing media ecosystem, that’s a closed loop, right? We’re talking about distrust of experts, subject matter, expertise, academia, media, that’s another huge one. Talks about rising wealth inequality. During the COVID pandemic, American billionaires are coming out what close to $2 trillion in the positive and everybody else $2 trillion in the negative, until the Biden stimulus. We’re looking at a base that is, you know, out of touch with reality and incredibly devoted, has issues with racism and social dominance orientation, and an affinity for authoritarianism. We have a Republican Party that is still built around all power flowing from a single powerful individual, from which all political power flows. And that’s one of the characteristics of fascism, that’s discussed in chapter nine. All the things that were true and all the characteristics that made Trump and the GOP fascist are still true. They’re still waiting to be there. There’s nothing that says that he can’t come back and run again and win next time, particularly with voter suppression laws. Particularly if Biden steps aside and you get a more polarizing candidate like Kamala Harris. You still have a GOP that has absolutely no particular love or desire or need to keep democracy in place, when in fact, they generally regard democracy as a hindrance to their ultimate goals. So you have all of these factors that drive America away from democracy. Oh, and then on top of that, we can’t get any legislation passed that would prevent them from coming back or make it more difficult for them coming back and doing worse next time. The courts have been filled by Trump appointees. So we’re in a really, really dangerous place because the Trump base is still devoted. They’re still out of touch. They’re still angry. They still want vengeance. They still have beliefs that racism isn’t real, and that if we didn’t talk about race, then it wouldn’t matter, and racism would go away. We still have police forces around the US that are more or less unbound by law. They they essentially have carte blanche to get away with murder. The Derek Chauvin case is an exception to the rule. Right, so all these factors suggest that Trump is going to run again or someone very much like him. He’s gonna have a built-in base, he’s gonna have a built-in media system. He’s going to have all kinds of advantages that have been built into the system, including the Electoral College. And that they’re not going to make some of the same mistakes that they did the first time around with a botched insurrection – that’s not going to be the route. And that’s not traditionally how democracies fail since the end of the Cold War. When democracies fail, since the end of the Cold War, it’s usually because one party gets elected legitimately or semi-legitimately, and then once they are in power, then they change the rules so that the opposition party can never win again, and that’s it.
Sam Goldman 25:38
That’s one of the helpful reminders in your book, dispelling the notion that this happens overnight. That it’s slow, it’s insidious, it happens in ways in which people don’t pay attention to always. And then it’s gone. Let me share a quote from your book that kind of sets it up. You wrote: “If the election had been closer, we might not have been so lucky. This is why it might appear the institution’s saved us. But that is only true in the short run. After the next four years, in the long run, they may prove to be our doom.” And so I’m wondering, what difference would it have made if the media, the so called opposition party, the masses, the people themselves identified Trumpism as a fascist movement, and acted outside the normal channels of redress? Outside of reliance on institution? And what lessons did we learn or should we have learned that we should apply going forward?
Brynn Tannehill 26:35
If the GOP comes to power, because they need to understand that once they come to power again, they’re never going to let go. Just as after the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler made a resolution to win via more conventional means and then never let power go. Just as Viktor Orban got voted out of office in 2006, he came back understanding how the game worked a little bit better in 2010, and immediately changed all the rules such that he could never be voted out. We’re seeing the same thing with the Law and Justice Party in Poland. We’re seeing we’re seeing the same thing with Erdogan in Turkey. We’re seeing the same thing with Modi in India. Recognizing that we cannot allow the GOP to have the reins of government ever again. Because we do have the numbers, we do have policy on our side. What I worry about most is a sense of urgency among Democrats and independents. If there isn’t that sense of urgency, if we don’t understand what the opposition is, what they intend to do and what they’re going to do with that power once they seize it, and how they’re never going to let it go. That is absolutely their intention. We can’t let that happen. Yes, it should terrify you, but that fear should motivate you to volunteer, to pressure your politicians to ensure that these laws are passed. Pressure corporations to oppose these kinds of things. These kinds of voter suppression laws we’re seeing across like 33 states now and 350 bills. We need that sense of urgency. We need people to wake up. We need people to understand what is at stake and what the GOP is, represents, and where they will take us if they are allowed to come to power again. And they’re going to attempt the same thing again, we can see them setting up for it, we can see them replacing anybody who might offer opposition. And we need to make sure that they aren’t in a good position to attempt to overturn an election again.
Sam Goldman 28:21
That was Brynn Tannehill. You can find a link to her book in the show notes and follow her on Twitter @BrynnTannehill. Next, we’re sharing part of a recent discussion I had along with Coco Das of RefuseFascism.org with two Refuse Fascism organizers as part of summing up the experience of the last four years, while recognizing that the need to prevent a fascist regime from coming to power may reassert itself again. This is all part of charting a course forward together. I have to know that Mark C., one of the organizers, is quite modest. Having been with them in the streets of Philly, I can say that they played a big role in Philly. Powerfully speaking out, singing, drumming, leading and helping to organize protests, generating hard hitting chants and traveling to DC to counter-protest Trump’s howling mob. Let’s have a listen.
Coco Das 29:23
I thought it would be good if we could start by you introducing yourselves and talking a little bit about how you got involved with Refuse Fascism. What drew you what kinds of things did you do with Refuse Fascism chapters near you?
Mark C. 29:37
My name is Mark. I use they/them pronouns. I moved to the Philadelphia region a few years ago for school and I got involved with Refuse Fascism. The first thing that sort of caught my attention was I saw something on Twitter about a protest happening this past September. So I haven’t been involved that long, but I’ve gone to multiple events and made signs and made a lot of noise. My impetus for getting involved was feeling like I needed to do more in regard to the 2020 election. In 2016 I lived in the Bay Area. I was also in school then, and in the bubble that I was in, we really kind of were blindsided by Trump winning the election. With everything that happened in the time since then, it really kind of felt incumbent upon me to make sure that my actions toward the election were as amplified as possible. So I reached out to one of the Indivisible groups and I was doing postcards. And I think that those things are effective. But I also think that those groups are also not as willing to make the boldest statements. They’re not as open to hearing other ideas. And I think in the time that we’re in, more ideas from various angles and approaches are much better than a single unified idea that a consensus is behind. Because ultimately, those things are really focused on a center that will somehow carry an electorate. And that means that other ideas are not necessarily given as much time or attention. So that’s something that I felt really positive about my involvement with Refuse Fascism is that I’ve been able to express points of view that I don’t necessarily think that other more normcore groups are interested in being involved in
Coco Das 31:35
Thank you, Mark. Jamillah?
I can’t remember the exact year. I feel like it was within the first year of Trump being elected that I really joined with Refuse Fascism, because I could see that’s what he was representing, especially with the rallies and the things that he was saying. And so organizing in the South has been a very interesting experience. But when you’re able to see it, and then finding the group like Refuse Fascism, it’s been helpful to at least process what has been going on with Trump in office,
Coco Das 32:09
I think it’d be good also to say that Jamillah and I were in Austin together. It was November 4 2017.
Sam Goldman 32:17
You were there, Jamillah?
Coco Das 32:18
Jamillah made a speech from the stage on education. It was a great event. Alex Jones and Infowars had put out a call to fascists all over the state to come and shut us down. We had about 150 – 200 fascists across the street from City Hall drowning us out and following us down the streets in the march. But you know, we didn’t back down, and we made our statement that we refuse to accept a fascist America. And Jamillah has also been very active, speaking, and has been on the podcast before as well. What would it have meant if Trump had won the election? Or if he had succeeded somehow, in overturning the election and remaining in power? What would that have meant to you and to humanity as a whole? And what do you think has changed with the regime no longer in power? So it’s kind of a two part question.
I guess what it what it would mean to me is that my life would be radically different. Because if he were still in office, then everyone would need to do everything to stop the direction that they would take society. Especially if you’re looking at what they’re doing now, with them having lost and what they’re doing. So, and then for humanity, it would just, I think, really push people even more down and be really difficult for people to find motivation or hope to even fight for better.
Mark C. 33:44
I think it’s really perilous to consider this emergency being over. Not that there’s anything wrong with taking a sense of relief from not having Trump in power. But the thing is, he’s still around and still doing things and still having a huge influence over how a big chunk of the Republican Party are choosing to behave, and justifying that behavior through the pretexs that Trump has set up. So I don’t think that the emergency is over. I mean, in an electoral sense, yes, but even that is still sort of like debatable, because right now, the state of Arizona is doing some kind of rogue recount to somehow say that Trump really won the state. And what that proves, I don’t know. But it could easily be something that gets snowballed into this multi-state rogue effort to try to recount the election again, in some extra-legal way. And I just feel like in other years, I would have never considered a thought like that as a rational thought. And right now, it is, because there’s what they’re doing and they’re doing it in plain sight. They’re not making it so obtuse by being upfront about it. Because you know, if you were gonna say those things like, oh, there’s some sort of rogue recount happening, it would be something that happens covertly. And instead, this is being covered. I mean, as little as it is being covered, it is being covered. So I think that if Trump had succeeded in somehow winning the election, it would have been unfathomable in a lot of ways. For me personally, I mean, I don’t know, it’s hard to project into the future that didn’t happen. But I know it wouldn’t be good. And so yes, I’m happy that we are in this situation. But this situation is also not good for lots of people. And so if you’ll need to continue this work.
Sam Goldman 35:45
So thank you both for sharing your thoughts on that. Let’s shift a little bit to Refuse Fascism. Why do you feel that it mattered for Refuse Fascism to call for driving out the Trump/Pence regime because it was fascist with the potential to consolidate fascism in this country with potential catastrophic consequences for humanity? There were other forces who said Trump should go, he’s unfit. Why specifically did it matter that a) we called for the removal and, b) that we called for it because of the fascist character? Or didn’t it matter? You can feel free to disagree as well.
Mark C. 36:18
I think it mattered. The emphasis on fascism was important. And I think that right now, we see more mainstream news outlets, not necessarily broadcasting that term, but not so much shying away from that term. And I think that that’s an important influence that happened because of the actions of Refuse Fascism. The call to drive out the Trump/Pence regime for the sake of humanity was also important. Because even though it didn’t draw out people in millions, it’s a galvanizing call. It was the right call. And I think that people in general are very much wedded to the idea that the way power is given or taken away is through an election. But that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. And I think that making that call draws attention to that very real prospect that not all power is won or lost electorally.
I think it was important that the call of Refuse Fascism was out there, and that it was actually calling the program out as fascist. That was important. But it was challenging at the same time, because of a lack of understanding or appreciation of fascism. Because it was very good that Refuse Fascism was out there calling out Trump and the regime and the program for what it was because there were people who could see it, and there were people who were calling it out. And of course, there’s still more work to be done with it.
Sam Goldman 37:51 t-siz
I think that Jamillah, your point about it being challenging is really worth emphasizing. People’s understanding of what fascism is, going into 2016 was incredibly limited. People in this country continued to think throughout Trump’s term that fascism couldn’t happen here, even as the scaffolding was going up all around them of a society that was stripping away dissent and civil liberties. I think that there is a legacy of people not wanting to be challenged to both look at what is happening, and where that comes from, and what gave rise to it. So I think that that’s really important. People didn’t want to believe that it was happening. And then they didn’t want to believe that there was anything that they had to do about it. Those are just some of my thoughts.
Coco Das 38:36
Along those lines, Refuse Fascism was also challenging people to step outside of the normal channels. In addition to these electoral channels, the idea of sustained mass nonviolent protests, while people wanted to wait for the Mueller report. There were all kinds of examples like that. But why do you think that element of the call was important?
Mark C. 38:58
What I think about when I think about being out in the streets, and the necessity for that, I think about the need to tell truth, and need to expand people’s minds. I think about the avant garde in the art world that people tend to reject or not understand or don’t want to engage with art of the present moment. I’m not talking about all art but I mean art with a capital ‘A’. That the work is too fresh, too responsive to what is happening at the moment to, like, allow for most people to be able to engage with it in a productive way. And they feel like that is a mirror for what happens when you try to get people to engage with the truth that there’s fascists in the world. There’s a lot of them and they’ve kind of been there for a while. And that is something that people don’t necessarily want to hear, and they don’t want to engage with it. Because it’s scary, because it’s painful, because it’s weird, because it’s hard to wrap your mind around in the same way that people tend to think about contemporary art as something that they can’t wrap their mind around, and so they don’t want to deal with it. As someone who works in art, I feel like that mindset is not the way to go about being in the world. I want to try to help people engage with things that challenge them. And you know, art is one of those things, but can fit in to other categories as well, as I see here with fascists and fascism, as being something that needs to be not engaged with in a way to accept it or whatever. But I mean, engaged with in a way that allows you to understand what is actually happening and not so head-in-the-sand, avoiding the world.
Sam Goldman 40:53
Thanks for that. I mean, one thing that Coco’s question made me think about…if we think back to let’s say, August, September, it was clear to anyone who was paying an ounce of attention that this motherfucker wasn’t going to go without a serious struggle, and was on a venge-filled tour of hate and vitriol. Reifying, the worst of the worst of white supremacy of this country and inflicting deadly violence amongst the people who were rising up for racial justice. Many other forces were telling people that if Trump stole the election, then they should go into the streets. And Refuse Fascism, in contrast, was calling for something very different. If I recall this correctly, was saying Trump’s already stealing the election, already delegitimizing it before it even happened, and that people needed to get in the streets now. If you could speak to why when elections were only a couple of months away, why you were in the streets, and why you did call and others join you.
Mark C. 42:02
I felt like others needed to be out in the streets. And I tried to call people out to join me, because there’s a sense of safety and numbers, first of all, but I think with everything that was happening with Trump, I think it just amplified how important that was. But I don’t know what it is that can get through to people. I don’t think that it’s a general thing. I think that it has to be like a specific thing for each person that something resonates with them. I know that for me when I felt like okay, you know, it’s election year, things are heating up, things are getting close. When the Democrats chose Biden, I was like, why? But this was the choice. I kind of felt like, well, I don’t really like Joe Biden or what he represents, but the alternative is absolutely not acceptable. So that was the impetus for me.
I think it just really felt like if he was not resoundingly defeated, then America as we knew it would begin to change radically. It’s not like the America as we knew it was great. But with Trump and Pence and what they believe and what they say that was going to be detrimental for the majority, I think of people. He was attacking the post office, and he was attacking all these things that this country’s never seen in any kind of election. So that was already unusual and should have been addressed. It was like all of those factors that challenged me to go out when I could and then, you know, encourage other people to come out as well. Because this was different, because this was a real threat to what we know, I suppose it just felt like you have to come out whenever these things happen. All the people who say if I was back in the XYZ time, then I would do X, well, then this is the time this is when you should do things.
Coco Das 43:53
So I think although we did not mobilize the millions of people that needed to come out to demand the removal of the Trump/Pence regime because they were fascists, I think it’s important to remember and to mention that there were mass protests after the horrific killing of George Floyd, and these were the biggest protests the country had ever seen. And even though that wasn’t directed at Trump and the regime, it did concentrate and bring out sharply the white supremacy of the regime. And it did present, in my opinion, I’m speaking for myself, the biggest crisis, in addition to COVID, but an actual crisis for the regime; in the way that they handled it and the way that their white supremacy was implicated. I often think about and write about how Trump’s loss in the election was in no way guaranteed. But there were these certain accidents and circumstances that happened which was COVID. If not for COVID, could he have won? I think so. If not for these massive protests that realigned huge sections of the population, you know, politicized, you know, millions of youth and brought them into this debate over the role of white supremacy in our country, would Trump have sailed to an easy victory? We should keep imagining what would have been possible if at any point in those four years, the mass mobilization that we were calling for, against threatening North Korea with nuclear weapons, or that putting kids in concentration camps, torturing them, separating immigrant kids from their parents. What might have been broken open, if we had succeeded in the way that those protests over George Floyd’s murder did break something open?
But I’m gonna move us on to our last question. You’ve touched on this a little bit. One of the things about Refuse Fascism is that we did build a very large broad network of people who refuse to accept a fascist America. If you think about the Pledge which thousands of people signed, many of them very prominent people like Cornel West and Rosanna Arquette, and to people on the streets, people who really were sickened by the thought of Trump and Pence remaining in power and consolidating their program. I just wanted to hear from you on how do you see this continuing danger? What do we still face regarding the danger of fascism in America? And if you have any ideas on how we can build on the networks that we have built to compel many more people to confront this ongoing danger?
Sam Goldman 46:33
Let’s uncouple it. First, just speak to how do you guys see the continuing danger? You’ve kind of alluded to it in previous remarks. But Trump is out of the White House, the situation is different. You can’t say that nothing has changed. What is the danger that you still see? How do you see that?
Mark C. 46:51
Things are still happening. I mean, one good example are all of the anti-trans bills in state houses that are making their way. Some of them are getting voted on. Some governors are not standing in the way of it. That’s not just something that will only affect the population in this country of trans people and trans kids. These things will have recurring and rippling effects for all kinds of people. And no one’s really talking about that part. You know, the fact that Biden doesn’t necessarily get it – I’m being generous. It’s this kind of period of a pausing of the overt radical destruction of institutions that have the potential to do good things for people. So there’s pause on that, because Trump is not in power, but it doesn’t mean that people are safe. And I feel the majority of people want and need to move on from the Trump terror and him being out of office represents that in a certain way. But I would argue that that’s not true at all, that there are lots of ways, insidious ways that are not being covered by news sources that represent an ongoing threat to you know, not just people in this country, but all over the world. How do you get people then to focus on those issues that are so you know, myriad and dispersed, but at the same time, are hyper-focused? Like my anti- trans bill example. People think, “Oh, well, it doesn’t affect me. Why do I need to care about this?”
I think the events of January 6 at the Capitol reminded me that just how deeply-rooted white supremacy is in American society, and how far people who benefit from white supremacy are willing to go to uphold it, that they would even tear down their own pillars and systems and rituals, if you will, with their elections and everything. And how they just were able to leave all of that stuff, all of the police murder, all of that, is just showing me that, obviously, there’s far more to be done. And it does represent this coming together with the birtherism, with white supremacy, with this American fascism and how he’s willing to be the the figurehead, if you will, of that movement. How this is very different from what people in past generations have been through, really, in this country. And so how there’s a need to look at it as that, as something that has never really happened before with this makeup that we have now. And doing what needs to be done to address the reality of it and not just hope and wait or that someone else is going to do it. It’s going to take people taking responsibility and taking action in their own lives in their own society to really stop that direction because it’s continuing.
Sam Goldman 49:53
Thanks for listening to Refuse Fascism. If you want to help the show, it’s simple. You can rate and review us on Apple podcasts or your listening platform of choice. And of course subscribe so you never miss an episode. We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts on the questions posed by Coco and myself in discussion with the Refuse Fascism activists and you might even hear yourself on next week’s episode. Leave us a voicemail at 917-426-7582. You can also share your comments, ideas, questions or lend a skill by tweeting me @SamBGoldman or emailing [email protected] A special thanks to all who have been donating at RefuseFascism.org. I hope you’ll support the show today. Venmo @Refuse-Fascism or CashApp $RefuseFascism. And let us know what’s up hearing this podcast. I’ll be back next Sunday with an interview with sociologist Walden Bello on the global rise of fascism. Until next time, in the name of humanity, he refused to accept a fascist America.