On this Memorial Day – to honor those who have sacrificed all to defend our American republic – we are compelled to confront the fact that today, too, all that they died to protect is threatened in an entirely different kind of a battle. This time, the enemy of “liberty and justice for all” is a home-grown force, which has emerged over the course of the past generation, and now is the dominant power in the American government.
To win that battle, we must understand well the nature of WHAT WE”RE UP AGAINST, and must craft our strategy on the basis of that understanding. Here is some of what I believe that entails.
There are three levels to the battle in which we, who want to restore America’s political health, are engaged. The best strategy for winning that battle will be one that deals with all three levels together. It should be designed to do maximal damage to our real enemy: the destructive force that has taken over the right, and has been damaging the nation with increasing intensity for the past generation.
- The first and clearly most urgent level is Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump should be understood an expression of that destructive force— its most blatant and repugnant expression, and – having been elevated to the most powerful position in America – the most immediately dangerous. His presidency – which is waging an assault on our constitutional order --needs to be brought down.
- The second level is the overall right-wing structure that has foisted this presidency upon the nation. The Republican Party – as the political army of this force – is especially central here. (But it also includes the right-wing media, and various powerful and amoral players in the wider society like the Koch brothers and like the leadership of Liberty University.) Everything possible should be done to expose the Republican Party for the destructive role it has played for years, to persuade people to withdraw their support. The dismantling of the Republican Party in its present form and spirit is necessary to enable us to begin to repair the damage that has been done to the norms and structures of our political system.
- The third level consists of the tens of millions of Americans who over the years have been led into a state of consciousness in which they can regard it as virtuous to support the scandalous behavior of these Republicans, and can imagine that a lying bully like Trump should be entrusted with the powers of the presidency. Skillful propaganda has conjured up in their minds a false picture of the world, and has inflamed the worst of their passions and resentments. A healthy America will not be possible unless a way can be found to bring these people back to reality, and to the better angels of their nature.
These three elements should be understood as parts of the same thing. In the dense network of cause and effect, these three different manifestations of the same destructive force have been operating together to expand the power of that force to impose its pattern of brokenness on everything it touches.
It created a Republican Party that, when in power, could lie us into war and use our national trauma to divide us against each other rather than cultivate national unity. And then, when out of power, this Party could adopt an unprecedented and unpatriotic program of across-the-board obstructionism and, ultimately, could steal a Supreme Court seat. Now – in the face of a president more hostile to our constitutional system of checks and balances and to the rule of law than any in our history – that Party works to protect their president rather than the Constitution they took an oath to defend.
Without the right-wing’s powerful system of deceptive communication – through the GOP and the likes of Fox News – no one like Donald Trump could ever have won the presidency. The Republican electorates of the Eisenhower years and the Reagan years could never have imagined for a moment that a liar and a bully, who takes pleasure in violating norms, should be president. That became possible only after the past generation, since the rise of Limbaugh and Gingrich, and the rise of a Republican Party concerned only about power, during which enough people were trained to regard lying bullies who prefer conflict to cooperation, and who never make anything more whole, as people worth following.
The GOP and the right-wing media created the degraded and twisted consciousness in the Republican base that Trump came in and hijacked and rode to power.
All these interconnections show that there is one coherent thing we are fighting, a force that operates in a multi-dimensional way and is consistent in working, wherever it can have an impact, to break up whatever is good.
Therefore, as we design a strategy to bring down Trump (which is the most urgent task), we go about it with recognition that Trump is but the most urgent part of a wider war, and we should
- fight Trump in a way that will drain power from the Republican Party, and compel it to choose between becoming a constructive player in the political process or being consigned to oblivion.
- do it in a way that will be most effective in educating the American public, helping them see what a fundamentally un-American president Trump is, and un-American Party the Republican Party has been, so they will cease to mistake the evil for the good, and will switch their political support to people who actually want to make America better.
By yoking together the strategies for dealing with all three of these levels, we can maximize the impact of our efforts against the real enemy—namely, this destructive force that has taken over the right, that lusts for power for its own sake, and that invariably uses that power to make things more broken.
It is a coordinated, multi-dimensional strategy that will best enable us to take back the power that this destructive force has accumulated over the past generation, and to guide our nation back onto the path of basic decency and goodwill.
In other words, to restore those values – political, moral, spiritual – that every Memorial Day we Americans say our heroes died to defend.