Democracy For Everyone-- And That Includes The Trumpists

"Tourists" by Nancy Ohanian

The military can't kick anyone out just for being an extreme right-wing lunatic. But... they can-- and are-- kicking people out for refusing to be vaccinated. Last night, Politico reported that the Marine Corps has kicked out 206 troops for refusing to be vaccinated. "Overall," wrote Lee Hudson, "95 percent of all active-duty Marines have received at least the first dose, while 86 percent of the Reserve force has received the first shot. The service received 3,247 requests for religious accommodation, with 3,115 of those having been processed and zero requests approved citing readiness concerns. The Marine Corps has 1,007 administrative or medical exemptions. Overall, 95 percent of airmen and guardians are vaccinated, while the Army says 98 percent of its active-duty force has at least one shot, and the Navy says 99 percent of sailors have received the first dose. The Air Force has separated 27 airmen, while the Army and Navy are waiting until January to discharge soldiers and sailors for refusing the vaccine. The Air Force and Space Force received more than 10,000 religious accommodation requests for the Covid-19 vaccine, and 2,100 were disapproved."

None of the discharges were "dishonorable." And there is no way to know for sure if these men and women are Trumpist storm troopers embedded in the armed forces. Not for sure. But... some of them probably were. As NPR reported this morning, "three retired generals-- Paul Eaton, Antonio Taguba and Steven Anderson-- have warned that the military could instigate another insurrection. The 3 wrote that "We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time."

This is as good a time as any of read Robert Reich's new essay, The real meaning of January 6, a riot incited by Trump as part of a coup attempt. Reich concludes his essay by noting that "Trump and his co-conspirators must be held accountable, of course. Hopefully, the Select Committee’s report will be used by the Justice Department in criminal prosecutions of Trump and his accomplices. But this in itself will not solve the underlying problem. A belligerent and narcissistic authoritarian has gained a powerful hold over a large portion of America. As many as 60 percent of Republican voters continue to believe his lies. Many remain intensely loyal. The Republican party is close to becoming a cult whose central animating idea is that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Trump has had help, of course. Fox News hosts and Facebook groups have promoted and amplified his ravings for their own purposes. Republicans in Congress and in the states have played along. But even with this help, Trump’s attempted coup could not have gotten this far without something more basic: A substantial portion of the American population feels an anger and despair that has made them susceptible to Trump’s swagger and lies."

It is too simplistic to attribute this solely to racism or xenophobia. America has harbored white supremacist and anti-immigrant sentiments since its founding. The despair Trump has channeled is more closely connected to a profound loss of identity, dignity and purpose, especially among Americans who have been left behind-- without college degrees, without good jobs, in places that have been economically abandoned and disdained by much of the rest of the country.
The wages of these Americans have not risen in forty years, adjusted for inflation, even though the economy is now three times larger than it was four decades ago. The norm of upward mobility has been shattered for these Americans. Through their eyes, the entire American system is now rigged against them.
This part of America yearns for a strongman to deliver it from despair. Trump has filled that void. To be sure, he’s filled it with bombast, lies, paranoia, and neofascism. But he has filled it nonetheless.
The challenge ahead is to fill it with a democracy and economy that work for everyone. Unless we understand and respond to this fundamental truth, we will miss the true meaning of January 6.