“If you’re just now getting on the boat of recognizing that Trump is an autocrat, a fascist, and a menace to democracy, welcome aboard. But please don’t take the most comfortable seats and feel entitled to navigate. Some people have been aboard awhile and their feet are tired.” —Anand Giridharadas
2020. It’s over. Finally. I think most writers feel a pull of obligation to write something halfway inspiring about the possibilities of 2021 (a covid vaccine! A new president! Minority Leader Mitch McConnell!). But, seeing as we couldn’t even get one week in without Nazis doing an insurrection on our nation’s Capitol, I suppose we can dispense with the usual salutations and formalities.
If this week’s events surprised you in any way, you have not been paying attention or you have been listening to the wrong experts. To elaborate, wrong experts = rich mostly white pundits, media elites, “legal analysts”, and most of the New York Times op-ed section. All of what happened on January 6th, 2021 was entirely predictable, in no small part because they literally told us they were going to do it. It’s also completely consistent with the usual process of how democracies fall. Trump made many different attempts to steal the election first; when those attempts faltered, he tried tampering with the interregnum. That also failed, which, according to the dictator’s playbook, means violence was inevitable. If soft coups fail, they typically turn to hard coups. This is where we are in the process. Some sort of Reichstag fire and martial law could well be next.
The people breaking into our Capitol were domestic terrorists, not protesters. The police were complicit, not unprepared. This was coordinated and organized, and possibly a dry run for something much worse. Just because it *could* have been worse, or because some plans *may* have been thwarted doesn’t mean “our institutions held” or “democracy won” or whatever inane ostrich shit the Yglesii of the world are spewing. We’re in a very dangerous period. President-elect Biden’s win was – eventually! – certified by Congress, which is good, but we still have two weeks until inauguration. (And is it just me, or is anyone else flummoxed and irritated he’s even having an inauguration? There’s a pandemic raging and all kinds of crises awaiting, not to mention the heightened threat of violence. Just have a simple, somber swearing in from a safe, undisclosed location, livestream and televise it, and then immediately get to work. No fanfare, no accidental superspreader event, no opportunity for another violent MAGA riot. Show Americans they can trust their government again with your seriousness. Okay, rant over.)
Next time – and yes, there will be a next time – I implore everyone to, please, listen to the alarmists. Who are the alarmists, exactly? We are, including but not limited to: exvangelicals aka people who escaped or left evangelical Christianity and the Religious Right; scholars of fascism, authoritarianism, and how democracies die; survivors or refugees of other authoritarian countries; BIPOC progressive activists; investigative journalists who haven’t shied away from writing about Trump’s sordid criminal connections; and, general dissidents.
We warned Trump would try to steal the election, and he did. We warned it was a coup, an attempt to overthrow an election, and that’s exactly what it is. We warned that you cannot simply vote out a fascist, and we are being proved correct. We warned that our Democratic leadership, including Joe Biden, wasn’t up to the task of mounting a proper opposition – and as if on cue, Speaker Pelosi adjourned Congress for two weeks, literally the day after the president incited a violent attack on the Capitol.
And now we are warning that if these domestic terrorists and criminals, including Trump himself plus his inner circle, aren’t held accountable for their crimes and human rights atrocities, then this will happen again – probably with the exact same vile cast of characters. If our opposition party teaches fascists that there are no consequences, that is precisely what lesson they will learn. The danger of setting that precedent cannot be overstated. These fascist terrorists aren’t idiots; the Chewbacca bikini guy isn’t in charge of the show. No, they are velociraptors testing the fences for weaknesses. Even if this current coup fails, they are taking notes, and you can be assured they won’t make the same mistakes a second time. As any political scientist can tell you, failed coups are often followed by successful coups.
Biden has choices here. And if he chooses to embolden domestic terrorists and the powerful people committed to overthrowing liberal democracy in the name of “unity” and “bipartisanship” and “moving on,” then we’re good and fucked. We cannot heal or “build back” without justice and accountability. I don’t want to hear the word unity ever again. If you are only looking forward and never backward, then your enemy has plenty of space and opportunity to sneak up behind you with a more sophisticated attack.
Following is a list (however incomplete, and in reverse alphabetical order) of superb sources for learning more about authoritarianism, white supremacy, the Trump regime, the underbelly of the Religious Right, and how it can happen here. Nobody on this list is a flawless human, and everyone makes occasional mistakes, myself included. But they are, as the saying goes, good eggs. Follow them on Twitter, Google to find their articles, read their books:
Vicky Ward Malcolm Nance Umair Haque
Craig Unger Elie Mystal Anand Giridharadas
Jennifer Taub Jane Mayer Imani Gandy
Chrissy Stroop Olga Lautman David Enrich
Katherine Stewart Sarah Kendzior Mona Eltahawey
Jason Stanley Ibram X. Kendi Jennifer Cohn
Timothy Snyder Garry Kasparov Brian Beutler
Jared Yates Sexton David Cay Johnston Ruth Ben-Ghiat
Sarah Posner Adam Jentleson Bree Newsome Bass
Ijeoma Oluo Luke Harding Anne Applebaum
Kale and Broccoli Yogurt Caesar with Torn Croutons
- Half a baguette, Sperlonga, Italian bread loaf, or any other crusty bread (although fwiw I don’t like sourdough for this, ymmv)
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
YOGURT CAESAR DRESSING:
- ½ cup + 1 heaping tbs Greek yogurt
- 2-3 tbs lemon juice
- 2 tbs grated parmesan
- 1 tbs Dijon mustard
- 1 generous tbs anchovy paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 bunch of lacinato kale, ribs stripped and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 small head of broccoli
- Extra grated parmesan
- Extra fresh cracked black pepper (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 400 F. Tear the bread into bite-size, uneven pieces, about the size of, well, croutons. Transfer them to a baking sheet, then drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then spread out in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your croutons. I prefer only 10 minutes to give the centers a little chew. Let cool.
YOGURT CAESAR DRESSING:
- Whisk all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning and add more of whatever you think it needs to achieve your exact desired flavor and texture. Caesar salad dressing is somewhat subjective. I like mine heavy on the anchovy and just slightly runny, so I err on the higher side of anchovy paste and lemon juice.
- Add the kale to a large mixing bowl. Massage it with your hands for about a minute. Let it hang out while you chop the broccoli into bite-size pieces, then add the broccoli to the bowl. I only use the florets - personal preference - but if you like the stems, I don’t see why you can’t use them here.
- Pour in about two-thirds of the dressing and toss well to combine. Now add the croutons, as many as you prefer (you’ll likely have made too many, this isn’t a problem), the remaining dressing, and a small handful of extra grated parmesan. Toss again to thoroughly combine. If you lightly smash a few croutons in the process, consider it a feature not a bug. Serve immediately, with a few grinds of black pepper and another sprinkle of grated parmesan, if you like.