Welcome to 2024, the Year We Stop Trump’s Rolling Insurrection

Welcome to 2024, the Year We Stop Trump’s Rolling Insurrection

Welcome to 2024, the Year We Stop Trump’s Rolling Insurrection

January 6, 2021, never ended. We can halt it this year. If we don’t, we may never.

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Publicly and privately, progressives I love spent the holidays confiding that they’ve never been so anxious about a coming year, especially a presidential election year. In The New Republic, editor Michael Tomasky tells us to “be prepared for 11 months of hell.” Oh, we are, Mike, we are.

I am on the record as anti-panic about the likely rematch between accomplished, born-again progressive President Joe Biden versus the twice-impeached former guy facing 91 felony counts (and the loss of his New York businesses), Donald Trump. I have long said Democrats hankering for a Biden alternative anytime after January 2023 were hankering for Democratic civil war. I think people have wisely shut up about that. (Generally, I believe panic serves us poorly.) So now we’re all sliding together into 2024, knowing it’s (almost certainly) Joe Biden and Kamala Harris vs. Trump alongside some Republican masochist, just the way I wanted it.

So why am I suddenly so anxious about this year?

I was not a fan of 2023 either, by the way, even though Trump did finally face charges for his myriad efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Special counsel Jack Smith charged him for that separately from his dire charges under the Espionage Act, related to the many classified documents he hid at Mar-a-Lago. Later last year, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged not just Trump but also 18 slimy coconspirators with 41 charges of racketeering and conspiracy related to their attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results.

There were many points in 2023 when justice rang like a gleaming bell, and I thought we were easing out of this nightmare. But I don’t think so anymore. We will never ease out of it. We have to fight the fuck out of it.

Wrestling with why I, the eternal optimist, began feeling so anxious and even maybe pessimistic about 2024, one answer began looming large for me midweek: We’re coming up on the third anniversary of the violent January 6 insurrection-riot. And it’s so clear to me that the forces unleashed that day are still with us.

Yes, Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence, and an unknown number of Congress members (and staff) might have died, but they didn’t, and they’ve been (relatively) safe ever since (not counting Paul Pelosi). The system worked; Even with 143 House Republican dissenters, Congress certified the electoral vote. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in, though under unprecedented security, two weeks later. Since then, the Justice Department has prosecuted at least 1,200 rioters, and so far more than 450 have been convicted.

And still, we don’t seem safer. Why? Because we’re not.

For one thing, Trump’s poll numbers seem to rise each time he faces new charges. He regularly promises to pardon the January 6 convicts. His Christmas wishes on social media revealed a deranged man bent on reinstatement to the White House, and revenge: “Merry Christmas to all, including Crooked Joe Biden’s ONLY HOPE, Deranged Jack Smith,” it began, closing with “MAY THEY ROT IN HELL. AGAIN, MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

I don’t believe many polls this far out from the election, but what to make of the fact that this guy seems nearly tied with Biden, if not beating him? Who are these people supporting him, and how can we possibly go on living in the same country with them? I think this demographic political melancholy is the source of a lot of progressive election fatalism. We are the people who believe in the people! As we chanted in college:“El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” I have never succumbed to this darkness before. I’m desperately resisting it now, but its pull is strong.

Meanwhile, Trump is promising to govern as a “dictator.” He’s pledged that he’ll foist the dregs of his first administration upon us again, including odious fascists Steven Miller and Michael Flynn. The Heritage Foundation is working hard on plans to take apart most of the government. Trump has explained he’ll weaponize the state against his enemies and even use the military to crush domestic dissent. What could go wrong? And how can we make it right?

I’m not going to pretend to know for sure, but I have a few ideas. I’m looking for more in these early days of the new year, so please share yours!

First, I think Biden has to ignore the lame debate about whether he should focus on Trump’s fascism, or his own (extremely respectable) record. He can and must do both. I’m glad he’s focusing on the January 6 anniversary with a speech at Valley Forge, Pa., a Revolutionary War battle site, and another, maybe more important, at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine Black parishioners as they welcomed him to pray with them in June 2015. Something that stays with me, that few commentators ever mention: Trump came down his gilded escalator to declare his presidential candidacy just one day before the Charleston massacre. It would probably be too daring for Biden to make that connection, but I always do.

Kamala Harris will also be kicking off the 2024 campaign in South Carolina, which we’re told is part of the pair’s effort to underscore that it is not taking Black voters, polled in certain subgroups as unenthusiastic about Biden this time around, for granted. I’ll be watching all three events closely, looking for—hoping for—signs of political life.

But obviously they should both be touting their record—historically low unemployment, rising wages, falling inflation, an unprecedented investment in clean energy and climate salvation, a bond with unions unseen since the days of FDR that didn’t cause but certainly bolstered an explosion of unionism unseen at least in my lifetime, from baristas to screenwriters, UPS drivers to UAW workers.

But I don’t think this race is in the hands of Biden and Harris, although I want them to think their brains off, work their asses off, and lead with their hearts, always. I think it’s in our hands.

We cannot take any member of our coalition for granted. Nor can we assume anyone can’t become part of it. We must talk to the young people who are aching over the Palestinian nightmare out of sitting out this election. Remind them that Trump moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem, a desecration for Muslims, and let his shady son-in-law organize the Abraham Accords to unite Israel with Arab countries and throw Palestinians under the bus. Biden has not done nearly enough to rein in the murderous Benjamin Netanyahu; Trump would make Netanyahu—who must be gone, yesterday—his life partner.

We have to remind Black and Latino men, who seem to be shading toward Trump—unbelievably, since he regularly questions their humanity—of those facts, but also all that Biden has done for them and every community when it comes to the economy. Clearly, though—and the best organizers are doing this—we need to listen to why these men are drawn to Trump. I’m repelled, obviously, but they are not.

Most of all, we can’t be scared away from talking about abortion—it’s the Democrats’ best weapon. Whether framed as “freedom” or feminism, it’s winning elections. We should not be surprised to read another series of articles like we saw in 2022, informing us, more in sorrow than in pity, “Sorry, gals, the Dobbs effect is gone.” Nor should we be surprised when those articles are disproven. The Dobbs effect only gets stronger every year, as more women—and more families—are denied the healthcare they need thanks to the cruel archipelago of abortion bans that has disfigured our country.

I guess that brings me to the media. I criticize it too much, maybe—mostly it’s good people doing their jobs while sometimes failing. Certainly, I sometimes fail. Still: in this epic year I am not yet sure they’re up to the task of telling the story about the way democracy ends if Trump prevails. There’s still too much false equivalence, still too much “But Hunter Biden.”

On the partisan level, there’s an inescapable and maybe fatal imbalance: Our side lacks amoral assholes who will persecute, prosecute, and savage Republicans (I’d just like to keep that to those who deserve it, by the way, not messed-up adult children of presidents) as needed. We are not going to rise or rather fall to the level of the GOP henchpeople, from Laura Ingraham to Sean Hannity to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, to Senator Lindsey Graham or even House Speaker Mild Mike Johnson. I’m not going to spend my personal time addressing that gap—I’ll be up advancing arguments about Dobbs, freedom, race, and rising economic parity—but I do wish we had more folks practiced at those dark arts. I admit it.

We do have 11 months. We can each take stock of what we, personally, can accomplish to save democracy. My work, mainly, will be talking to people, listening to them, and writing about them. I promise to do it with an openheartedness that’s required by these times. I’m not losing my values or my opinions (I will try to lose my biases—but I can’t promise). I just think this year requires new vision and, I hope, new thinking, and I’m trying for it.

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