Now more than Ever Democracy needs an Informed Populace to Survive
After the recent alleged murder of a police officer by a “Boogaloo Boy, the indictments in a conspiracy plot to kidnap and murder the Governor of Michigan (Gretchen Whitmer) and with Trump “inciting the Proud Boys” during the Presidential debate saying, “Stand back and Stand By” (rather than condemning them and telling them to stand down), many of us are very wary of the possible dangers to Democracy swirling around the 2020 election.
These threats, although likely impotent, are still very real. So now would be the perfect time to consult history, and those who are experts on history, in order to know more about the potential dangers of fascism and wannabe dictators to democracy and the democratic rule of law.
Book burning is impossible Today but the Truth is still being Attacked from all sides
Just as Trump cries and whines daily about “fake news” a term originally coined to describe his penchant for constantly lying, Hitler wanted to banish history from the minds of his German subjects by exhorting them to set libraries ablaze in bonfires meant to banish all but his mandated “truth”. Those bonfires are, to this day, a symbol of absolute evil, no less so than concentration camps and mass murder.
Fortunately there are recent classic as well as new, important titles coming out at this critical time. While many in the masses might be easily fooled into admiring those that primp and preen and bluster like Mussolini once did, or attack a designated “other” group like Hitler (the Jews) and Trump (Mexican immigrants and other asylum seekers as well as the imaginary threat of ‘antifa’) anyone who has studied history, and in particular these books, will know that the path to freedom, justice and real democracy lies and the exact opposite direction. Always.
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I.
Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time–Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia–which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left.
From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination. Click here to see “Origins of Totalitarianism” and help independent bookstores. Also available on Amazon.
Russia’s interference in 2016 marked only the latest chapter of a hidden and revelatory history. In Rigged, David Shimer tells the sweeping story of covert electoral interference past and present. He exposes decades of secret operations–by the KGB, the CIA, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia–to shape electoral outcomes, melding deep historical research with groundbreaking interviews with more than 130 key players, from leading officials in both the Trump and Obama administrations, to CIA and NSA directors, to a former KGB general.
What Americans should make of Russia’s attack in 2016 is still hotly debated, even after the Mueller report and years of media coverage. Shimer shows that Putin’s operation was, in fact, a continuation of an ongoing struggle, using familiar weapons radically enhanced by new technology. Throughout history and in 2016, both Russian and American operations achieved their greatest success by influencing the way voters think, rather than tampering with actual vote tallies. Click here to see “Rigged” and help independent bookstores. Also available on Amazon.
With the end of the Cold War, the victory of liberal democracy seemed final. Observers declared the end of history, confident in a peaceful, globalized future. This faith was misplaced. Authoritarianism returned to Russia, as Putin found fascist ideas that could be used to justify rule by the wealthy. In the 2010s, it has spread from east to west, aided by Russian warfare in Ukraine and cyberwar in Europe and the United States.
Russia found allies among nationalists, oligarchs, and radicals everywhere, and its drive to dissolve Western institutions, states, and values found resonance within the West itself. The rise of populism, the British vote against the EU, and the election of Donald Trump were all Russian goals, but their achievement reveals the vulnerability of Western societies. Click here to see “The Road to Unfreedom” and help independent bookstores. Also available on Amazon.
A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.”
The twentieth century was defined by the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainty about the survival of human freedom and left millions dead. Given the horrors of that experience, one might expect the world to reject the spiritual successors to Hitler and Mussolini should they arise in our era. In Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright draws on her experiences as a child in war-torn Europe and her distinguished career as a diplomat to question that assumption. Click here to see “Fascism” and help independent bookstores. Also available on Amazon.
An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.
Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance.
But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect–the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan–and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority. Click here to see “Democracy in Chains” and help independent bookstores. Also available on Amazon.
Donald Trump’s presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we’d be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang–in a revolution or military coup–but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, by electing Trump, we have already passed the first one.
Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die–and how ours can be saved. Click here to see “How Democracies Die” and help independent bookstores. Also available on Amazon.
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