It was a disastrous night for the Dems. One which, sadly, anyone sane could and should have seen coming for months now.
American fascism hasn’t gone anywhere — it’s just gone local instead of national.
How exactly do you think minority Virginians are going to feel waking tomorrow knowing that a whole lot of their neighbours voted for Youngkin — who won with racist dog whistles? Who seems to want to ban an award winning book about slavery from school curricula, because it might make little Johnny feel bad? They’re going to have a complicated mixture of feelings. Disgust, anger, despair, fear.
That’s exactly what the Trumpists want. They want everyone else to feel afraid of them, intimidated by them, scared of them. Hence the screaming and death threats at school board meetings. Hence, Jan 6th.
Americans are adept at pretending none of this is happening, but this is the politics of social collapse. It goes like this. I vote for a candidate who’s a demagogue. Who blames you — gay, Jew, Mexican, Black, Critical Race Theory — for my woes, me, the pure blooded “real” American. I pretend that’s perfectly legitimate, that it’s not happening for reasons of supremacy. But of course it is.
American fascism didn’t go anywhere, and right about now, Glenn Youngkin is its rising star. It has mass social approval, and Virginians are going to be paying the price for generations. Minorities now know how much their white neighbours openly despise them, and their white neighbours now know, too, they can attempt to have a Texas of their own, a mini Handmaids Tale dystopia of repression and hate, even if Jan 6th failed to turn America into a supremacist state at the national level.
Big Lies work, because there a whole lot of really, really terrible people in America who are eager to believe in Big Lies. Oh no, many of you are going to be really “offended.” But is this really news to anyone? Hello, didn’t we just live through the Trump years?
Pundits are going to make hay of a simple fact over the next few days, which is that Youngkin didn’t explicitly appeal to Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter, Donald Trump went out of his way to embrace Youngkin. Why is that?
Because Youngkin is a textbook demagogue.
How did he win the election? By demonising “critical race theory” in schools. Except “critical race theory” isn’t taught in Virginia’s schools. Youngkin won, in other words, by mobilising old, old fears in America. They’re coming for our kids! Oh no, our kids might learn to regard others as human beings! We’d better double down on teaching our kids that no, they’re supreme, by virtue of blood and faith.
Youngkin found a scapegoat, and whipped it until the entire state was transfixed. He egged on raging fights at school boards, drove parents into frenzies of rage, with the Big Lie that schools were becoming bastions of “wokeness,” where kids were taught that white people were inferior, and every white kid was born a terrible oppressor, that minorities are using the idea of “white privilege” to persecute white people, and so on, all the rest of it, the right-wing hysteria which drives white Americans crazy with rage.
None of this was remotely true. Nobody was teaching kids that white people were evil or bad or anything. They were just asking kids to read books about slavery. Prize-winning ones, in fact, like Toni Morrison’s Beloved. White privilege isn’t particularly a term I like, but you don’t have to look very hard to see it in action — how many CEOs or Presidents or Hollywood stars or whatever have ever been not white?
So let’s be honest about what’s really going on here. Virginia swung to Youngkin, hard, because he offered it a slightly politer form of Trumpism.
One that wore the classic Virginia uniform of khakis and dorky shirts instead of an oversized Fifth Avenue power suit. But it was still Trumpism. White Americans still respond angrily to the erosions of their supremacy over the rest. They see social equality as their own dispossession, a loss of their genetic entitlement to resources and power.
Youngkin fed exactly those flames — because, of course, he feels the same way. But all that is exactly just what Trumpism is.
It was the secret hate vote all over again. Youngkin won the suburbs. All those cosmopolitan parents in Virginia, even in all those rich suburbs? LOL — they turned out to be backwards Trumpists, secret regressives, who could care less about having a decent society. Why? Well, basically they did not want their kids to have to grow to be decent people. They preferred little Tucker and Annie to grow up not ever having to know much about slavery or hatred or how they shaped America. Little Tucker and Annie cry! They have feelings! Empathy! Uh oh, time to turn into them little bigots. Hardly a surprise, considering Virginia was a slave state — and it was also a place where “interracial marriage” was illegal until 1973. Living memory. That’s the legacy Youngkin appealed to — and won.
America’s full of people who want to believe in Big Lies, because those Big Lies give them a convenient, easy, socially validated excuse to keep on having the same old hateful, supremacist attitudes — and even transfer them to their kids. Who doesn’t want their kids to be just like them, after all? Hence: the schools are being racist…to my kids, by…teaching them about slavery! Wait…what?
Youngkin won by telling Big Lies. By scapegoating a convenient, imaginary villain for the woes of the pure and true. In this case, the villain was “critical race theory,” or imaginary fears of your kids and wives being subject to “reverse racism,” being at the mercy of minorities, who might do who knows what to them. Just think about how ridiculous that is for a moment. Can any minority in America even call the cops on a white person without risking their own lives? Give me a break.
All that was a convenient scapegoat for a deeper truth: Virginia’s a state which is growing more and more diverse, and white Americans live in fear of that, of cultural change, of social development, of having live to alongside other kinds of people as equals. Or at least enough of them to do to believe Youngkin’s Big Lies and put him over the top.
At the same time, though, it’s true that the Dems gave Youngkin an opening. Biden won Virginia’s suburbs by 8 points — but this time, Youngkin won them by six. That’s a 14-point swing. How did that happen?
The Dems’ approach isn’t working, because nobody knows what Bidenism is.
Americans appear to be wearying of the Dems, fast. What do they stand for? What do they want? What exactly are they offering? Nobody much knows — not even the Dems.
That is happening for a simple enough reason.
Joe Biden’s approach — negotiate with both sides of the party, as if they hold equivalent power and have equally appealing and reasonable agendas — isn’t working. It’s leading to the Dems getting nothing done. As in quite literally nothing. The Dems spending bill has been held up all summer long, and it’s still not passed. Terry McAuliffe pleaded with the Dems to get something, anything done, so that he could have something concrete to appeal to voters with. His pleas fell on deaf ears — and the result was an historic defeat. Biden’s nice guy approach to politics isn’t working. It’s leading to disaster, and it’ll keep on leading to disaster.
The Dems main position, at this juncture, is still: “hey, at least we’re not Trump.” But that’s what Glenn Youngkin said, too. It’s not enough to not be Trump anymore. Now is time for a positive politics, not just a negative one, a politics of presence, not just absence.
And yet even at this stage, nobody can say what Bidenism is. Except, maybe, to say that it’s a philosophy of compromise taken to outlandish extremes. Without some kind of defining governing philosophy, the Dems are going to keep on losing, more and more badly.
All this doesn’t matter, on a level, because America’s destined to become a fascist state — sociohistory tells us so. What kind of governing philosophy should the Dems have? Well, it’s pretty obvious. America just had a fascist collapse during the Trump years, and we know what it takes to rescue societies after such episodes. Dramatic, historic reconstructions — based on generational levels of investment. How did Europe rebuild after Nazism? The Marshall Plan. How did America stave off its own collapse during the 1930s? The New Deal.
The 20th century taught us exactly how to deal with fascism. Economically, there needs to be a wave of investment in a society’s failed systems.Socially, the middle class needs to be lifted up. Legally, there needs to be process of special justice for crimes against humanity. And culturally, there needs to be a lasting recognition that hatred is wrong, punishable, taboo, so that norms and values change.
Democrats haven’t done any of it. Worse, they don’t plan to do any of it. Worst of all, they don’t understand why they should.
That is why Bidenism is what it is: nothing, nonexistent, something nobody can define, because it has no substance at all. The Democrats understand neither the peril of the moment, nor the causality at work in it. They literally are clueless about the sociohistoric forces they’re dealing with.
I don’t blame them. Nobody much in America seems to understand sociohistory, because it’s a European approach to thought, understanding, knowledge. Americans, instead, are trapped in the dreck of CNN and punditry and Ezra Klein and the New York Times. They don’t understand much of anything, even the good ones. Especially not the Democrats.
All that means that the future is foretold. America’s fascist collapse isn’t going to stop.
Today’s Youngkin victory becomes tomorrow’s Trump victory. And this time, the fascists take the gloves off. Maybe they deputise people for “aiding and abetting” gay marriage. Maybe they put kids in concentration camps — who are American citizens. Maybe they check your papers every weekend.
I used to say: this is America’s last chance. Now, sadly, I tend to think. Yes, it was.