Fascism — Fast Forward
On the heels of the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize to the teenager who videotaped the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, courts in Florida have sided with police who arrested a woman for recording them on her cellphone as they detained her teenage son.
The incident happened in 2009, and no charges were filed against Sharon Tasha Ford or her son, who was accused of having sneaked into a Muvico theater. She was called, and arrived with her cellphone.
The following year, Ford and the American Civil Liberties Union sued for false arrest, claiming she had a right to turn the camera on, and her civil rights were violated. A federal court declined to hear the civil rights claim, and the Palm Beach County Circuit Court ruled against her on the false arrest claim.
Judge Martha Warner
Next, the 4th District Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling, holding that Ford had obstructed police in their duties and become confrontational in refusing to stop recording. The court said Ford had violated the officers’ privacy.
Judge Martha Warner wrote a heated dissent, noting that the incident occurred on a public sidewalk with other people watching, and the cops thereby had no right to expect privacy. She asked questions, but didn’t block them or speak to the officers abusively, raising her voice only when they arrested her son, “as any mother would do,” Warner said.
The Palm Beach Post editorialized, “The consequences would be awful if this panel’s judgment should stand. Police would have probable cause to arrest anyone who refused their order to stop filming them.”
In that case, how many more murders like that of George Floyd might police commit, knowing bystanders would fear videotaping their actions?
Judge Kurt Engelhardt
The courts’ decisions are another instance of the erosion of freedoms that is leading our country down the path toward fascism. Here’s a recent incident, reported by People for the American way, that is far more outrageous:
“Trump Fifth Circuit judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote a 2-1 decision that reversed a district court and granted qualified immunity to [Louisiana] police officers who forcibly threw a black man who was not resisting to the ground and beat him before arresting him for driving without having working brake and license plate lights. The May 2021 decision was in Tucker v City of Shreveport.”
That event mirrors the opening chapter of my novel Blood on Their Hands, but was even scarier. The legal thriller is fiction, and the Louisiana incident is testament to the adage that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Alan D. Blotcky
It’s ironic that the people who yell the loudest about their freedoms being taken away are the very ones who are facilitating autocratic rule. A guy I knew for a long time is a libertarian who repeatedly has expressed his outrage at the “liberals” in government for depriving him of those precious freedoms. Who did he vote for, twice? You guessed it: Donald Trump, whom he continues to support while questioning the outcome of the election. What is the attraction? Writing last week in Salon, clinical psychologist Alan D. Blotcky stated it in a nutshell:
“Trump continues to exert a cult-like influence over millions of Americans who are devoted to him in a ‘collective narcissism.’ Trump’s supporters view him as an all-knowing, charismatic leader who is going to lead them to the promised land of happiness by airing their grievances and marginalizing people of color, Muslims, and immigrants. In return, Trump relishes his supporters because they give him the praise, adulation and unconditional respect he so desires. They fill up his insatiable need for narcissistic supply. He secretly abhors his supporters but uses them to bolster his self-image of greatness and invincibility.”
Those are the ultra-gullible people who fail to understand Trump. But even some who do see through him support him. New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote this more than a year ago. “Everyone around Trump knows his weakness: He is a bottomless pit of emotional need, someone who desperately wants friends but doesn’t have the emotional quotient to know how to make and keep them. So, they flatter and inflate him.”
In late May, two leading news media opined that the threat to democracy in our country did not end with the presidential demise of Trump and Biden’s assuming the office. “Hopefully,” wrote Susan Glasser in The New Yorker, “we are not witnessing the slow-motion death of American democracy. At least, not yet.” The Washington Post’s editorial board waxed more pessimistic: “It is seductive to imagine that the danger to U.S. democracy passed with Mr. Trump’s departure. In fact, it may have only begun.”
A few days later, more than 100 scholars of democracy signed a public statement of principles, making clear, the Post’s Greg Sargent wrote, that “On the line is nothing less than the future of our democracy itself.”
Sen. Joe Manchin
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema
In the statement, the scholars referenced the For the People Act, writing, “We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary – including suspending the filibuster – in order to pass national voting and election administration standards.”
Anyone with open eyes and ears has witnessed the Republican Party’s maneuverings, via the conservative courts and stifling of legislation, to quash Democrats’ efforts to protect and expand voting rights in American elections ever since Trump lost the election. Those initiatives, and several others concerned with advancing the interests of America’s middle and lower classes, have run into two major Democratic Senatorial obstacles named Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Both are from red states, and have worked in vain for bipartisanship as GOP senators resist any action that will bring punishment to Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection and for his myriad criminal activities. The GOP’s transparent motivation is to pander to Trump’s supporters as a way of preserving their own power, which obviously is more important to them than preserving democracy. Eliminating the filibuster, which requires 60 of the 100 Senate votes instead of a 51-vote majority, is the route to enacting these legislative initiatives, but no Republicans will join the Democrats in voting to end the filibuster.
Sen. Chuck Schumer
The SunSentinel of southeast Florida editorialized, “The future of democracy is in the hands of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, alleged Democrat. His refusal to support his party’s main voting rights bill or help abolish the Senate filibuster could mark him in history, if anyone remains free to write it, as having dealt the decisive blow to representative government in the nation that pioneered it.”
I thought of a possible solution, and sent a short letter to Democratic senators Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin and Elizabeth Warren on their websites:
Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
“Now we hear that Joe Manchin is on the take from the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce. Stands to reason: He formerly approved HR1 [voting rights bill], and now opposes it; it appears he is eminently corruptible. He is, in fact, opposing everything important that the Biden administration wants to accomplish for America and Americans. And he will not bend. What to do?
“What did the GOP do to one of their own, Rep. Liz Cheney, whose actions they didn’t like – in this case for doing the right thing, as opposed to Manchin’s doing the wrong thing(s)? They took away her committee chairmanship. Joe Manchin heads the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It’s past time for you and the other Senate leaders to let him know he will NOT be allowed to harm our country, Democrats’ ability to remain in power and work on behalf of our country, and Joe Biden’s success as president. Further, he needs to be told that if he continues to vote in favor of Republican policies, he will be primaried in 2024. He might retaliate by threatening to switch allegiance to the Republican Party. I say, call his bluff. He already is giving allegiance to the GOP. How could he hurt the Dems any more?
“As for Sinema, I think she’ll straighten up if Manchin does. But if not, she needs to be informed her chairmanship of two subcommittees will be taken away. She is young and ambitious, and needs the backing of the party. I think she can be made to realize that recalcitrance and crude behavior, i.e., the ring, is not the way to earn it.
Rep. Liz Cheney
The Democratic Party has long been viewed as weak. It’s high time it got tough. That’s what the people respect, want and deserve.”
In an encouraging sign, Manchin and Sinema, of Arizona, voted in favor of the voting rights act Tuesday. It failed because all 50 Republicans voted against it, and 60 votes were needed. Senate Majority Leader Schumer and President Biden said the fight was far from over.
The 100 scholars’ statement continued: “In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.”
Lee Drutman, a signer of the statement, told the Post’s Sargent the scholars wanted to “make it clear that democracy in America is genuinely under threat. The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections.”
Turkey anyone? How about Brazil? Fascism is on the rise in Europe and around the world. Is the United States next?
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