Everything To Fear
We live in a strange and confusing time. It’s helpful to read the book Nothing to Fear, FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America to seek guidance from people who had successfully overcome the challenges in a historical period with some resemblance to ours.
The book describes in great detail what transpired in the first 100 days after Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in the depth of the Great Depression. Thousands of banks were closing and more were at the brink. The stock market lost 85% of its value since the peak in 1929, millions were out of work, and ordinary families in both rural and urban areas were starving or were forced to leave their homes behind. No solutions seemed to be in sight. The situation was so dire that urban unrest and farmers' revolutions threatened to break out at any moment. It's in that historic context that Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress were elected in a landslide victory. They had the mandate, urgency, and resolution to provide immediate relief and rescue the economy. In the first 100 days, they had not only saved millions from hunger and extreme poverty, they had also set up a framework - the New Deal - that would make the society more fair and humane. The New Deal did not just make it work for those on the top, but made it work for the millions who were "at the bottom of the pyramid". That's the era that gave birth to the minimum wage, the unemployment insurance, the right to organize, the social security act, and much more. That's when it became clear that the government can and should play a role in regulating businesses and providing a social safety net for the working people. Runaway capitalism ground itself to a halt and the successful and compassionate intervention of the Roosevelt administration restored faith to the government. It was a paradigm shift with profound impact up until this day.
Unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself. The pushback by conservatives in recent decades against regulations and shared responsibilities have created deep polarization once again. More and more wealth and power have been concentrated at the top. A parallel theme that has developed in this country is the fear of the rise of a multiracial democracy brought about by the demographics shift. Those in power use coded racist rhetorics that feed into the fear of working class and suburban whites to build a united front and keep themselves in power. Racism is a tool they use. Keeping power and enlarging their share of the pie is the ultimate prize. They are recreating the conditions of another great depression. Biden administration's investments in infrastructure, care economy, and climate will help delay that but it will only be temporary as long as the wealth and power continue to flow to the top.
The most imminent threat we face at this moment is the state of democracy. Democracy is in decline globally, and America is contributing to it. In fact, American democracy has been in decline for some time now. The politicians are largely not representing the will of the voters - there's no correlation between a bill’s popularity among voters and the likelihood for it to become law. The Trump era exacerbated that as antidemocratic messages had been brought into the open. The decline continued and accelerated after the 2020 election. Some elected officials and the majority of an entire party challenge the legitimacy of the election without a shred of evidence. Using election integrity as the pretext, the conservatives organized and passed laws state after state to make it more difficult to vote, particularly affecting the access to voting by minority and young voters. Partisan gerrymandering is taking place at full force in states controlled by one party: both parties are doing that but the conservatives are doing that in many more states than the Democrats. Finally, Republican state legislatures are politicizing the election apparatus with the goal of subverting election outcomes in their favor. These are alarming developments and constitute a dire threat to democracy. If we don't push back on them now, we will likely face an undemocratic election in 2022, a chaotic Congressional session in 2023, and a loss of democracy as we know it in 2024. Without democracy, wealth and power will continue to flow to the top, as nobody will be able to stop them.
Unlike in 1933 when the Democrats had nothing to fear because they had to rescue the nation from the bottom of a great depression, the Democrats today have everything to fear because they risk losing democracy if they don't do anything now.