What We Can Do
Bill Maher’s Real Time Friday night (March 24th) featured Yale professor Timothy Snyder, who has a book coming out entitled On Tyranny. In it he provides a list of 20 items he believes responsible citizens need to pay attention to now that we are in the Age of Trump. There are several I would like to share. A second item that needs discussion is, despite the HealthCare “victory” on Friday, citizens must stay even more alert and active lest Trump sabotages ObamaCare through executive maneuvering, as noted below. But first, Professor Snyder (and thanks to Yvette Nachmias-Baeu & Jay Bryan who both wrote to me about Professor Snyder, whose work was on the BLAST's radar)
On Real Time, Snyder shared three or four items from his “tyranny” watch list for Bill Maher’s viewers. Having reviewed the 20 items myself, there are five I want to note here (and they are not the same as those Snyder mentioned --- you can see the show if you have HBO or HBOGo).
1. Do not obey in advance. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
We cannot allow “Executive Orders” or bad laws to take hold without being contested. We have already seen how protests and judicial action have halted the “travel ban” (twice), so we must remain vigilant and make our voices heard.
2. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
This, as we know, is Trump’s stock in trade. His harping on “extremist” Islamic “terrorism” is the red meat of his rallies and the “Make America Great Again”slogan is an appeal to “American exceptionalism” that fires up the white supremacist base that wants the 1950's back.
3. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire.
While we have managed to avoid another 9/11, let’s not forget how that tragedy opened the door to the “Patriot Act” and led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anything that this administration can use as a rallying point to slide an authoritarian foot in the door will be used, with Steve Bannon smiling about it.
4. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so.
We already know how Trump creates his separate reality with “alternative facts” and “truthful hyperbole.” If you haven’t read this week’s Time magazine (with its “Is Truth Dead?” cover) with Michael Sherer’s Can Trump Handle the Truth? featured story, you should. It basically explains that Trump’s use of Twitter and his “Big Lie” strategy works to a frightening degree! And this is why those of us who believe in facts and “the truth” need to not only remain vigilant but also active --- writing and calling media outlets as well as our elected representatives insures that truth carries the day, despite the Liar-in-Chief.
5. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
This includes what I just mentioned and that is actively protesting, writing, calling, and doing whatever else is necessary to combat this wave of narrow-minded fear that has been given license as a result of the election of a small-minded, ignorant bigot. (You can find all 20 items in Professor Snyder’s list at:
As regards doing something in the immediate future, take note: the HealthCare fight is far from over. Because the Obama administration faced continual assault from the “Party of No,” it developed a number of strategies that allowed the Executive to implement measures to move the legislation to help those in need of insurance. Those same tools can now be used by Trump to sabotage ObamaCare in a number of states, essentially making insurers hike their rates or leave the marketplace. As noted in a March 24th NY Times story by Margot Sanger-Katz, “The administration will also have enormous power to allow states to reshape their Medicaid programs — and even their local insurance markets — through waivers to existing law.” Those who care about protecting people most in need of this insurance have to be mindful of this possibility. Even more crucial is a court case that can keep ObamaCare viable or ensure it will “implode,” as Trump keeps trumpeting. According to Sanger-Katz:
The biggest immediate decision concerns a court dispute between the House and the administration over subsidies to help low-income insurance buyers pay their deductibles and co-payments. The House has argued that the money for those subsidies was not properly authorized. The Obama White House fought the case. It is not clear whether Mr. Trump’s lawyers will do the same. The availability of those subsidies, used by a majority of Obamacare customers, is critical for insurers in the markets.
Without the subsidies, all the insurers will lose some money, and many smaller carriers will face bankruptcy. If Mr. Trump does not fight the court case, the Obamacare markets in most states will unravel quickly, leaving millions without insurance options on his watch. Many of the beneficiaries are Trump voters.(bold, mine)
It is crucial for the media and concerned citizens to make sure that everyone, and particularly those Trump voters, know what they might lose if the administration does not fight for those subsidies. We all need to contact not only our own representatives, but also those members (both Republicans & Democrats) who need to make it clear to the White House that these subsidies need to continue. You can find and contact anyone in the House of Representatives by simply going to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. In keeping with Professor Snyder’s list of ways to prevent tyranny, we would all be wise to continue our campaign in support of the current HealthCare system. It is only day 66 of the Trump presidency --- not a time to take the foot off the gas.