The country is heading over a cliff and the brake lines have been cut. This is readily apparent to anyone paying attention.
A rogue political party with malign intent and vast resources is bent on dismantling our entire system, and they’re doing it in plain sight. They assume we’ll just let them. The question is what to do about it.
Yes, we hold slim majorities in the legislative branch, but those majorities are frighteningly fragile. If the filibuster is altered — which seems both necessary and inevitable — it could backfire spectacularly when Republicans next take power. Which is more than possible, even as soon as 2022. Democracy itself seems to be backed against the wall.
This leaves @Shoq — who takes this all quite personally — perplexed and frustrated. Most of his 25,000 Twitter followers get nourishment from his acerbic but cogent analyses of the ills we face, and they know that his alarmism is well backed by facts, reason, and perspective.
The trouble he sees — and what makes him crazy — is that liberals freeze up when it comes to hard choices. There is a failure of both imagination and nerve, as well as a default to defeatism. This is certainly understandable, given the setbacks and meager progress of the last fifty years. But I agree with Shoq that we’re now in an emergency, and the institutions that should save us are severely damaged. A certain ruthlessness may be called for.
Our instincts are to cling to the rule of law for salvation, but that’s not especially comforting right now. We have to start thinking outside the box.
We have the brains. We have the talent. We have data skills, communications savvy, and critical thinking. We have facts and objective reality — both battered but still useful — and we have most of our population on the side of truth and justice.
Yes, our enemies are smart, but their constituencies are deeply stupid. We can take advantage of that, but we need ideas.
Ideas are what Shoq is screaming for, and he’s getting crickets in return. So this is me, throwing some spaghetti at the wall.
Lean on the corporations
Shoq singles out corporations as a key pressure point. Building on that idea, I think the business world needs to be dragged into the fight, kicking and screaming if need be. We must convince them to make a serious investment in democracy — for their own good, if not for ours.
Corporations put plenty of money into politics, but they put much too much of it into groups that have abused the system and seem bent on taking it down. This is shortsighted — companies have as much to lose as we do — but we can’t wait for them to come around. We have to make them much less comfortable with financing seditious behavior. We have to get them to put their money on our side.
Yes, some companies have stepped up in reaction to the obscene new voting laws in Georgia, Texas, and other states. But you don’t get the feeling their hearts are in it. You can tell by their carefully measured statements that their public relations people are driving the bus. That’s not good enough. We need involvement at the top of the org chart, and that won’t happen without real pressure, deftly applied.
Companies live in terror of bad PR. They keep crisis management firms on retainer to react to any shade thrown on their reputations.
So a little sunlight might go a long way. The political spending of public corporations is a matter of public record, so exposing those records could lead to awkward questions, first in their boardrooms, then at their stockholders’ meetings.
The success of large businesses is tied to the happiness of their customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders, all of whom are fickle. Media attention is exactly what companies don’t want. Confront them with reputational harm and they might just be convinced to do the right thing.
And the heat can be turned up. Organized consumer groups could pressure companies on social media, tie up their phone lines, buy and return merchandise in large numbers, file class action lawsuits. The idea is to hit them where it hurts: in their wallets.
Whether corporations realize it or not, this is ultimately in their interest. Democracy and free enterprise have a long and prosperous relationship, and the business world rarely thrives in fascist systems that stifle talent and crush free thinking.
In short, free and fair elections are good for business. The best business people already know this. The rest need to be taught.
Mobilize Big Law
Even as we put pressure on big corporations, we might also draw on a largely untapped source of activism: major corporate law firms.
Many of the lawyers at these deep-pocketed firms are smart, middle-class liberals who have knowingly gone over to the dark side, representing a wide array of unsavory corporate interests. They do it for the money, which they make a ton of, but they don’t always like themselves for it.
For the sake of their souls, they compensate by throwing themselves into pro bono work. Their firms sponsor forays into legal aid, where they represent the indigent and the persecuted. Most important, they turn out in droves on election days to help counter the rapidly proliferating atrocities at polling places.
Since the rule of law is core to their business model, all lawyers have a vested interest in keeping it around.
Properly deployed, this is a gold mine of talent. It could bring enormous legal firepower to bear against the likes of Fox and OAN. Against state legislators suppressing voting rights. Against “frauditors” challenging elections on specious grounds. Against governors whose willful Covid denial costs constituents their lives.
These lawyers could file a blizzard of lawsuits. There is no dearth of GOP-affiliated organizations to go after, each with the legally fraught stink of Trump on them. It’s a target-rich environment, and surely there are thousands of young attorneys eager to make the bastards pay.
Share the knowledge
Shoq is right that ideas are necessary. But they’re not sufficient. They need to be shared to be effective. The technology certainly exists to expand our range of tactics, but it starts with finding good ways to spread good ideas around.
To that end, we could use a clearinghouse for strategies and tactics. Imagine a crowd-sourced venue that curates ideas and matches them with people who can run with them.
As it happens, Shoq has some thoughts about this as well. Don’t get him started.