Vigilance in the era of the American con

Oakland, Calif., Mar. 1942. A large sign reading "I am an American" placed in the window of a store, at 13th and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. (Library of Congress)

The United States, like all historical hegemons, has raised up an authoritarian in a time of struggle. The morning after the election, protestors marched with American flags upside-down, a signal of extreme distress. With this election, an angered and disillusioned working class of white Americans decided the solution to the evaporation of industry and to the government’s neglect of their very real concerns was to tunnel beneath Washington, and in one of the great tragedies of our time, undermine the foundation of American democracy.

As Van Jones noted, it is unwise and unjust to label all of these voters personally-bigoted, or cognizant of the disgust voted in along with ‘change’; however, all are complicit. This is a leader who has promoted a virulent bigot and anti-Semite as his Senior Counsel. Though individual voters may not agree with all that a candidate says or promises, the very act of filling in his or her name binds the voter to the message and people promoted.

Joe Scarborough and documentarian Michael Moore argued on “Morning Joe” that it was ignorant to ask these destitute voters to consider philosophy over dire economic straits; as Scarborough said, the only thing passing through minds when entering the voting booth in former industrial states was “How will I pay the rent?”

If this man creates the tariffs of his nightmarish dream-world, or ushers in the return to supply-side economics, these former industrial-workers will mourn the day they took a torch to the American political system.

Manufacturing will not return to the United States in any manner that resembles the previous, beating River Rouge heart of the American Great Lakes region. Though robotic automation of industry has been slow to completely replace human workers, those economies—such as Japan and South Korea—which are the center of the high-tech manufacturing world are finding more use for automation, and consequently, less use for high-cost, traditional factory labor.

It is clear why this base voted for the President-elect. However, the tragedy of the decision rests is the result they are sure to receive from January onward. Authoritarians promise, through vast charisma, the world in exchange for a vote. In power, they provide pain, division and reduced freedom, ushering in the end of empire.

The next man to occupy the Oval Office does not believe in climate change, nor does he seem to believe in the legitimacy of trade or security pacts and agreements. If there is to a manufacturing resurgence in the United States, it would come off the backs of companies like Tesla, bound on creating the infrastructure needed for drowning in rising seas in conjunction with partner nations. Resurrecting the Keystone Pipeline or increasing coal production will only preserve the shot-term livelihood of the motivated voting-bloc, ensuring the economic peril of subsequent generations.

The economic realities of an authoritarian president will be greatly overshadowed by his campaign message. Regardless of his direction in office, the vitriol legitimized by his campaign ensures the pain and torment of Americans. Those voters who did choose this man not for his economic message, but for his nativism and bigotry, now have no sense of authority to deter externalization of their hatred. The president is a legitimizing authority, and as such, there is little that can be done to cease this regressive, white supremacist reaction.

As the economic realities of his presidency set in, more will drink the poison of this cause. For an authoritarian leader to take the reigns of unlimited power, society must allow his words and campaign to seep into the malignant mental space of blissful ignorance, and for his message to remain a cure-all. No policy or conciliatory address can reverse this.

This is not and will never be normal. This was not a political campaign or an election, but a referendum on the American soul. This nation committed one of the most thorough genocides in human history against Native Americans, imprisoned over a hundred-thousand Japanese-Americans, sent celebratory postcards of lynchings and beat and murdered Matthew Lynch for his mere existence.

If you doubt the ability for America to enter a fascist, white nationalist final-act, then you neither understand our history as Americans and the violence of humanity. Though it is mentally taxing, every day of this presidency must be met with mental and civil disobedience bordering on the divine.


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu. He tweets @ChrisPSacco.