The Last Hundred Days
— and the Fate of American Democracy
“The First Hundred Days” has been a time of measurement for new presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s launching of the New Deal during that period in 1933. The term was taken from Napoleon’s return to power in 1815, which ended with his defeat at Waterloo and abdication.
FDR’s First Hundred Days as president came at the worst point in the Great Depression and were of enormous importance in preserving democracy and a reformed capitalism.
This year, it is the Last Hundred Days that are even more critical to the fate of America than were early days of the New Deal. The 2020 Election is 100 days from today, and it is not hyperbolic to say that those days will determine whether democracy and the American Republic will survive.
People on the left have in the past been much too loose in throwing around the word fascist in reference to such American politicians as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Now we are confronted with the real thing. Donald Trump is far too ignorant even to know what fascism is, but the prospect of a humiliating landslide defeat has combined with his desire for authoritarian power and his fully developed racism to lead him to adopt the approach of those who influence him and very much do know what fascism is, including Vladimir Putin, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and William Barr.
“The only thing we have to fear,” Franklin Roosevelt said in 1933, “is fear itself.” This year, the only thing Donald Trump has to sell is fear itself.
He is quite openly trying to incite a civil war — a race war — in the United States in a desperate attempt to persuade a sufficient number of white Americans that they are in so much danger that they should be willing to give up the American experiment in government by the people in exchange for the promise of protection by a Leader — a Führer — who will leave them with no rights or autonomy, but will keep the others in a position of complete subordination.
What we have been seeing in Portland, which Trump is threatening for other cities — a federal militarized force accosting peaceful citizens exercising their First Amendment rights — is an unmistakable move into authoritarianism. It is plainly un-American.
Be assured that there is nothing Trump, his enablers, and his Russian backers will stop at to try to prevent a free and fair election. It is already clear that they will seek to prevent people from voting by blocking mail-in ballots. They are mobilizing a large force of “poll watchers” who will seek, as was done to Black voters in the 1870s and beyond, to intimidate citizens and scare them away from the polls. The declaration of martial law and the sending of the sorts of unidentified military forces we have been seeing in Portland into swing states to prevent people from voting is well within the realm of possibility.
Russian operatives are already engaged in a massive disinformation campaign through social media. They are also likely to try to meddle with actual vote counts, an interference that has been facilitated by Republican refusal to agree to election security measures and paper ballots across the country.
If Trump is not prevented from “winning,” American democracy will be a thing of the past. The sad fact is that millions of white Americans are willing to abandon democracy because our nation is moving rapidly towards majority minority status. A significant fraction of the white population are people who have always thought they are superior by virtue (literally, as they see it) of their skin color who would much sooner abandon democracy than privilege.
The 2020 Republican slogan is essentially the same as that of the Democrats in 1868: “This is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.”
The people to whom Trump and his party are appealing are willing, in short, to give up freedom rather than accept equality. A police state? Fine with us, so long as the police are protecting us from them!
Those of us — clearly a majority — who want both freedom and equality must rededicate ourselves every day between now and November 3 to do everything we can to ensure a free and fair election and to get everyone to vote.
The Election of 2020 is the most important to what America will be since at least 1864, when a loss by Lincoln would have meant the end of the Union. This year a win by Trump would mean the end of democracy and the American Republic.
Let us pledge to spend every waking hour (and not to sleep that much) over the next hundred days working to assure that that will not that happen.
As John Lewis called upon us to do in 1963, “Wake up, America!”
If we do not, we may wake up after the election to find that there is no America in the best senses of what the country has meant.