Trumpism will expand its base of believers and practitioners if it is not strenuously opposed, just like Nazism, Communism, Capitalism, Liberalism, and every other -ism. Trumpism is an idea. Ideas can only be defeated through the greater popularity of a competing, alternative idea.
Ideas have currency because of the moral values which underlie their motive, reasoning, logic, and their intent. Ideas can also sometimes have currency due to the experienced reality of the outcomes of actions based on them, but that comes later (it takes time) and is frequently overlooked through selective perception and/or other cognitive biases.
Still, there are concrete steps which can be taken and are not token echo chamber participation.
The Lies Must Die
Without truth and agreed upon knowledge of reality, we are truly doomed. A democracy cannot function meaningfully without an informed citizenry – they wouldn’t know what they are voting for. No organization can function effectively without accurate knowledge of the state of the world – including corporations and governments. Employees are citizens too! If citizens are not informed then neither are the bureaucrats and employees because we are the same.
We must be pro-truth. We must fight “alternative facts”. We must build defenses against lies intended to be recognized as lies, and against lies which we desperately want to believe. We must increase trust and understanding.
– Post-truth politics: Art of the lie | The Economist (2016/09/10)
– The post-truth world: Yes, I’d lie to you | The Economist (2016/09/10)
– Authoritarianism and Post-Truth Politics – Niskanen Center, by Jacob T. Levy (2016/11/30)
I propose creating the Foundation for Truth – Snopes and Politifact on steroids – a nonprofit NGO institution with the goal of nothing less than being sufficiently credible and authoritative to be an original reference source for Wikipedia articles, journalism, student homework, and academic papers.
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, made freely available to everyone.
- It needs to be squeaky clean and utterly transparent.
- It must be entirely funded privately (no funds from any government) and publicly (every donation recorded publically). Initial funding will probably have to come in the form of a large grant from one or more philanthropic foundations.
- The board must be independent and competent beyond reproach – nonpartisan, experienced in effective management, experienced in logic and science, without conflicts of interests, without scandal, etc.
- Its operations should strive to be inclusive at the grassroots level. Everyone should be encouraged and empowered to ask questions, submit evidence, and suggest and review answers. Technically, this would probably look like a cross between a wiki (see: Wikipedia) and a Q&A site (see: Stack Exchange).
- I would like to see it get cutting-edge machine learning to sniff out forged information (e.g. shopped photos and videos), and search out original information sources (e.g. identify where viral shares originated).
- I would like to see it create a worldwide network of journalists and scientists – people whose careers and lives are dedicated to searching for and explaining truth.
- I would like to see it making its own grants to those willing and able to answer interesting and important questions.
Proof of Popularity
People are more likely to publically espouse thoughts which they personally perceive to be popular, and are less likely to publically support positions which they believe are unpopular. Politicians are people and will also bend their representation towards perceived popularity (at least among those who matter to their reelection). Marches, protests, and communication campaigns (e.g. phone calls), among other actions, communicate a proxy for popularity (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). Voting communicates popularity more directly.
The culture of the alt-right is expanding among younger people. As some have mentioned, this is bad.
“Breaking down the barriers of acceptability through humour is now a deliberate tactic of the far right.”, (Screened Out by George Monbiot, 2017/03/02). This has to be dealt with, and shutting down free speech / free expression isn’t the way to do it (and it probably wouldn’t work – attempting to ban it would only increase its subversive humor value).
The people this content is resonating with are not evil; they just have a somewhat dark sense of humor and do not have the life experiences to personally understand that “makes other people upset” does not automatically equate to comedy gold. A good comedian tells jokes for the audience, but many internet posters are posting for themselves. Declaring something the originator considered to be a joke to be unacceptable only reinforces the originator’s certainty that “makes other people upset” is true, that they’ve broken a taboo or norm.
The content is not innocent, but it is not treated as propaganda within the communities which are generating it. It is mostly created in order to gather positive internet feedback (upvotes, likes, shares, reblogs, etc.) in certain communities which find basically all transgressive content (e.g. rape jokes, pedophile jokes, racist jokes, sexist jokes, genocide/holocaust jokes, suicide jokes) to be funny. There needs to be a cadre of people who go online to where these are originating from and submit better (more popular) yet acceptable content – the antithesis to paid trolls; create and upvote good stuff, downvote bad stuff, and report the literally illegal when it shows up.
– The Aesthetics of the Alt-Right, by M. Ambedkar (2017/02/12)
Political Social Media Site
People need a common place to engage with politics, safe from retribution by their real life social network (i.e. semi-anonymous), with ready access to facts and expert opinion (tooled and moderated), and structured to be an outlet by which elected officials can be reliably informed about people’s thoughts and preferences.
Third and a Half Party
Lobbyists and special interest groups (see: NRA) are very successful in America. Third parties are not. While it may be tempting to organize an insurgency into the Democratic party the way the Tea Party mutated the Republican party, this would likely only make the 2-party system even more divisive. We need to split the difference to be effective on the requisite scale.
I propose creating a political organization with a complete platform of values, a comprehensive set of preferred policies, and willingness to compromise on policies in ways which do not outright violate the platform values. Although it may eventually raise up its own candidates, it will start by funding elected officials who successfully promote the platform values.
The Candidate We Need
4 years may seem like a long time, but it is not. We need to find a 2020 candidate. We need someone who is not a different billionaire (Bloomberg, Zuckerberg). Not a “swamp” insider (pretty much anyone in DC from before 2008). We need someone who is as likeable as a comedian / talk show host, and preferably someone young enough to fill a post-presidency role in supporting and promoting civic values and greater positive political engagement (see above organizations).