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Arm Wrestling Authoritarianism: The Homestretch

What will the next week be like?

A protester holds a sign that reads "November Is Coming" during a demonstration in New York City on June 14, 2020.

Part of the Series

What will the next week be like? Kelly Hayes talks with journalist Sarah Kendzior about what to expect in the final days of the 2020 presidential race.


Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.

Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about things you should know if you want to change the world. I’m your host Kelly Hayes. It has been a bizarre and punishing year. And while it’s not over yet, we are closing in on the election. The hopes, fears, lives and liberty of millions of people are at stake, and voting is well underway. So what should we expect during this home stretch? And what will November 3rd look like during this tumultuous time? Today’s guest is my friend Sarah Kendzior. Sarah is an American journalist, anthropologist, scholar and author of the book Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America — and her analysis of authoritarianism is absolutely invaluable in these times. Sarah Kendzior, welcome back to the show.

Sarah Kendzior: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

KH: So a few things have happened since the last time you were on the show in August. One of them was the president managing to get COVID-19 — which did not kill him.

SK: Mmmm [Laughing ] Sorry.

KH: COVID-19 disappointed a lot of people.

SK: Yeah, I’m just gonna bite my tongue on that one. [More Laughter]

KH: But it has had a catastrophic effect on this campaign. Trump does not appear to have a legitimate path to victory. But all of his potential paths to victory have always involved plans to invalidate millions of absentee ballots and other huge escalations in voter suppression. He has also told his violent supporters to stand back and stand by, suggesting they might be activated to supposedly defend democracy at the polls.

I am personally worried that the polling may have some people underestimating the massive voter suppression apparatus that will be mobilized on election day, and also the ways that apparatus has been enhanced and refined since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. I’m also afraid some people may be underestimating the potential impacts of the violence Trump has fostered. His unreality TV show has a lot of subscribers, and he’s going to tell them the election is being stolen. So the first question is, do you think Biden really has this thing in the bag?

SK: I think it’s impossible for him to have it in the bag, for any Democratic candidate to have it quote “in the bag.” And this doesn’t have to do with Biden. It has to do with the issues you just brought up, which is systematic voter suppression and interference with our election integrity. And that’s been going on for a very long time.

We obviously saw, you know, many of the same tactics used in 2016. We saw domestic voter suppression as a result of the partial repeal of the VRA in 2013. We saw foreign interference primarily from Russia, but, you know, with some other countries involved. We’ve recently had more and more reporting that Russia did have the capacity to change actual votes, which is something that Senator Harry Reid warned about before the election, that they had the ability to do this. That it’s not about, you know, bots or Facebook propaganda, like they’re electronic ability exceeded what the Obama administration was willing to admit. And I think that’s because they were worried about their failure. So they have that. And then of course we have, you know, the new ways of voting because of coronavirus, which meant switched to voting by mail, using hand marked paper ballots, which is a much safer way to vote.

But of course, then you have Trump, you know, trying to destroy the US postal service. You have all of these, basically ways that he wants voters to commit voter fraud. You know, like the GOP is putting ballot boxes in the wrong places. They’re trying to trick people into accidentally voting twice, or, you know, if you’re trying to vote under coronavirus rules, you’re going to send it to the absentee ballot processor. You know, all these bureaucratic errors that either could help Trump win it, or it could just have them have a pretext to challenge the legitimacy of the election itself.

And a lot of times Trump just invents the pretext, like in 2016, after he quote unquote “won” the electoral college, he then went on to say he had actually won the popular vote and invented this whole story about how there was voter fraud because of illegal immigrants. I mean it just — reality, logic, facts, none of these things are important to the Republicans. But I think because there really is a difference in turnout among voters, in the desire of voters to get Trump out, it’s pretty clear that Biden would win any free and fair election, so they’re just going to pull out every stop possible. And they, I think, are going to try to make their theft look a bit more legitimate by hijacking the mechanisms of voting in every way.

And that also goes into what you were saying about voter intimidation, where we’re seeing more threats of violence toward public servants and officials. We’re seeing Trump encouraging this violence. I think that it’s beneficial, in a way, that the voting itself has been going on for, you know, a number of weeks. Like I voted yesterday, but the election is still over a week away and that’s common and that makes it more difficult to threaten people or to overwhelm them with very, very long times in line.

So all of that is positive, but I definitely don’t feel that our officials have a handle on the issue. And I think we’re facing just an absolutely unprecedented situation in terms of the transference of power. Like there’s no way in hell Trump is going to see Biden won and just be like, “Oh, you know, great job,” and shake hands and depart quietly. I mean, that’s just, that is unthinkable. I mean, maybe, you know, maybe finally I’ll be wrong about that and that’ll be great…

KH: No, you won’t be.

SK: …but I can’t really envision that. [Laughter]

KH: He has made sweeping, preemptive claims that millions of ballots cast against him will be fraudulent. And my biggest concern is that the evolution of the GOPs voter suppression apparatus over the last decade has been so under-discussed. The GOP has managed to eliminate a whole lot of votes, decisive numbers in some cases, through its constant complication of the process by requiring things they know targeted communities don’t have, by prosecuting people for every minor misstep, they have increasingly barred people from polls and just driven people away from the polls.

And now that apparatus will be paired with the potential escalations we may see in the streets with the collision of Trump’s fascist unreality show in a decades long Republican project to overcome shifting demographics. And that machine that turns out racist votes and suppresses democratic votes is what propelled Trump to victory in 2016. That apparatus overcame the scandals that were supposed to tank him.

So I see that story playing out and it’s not the popular narrative, but it’s real. I frequently hear people say that we shouldn’t fixate on catastrophic scenarios and we should just focus on what we need to do right now. Given that we both spend a lot of time breaking down the problem, I would love to hear your response to that take. And also, what do you think is being left out of the popular narrative right now, and why?

SK: I mean, that take is terrible. Like, we should absolutely be focusing on catastrophic scenarios. I mean, on one hand, I understand where they’re coming from because, truthfully, it should not be our job as ordinary citizens to be focusing on catastrophic scenarios and constantly having to envision the worst case outcomes, come up with a plan against them and retain a sense of heightened vigilance 24/7. Like, that’s not something the human mind is, kind of equipped to do. And it’s something we’ve been pushed to do because of the massive failure of our officials and our institutions. Because they failed not only to combat the threat, but to see it in the first place. I mean, going back to what you said, this mechanism of voter suppression has been in play for a long time; it has been a long desired goal of the GOP. And after Citizens United, combined with the partial repeal of the VRA, that was the road we were on.

That’s why in 2016, you know, I was very worried about this, because that was the first presidential election held after the VRA partial repeal. And I remember writing articles then, and they had nothing to do with Russia. It was purely on disenfranchisement of voters in the US due to things like ID laws, you know, when people are shifting residence or they don’t have an ID, how an ID law can function as a poll tax, all that kind of thing. And I had, you know, people from the left or liberals saying that that was a conspiracy theory. And I’m like, “No, this is, this is real. Like, you really don’t understand this, do you? Like, you really don’t know how this is affecting voters who don’t look like you,” because it was almost always, you know, middle to upper class white men who were claiming this is a conspiracy theory. And that’s also who, you know, tends to devise a lot of our policies to combat these threats.

So yeah, you know, I mean, I get why ordinary folks are in denial, but we are facing a potentially catastrophic outcome, and I’ve seen some move towards stopping it. You know, we’ve seen what Stacey Abrams has tried to do in bringing attention to the subject, but she, of course, was a victim of it. You know, she was robbed of her win in Georgia precisely because these problems weren’t countered in time. And that should be the lesson of the last four years, certainly, but even before that, is that when you have a horrific, corrupt crisis, whether it is the 2016 election, the 2008 financial collapse, the aftermath of 9/11 and the illegal Wars, Iran Contra, you know, going back to before I was born like Watergate and the pardoning of Nixon — when there is not accountability, and when there is not, you know, a sort of very thorough investigation of what went wrong, who got away with it, why they got away with it and what they’re doing now, those same people will come back and they will commit the same crimes again. And they will be emboldened and they will rewrite the law so that the crimes they are committing are no longer considered crimes.

And we’ve definitely seen that with Trump. If you look at, like, Trump versus Nixon. The things that Nixon was getting impeached for are like little baby steps on Trump’s road to tyranny. I mean, they’re so minor compared to what he has done and gotten away with it. And it’s because people kept denying that it was happening, that it could happen here. And it’s frustrating cause I know some of it comes from the kind of like wishy-washy liberalism that relies on American exceptionalism, that says we’re different, you know, that our democracy will somehow intuitively hold. But I also see it from the left, which tends to, you know, rightly be more cynical of that perspective.

And, I don’t know, everyone needs to just plunge into the darkness. I’m sorry, like, I don’t know another way to put it. You know, plunge into the darkness so that you can see the light, so that you can try to envision a way out, not just for yourself but for the people who are most likely to be hurt by this, which is going to be the most marginalized and vulnerable people in this country already. It will get exponentially worse for those groups of people while it gets generally worse for everyone else. But it’s just, it’s a bad situation. I’ll leave it at that.

KH: That accountability piece, that drives me up the wall because it’s one of the things I think so many people are in denial about in this moment. Something I do want to ask, in terms of how this relates to previous historical nightmares: of all the authoritarian histories and regimes you have studied and written about, is there a time and place you think most clearly parallels what we’re experiencing?

SK: No, I really don’t because I feel like we’re in a new era. And I think I talked about this on your show, it might’ve been in another show. But anyway, I’ll spell it out again, which is, you know, a lot of people have called Trump a fascist. And I think that that’s fine because he uses fascist tactics. And it’s important for people to understand that this is an anti democracy president, an anti American president, and he is willing to use the brutal measures that we’ve seen used historically in fascist regimes. But where he differs is that fascists generally prioritize the nation state above all else. You know, they want to embody the nation state. They want to expand the nation state. They often have imperialistic ambitions.

Trump isn’t like that. Trump wants the United States to collapse so that he can pick up the scraps and so that he can loot and profit. You know, it’s disaster capitalism oriented at the destruction of the United States of America. And that means that he has very little to lose. As long as he retains his own money, his own power and his own immunity from prosecution, he will let this country die, whether that means fragmenting into separate countries — which I don’t think will be liberating by the way, I know there are some people do. I think they’ll just end up with multiple authoritarian regimes in one landmass — you know, or just a broader move into fascism. So that’s different.

And then the other things that make it different is that you do see parallel situations around the world, but they’re happening simultaneously. They’re happening in the UK under Brexit with Boris Johnson. They’re happening in Hungary, under Viktor Orbán. And they’re happening and happening in Poland, in Turkey, in Brazil, in Israel, in any country that has had a hard right turn over the last 10 years or so, you’re seeing this. That’s also helped by digital media, digital finance. All of this technology that’s new, it allows people to carry out authoritarian initiatives in a new way.

And then the third thing that makes it different is climate change. We have a ticking clock hanging above us. And so every decision that’s made about who gets into power, whether it’s presidents, or courts or what have you, that affects the health of the entire planet. And as America goes, so will go the world. That’s one of the reasons that this election is so essential… I think we have a much greater shot at responsible environmental policy and pushing back against the climate crisis under Biden, whereas we have no shot under Trump. And that is permanent damage, you can’t get that back. You know, with an autocratic regime, it can be overthrown, it can be overturned, you know, things can change, the future can be brighter, and, you know, we’ve seen that all throughout history. With this threat, this existential threat of climate change, there is no kind of, you know, golden future ahead. It means we have to make big structural changes to how we live our lives to just preserve the most basic things. You know, if you look at what’s happening in Colorado or California, if you look at what’s happened in Australia or all of the, you know, increases in hurricanes, like this is going to get so much worse and we really need good, compassionate leadership. Instead, we have people who, like I said before, they’re disaster capitalists. They profit off of crises. They’re corporate raiders. So if the world ends, all they think about is, “How do I make money? How do I use this situation opportunistically to consolidate my power.” They’re not going to give a shit about anybody’s ordinary life, unless you are in that little 1% of people. And it’s going to be grim, so that’s why I really think we’re in kind of unprecedented territory right now.

KH: I think it’s completely unprecedented in a lot of ways. I see Trumpian fascism as an amplification of the societal fascism that’s always been woven into the fabric of this society. Trump has accelerated those things. One of the things I think about the most is the expansion of mass surveillance and how that will allow for the mass expansion of criminalization as fewer people have sort of a place within the economy and the social structures that are able to endure. I think people like Donald Trump see themselves as the state. I think he sees himself and other rich people as the state itself. And the rest of us, as you’ve talked about — that if there are fewer of us, we’re just a more manageable sort of populous and source of labor and whatever else.

And I really see the imperialist sort of manifestation of fascism that’s embedded in the Trump administration as really just being about strip mining the world…

SK: Yes.

KH: …during this era of collapse. And that’s what fascist expansion means for people like him. It’s like, not necessarily that they want all these other places to be the United States, but they just want to destroy them and take every resource to sustain the empire and to sustain wealth for as long as possible, you know, sort of these fascist gangster capitalists. And I really do believe that, you know, switching gears back to neo-liberalism lands us here again within a period of time. Like we’ve been saying, if you don’t check these things, then they head on this course.

And all of the mechanisms of a fascist state are already in place here. And that’s one of the reasons that so many people are suffering so much. The immigration detention system that has become a series of COVID-19 chambers, and all of these other pieces have been in place. The idea that certain people exist beyond the bounds of democracy, or any semblance of human rights, was already in place. The festering obsession with white victimhood and identity was already there. We were always a hop, skip, and a jump from things that people consider unthinkable. So that’s one of the reasons I really think that people need to sit with the severity of this in the same way that I think people need to sit with the severity of climate change in a way that’s often discouraged. Obviously, refusing to imagine the ways we might destroy ourselves has not been helpful. So whether we are talking about fascism, or authoritarianism more generally, the collapse of the environment, or any other apocalyptic shit, I don’t think refusing to name things has been helpful. I think all the evidence before us indicates that it’s been incredibly harmful. A refusal of imagination helped get us here, and I don’t think people have really confronted that honestly.

But circling back to some of these varying scenarios, in terms of what could happen in the coming days, I think a lot of people right now think the best case scenario is that it’ll be such a landslide that Trump will have no choice but to concede and admit defeat. I find that really far fetched, personally. He will say it’s fake, no matter what. If he loses by an extraordinarily wide margin, he’ll say it’s clearly fake because it’s so extreme. I personally think there is absolutely no way he agrees to step down peacefully unless the Democrats promise he can get his way out of all prosecution and that they’ll help make his creditors go away and all of that. I know you hate that scenario because he doesn’t go to jail or answer for his crimes, but if it happens, what do you think the next few months will look like?

SK: I mean, I hate that scenario, you know, not because my longing is for vengeance on Trump, but because I think he and his family is a grave danger, and the extended network behind him of the Russian mafia, of transnational mafias, of oligarchs, of plutocrats, of these very powerful networks of corruption that override our representative democracy. None of that will go away if you, like, cut Trump a check and promise him immunity from prosecution, or pardon him, or whatever their plan might be. I mean, it is just, it is the absolute worst thing they could do for our safety, for our national security, You know, you will let him out into the world and he will continue to do exactly what he did as the president and also in the 40 years beforehand. I mean, that’s the thing with Trump is he’s been in bed with organized crime for 40 years and he now possesses classified intelligence. That’s probably unparalleled. And I think there, you need to look at Ivanka and Kushner and why were they put into the white house and what are they doing with this intelligence? You need to follow the trail to, you know, indicted Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, Kushner’s good friend. Or to [Mohammed bin Salman] murderer of journalists. Like the damage that they — they’re going to cause damage if they go, no matter what. But if they go with the blessing of a Democratic administration and with this little pat on the back, like, “Oh yeah, don’t do that again,” I mean, we will be so screwed. They will continue their plot to destroy the United States, and the GOP will continue their plot to move this country to a one-party, autocratic, theocratic entity that doesn’t resemble, you know, what we grew up with. Obviously, this has been a long road. I mean, this has been in existence our entire lives, you know, if you’re a Reagan child, you’ve watched this grow up, you’ve watched it mutate and spread. And of course you see, you know, the predecessors of that all through American history, you know, from the founding of our country, with slavery, with Native American genocide. We’ve always had autocratic tendencies, but that’s the thing it’s like, It was never just about Trump.

Trump was the culmination of all of these practices. And I think there is a major, fairly buried national security story with why all of our, you know, surveillance happy law enforcement units managed to somehow miss that Trump tower was a dorm for the Russian mafia, that Trump had been, you know, working with the worst criminals in the world, people who were on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list, like Semyon Mogilevich. You know, they let him just get in and take power and it seems to benefit them. You also have former FBI heads working for the Russian mafia as consultants. That’s true of Louis Freeh, it’s true of William Sessions.

There’s a lot going on there, you know, and I go into that in Hiding in Plain Sight, but that just all contributes to the broader danger that we’re in, which is what you said before, that this is, you know, a matter of raiding countries for resources, stripping them down for parts, moving all of that wealth to a very narrow, plutocratic class, and literally letting the rest of us die out. And so one way to combat that would be to tell the full truth of that plot, of their mechanisms of operation, of institutional failure that let all of these guys even get power in the US in the first place. Like, I don’t know what the solution is, but I know we don’t get it without the full truth. And I know that letting Trump go with some sort of deal will obfuscate that truth and it will set a precedent also for the future Trumps, because there will be more, you know, there will be successors and they’ll probably be slicker than he was to do the same kind of crimes. You know, the less you bring accountability, the more easily they’re able to get away with it. And it matters that they get away with it, because they hurt people. You know, that’s the point. It’s not about vengeance, or getting even or something, it’s about preventing these sociopathic, greedy, corrupt to the core individuals from having power over our lives, from preventing us from having freedom and rights and other things that we should be guaranteed, and then starting to not even expect them. That’s one of the saddest stories I think of our own generation, is just watching people kind of shrug their shoulders and be like, “Oh, that’s just the way it is.” As if that somehow makes it acceptable. You know, it’s like a cynicism that goes so far that it goes into almost apathy to suffering. And I know it’s hard to look at all of this head on, you know, it’s very depressing, I mean, both of us know that. But it is necessary in order to just prevent people from facing the kind of suffering that they have faced and will continue to face under these individuals, if we don’t get rid of them.

KH: I agree that washing it all away just relegitamizes everything that delivered us here, and I think that’s what the Democrats want. Because the last thing anyone running this country wants is for us to realize they all took turns driving us to this precipice, and will do so again, unless we fight. And one of the reasons I tend to bring up prosecution, and the fact that people are cheering for it, and that it’s not going to happen, is that I think it’s important for people to remember what this system is. And I really want people to fix their hopes on us and what we can do. I think It’s dangerous to build Democratic elites into saviors, or to assume they’re playing four dimensional chess, and I get why people want to believe those things. But I think people need to divest themselves of the idea that those people have a plan that’s going to rescue us. They aren’t our champions in a fight for the future. We are. And with these elections, we’re just swapping out adversaries, to gain advantage where we can.

But conversely, if Trump does not make a deal, does not concede or step aside, and this thing goes long and it’s being fought out in the courts well into December, what do you think the next few months will be like? And what advice, if any, do you have for people navigating that time?

SK: I mean, I think the next few months are going to be very difficult. And I’m thinking of it basically as, you know, November 3rd through when inauguration day is supposed to be, but I could even see scenarios where that day is moved, you know, or they don’t even know who is going to be the president and who’s going to be in Congress. And I mean, there’s a lot of, like, wildcards going on here. And one of the big ones, of course, is the rise of pandemic cases, hospitals being, you know, flooded with new patients. I think that that, you know, that changes how people might protest. It might even change how they vote. It’’ll change the national mood. I think one thing that, you know, Trump and his backers do very effectively is just exhaust people’s capacity for trauma. I mean, we shouldn’t ideally have a capacity for trauma, but you know, what they do is they try to overwhelm you with so many horrific things that you just kind of throw your hands in the air, say, “You know whatever, I just want you to go away.” And I think that there are Democrats, particularly Pelosi and, you know, others surrounding her. That is the outcome they want. They want to give Trump some little deal so he will just, you know, magically go away and then they can pretend that they solved the problem, and Trump can pretend that this is over, and then they’ll all go back to their evil plots and schemes. And our lives will not improve in any way, with the exception, you know, and it is a significant exception of things hopefully, like how is the pandemic handled? Cause obviously Joe Biden will handle a pandemic differently and he will handle climate change differently, but he will not necessarily handle corruption differently.

And if you don’t tackle corruption, then all of those other initiatives that you’re trying to pass are going to get worse, whether it’s public health, or environment, or voting rights, or civil rights, like if you don’t root out, you know, that rot at the core, then we’re in trouble. And so for the next three months, what I basically envision is a lot of chaos, unfortunately a lot of death from coronavirus, violence in the streets, protracted court battles, any, you know, ongoing, protracted assault on our sense of reality, on facts, on, you know, how many people voted, who voted, is the vote fair, what does legitimacy even mean anymore? And I can definitely see, kind of, you know, weaker morally elements in our population, whether the Vichy Democrats or TV pundits kind of, you know, moving towards the holidays, just thinking to themselves, “Oh, I wish this were just over with,” and going along with whatever, you know, terrible compromise might be made.

And that compromise is never a real compromise. It’s just a gift. It’s just a gift to Trump and his crime cult and the GOP. So I’m dreading watching that happen and I’m going to fight that wholeheartedly. I mean, we need to get Trump out, but we need to remove the broader apparatus surrounding him even more. And it’s been really horrifying to see these false saviors trotted out, you know, starting with Comey, and then going to Mueller and then going to Pelosi.

And then it was the courts, you know, and all of these people I’m naming have a terrible track record of corruption in their own right, and should have never been seen as saviors to begin with. But also just the mentality of it that, like you said, that it’s up to one powerful person to like wave a magic wand and then this goes away, and that it’s wrapped around the removal of one powerful person in Trump, and that this will go away. Whereas in reality, we have a lot of corrupt enablers and we have a lot of corrupt actors and we have an enormous amount of people suffering underneath them. And that’s a very big job. And like you said, that requires us, it requires civic engagement. It requires citizens to figure out, you know, well, what do we want here, what do we deserve? You know, what are our values? What are we fighting for? And I have seen more people, you know, thinking in that direction, I’ve seen more politicians speaking out in that way. And I hope that those who are speaking out, you know, like Ocasio-Cortez or Katie Porter or others continue to do so if these sorts of compromised false deals are, you know, brought out. I hope they continue this and see this as a long-term fight and will just wage it no matter what the cost, because I think a lot of folks are fed up. I mean, I know I am, but I definitely see it more and more among, you know, kind of like mainstream Democrats as well. They’re fed up with the corruption, they’re fed up with the inaction and I think they know also that they’re enabling deeply evil people and somewhere, hopefully, that rests on their conscience.

KH: Absolutely, the potential for electoral disruption, as we’ve talked about, is so huge and that’s something people don’t like to talk about. And they don’t like it when anyone talks about it, but the threat is real. And if anyone has the power to speak these things into being, it’s the people on the other side who are actively contemplating these things. And if you observe what they are saying in their spaces, they’re definitely talking about those things.

So, you know, us not talking about it, obviously doesn’t erase that. And I am really all about preparation. I think people are told not to overthink things, often, as a mechanism of control. I think people need to plan like hell. I created a resource last week for safety planning that I will drop in the show notes on our website, but I really hope people will remember that we are our best resource and that we are the ones who can shift the dynamics of this society by being more invested in each other than we are in the rule of law, for example. And you know, the rule of law is, of course, being fetishized right now in horrible ways because people are afraid of Trump and that has to stop. I think we need to really link up and remember that we are always our best hope, our best defense, and we are the ones who have the power to take back our collective values and say, actually, this erosion is over. And these defense mechanisms, these hardened layers of that we’ve developed, some of them have to go. And we have to be willing to feel things together and to grieve together and to really fight for each other as though the survival of the person next to us is non-negotiable. And, you know, I hope we can do that. I would have loved to have seen more of that kind of solidarity moving towards the election and, you know, in these coming weeks and months, I just, I hope we can find it. I hope we can find it and see that necessity and really start building more and more in those ways to kind of get each other through these times. We’re faced with political uncertainty, to put it mildly, we’re faced with ecological collapse, a pending housing crisis, we’ve got so much hanging over us. And a lot of the same forms of solidarity are going to be needed on our end to survive all of it.

SK: I mean, everything you just said, I agree with a hundred percent. And I think that underlying a lot of this is just a collective fear of abandonment. And that’s because abandonment has been the way of American life, you know, certainly over the last 40 years. You know, you don’t have a government that has your back. You don’t have companies you work for, that are loyal to you, or that reward you financially for your labor. You know, you have communities that are dissolving. You have people increasingly being suspicious of each other, dehumanizing each other through social media. And I think to kind of get past that fear of abandonment, you know, you have to show some vulnerability, you know, and sort of say like, “I need help,” or, “I would appreciate more, you know, support or maybe it would be better if we collectively supported each other.” I think that’s sometimes a very hard thing for people to say because I think they’re afraid of being laughed at or rejected or just, you know, being preyed on of people, seeing how much they need that help and support, and then just doing the opposite. And so I hope that that folks can do that anyway, and realize, you know, there really are a lot of people who are trying to create a better world, you know, who aren’t just thinking about themselves, who are trying, you know, to help everyone in need and to create systems, you know, to create a future that doesn’t rely on individuals, but that is just systemically stronger and more honest and more compassionate. That’s something to look forward to. And I think just, I guess don’t let the, — you know, hopefully from the darkness of this conversation, I hope people see that the reason we’re calling these problems out is because we want them to be solved, not because we want to wallow in them or anything like that. We need them to be solved. It’s not really a choice. So I hope that folks are resolute. And I hope that they look out for each other. And I hope they, you know, come out and ask for help when they need it. Cause I think a lot of people are kind of privately in that place right now, and that can be a very lonely and difficult place to be.

KH: Absolutely, I think isolation is taking a toll on people and also, you know, people are discouraged. People are afraid. Even people who are hanging on to hopes are afraid right now. And I just want to remind folks that, you know, while the next few months will be outlined thoroughly in the history books, those pages have not been written. We have the power to fight over who gets to write them. So, you know, let’s continue to do that. And also just a note to our listeners, as you may have noticed, we are off our regular schedule right now. Normally, we have an episode for you every Wednesday, but we are squeezing in some extra episodes before the election to answer some of the questions and concerns you all have shared with me about this moment and what you need to know.

Above all, I care about making the show useful to those of you who listen, and I think that’s what our guests care about too. So I really appreciate your feedback and your requests. And I hope these home stretch episodes are helpful to those of you who listen. For now, I just want to thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah. I always learn so much when we talk.

SK: Oh, gosh, same thing. I hope everybody keeps listening to your show and thank you so much for all the work that you’ve been doing.

KH: And I hope our listeners will check out Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, I think it’s a really important book in terms of understanding how we got here. So, I hope everyone will try to stay safe, try to make some plans, and you know, try to spread calm, cause we need that right now. We need discipline. We need preparation. We need reciprocal care. So with that, I just want to thank our listeners for joining us today. And remember, our best defense against cynicism is to do good, and to remember that the good we do matters. Until next time, I’ll see you in the streets.

Show Notes:

Planning for Disaster: A Writing Exercise

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America

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