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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

IDRA Testimony before the SBOE on Texas' Censorship, Cancel Culture, "Anti-CRT" Bills, by Dr. Chloe Sikes

Learn here from research conducted at the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) by Dr. Chloe Sikes and her colleagues about the broader impacts of Texas' "anti-CRT" bills, House Bill 3979 and Senate Bill 3, as well as on ensuing book bans. Critical Race Theory, as we know, isn't actually taught in schools, so it's Ethnic Studies, as well as Women and Gender Studies and anything critical, that are the targets of this legislation.

HB 3979 and SB 3 have created a chilling effect, contributing, along with other factors like low teacher salaries and poor working conditions, to exacerbate Texas' epoch-making teacher shortage that lay the groundwork for vouchers and other privatization schemes that are sure to rear their ugly heads in the coming legislative session beginning in January, 2023.

Though predictable, it's sad to read about their impacts on educators’ and students' morale and sense of safety and security. Geez what kind of country are we living in when police interrogate educators on the books that they're reading? 

Plus, how ironic this censorship agenda for a party that decries "cancel  culture!"

As I've been calling out on this blog, this is the rolling out of the fascist, white supremacist, neoliberal state that seeks to disempower our predominantly minority K-12 student population. 

According to 2020-21 state-level data, Hispanic students are the largest group at 52.9% and African American students at 12.7%, such that our schools are overwhelmingly comprised of students of color (65.6 %). The White student population follows at 26.5%, with Asian and multiracial students accounting for the remainder at 4.7% and 2.7%, respectively (Texas Education Agency, 2021).

In this demographic context, it's logical to conclude that HB 3979 and SB 3 are the "racial codes," or Jim Crow laws of today. These are intentionally designed to limit what our minoritized student population can accomplish lest they become empowered and argue for their rights—which is exactly what they should be doing. 

These actions are clearly a reaction to the successes we have had in Ethnic Studies policy that in some instances, have resulted in the cancellation of such courses in schools throughout the state.

Let's vote this administration out of power and let's work toward repealing these bills in the next Texas legislative session. Let's also protect Academic Freedom in higher education, the next battle ground for this kind of cancel culture policy.

Great work, Dr. Sikes and IDRA! Andan asustados. They're scared. We're going to win this. After all, in so many ways, we already have.

Sí se puede! Yes we can!

-Angela Valenzuela


Recent State Policy on Curriculum Leads to Classroom Censorship in Schools 

IDRA Testimony on Interim Charge to Monitor State Policy on Curriculum and Instructional Materials Used in Public Schools, Re: HB 3979 (87R) and SB 3 (87, 2) 


Submitted to the Texas House Public Education Committee, July 26, 2022 


For questions or more information, please contact Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D.

IDRA Deputy Director of Policy, at chloe.sikes@idra.org. 


IDRA is an independent, non-partisan education non-profit committed to achieving equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. We submit this testimony for your consideration on the implementation to date of HB 3979 (87R) and SB 3 (87, 2), otherwise known as Texas’ classroom censorship policies, and their negative impacts on Texas students, educators and schools. Although SB 3 largely replaced HB 3979, they collectively impacted the last school year as documented by this interim testimony. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Remembering Uvalde Victim, Amerie Jo Garza: A Mother's Memory and Anguish

Read this gut-wrenching statement on the violent murder of Amerie Jo Garza and cry.

We must organize to address gun safety in our schools. I'm am inspired by Scarlett Lewis, who is advocating that folks "choose love," in honor of her son, Jesse, who was killed at Sandy Hook. This is the same mother who, along with her husband, sued Alex Jones who spread lies and conspiracy theories about Sandy Hook for which he paid dearly—to the tune of close to $50 million in damages such that Alex Jones will now be, in effect, paying for keeping children safe in school and fomenting love, not war.

We must do better. We can do better. We must not hate. We must not kill. We must, in all instances, choose love and compassion over hatred and fear.

Do take some a few minutes, as well, to listen to this video, a special tribute to Amerie by her parents. Thanks to Alfredo Santos for publishing this essay in La Voz de Austin.

-Angela Valenzuela

#ChooseLove #Uvalde #UvaldeStrong #guncontrol #ProtectOurKids

 

Written by one of the Uvalde victim’s moms: 


August, 2022

The chicken soup in her thermos stayed hot all day while her body grew cold. She never had a chance to eat the baloney and cheese sandwich. I got up 10 minutes early to cut the crust off a sandwich that will never be eaten. 

Should I call and cancel her dental appointment next Wednesday? Will the office automatically know? Should I still take her brother to the appointment since I already took the day off work? Last time Carlos had one cavity and Amerie asked him what having a cavity feels like. She will never experience having a cavity.
She will never experience having a cavity filled.

The cavities in her body now are from bullets, and they can never be filled. 

What if she had asked to use the bathroom in the hall a few minutes prior to the gunman entering the room, locking the door, and slaughtering all inside?
Was she one of the first kids in the room to die or one of the last? 

These are the things they don’t tell us. 

Which of her friends did she see die before her? Hannah? Emily? Both? 

Did their blood and brains splatter across her Girl Scout uniform?
She just earned a Fire Safety patch. What if it got ruined? There are no patches for school shootings. 

Was she practicing writing GIRAFFE the moment he walked in her classroom, barricaded the door and opened fire? 

She keeps forgetting the silent “e” at the end. We studied this past weekend, and now she doesn’t need to take the spelling test on Friday.


None of them will take the spelling test on Friday. 

There will be no spelling test on Friday.
Because there is no one to give it.
And no one to take it.
These are the things I will never know:
I will never know at what age she would have started her period. 

I will never know if she had wisdom teeth. (Or if they would have come in crooked.) 

I will never know who she spoke to last. Was it the teacher? Was it her table partner, George? She says George is always talking, even during silent reading. Did she even scream? 

She screamed the lyrics to We Don’t Talk About Bruno at 7:58 AM as she hopped out of my car in the circle drive. She always sings the Dolores part, her sister sings Mirabel and I’m Bruno. 

“And I wanted you to know that your bro loves you so Let it in, let it out, let it rain, let it snow, let it goooooo........”
Did the killer ever see Encanto? 

Could we have sat in the same row of seats, on the same day, munching popcorn? 

What if Amerie brushed past him in the aisle? Did she politely say, “Excuse me,” to the boy who would someday blow her eye sockets apart?

Was he chomping on bubble gum as he destroyed them all? 

If so, what flavor?
Cinnamon?
Wintergreen?
Was the radio on as he drove to massacre them? Or did he drive in silence? Was the sun in his eyes as he got out of the car in the parking lot? 

Did his pockets hold sunglasses or just ammunition? These are the things I will never know. 

There is laundry in the dryer that is Amerie’s.
Clothes I never need to fold again.
Clothes that are right now warmer than her body.
How will I ever be able to take them out of the dryer and where will I put them if not back in her dresser? 

I can never wash clothes in that dryer again.
It will stand silent; a tomb for her pajamas and knee socks. 

Her cousin’s graduation party is next month and I already signed her name in the card. Should I cross it out? That will be the last card I ever sign her name to. The dog will live longer than she will. 

The dog will be 12 next month and she will be eternally 10. What will the school do with her backpack? 

It was brand new this year and she attached her collection of keychains like cherished trophies to its zipper.
A beaded 4 leaf clover she made on St. Patty’s Day. A red heart from a Walk-a-Thon. 

A neon ice cream cone from her friend’s birthday party. Now there will be no more keychains to attach.
No more trophies. 

Surely they can’t throw it out? Would they throw them all out? 19 backpacks, full of stickered assignments and rainboots, all taken to the dumpster behind the school? Is there even a dumpster big enough to contain all that life? 

These are the things someone else knows:
The moment the semiautomatic rifle was put into his hands—was “Bring Me a Higher Love” playing in the gun store? “Get off my Cloud” by the Rolling Stones? Maybe it was Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”

Did the Outback Oasis salesperson hesitate as they slid him 375 rounds of ammunition? 

Not my problem my kids are grown and out of school Or I don’t have kids, so I don’t have to worry about their skulls getting blown across the nap time mat
Or fingers crossed there’s a good guy with an equally powerful gun that will stop this gun if needed 

Did they sense any danger or were they more focused on picking that morning’s Raisin Bran out of their teeth? My Nana used to say, “Pay attention to what whispers, and you won’t have to when it starts screaming.” 

But now I know there is a more deafening sound than children screaming. 

More horrific even, than automatic rifles on a Tuesday morning. 

I beg the world: 

Pay attention to what’s screaming today, or be forced to endure the silence that follows.” 

Scapegoating Democracy at a Point in U.S. History Where We Need MORE Democracy, Not Less

After being of the opinion that Trumpists had already taken off their masks of white supremacy and racial hatred, Umair Haque makes an excellent point of how their new terrain is the scapegoating "democracy" itself. The problem never has been democracy at all. I quote the famous and beloved educator and author, Deborah Meier, who once said 

"If there is a problem with democracy, we don't need less democracy. We need more democracy."

To make democracy the culprit is to indeed invite fascist neoliberalism that is the economic system that is already tearing into the heart of our country given the widening inequality. What we are seeing happening right now on the extreme right of a quintessential power grab where republicans are fully about preserving rights for themselves to exploit others and robbing the rest of us any right, including to existence, that these folks see as threatening of their power.

Do read this great analysis and critique of neoliberal, capitalist patriarchy by Umair Haque that I mostly think signify the dying breaths of white supremacy. We always knew it would be violent and reactionary. 

We could not be treading as a polity more dangerous waters. The immediate solution is to get out and vote.


Oct 5 is the deadline to register to vote for November Elections

Sept. 20 is National Voter Registration Day. #Vote2022

-Angela Valenzuela

#SayNoToFascism #Vote2022 #DemocracyNotAutocracy #RacialCapitalism

When a Political Side Explicitly Rejects Democracy and Embraces Violence, Can a Society Survive?


by Umair Haque August 15, 2022








Credit: Olivier Douliery

They’re getting crazier, more spiteful, bolder, and more violent by the day. The GOP, of course, the Trumpists. It’s worth taking a moment to pause and ask: what do they even want at this point?

They keep outdoing themselves in terms of ignorance, hostility, and sheer idiocy. Every time you think “they can’t possibly get any worse”…they do. Now, they’re explicitly against…democracy. As in, overtly.

Lately, if you’re keeping watch, a new form of ignorance has arisen. It’s not totally new — like so many of the beliefs radicalizing this social group and political wing, it’s a fringe belief making its way into the mainstream. Now you can hear it out in the open, amongst those aspiring to office — or worse, holding it.

“We’re not a democracy — we’re a republic!” Whew. Take a second to parse the irony of office-holders in a democracy saying…it’s not one. Then take a moment to chew on the fact that apparently, Trumpists have all become Plato’s progeny, and are now deep thinkers on matters of the body politic. I kid. The Republic, this isn’t.

“I want to address something that’s bugging me for a long time,” Bliss said. “And that’s the history and the sacredness of our Constitution and what our founding fathers meant.… We are a constitutional republic. We are not a democracy. Nowhere in the Constitution does it use the word ‘democracy.’ When I hear the word ‘democracy,’ I think of the democracy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That’s not us.”

“Sperry, the activist sitting in the audience, had posted on Facebook a few months before: “Please strike the word democracy from your vocabulary! WE ARE A REPUBLIC!!!”

What do these ninnies mean by this line that once used to be a fringe belief but is now going full-on mainstream — “We’re not a democracy, we’re a republic!” How do you even begin to square that with, well, the Constitution, which, as flawed as it is, at least aspires to democratic ideals of truth, justice, equality, freedom for all?

It all goes back to the fundamental question: what do these lunatics even want?

The best explanation of this line comes from one of them themselves: “Well to me, what a democracy is, is like 51 percent of the people can decide that they want my property, and they can take it. Where a constitutional republic is: No, you can’t do that.”

Like I said, Plato and Thomas Paine are rolling over in their graves, clutching their tummies with morbid laughter. A constitutional republic is…”no, you can’t do that”?

And yet here’s the explanation not even hidden in plain sight, but loudly proclaimed. The reason that these fanatics don’t want a democracy — explicitly — is to protect private property rights. In other words, they want a kind of libertarian utopia, where there are no public goods — no public schools, systems, water mains, anything. “Freedom” is being able to choose your own — even if it means, of course, not having any. Democracy, because it insists on public goods — after all, that’s what education, health, longevity, really are — is anathema to this conception of what a society should be.

This has deep and sinister roots in America, the choice of a fanatical focus on private property, at the expense of public goods. Where does it come from? Sadly, slavery, of course. The Souths’ justification for slavery was bound up in “property rights,” only over people. The problem was that since people were property — the most valuable form of it, free labour that made the economy go — the central focus of society had to become protecting those “private property rights.” Hence, the Fugitive Slave Act empowered anyone to become a deputy chasing down a runaway slave, since they were just “property.”

If all that sounds, well, proto-fascist to you, it should. The Nazis were fascinated by America, and studied it intently, modeling their odious laws to repress and then annihilate Jews and all other kinds of minorities, on Southern ones. And it doesn’t take a genius to think too hard about just why some people would be able to become other people’s property — they must be subhumans, only good for menial labour, disposable commodities, only fit to be traded. How horrific.

This history poisons America to this very day. When Trumpists cry “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic,” it’s not because they’ve suddenly become political science scholars. It’s because they mean “the protection of private property rights,” which in America has long been code for proto-fascism. We’ll send our kids to our schools, we’ll shop at our stores, we’ll sit on our buses — and you don’t belong here, except as property. In other words, “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic” is thinly veiled code for supremacy.

And yet though all this has deep roots in American history, it’s still a quantum leap into the abyss. How so?

Trumpism, like so many demagogic movements, works by scapegoating. And scapegoating evolves. First it was “just” Muslims, then it was Mexicans, then it was Mexican babies, then it was all Latino families, who had to be “separated,” then it was everyday “real” American kids, even white ones, who might say the word “gay,” and then it was women, all of them, from whom rights of privacy, expression, and association were taken by a rogue Supreme Court. Scapegoating evolves and grows as demagogic movements do — and it’s a key mechanism of social collapse, because the bigger the scapegoats get, the bigger the Big Lies do, and the more damage has to be done to society, the more overt and explicit and intense and far-reaching the violence, brutality, and hate.

Now. What’s really going on when Trumpists cry “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic!” They are reaching the outer limits of scapegoating. The scapegoat? This time, it’s democracy itself.

Who’s responsible for the woes of the “real” American? Why did their lives fall apart, generations plunging into downward mobility and penury, the elderly never retiring? Who ripped the heart out of all those Rust Belt towns? Who kicked the legs out from under the working class? Think of that sequence of scapegoats above — they’ve all been blamed for it, in sequential order, Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, gay people, their kids, their families, then everyone’s kids, and finally now women. Where do you go from there?

You see, you have to go somewhere, and always find a new scapegoat, in a demagogic movement and politics. Because of course just finding targets to pick on doesn’t solve the actual problemYou could “separate” literally every single Latino family in existence — and it wouldn’t do a thing to solve the problem of the white American working class falling apart, or Americans not having much of a future. The same was true, of course, of Nazis, Jews, and Germans. Scapegoating is so poisonous because it’s a vicious cycle: since it doesn’t work, a bigger scapegoat always has to be found.

Until, at least, you reach the end. And there’s nowhere left to go.

What’s happening now is that Trumpists are being offered a new scapegoat for their woes. Hey, old lady, why didn’t you ever retire? Hey, kid, why can’t you get a job? Hey, middle-aged guy, why is your life worse than your parents? Scapegoating is like a spell — it wears off. The old scapegoats don’t work that much anymore. Say Muslims, Mexicans, to the fanatics in America — and they’ll shrug. They need fresh meat, to really whet their appetities. The new scapegoat being offered to America’s fanatics is democracy itself.

You didn’t get the life you expected, wanted, felt entitled to…because democracyDemocracy’s the problem. Sure, “democracy” here is a code-word — rights for anyone else but us. Us — the pure of faith and true of blood. We’re the only people in society who deserve rights like speech, expression, association, privacy. The rest? They’re subhumans. Because they’re not pious enough of faith, or they’re not pure enough of blood. They don’t deserve power.

And that is what all this is really about. Power. When Trumpists cry “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic,” it’s not because they’re debating the ghost of Winston Churchill, and winning — it’s because for them, it’s a way to claim absolute power. It means: nobody else is to have any real rights, which amount to powers. Powers of self-determination, sovereignty, even existence.

Let me make that crystal clear, in case it’s not. In a “republic,” the Trumpists believe that what the minority says can and should go. And because the minority wants it badly enough, hard enough, is willing to be more brutal and violent than the majority, that bestows a kind of moral right to power, alongside the natural, divine right that comes from purity of faith and blood. So in said “republic,” gay people aren’t to exist, women aren’t to have rights, kids are to be taught what fundamentalists want, church is to supersede state, even if not everyone’s church, since it’s not everyone’s state anymore. The minority is now to have absolute power, and define society’s hierarchies their way.

You get this much respect, money, property, power — because this is where you fit in the hierarchy now. Pure of faith, true of blood, a man? Great, you’re at the top, where you belong. A woman, but willing to submit? OK, we’ll let you have a place, a rung. Minority? Woman not willing to submit? Hmm, sounds like trouble — you’re below the dividing line between “person” and “property,” you’re not to have the same rights as people.

All this is about power. Absolute power. To define other people’s lives. You see, in a democracy — and this is what makes democracy so, so different from all the other political-social forms which preceded it — we don’t do thatEach person gets to decide their own life, fate, existence. At least that’s the ideal, even if progress towards it has been slow, especially for women, gays, minorities. Still, the ideal remains: in a democracy, freedom is two things — self-determination, at the individual level, supported by self-governance, at the group level, nurtured by shared investment, at the collective level. We all need things like schools and hospitals and roads and books, in order to fulfill our own potential, and in a democracy, we support each other with those, and then let everyone decide their lives on their own.

It’s a good thing.

The Trumpists are saying no to all of that in their new insane form of ignorance — “this is a republic, not a democracy!” They’re saying that people shouldn’t have the right of self-determination. The minority will decide how everyone will live — and they’re already doing it to women, and next up gay people. They’re saying that because people don’t have the right of self-determination, self-governance, as in, we all consent to govern ourselves, doesn’t matter, either. If you don’t consent to being governed by the minority, too bad, shrug. They’ll do it with guns, anyways — why do you think they brandish them so openly now? And they’re saying that because self-determination and self-governance shouldn’t exist, there’s no need for shared systems of public goods that nurture everyone. What’s there to nurture, in all those hated subhumans, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, gays, women, anyways? Maybe women can be made to forcibly give birth — but that’s about it. Everyone has their place in this hierarchy — and yours is below ours.

That is how all this is a quantum leap into the abyss. It’s a very, very dangerous step for a society to take when one major political bloc begins to explicitly demonize democracy. To scapegoat it as the Big Scapegoat for the pure of blood’s and true of faith’s woes. Because of course the answer is then clear: tear down this Great Wicker Man called democracy. Burn him!! And set yourselves free! Even if it means burning the village down right alongside it.

This is how scapegoating plays out, in collapsing societies. First the scapegoats are ethnic groups, already low on the hierarchy of power, long hated. Then they expand to include those further up it. Then scapegoating expands further, to include even the faithless and heretical and impure among even the “real” people — women with the wrong attitudes, kids who display the wrong tendencies, teachers, doctors, journalists, intellectuals, anyone who doesn’t fit into the by-now fascist project of total conformity to a homogenized, cleansed ideal of purity and blood and virtue. And finally, when even all this doesn’t work to solve the problem of the declining living standards of the “real” people — a last scapegoat must be found. Democracy itself.

Where else have we seen exactly this process? In nearly every society which has completed the process of social collapse is the grim answer. This is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany. Germans — at least enough of them — accepted Hitler as their glorious, all-powerful thousand-year Fuhrer precisely because democracy itself was scapegoated for their woes. We’ve seen this play out in the Muslim world, too, and in Africa, time after time, democracy itself blamed for people’s misfortunes and struggles, as religious zealots and warlords took power. And of course this, too, was the central rationale of the terrible disaster communism ended in — democracy itself was scapegoated as being critical of the Party, hence, dictators like Stalin emerged, rose, and were glorified.

The Trumpists are finally taking their masks off. And what’s underneath is the face of a monster, rotting, squirming, snarling, sneering, baying. It’s the face of all the lunacy and idiocy and monstrosity in history, from fascism to theocracy to supremacy, through the dark ages, through war, hate, brutality, atrocity, right back to the Stone Age, where power is violence, and violence is the way of the tribe.

Imagine accepting someone as your Fuhrer. Really imagine it. Think about what it takes to go there, because that’s what Trumpists are basically saying now. Right out in the open. And that’s not all. In the last few weeks, they’ve proclaimed they were willing to die for Trump — remember their insane, violent reaction to the FBI raid on Trump’s tacky, lurid mansion?

When a political bloc and social group reaches this point — demagogues are scapegoating democracy itself, their masses are thrilled by that, slavering over it, calling for its end, willing to die for their demagogues, accepting them as their Fuhrer…it’s in an incredibly bad place. It is reaching terminal velocity of collapse, and is mere inches away from the hard, cold ground. Yes, the fall can still be broken. But first, a society has to figure out just how hard and fast it’s really falling. And that, too often, is the hardest part.

Umair
August 2022

Sunday, August 14, 2022

‘I didn’t really learn anything’: COVID grads face college by Collin Binkley, Aug. 9, 2022 | AP News

There is no question that there is going to be a marked impact of the pandemic on levels of academic preparedness for college students. I wonder if this is in part what's also contributing to historic low enrollment numbers into colleges and four-year universities this fall. As noted in a recent publication of the Hechinger Report:

"There are 4 million fewer students in college now than there were 10 years ago, a falloff many observers blame on Covid-19."

This is unfortunate, not just for the future of higher education, but particularly for young people that may be structuring themselves out of a college degree for reasons that could additionally include an actual or perceived lack of preparedness given the chaos that tended to accompany the pandemic for so many.

Clearly, as college and university faculty, we have to be sensitive to this and not make students feel badly about being underprepared. Surely, these youth still learned a lot during this "down time," just not what we might have wished for them to learn. 

Yet, what they have learned about themselves and the world throughout these many months of lockdown and uneven schooling is invaluable, an education in itself. Expressed differently, how the future plays out with this demographic entering our colleges and universities right now is in no small part also in our hands as college and university faculty. 

We should relax our presuppositions about what a prepared students looks and sounds like and get about the business of teaching. We'll get through this, but it'll require some shifts in focus and ongoing sensitivity that all is still not as things were prior to the pandemic. How we respond matters as higher education staff, faculty, and senior management matters so very much. 

I hope and trust that our educational leaders bring resources to the table for these youth so that a college education can continue being the positive, transformational experience that we know it can and should be.

-Angela Valenzuela

‘I didn’t really learn anything’: COVID grads face college


By COLLIN BINKLEY  Aug. 9, 2022 | AP News


Saturday, August 13, 2022

This is Dead Serious: If We Fail to Call out Fascism, Hungary Indeed Offers a Glimpse of America's Authoritarian Future

Ok, friends. We all seriously need to take a close look at Hungarian Viktor Orbán who is a fascist prime minister of Hungary who has held his grip on power since 2010. From 1998 to 2002, he also previously held office. This Wikipedia piece on Orbán is eye-opening and states, among other things, that he opposes Western democracy and promotes anti-Americanism.

Despite this, Orbán is clearly a darling of the extremist U.S. Republican Party. He recently presented at the August 4, 2022 CPAC gathering in Dallas, Texas.  This is the same leader who recently railed against opposing 'mixed race' society. Following on the Nazification of American Education piece I just posted, coupled with this in-depth piece below from The New Yorker, this should sound off all kinds of alarm bells. 

Also view this report by Hallie Jackson of NBC News to get a sense of just how popular Orbán is. While this is clearly a reflection of the Trumpian moment we've been in for some time now, we should not at all be confused that Orabán, like Trump, is a fascist. 

If that word doesn't work for you, think "Hitler," in order to grasp what I am attempting to convey. Yes, this is dead serious.

It's a bit stunning to me that more people, especially Democrats, aren't calling this out. Just because it doesn't quite look or perhaps even feel at the moment like Nazi Germany, let's not be naive. Orbán's anti-Semitic tropes coupled with his scapegoating of immigrants are similar to the fear mongering and polarizing aims of our current, Trumpian Republican Party. Let's also not forget or ignore that according to this Los Angeles Times piece, Viktor Orbán's closest EU ally is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

I think this New Yorker piece actually does answer the question posed in the title. The answer is yes. Unless we vote these extremists out of power, Orbán and Hungary do offer us a glimpse of an authoritarian future. We're already seeing it with all the hateful attacks on the LGBTQ community, the controlling of women's bodies, the racist dog whistles that stoke white supremacist ire. 

We cannot deny the useful and telling role that Orbán is currently playing in American politics. He's signaling to American fascists where to take our country. He wouldn't have been invited to keynote at CPAC if this were otherwise.

We're witnessing before our very eyes such a small, narrow-minded and mean Republican Party. While we're clearly better than that, we also need to call it out for what it is: It's fascism. And fascism is antithetical to democracy.

Fascism is NOT an American value. Get out and vote in November like your lives depend on it because they do.

Oct 5 is the deadline to register to vote for November Elections

Sept. 20 is National Voter Registration Day. #Vote2022

-Angela Valenzuela

#SayNoToFascism #Vote2022 #DemocracyNotAutocracy









Does Hungary Offer a Glimpse of Our Authoritarian Future?

American conservatives recently hosted their flagship conference in Hungary, a country that experts call an autocracy. Its leader, Viktor Orbán, provides a potential model of what a Trump after Trump might look like.

by 

June 27, 2022

The Republican Party hasn’t adopted a new platform since 2016, so if you want to know what its most influential figures are trying to achieve—what, exactly, they have in mind when they talk about an America finally made great again—you’ll need to look elsewhere for clues. You could listen to Donald Trump, the Party’s de-facto standard-bearer, except that nobody seems to have a handle on what his policy goals are, not even Donald Trump. You could listen to the main aspirants to his throne, such as Governor Ron DeSantis, of Florida, but this would reveal less about what they’re for than about what they’re against: overeducated élites, apart from themselves and their allies; “wokeness,” whatever they’re taking that to mean at the moment; the overzealous wielding of government power, unless their side is doing the wielding. Besides, one person can tell you only so much. A more efficient way to gauge the current mood of the Party is to spend a weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC.


On a Friday in February, I arrived at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort, in Orlando. It was a temperate afternoon, and the Party faithful were spending it indoors, in the air-conditioning. I walked into a rotunda with potted palm trees and chaotically patterned carpeting. Shabbat services were about to begin, and a minyan of young men, give or take, roamed around in MAGA-themed yarmulkes. The CPAC dress code was big-tent: pants suits, sweatsuits, bow ties, bolos—anything, pretty much, except for an N95. A merch kiosk near the entrance sold Nancy Pelosi toilet paper, gold-sequinned purses shaped like handguns, and Trump 2024 T-shirts in every size and color. Even the staircases were sponsored—one by Fox News and another by Gettr, a social-media platform founded by Trump-campaign alumni. If you aligned yourself with it at just the right vantage, you could parse Gettr’s slogan, “Making Social Media Fun Again!” Otherwise, it looked like red-white-and-blue gibberish.


“Trump Before Trump”


Andrew Marantz discusses the American right’s embrace of Viktor Orbán, on The New Yorker Radio Hour.


Political rallies are for red-meat applause lines; think-tank conferences are for more measured policy discussions. The American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC, tries to have it both ways. On Saturday, I spent a while in the main ballroom, watching a panel called “Put Him to Bed, Lock Her Up and Send Her to the Border.” “Him” referred to Joe Biden, “the hair-sniffing dementia patient in the White House”; the first “her,” of course, was Hillary Clinton; the second was Kamala Harris, who was lambasted as both an “empty pants suit” and a wily “Cersei Lannister.” That afternoon, Trump arrived, hosted a V.I.P. gathering featuring a spread of Big Macs under heat lamps, and took the stage, giving a ninety-minute stump speech to an ecstatic crowd, all but confirming his intention to run for President again.


The policy discussions were mainly tucked away upstairs, in conference rooms with a tiny fraction of the foot traffic. One panel, on European populism, was called “More Brexits?” The moderator, an American named James Carafano, introduced the first speaker: Miklós Szánthó, the director of a Hungarian think tank called the Center for Fundamental Rights. (According to Átlátszó, an investigative-journalism outlet in Hungary, the Center for Fundamental Rights is secretly funded by the Hungarian government.) “He’s a real European,” Carafano, a foreign-policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said. “I know that because I saw him in Europe!”


For decades, at conferences like CPAC, international exchanges were mostly assumed to flow in one direction: Americans exporting their largesse, and their ideology, to the rest of the world. At the first CPAC, in 1974, the keynote speaker, Governor Ronald Reagan, gave a rousing address about soldiers who had shed their “American-melting-pot blood in every corner of the world, usually in defense of someone’s freedom.” In recent years, as the future of the Republican Party has seemed increasingly up for grabs, American conservatives have shown more willingness to look abroad for ideas that they might want to try out back home.


Szánthó, a stout man with a smartly tailored suit and a waxed mustache, began by quibbling with the panel’s title. “There will be no so-called Huxit,” he said, despite his country’s disagreements with “the deep state of Brussels.” Szánthó lives in Hungary, but he spoke fluent Fox News-inflected English. “When it comes to border protection, when it comes to the Jewish-Christian heritage of the Continent and of the European Union, or when it comes to gender ideology,” he continued, the Hungarians, nearly alone among citizens of Western nations, “step up for conservative values.”


Hungary has a population comparable to Michigan’s and a G.D.P. close to that of Arkansas, but, in the imagination of the American right, it punches far above its weight. Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister since 2010, is now the longest-serving head of state in the European Union, and one of the most fiercely nativist and traditionalist. Starting in 2013, he made a political foil out of George Soros, the Jewish financier who was born in Hungary but hasn’t lived there in decades, exploiting the trope of Soros as a nefarious international puppet master. During the refugee crisis of 2015, Orbán built a militarized fence along Hungary’s southern border, and, in defiance of both E.U. law and the Geneva Conventions, expelled almost all asylum seekers from the country. Relative to other European nations, Hungary hadn’t experienced a big influx of migrants. (Out-migration is actually more common.) But the refugees, most of them from Syria or other parts of the Middle East, were an effective political scapegoat—one that Orbán continues to flog, along with academics, “globalists,” the Roma, and, more recently, queer and trans people. Last year, Hungary passed a law banning sex education involving L.G.B.T.Q. topics in schools. Nine months later, in Florida, DeSantis signed a similar law, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis’s press secretary, talking about the inspiration for the law, reportedly said, “We were watching the Hungarians.”


Experts have described Orbán as a new-school despot, a soft autocrat, an anocrat, and a reactionary populist. Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of international affairs at Princeton, has referred to him as “the ultimate twenty-first-century dictator.” Some prominent American conservatives want nothing to do with him; but more have taken his side, pointing to Hungary as a potential model for America’s future. That afternoon, on the CPAC main stage, Dan Schneider, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, singled out Orbán for praise: “If you cannot protect your own borders, if you cannot protect your own sovereignty, none of the other rights can be protected. That’s what the Prime Minister of Hungary understands.” The house lights dimmed and a sort of political trailer played, set to melodramatic music. “For over a millennium, to be Hungarian meant to sail the rough seas of history,” a narrator intoned over a horror-movie-style montage: Mongol invaders, migrant caravans, a glowering George Soros, drag-queen story time.

 

The lights came up, and Szánthó walked to the lectern, waving stiffly. “Hungary has fought wars, suffered unthinkable oppression, to gain and regain our liberty,” he said. In the current war, he went on, the enemy was “woke totalitarianism,” personified by George Soros (he paused for boos); the hero was “one of the true champions of liberty, a man you know well, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán” (a generous round of applause). He praised “President Trump” and tried to initiate a cheer of “Let’s go Brandon,” a substitute for “Fuck Joe Biden” used by right-wing culture warriors who spend too much time on the Internet. He quoted the old chestnut “Hard times create strong men,” although, the way he said it, it sounded like “strongmen.” And he invited the audience to join him at the next CPAC conference, the first to be hosted on European soil: CPAC Hungary.


“You do not have to have emergency powers or a military coup for democracy to wither,” Aziz Huq, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Chicago, told me. “Most recent cases of backsliding, Hungary being a classic example, have occurred through legal means.” Orbán runs for reëlection every four years. In theory, there is a chance that he could lose. In practice, he has so thoroughly rigged the system that his grip on power is virtually assured. The political-science term for this is “competitive authoritarianism.” Most scholarly books about democratic backsliding (“The New Despotism,” “Democracy Rules,” “How Democracies Die”) cite Hungary, along with Brazil and Turkey, as countries that were consolidated democracies, for a while, before they started turning back the clock.


Szánthó mentioned “Jewish-Christian heritage,” but there aren’t many practicing Jews left in Hungary. Orbán, in his speeches, often uses the phrase “Christian democracy,” which he portrays as under continual existential threat. Given that the vast majority of Hungarians, apparently including Orbán, do not attend church regularly, it seems plausible that his audience hears the word “Christian,” at least in part, as code for something else. “If we manage to uphold our country’s ethnic homogeneity and its cultural uniformity,” he said in 2017, “Hungary will be the kind of place that will be able to show other, more developed countries what they lost.” His constant theme is that only he can preserve Hungary for the (non-Muslim, ethnically Magyar) Hungarians—about as close as any European head of state will come to an explicit rejection of ethnic pluralism in favor of state-sanctioned white nationalism. For many of his American admirers, this seems to be a core element of his appeal. Lauren Stokes, a professor of European history at Northwestern University, told me, “The offer Orbán is making to global conservatives is: I alone can save you from the ravages of Islamization and totalitarian progressivism—and, in the face of all that, who has time for checks and balances and rules?”