The Politics Of Fear In 2016
HOUSTON, TEXAS, CASCADE PRESS (CP) In 2016 the Politics of Fear is about the only way I can describe the first post-Obama presidential election.
“Fear reckless Trump,” the Hillary-Kaine Democratic ticket proclaims! ”
Fear lying Hillary,” is the Trump-Pence campaign retort.
Each campaign is playing the fear card hoping that enough Americans will be so fearful of their opponent that voters will select them instead.
“The only thing you have to fear, is fear itself,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said during his first inaugural address in 1933.
At that time, anxiety ran unrestrained in the land nestled between the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. Inflation was sky-high. Roosevelt had campaigned the year before against the incumbent Herbert Hoover. He spoke in generalized terms without specifying how he planned to move the country from the last stages of the “Great Depression” into an economic recovery that would give Americans hope for their future.
Roosevelt knew that if Americans could overcome their fear of the depression, it would kickstart an economic recovery unparalleled in American history. He had plans to expand the authority of the presidency without amending the US Constitution. First, Roosevelt had to kill the fear of a dark future that was in the minds of the people.
He knew his countrymen could not climb out of their “mountain of despair,” as long as fear gripped them by the seat of their pants. If his fellow Americans were too afraid to hope for a better way of life, the American way of life would become stagnant.
A quarter of a century later, Kwame Nkrumah, first president of modern day Ghana, gave us this postulation: “The secret to life is to have no fear.”
Nkrumah knew that fear paralyzes, stops progress in its track and enslaves one’s existence to the reality of the fear mongers.
These two world leaders inspired their people to have the courage to overcome their fear of the future so that they could embrace the freedom of their convictions.
In 2016, the political party of Roosevelt, has resorted to fear as a political tool to win the presidential election. The Democrats say that you should elect the Democratic Party ticket out of fear that Donald Trump would be worse for the country than their pick.
It is the reverse of the approach used by Roosevelt as he willed his nation to fight against the forces of fear dancing in the pit of the American psyche.
The politics of fear as played out by the Democratic machine seeks to stop the natural progression of the progressive agenda that President Obama campaigned upon in 2008. The Clinton-Kaine coalition will not dismantle the Obama initiatives, but they will most surely move away from them to other agendas.
Obama was stymied in realizing his dream of providing universal health insurance, a cessation of racial animus; and meaningful Wall Street reform. His failure was due in large part because Republican sympathizers deployed the politics of fear by encouraging their followers to fear the Obama agenda.
They convinced conservatives that Obama was a closet Muslim installed by foreign terrorists to give free reign to Islamic Jihadists for the purpose of terrorizing the homeland.
Once the political fear of Obama took hold it was easy to stymie, disrupt and say no to any Obama proposal, no matter how sound the idea. Conservatives’ fear of Obama stopped the progressive transformation of American society from one of less inclusion to becoming one of more inclusion; albeit some transformation has occurred under President Obama.
Now, Democrats are not waiting for the election of Trump before urging “so called” Liberals to fear his administration. They have launched an all out assault on the conscience of the country by preaching the doctrine of fear. Therefore, vote the Clinton-Kaine ticket, not because Clinton and Kaine will advance the progressive programs that Obama championed before running into the headwinds of fear and contempt blowing from conservatives and their posse, but because their ticket is less scary than that of the other party.
The hallmark of the politics of fear is grounded in the predicate that the people, if given the choice of the lesser of two evils, will always choose the evil that can convince a majority of the populace that it may be evil, but at least it is not as evil as the other side. “If you think I will be bad for the country,” the lesser of the two evils argues; “then just imagine how much more evil my opponent will be,” they seem to pontificate.
These are daunting prospects for the leading democracy in the modern world!
What then are citizens to do when they are guided by the principles enunciated by Roosevelt and Nkrumah on fear?
When the people are faced with two political parties who nominate flawed candidates, the people usually have no recourse but to swallow a tonic and hope the country can survive the evil to come.
In the presidential cycle this year, Americans willing to face up to the fear mongering raging in the land have an alternative to the poisonous red pill or the toxic blue pill.
This year the Green Party offers a green pill full of life and renewal; an outlook on the future based upon the Obama hope of 2008.
Dr. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka offer an antidote to the petty trash talking and fear mongering coming from the red and blue pills.
In order to reach for the renewable energy found in the green pill Americans will have to follow the dictates of a group of late 20th century musical icons, Parliament-Funkadelic. They suggested that if one wants a better reality simply, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”
Or as the legendary Tuskegee University History Professor W. J. Fluker, would often say: “Pharaoh doesn’t want you, but he needs you. All you have to do to let Pharaoh go, is let him go.”
Although, Black Democrats want a fair slice of the American pie, they are stunned by the fear of aTrump presidency, reminiscent of deer in headlights and are reluctant to let Pharaoh go.
“Where can you find a political party as good to Black people as the Democratic Party,” Blacks in the 21st century argue passionately. As passionately I suppose, as my great great grandfather, Joseph Harvey and other Black men, argued about the Republican Party in 1868 when he became the first member of the Black side of my family to cast a vote in an American General Election?
I can only imagine that the Scotch-Irish mixture in my DNA voted for the Democratic Party ticket that year. Each side of the family voting their conviction according to what was in their perceived best interest. Joe Harvey went with a 12 year old political party that emerged as a third party alternative to the Whigs and Democrats who fought over, not whether enslavement was wrong, but how the economic system of forced labor would be managed.
In 1856, the Republican Party encouraged by the free Black Abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, advanced the idea of freeing enslaved humans from bondage. The Republicans did not win the election that year, but their presence in the country made a one term president out of the Whig, Millard Fillmore, and contributed to the demise of the Whig Party in 1860 with the election of the third party candidate Abraham Lincoln.
The political climate is ripe for the emergence of a third party to hustle it’s way into the battle royale between the Republicans and Democrats. In 2016 the Green Party, reminiscent of the historical role played by the upstart Republicans, is receiving encouragement from a free Black man, Dr. Cornel West. And among other progressive issues, has a platform plank in favor of reparations for descendents of Africans enslaved by European and vicariously, American businessmen in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
If progressives, Black Democrats and Independents have the courage to reach for the green pill in November the country will get back to the progressive direction it voted for in 2008.
If not, then 2020 will give us the same alternatives, as we are given in 2016, alternatives based upon fear. By then, that light of hope sparked by Obama in 2008, will be a distant memory, submerged in the murky waters of the politics of fear.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.
Great article as usual.
Always very informative and educational to me.
Thank you for your kind words and for reading my work. I appreciate readers who come back and back. and who don’t mind taking the time to let me know what they think.