The tint on the home windows of the van transporting us to the counting room in Miami was so darkish that it was tough to see out of the home windows. But it surely saved our faces hid from the throngs of reporters who had traveled to Florida from all over the world, and likewise from the clean-shaven Christian militants holding up indicators with slogans resembling “Gore Loser” and “Don’t Let Democrats Steal This Election.” They jogged my memory of skinheads. By that point within the Florida recount, because the debacle got here to be recognized, we have been lower than two weeks from the Supreme Courtroom basically executing a coup. Every thing was upside-down—together with the truth that I used to be using within the van. My typical expertise with autos like these was restricted to the skin, blocking roads or driveways and holding indicators in opposition to strike breakers making an attempt to cross picket traces.
I had three directions from my higher-ups earlier than I stepped out of the van on the courthouse: put on a hood or hat to cowl your head—sun shades, too—so that you received’t be acknowledged; don’t speak to reporters; and fucking win. I took the orders like a great soldier. We received that day—we proved that there was a major sufficient discrepancy between voter intent and reported tallies from election day in Miami-Dade County to start recounting ballots in Florida’s most populous county—however we didn’t win the race. By placing their religion within the authorized course of, the Gore marketing campaign and the nationwide Democratic Get together management handed the election that Al Gore received to George W. Bush. As I wrote in my first ebook, Elevating Expectations (and Elevating Hell), “Oh, nicely. All that was at stake was an limitless struggle in Afghanistan, an unprovoked struggle on Iraq, American torture, warrantless wiretapping, eight years of doing nothing on international warming, to not point out a relentless class struggle in opposition to staff and their unions, all constructing as much as a second Nice Melancholy. No massive deal.”
This was precisely twenty years in the past. As a senior union organizer working for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), I used to be a part of a crew that was the primary to land and the final to go away. I’ve resisted virtually each invitation to Florida within the years since. Florida in 2000 was kind of what we union organizers consult with as a “construction take a look at”—an evidenced-based device to evaluate one facet’s readiness to win—for the novel proper. Now the precise controls half of American states, the nationwide Republican Get together, the White Home, the Senate, the Supreme Courtroom, and legions of vastly essential and little-discussed energy buildings, such because the Board of Governors of the US Postal Service.
The expertise that November in Florida was much more intense than most individuals perceive, but it surely was tame in contrast with what’s to return on and after November 3, 2020. This 12 months will convey Florida 2000 on steroids. Folks will get damage, bodily, perhaps in massive numbers. Two associated questions come to my thoughts: “Can what’s left of democracy survive a number of Florida recounts concurrently?” and “Can it”—which means an extra slide into an authoritarian state—“occur right here?” These questions aren’t hyperbolic. And if we don’t significantly put together, in methods the Democrats refused to do in 2000—and look like refusing to do now—the solutions will probably be very ugly.
My reflections from the Florida recount have extra not too long ago been knowledgeable by the work I did final 12 months in Germany, the place discussions of fascism are ubiquitous. I used to be main a coaching session for commerce union organizers within the auto sector on the German-Polish border, within the former East Germany. I requested everybody within the room to introduce themselves by stating their identify, how lengthy that they had been a union organizer, and one factor they hoped to get out of the coaching that day. I used to be not ready for his or her responses.
The primary German who spoke mentioned she was there to be taught to speak to staff with extra success than the neo-Nazis who have been within the massive auto plant, campaigning to win elections in Works Councils. (Works Councils, underneath German labor legal guidelines, are buildings that give staff direct enter into the operation of the office. In a giant manufacturing unit, Works Council elections could be larger than these in small cities.) Much like the way in which the Christian proper applied new book-banning and curriculum-altering ways in native faculty board elections in Kansas earlier than increasing to California and past—construction checks to see how a lot management over US public training it may take—neo-Nazis in Germany are presently testing their power via Works Council elections. As a union organizer in a rustic rampant with a thuggish and grotesquely rich union-busting business, I’m accustomed to excessive stakes in my coaching classes. However I’d by no means heard something like this. I haven’t wanted caffeine since.
The German organizers defined to me the rap, the message, that the neo-Nazis of their workplaces have been deploying. They appeared like a extra intense model of what Trump-supporting staff right here may say: “Is your loved ones higher off right now? No. Have you learnt why? The German state has failed you, the German commerce unions have failed you, and just one factor could make your life higher: your standing along with different Germans to make Germany work for the actual German individuals. The Poles crossing the border to work in our vegetation are tearing down what actual Germans deserve—a greater life. Vote for us and we’ll strike this manufacturing unit and win for German staff what you deserve.”
It’s an efficient rap. Regardless of the nation’s reunification, the wages and advantages within the former East Germany are roughly 25 p.c beneath these within the former West. The nationwide commerce unions have been afraid to strike over the decrease requirements within the former East as a result of plant CEOs threaten to retaliate by both making the employees underneath union contracts within the former West take much less in wage and advantages as a technique to pay for bringing the requirements within the East up, or closing the vegetation altogether and shifting them to Bulgaria or Romania. Sound acquainted? Staff in Germany and the USA alike are steadily shedding underneath this backward we-won’t-fight technique from risk-averse nationwide commerce union leaders.
Anybody who thinks civil unrest isn’t approaching November 3 isn’t paying consideration. An important classes from Florida in 2000 and Germany in 2019 have a standard thread: peculiar individuals should be prepared to defy Democratic Get together management, and even some commerce union management, to avoid wasting the nation from a fair worse distress. We have to mobilize into organized cells, into what are typically referred to as Affinity Teams. (Indivisible and teams like them are locations to show for how-tos.) In Florida, many organizers like me, who understood that Gore had received the election and that the Gore marketing campaign and the Democrats weren’t understanding the super-polarized road theater being orchestrated by the Republicans, demanded that we create quick mass mobilizations within the streets. A number of instances then I got here near being despatched dwelling, if not outright fired, as a result of I used to be loudly difficult our technique. However they saved me; I knew how you can depend and how you can stand as much as stress. I did so time and again, from tables in West Palm and Broward counties, to the last word scene of the crime, Miami-Dade County, the place I did as I used to be advised: I received the one p.c precinct depend the place solely two individuals per political celebration have been chosen to be on the two tables round which tons of of cameras clicked and tv broadcasters taped.
Nearly all of United States residents are in a good nook. Joe Biden and the individuals round him now are behaving just like the Al Gore of 2000. Don’t depend on the nationwide Democratic Get together management. Don’t depend on the media, not in relation to how you can save the nation this November and past. Don’t depend on the authorized course of. Rely on yourselves, and each other.