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. However it saved our faces hid from the throngs of reporters who had traveled to Florida from world wide, and likewise from the clean-shaven Christian militants holding up indicators with slogans corresponding to “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 Court docket primarily executing a coup. All the things was upside-down—together with the truth that I used to be driving within the van. My typical expertise with automobiles like these was restricted to the skin, blocking roads or driveways and holding indicators in opposition to strike breakers attempting 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 gained’t be acknowledged; don’t discuss to reporters; and fucking win. I took the orders like an excellent soldier. We gained 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 Celebration management handed the election that Al Gore gained to George W. Bush. As I wrote in my first guide, Elevating Expectations (and Elevating Hell), “Oh, properly. All that was at stake was an countless conflict in Afghanistan, an unprovoked conflict on Iraq, American torture, warrantless wiretapping, eight years of doing nothing on international warming, to not point out a relentless class conflict in opposition to employees and their unions, all constructing as much as a second Nice Despair. No large 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 depart. I’ve resisted nearly each invitation to Florida within the years since. Florida in 2000 was kind of what we union organizers confer with as a “construction take a look at”—an evidenced-based instrument to evaluate one facet’s readiness to win—for the novel proper. Now the appropriate controls half of American states, the nationwide Republican Celebration, the White Home, the Senate, the Supreme Court docket, and legions of vastly necessary and little-discussed energy constructions, 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, however it was tame in contrast with what’s to return on and after November 3, 2020. This 12 months will deliver Florida 2000 on steroids. Folks will get damage, bodily, possibly 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”—that means an additional slide into an authoritarian state—“occur right here?” These questions usually are not 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 study to speak to employees with extra success than the neo-Nazis who have been within the large auto plant, campaigning to win elections in Works Councils. (Works Councils, beneath German labor legal guidelines, are constructions that give employees direct enter into the operation of the office. In a giant manufacturing unit, Works Council elections might be greater than these in small cities.) Just like the best way the Christian proper carried out new book-banning and curriculum-altering techniques in native college board elections in Kansas earlier than increasing to California and past—construction checks to see how a lot management over US public training it might 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 employees right here would possibly say: “Is your loved ones higher off at this time? No. Are you aware 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 true 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 employees 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 under 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 beneath union contracts within the former West take much less in wage and advantages as a option to pay for bringing the requirements within the East up, or closing the vegetation altogether and transferring them to Bulgaria or Romania. Sound acquainted? Staff in Germany and the USA alike are steadily dropping beneath 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. Crucial classes from Florida in 2000 and Germany in 2019 have a typical thread: peculiar individuals have to be prepared to defy Democratic Celebration management, and even some commerce union management, to save lots of the nation from a good worse distress. We have to mobilize into organized cells, into what are generally known 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 gained 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 speedy 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 rely and stand as much as strain. 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 gained the one p.c precinct rely the place solely two individuals per political occasion have been chosen to be on the two tables round which lots of of cameras clicked and tv broadcasters taped.
Nearly all of United States residents are in a decent nook. Joe Biden and the individuals round him now are behaving just like the Al Gore of 2000. Don’t rely on the nationwide Democratic Celebration management. Don’t rely on the media, not relating to save the nation this November and past. Don’t rely on the authorized course of. Rely on yourselves, and each other.