In the media

Russian interference and American racism: From the Cold War to the 2016 election

Salon

This month, Take Care and Project Democracy hosted a symposium, "Building an Inclusive Democracy: Towards an Action Agenda," the aims of which are strikingly in tune with the points I raise here. One of those posts in particular, “Defending Inclusion” by K. Sabeel Rahman -- a law professor and the president of Demos -- offers an indicator of the kind of directions we need to explore. Rahman discusses three strategies that “stand out as a way to defuse and then dismantle reassertions of ethnonationalism.” All of them touch on themes I’ve written about here or elsewhere over the last three years.

“First, we need narratives and campaigns that can blunt the edge of race-baiting appeals designed to fragment and fracture multiracial solidarities,” Rahman writes. He notes, that "Demos’ narrativeresearch has highlighted how race-baiting, dog-whistle appeals can be defused by highlighting the divisive and strategic nature of these efforts as a way to further enable the exploitation of black, brown, and white working families.” [...]

“Second, we need to build independent, autonomous political power for communities of color through deep, long-term organizing on the ground,” Rahman writes. “Current examples of grassroots movements led by communities of color include Fight for 15, which is working to increase the minimum wage, and the Florida Rights Restoration Campaign, which advocates for restoring voting rights for people with prior felony convictions.”

“Third, we need to design new institutions that can defend the idea of a multiracial democracy,”Rehman wrote. “The civil rights movement achieved much of its long-term successes not just through grassroots movement organizing and changes to public norms and values, but through the creation of legal institutions that helped protect communities of color.” The Voting Rights Act is one such example, along with the empowerment of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to oversee state election processes. The restoration of the Voting Rights Act is one of the cornerstones of the House Democrats’ first legislative priority for next year, HR-1.

What all these examples serve underscore is something that should be obvious but perhaps needs to be said: The best way to defend America is not with hardware or software or technical fixes, but by America realizing its highest ideals. Fighting to overcome racism strengthens every facet of American life. A vibrant, inclusive democracy is its own best defense.