Join the Movement to Create a Society That Works for Everyone

The attack on our capital shows unequivocally that the success of the Biden campaign is not the end of our American travail, but must be the beginning of a long-term social movement to build a society that works for everyone.

For years we have been sending our money to the Democrats, hoping that their taking control of the federal government would end the racist, misogynist control of government by a cabal of wealthy conservatives. The money we have poured into this effort has made an unmistakable difference. (Biden DID win the election and we did take slender control of the Senate!)

But study the right wing metastasis in every community [1, 2] and you will see how much more will be required to strengthen the values, norms, and laws that ensure that every person has the material and social wellbeing that they need to thrive.

America has been corrupted by a fifty-year movement to promote free market ideology. Through, sophisticated and lavishly funded advocacy, a network of wealthy conservatives convinced millions of Americans that the selfish pursuit of one’s own wellbeing would necessarily benefit society. [1] It has not. As this ideology took hold, regulation of business was abandoned, economic inequality reached historic heights, and a huge swath of Americans saw the life prospects of themselves and their children dwindle. [3]

The rise of conservative control of government may not seem related to the resurgence of overt racism and the proliferation of fascist hate groups, but they are intimately intertwined. In order to gain political power, wealthy conservatives needed poorer Americans to vote for their candidates. The success of the civil rights movement in the 1960s created their opportunity. Dog whistle racism, from Nixon’s silent majority, through Reagan’s welfare queen, the Willie Horton ad in George W. Bush’s campaign, and the blatantly racist appeals of the Trump campaign all functioned to persuade millions of white people that their status in society was threatened by any increase in the number or wellbeing of nonwhite populations.4 Inevitably a growing portion of people have found status and social support by joining the extremist movement.

The attack on the capital is prompting greater attention to this movement. The tepid responses to right wing hate groups showing up with their long guns and automatic weapons at state capitals in Oregon and Michigan and the attack in Washington, D.C. make these events highly reinforcing for those who participated and invite many more to engage in insurrection.

We must prosecute those who break the law. Laws establish norms. When laws are not enforced, norms erode. Most people follow the law, not because they fear punishment but because they adhere to the norms that those laws encode.

Representative Clyburn of South Carolina was asked by Judy Woodruff of the News Hour if Democrats should hesitate to impeach Trump because it will further incense his followers. He responded that, “I don’t believe we ought to run the country that way. I think there are certain norms that we have to adhere to. I think there are certain laws that we have to obey. And we just cannot say because it may have some political consequences, let’s not do it. That is not the way to run the country. I think we ought to do what needs to be done to protect the integrity of this democracy.”

But law enforcement will not be enough. If we are to build the society we aspire to — one which replaces hatred and selfish materialism with caring, compassion, and thriving — we need you to join a social movement.

There are oh so many ways you can help.

· We need people in every community to work to improve education so that all of our children learn to read, succeed academically, and develop the social and emotional skills that they need to thrive. Many of the people in the right wing community are victims of an educational system that failed them and allowed them to drift toward right wing — and left wing — extremist groups who provide them with social acceptance that they did not get as they failed in school.

· We need groups in every community that are skilled in promoting rapprochement between people who for too long have been encouraged to fight with one another.

· We need groups of people in every community working for policies that support decent wages for all, reform law enforcement so that it increases everyone’s safety, prevents crime, and rehabilitates offenders rather than devastating their lives.

· We need groups working in every community to reform our healthcare systems so that it invests more in preventing not just illness, but the aversive social conditions that put children on a path toward chronic disease.5

· We need groups at all of our universities to demand that universities do the research and training of the next generation of Americans that enables them to reduce racism, discrimination, poverty, and all of the psychological and behavioral conditions that are far too prevalent in our communities.

· And we need people who espouse prosocial values to get involved in politics so that at every level of government, in every community in the nation we have people working for all of the policies and programs that behavioral science teaches us can ensure that people have the values, skills, and habits needed to live productive lives in caring relationships with others.

If you want to join a social movement to address one or more of these changes, check out Values to Action. We are developing study circles and enabling them to work for change locally. We cannot leave this to others. We cannot hope that federal efforts will trickle down to improvements in every community. That is not the way the world works.

Besides, if you want to be part of the next great movement to fulfill the promise of America that Barack Obama still believes in,6 here is a chance to wake up every morning feeling like you are a part of a nurturing movement.

1. Mayer, J., Dark money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. Penguin Random House: New York, NY, 2016.

2. Marantz, A., Antisocial: Online extremists, techno-utopians, and the hijacking of the American conversation. Viking: United States of America, 2019.

3. Putnam, R. D.; Garrett, S. R., The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. Simon & Schuster.: United States, 2020.

4. Edsall, T. B. Don’t feed the troll in the oval office. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/opinion/trump-immigration-democrats-response.html (accessed November 1, 2019).

5. Miller, G. E.; Chen, E.; Parker, K. J., Psychological stress in childhood and susceptibility to the chronic diseases of aging: moving toward a model of behavioral and biological mechanisms. Psychological Bulletin 2011, 137 (6), 959–997.

6. Obama, B., A Promise Land. Crown: United States, 2020.

Anthony Biglan, PhD, is President of Values to Action and author of Rebooting Capitalism https://www.valuestoaction.com/

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