By Marguerite Jill Dye
I hate politics. But I have deep convictions of what’s fair and just and don’t hesitate to stand up for them. I respect authenticity and can spot insincerity a mile away. I’ve always been hyper-sensitive, but have finally reached an age where I’m not afraid to speak out from my heart. It’s baffling to me that in times like these anyone would choose to begin writing about politics. I couldn’t understand why I’ve felt utterly compelled to go out on a limb and publicly express my views of late. But this morning I woke up with the name of my great-grandfather in my mind. I didn’t know that I knew his name but there it was: Henry Langford Loucks.
Many of you knew my mother, musician, poet, and humorist Marguerite Loucks Dye, who hailed from South Dakota. Her grandfather, Canadian born Henry Langford Loucks, claimed a homestead in the Dakota Territory in 1884 just as an economic depression fell. He founded and edited The Dakota Ruralist, a newspaper to represent the agrarian opinion, became president of the Farmers’ Alliance, which later became the Populist Party; and ran for governor in 1890 and for U.S. Senator in 1891 as the Populist Party candidate.
When great-grandfather fell off his horse and was paralyzed, my grandfather, Daniel, left law school to return home and run the paper and study law on his own at night. His father continued to write his heart out about things of great matter across So.Dak. and our nation from his wheelchair. I found a listing of his cutting edge, daring articles in the University of S.D. Library and libguides.usd.edu/loucks, which included farmers’ views and laws affecting them, hotly debated public ownership of gas and electric utilities, fair producer-to-consumer pricing, resistance to New York exploiters, and “honest money.”
He courageously stood up to J.P. Morgan, the wealthy New York financier and banker. Like his father, my grandfather Daniel K. Loucks ran for governor and became speaker of the house of delegates.
Only this morning did I realize I must have inherited my political idealism, activism, and need to write about critical issues from them. Perhaps it was in my genes during my first awakening. Working with the poor and oppressed in the slums of Argentina during President Videla’s military dictatorship is not an experience I wish to relive at home.
The populism my great-grandfather envisioned, wrote about, and fought for had nothing to do with the “populism” of Trump. A billionaire wearing a baseball cap doth not a populist make! Following Trump’s campaign promises of populism, most of his cabinet represents anything but. Many have records in direct conflict to the agencies they will now “lead.”
“Undermine” seems a more appropriate description. Instead of draining the swamp, Trump’s cabinet is a basket of billionaires rife with conflicts of interest.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who has worked with presidents Ford, Carter, and Clinton, posted “The 15 Warning Signs of Impending Tyranny,” which spells out ways “tyrants take control of democracies” by claiming and exaggerating: their mandate to govern (“a landslide!”); massive voter fraud so as to limit ensuing elections; their opponents are called “enemies;” that the media and journalists are scum deceiving the public whenever they criticize the leader; that they won’t hold press conferences (or will hold very few) in order to deliver unfiltered statements directly to the public (i.e. via tweets); tell blatant lies so the public will doubt the truth and support the tyrant’s plan; accuse immigrants, racial, and religious minorities of causing economic stress while inciting prejudice and violence against them; use domestic violence to increase security and limit civil liberties; “threaten mass deportations, registries of religious minorities, and the banning of refugees”; undermine labor unions and opposing parties to do away with opposition; keep a private security force instead of one accountable to the public; place generals in high civilian positions; form private associations with dictators from abroad; personally profit from their public office by maintaining vague distinctions between personal and public property.
Reich has also spelled out for distracted or unsuspecting Americans “Trump’s Seven Techniques to Control the Media” that Trump used during his campaign and in the days since becoming president: berate the media, blacklist critical media, turn the public against the media, condemn satirical or critical comments, threaten the media directly, limit media access, bypass the media and communicate with the public directly … Historically these … techniques have been used by demigods to erode the freedom and independence of the press. Donald Trump seems intent on doing exactly this … Consider yourself warned.”
Marguerite Jill Dye is an author, columnist, and artist who is grateful to live in the Green Mountains of Vermont and on Florida’s Gulf Coast. She believes in the United States Constitution and the International Declaration of Human Rights and that every human being deserves to live free from poverty, violence, and oppression.