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“Unmitigated Disaster”: Michael Eric Dyson on How Trump Turned White House into “Fulcrum of Fascism”

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As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated and the Trump presidency comes to an end, we look back at his regime with author and analyst Michael Eric Dyson. “The Trump presidency has been an unmitigated disaster,” Dyson says. His “direct assault” on democratic processes resulted in a “neofascist presidency that attempted to undermine the very legitimacy of the democracy that he was put in office to uphold.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Today is Inauguration Day. President Trump has officially left the the White House for the last time as president. President-elect Joe Biden is being sworn in as 46th president of the United States in a scene unlike any in U.S. history, with tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and women in the streets and no crowd of revelers. The heavily militarized event is taking place just two weeks to the day after a right-wing mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol in a failed attempt to overthrow the election.

Trump will be the first president in 150 years not to witness the transition of power from his administration to the next. He leaves behind a damning legacy, including the deaths of 400,000 people in the U.S. to COVID-19 — a record-shattering global toll, which was marked Tuesday night when President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris lit 400 lights around the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool to honor those lost. Biden and Harris both spoke at the memorial.

PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: To heal, we must remember. And it’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.

VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT KAMALA HARRIS: For many months we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together. Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people, are united in spirit.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman vice president, the first African American, first Asian American, first Indian American to hold the office. As vice president, Harris will swear in three new Democratic senators this afternoon, giving control of the chamber to her party: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who both won their Georgia runoff races earlier this month, and Alex Padilla, who will replace her in the Senate representing California. So she will be the tiebreaker in the 50-50 Senate.

It’s also the first day of Joe Biden’s administration, and he’s pledged to repeal Trump’s travel ban for citizens of majority-Muslim countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord, cancel the Keystone pipeline, and issue a mask mandate on federal property. Biden also plans to cancel construction of the border wall and unveil a sweeping immigration bill to offer an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.

For more on this historic day and what’s to come, we’re joined by two guests. In New York, Waleed Shahid is spokesperson for Justice Democrats, a former senior adviser for the campaigns of Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who both won their races. His recent piece in The Nation, “A Blueprint for Social Movements During the Biden Presidency.” And in Washington, D.C., Michael Eric Dyson is joining us, Vanderbilt University professor, political analyst and author. His latest book is Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Professor Dyson, let’s begin with you. Let’s look back for a moment as Trump just flies off from the White House, won’t attend the inauguration. So, from the Muslim ban to Charlottesville to the separation of children to the insurrection, your assessment of the Trump presidency?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, thank you for having me this morning.

The Trump presidency has been an unmitigated disaster. It has visited upon America some of the worst forms of anti-democratic practice and belief, thinking and ideals, norms and conventions, that we have witnessed in this nation, and the direct assault upon those conventions. Whether one was arrayed in the spectrum and continuum of belief from the left to the right, what held this nation together, despite the bickering, the contested disbelief in one side or the other, is the notion that the American nation could at least realize its ambitions morally and politically by generating sufficient evidence or argument for one side or the other, and being willing to subject those beliefs to radical and rigorous critique, and then to move forward with the determination that one’s way of thinking was the right way. But here, this bitter division from that practice has resulted in a neofascist, if you will, presidency that attempted to undermine the very legitimacy of the democracy that he was put in office to uphold.

Here was a man who had Thomas Jefferson’s position, but Benedict Arnold’s job, undermining, being a traitor to democracy, as the greatest representative of democracy itself. The most hallowed hall in global power, but certainly in American democracy, is the White House, the Oval Office. And from that, he used it as a fulcrum of fascism. He used it as a wedge of division to undermine the capacity of the American people to realize their collective ambitions.

And finally, what is tragic about this presidency, as well, is that the very people who were ostensibly to be upheld by and to be helped by this president are no better off today than they were when he came into office. They have been paid what W.E.B. Du Bois in 1935 called the “psychological wages of whiteness.” At least you’re not Black. At least — or we can extend it: At least you’re not Muslim. At least you’re not, you know, a person of color. At least you’re not a woman. At least you’re not gay or lesbian or transgendered or bisexual.

So, the point is that he genned up the worst form of division this nation has witnessed, at least for a long while, and didn’t give a payoff to them of even political participation in a system that he cherished. He undermined it. He fought against its best virtues. And at the end of the day, he will be quickly swept away as one of the most destructive, if not the most destructive, president this nation has ever witnessed.

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The Way Forward: Can the Left Push Biden to Be a Transformative President Like LBJ, FDR & Lincoln?

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