“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

When I came across those words of anthropologist Margaret Mead years ago I found them to be so hopeful, a promise that good things that had been so elusive might actually come to be within grasp. Thom Hartmann amplified that hope by estimating that it wouldn’t take a majority of us to set things right. All it would take is about 20% of the population – a “small group of thoughtful committed citizens.” We can do that, I told myself. We can get 20% of us to insist upon what’s right.

Turns out that both Mead and Hartmann were right and I was wrong.

About 20% of Americans want to turn the United States into a reality denying, authoritarian thugocracy, not that “insisting upon what’s right” part I’d hoped for. Republican politicians are working at that, cheating and lying every day to make that happen. Most of the 20% is electrified, thinking they’re the true patriots and demanding what they believe to be right. And they just might get their way. That is where I was wrong, because what that 20% wants surely is not right.

The grabbing for ever more power, the denial of truth and reality and the retribution and violence threatened and sometimes exacted against opponents and scapegoats is how Moussolini, Hitler, Orban, Erdoğan, Duterte and, really, all autocrats gain power. And autocracy always leads to despotism and the people always suffer, especially through loss of freedoms and even extra-judicial killings.

It’s so easy to wheedle people to sell out their integrity just by offering the right bribe, like power, position and wealth or by threatening them with loss of all that or even with physical harm. That creates an army to promote the despot. You know all of this because you’ve seen it for decades.

Worse, the pace of deterioration of our government and, really, of our way of life has accelerated dramatically. Now some candidates and voters openly pledge to honor election results only if the authoritarian wins. Now some legislators are manipulating election laws to prevent people from voting, to steal yet more rights and to incrementally take our freedoms. Now the thugs are making death threats and committing mass murders.

Sadly, We the People have allowed that to happen. We’ve done it by failing to speak out against what’s wrong. We’ve done it by 40% of eligible voters (about 100 million in 2018) consistently failing to do the simple primary act of citizenship: vote. It’s the self-deluded who mindlessly declare that they would never vote for a Democrat, perhaps solely because their parents always voted for Republicans; or because they believe the lies they’re fed, so they refuse to see the truth that’s in plain sight. Besides, it’s easier to be lazy and not think for themselves. Or maybe they get a charge from the ignorant obstruction of progress, the middle finger claim to power. Maybe we’ve just become complacent and our blinders have become too comfortable.

The human capacity for selfishness, laziness and self-deception is too great to be overcome simply by making good, common sense. It will take something far more direct and far more muscular.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was right in 1775 with his “Common Sense” and he’s still right: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And these times are frighteningly like Paine’s, as we wonder who will fight for democracy.

In these fraught times we have only two choices. One is to sit back and watch as everything we care about, everything we hold dear is lost, as though we’re spectators at a Sunday football game, watching our vastly overpowered team losing to cheaters and hobbled by crooked referees. The other choice is to get onto the field of play to help score touchdowns and eventually to win the game.

This will be hard. This will require us to stay the course for the entire conflict, especially when things seem dire. Make no mistake in understanding this metaphor: we’re backed up to our own goal line right now.

Your vote is how you “Never give in” – see below. Many thanks to JN for this graphic.

But this is no metaphorical football game. This is life and death. People will die and democracy will be lost, with not even a mention in the replacement history books of authoritarian propaganda, unless those of us in the 80% take a stand and get this right. And we better do that quickly, because the Election Countdown Clock is fast approaching the zero hour.


Here’s What Minority Influence and Rule Look Like.

Example 1.

For an instructive look at how an enraged, vocal minority can derail the best of how we might be, read The Right Wing Attack on Public Education Began In One Elite Illinois High School, by Isabela Dias in Mother Jones. What began as an educational seminar on diversity for the nearly all White school population turned into a parental hate-fest, the likes of which, sad to say, you’ve seen elsewhere. It was so-called conservative parents (how did “conservative” come to mean “White supremacist”?) objecting to whatever they nightmared* the seminar would be. As you read the piece, take note of the projections, false assumptions and ignorant accusations spewed by these angry opponents of the seminar. And imagine how puffed up on power these people must feel. One now has a podcast. The “look at ME” value of that must be enormous. Yet the teenage students, trying to make sense of a confusing world, are caught in the crossfire.

That’s what happens when “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” decides that tyrannical minority control is the American way.

Example 2.

“The new British prime minister, Liz Truss, has laid out a terrific supply-side economic growth plan which looks a lot like the basic thrust of Kevin McCarthy’s Commitment to America plan.” – Larry “Usually Wrong” Kudlow on Fox News.

Let’s see, supply-side economics has never worked for anyone but the rich and has just been dumped by the Brits for its immediate and obvious failure. But that’s what Kevin McCarthy will bring to us if he and the Rs representing a minority of Americans gain control of Congress.

All of that is why you must follow the admonition of Winston Churchill:

  • “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never —
  • in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in,
  • except to convictions of honour and good sense.
  • Never yield to force. Never yield
  • to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Winston Churchill, speaking at The Harrow School, October 29, 1941

* Made-up word for this occasion.


Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:

Fire the bastards!

The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
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2 Responses to 20%
  1. Jim Altschuler Reply

    Your points are good and accurate … unfortunately. My vote, as you have been advocating in your blogs, is to bite the bullet (as it might be) and
    FIRE THE BASTARDS! And the only legal way to do that is to VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE (There is another method but it’s illegal and has dire consequences).

    So, once again harping on the most important occurrence of our time and perhaps of our lives, whether by mail or an official drop box or in person on or before the designated date — VOTE! I’m not advocating VOTING for a particular party or a particular candidate or ballot measure. But exercise your franchise and live up your responsibility as a citizen and VOTE!

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      I take exception only and emphatically to your open option in voting. Voting for Republicans is voting against Roe, voting against democracy and voting to end voting. Only Rs are like that. Vote for Democrats so that the authoritarians don’t gain power.