Build & Support Thriving Institutions
One of the keys to fighting emerging tyranny is to build and support thriving institutions, so this Focus Area was identified early on in the Trump administration as a critical area for attention.
Now that we're in a worldwide catastrophe, it seems super obvious how critical functioning institutions are... because SO MANY institutions in the US are not functioning - or are not functiong well.
So what is an institution? It's anything from public health systems (which have been eroded and under-funded for years at every level) to a robust, fair media. It's the election system. It's our healthcare system. Institutions are schools, community colleges, trade schools, and colleges. They are foundations and non-profits. They are the systems in place that make civil society what it is - everything from local business associations and food banks to the US military. Institutions are what so many elements of the social contract are about - and include the social contract itself. In the US, the core social contract is the US Constitution. Which brings up another institution - the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution - which have also been eroded.
To counter tyranny when institutions are being eroded and when there is a grab for power, it is CRITICAL to hold onto the institutions that still remain (a persistent opposition - not just a resistance - and a solid opposition agenda are also critical). In the US, most institutions still exist, although some of them have been very, very heavily eroded and/or unusually politicized under the Trump administration. States have eroded institutions as well.
As tyranny, oligarchy, corruption, and the power grabs spread in the US during a time of catastrophe, holding onto the institutions in whatever form they are in will be essential. It's a way we can help hold the line (counterfear tool to hold the line here, an LE example here, and an intel example here). It's a way we can not panic, and find anchor points.
If we want to hold civil society together to help us get through to the other side of this pandemic crisis, keeping the institutions intact and functional will be critical. Countries that have successfully defeated emerging authoritarianism have fared better in recovering from it when the institutions that make up civil society are not totally obliterated during the crisis, fight, struggle, war, coup, elections, or other actions that defeat the strongman type.
The US will be better positioned to transform and evolve our country if we can hold critical elements of it together as we go through the crisis.
It may be too tricky in the throes of crisis to get the institutions to thrive, but we can work on that on the other side. In the middle, holding institutions together will help us be better positioned as the transformation moves along to get them to be more functional. In fact, institutions that don't work well is one of the things that allows a strongman-wannabe type to come into power in the first place - it's the populist perception of a failed social contract. So one challenge of transforming is to get the institutions to better serve everyone they are meant to serve. One of the ways to help with that is to speak very clearly about what it is that we expect and want of the institutions, what the effects are when they don't work, and to talk seriously about how to get them to work the way that we generally agree that they should. Messaging and framing will matter.
Lots of challenges - plenty of work to go around. As an uncle used to advise about navigating the chaos of city freeways, "pick a lane and defend it." More on building and supporting thriving institutions in the blog posts and resources below.