Sunday, October 16, 2016

The "Dress Rehearsal for Fascism"

No matter whether you support or despise Donald Trump, you've been changed.
All Canadians are impacted in numerous ways by the body politic of our next door neighbour - our one and only next door neighbour.

What we understood about American politics is, it seems, over. It's been trending in this direction for some time but in this election cycle there has been an abrupt and jarring shift ushering in an era of demagoguery and authoritarianism. The anchor of decency, basic human decency, has been lost. A boastfully self-proclaimed deviant and alleged serial sexual predator has a clear path to the White House. That he's also a severe misogynist, a racist, an all-round bigot and a pathological liar matters not in the least to his followers.

If nothing else this 2-year election campaign has allowed us to unlock the mystery of authoritarianism and, perhaps for the first time for many, including me, grasp the true nature of this dysfunction. It's now possible to make sense of what happened to Germany in the 30s, the failure of Weimar. It is the fulfilment of Sinclair Lewis' warning in his 1935 novel, "It Can't Happen Here."

Chris Hedges writes that, in Donald Trump, we're seeing the "dress rehearsal for Fascism."

The candidate who can provide the best show gets the most coverage. The personal brand is paramount. It takes precedence over ideas, truth, integrity and the common good. This cult of the self, which defines our politics and our culture, contains the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation, and incapacity for remorse or guilt. Donald Trump has these characteristics. So does Hillary Clinton.

Our system of inverted totalitarianism has within it the seeds of an overt or classical fascism. The more that political discourse becomes exclusively bombastic and a form of spectacle, the more that emotional euphoria is substituted for political thought and the more that violence is the primary form of social control, the more we move toward a Christianized fascism.

Last week’s presidential debate in St. Louis was only a few degrees removed from the Jerry Springer TV show—the angry row of women sexually abused or assaulted by Bill Clinton, the fuming Trump pacing the stage with a threatening posture, the sheeplike and carefully selected audience that provided the thin veneer of a democratic debate while four multimillionaires—Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, Clinton and Trump—squabbled like spoiled schoolchildren.

...The insurgencies of Trump and Bernie Sanders are evidence of a breakdown of these forms of social control. There is a vague realization among Americans that we have undergone a corporate coup. People are angry about being lied to and fleeced by the elites. They are tired of being impotent. Trump, to many of his most fervent supporters, is a huge middle finger to a corporate establishment that has ruined their lives and the lives of their children. And if Trump, or some other bombastic idiot, is the only vehicle they have to defy the system, they will use him.

The elites, including many in the corporate press, must increasingly give political legitimacy to goons and imbeciles in a desperate battle to salvage their own legitimacy. But the more these elites pillage and loot, and the more they cast citizens aside as human refuse, the more the goons and imbeciles become actual alternatives. The corporate capitalists would prefer the civilized mask of a Hillary Clinton. But they also know that police states and fascist states will not impede their profits; indeed in such a state the capitalists will be more robust in breaking the attempts of the working class to organize for decent wages and working conditions. Citibank, Raytheon and Goldman Sachs will adapt. Capitalism functions very well without democracy.

In the 1990s I watched an impotent, nominally democratic liberal elite in the former Yugoslavia fail to understand and act against the population’s profound economic distress. The fringe demagogues whom the political and educated elites dismissed as buffoons—Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudman—rode an anti-liberal tide to power.

The political elites in Yugoslavia at first thought the nationalist cranks and lunatics, who amassed enough support to be given secondary positions of power, could be contained. This mistake was as misguided as Franz von Papen’s assurances that when the uncouth Austrian Adolf Hitler was appointed the German chancellor in January 1933 the Nazi leader would be easily manipulated. Any system of prolonged political paralysis and failed liberalism vomits up monsters. And the longer we remain in a state of political paralysis—especially as we stumble toward another financial collapse—the more certain it becomes that these monsters will take power.

Fascism, at its core, is an amorphous and incoherent ideology that perpetuates itself by celebrating a grotesque hypermasculinity, elements of which are captured in Trump’s misogyny. It allows disenfranchised people to feel a sense of power and to have their rage sanctified. It takes a politically marginalized and depoliticized population and mobilizes it around a utopian vision of moral renewal and vengeance and an anointed political savior. It is always militaristic, anti-intellectual and contemptuous of democracy and replaces culture with nationalist and patriotic kitsch. It sees those outside the closed circle of the nation-state or the ethnic or religious group as diseased enemies that must be physically purged to restore the health of nation.

...The Democratic and Republican parties may be able to disappear Trump, but they won’t disappear the phenomena that gave rise to Trump. And unless the downward spiral is reversed—unless the half of the country now living in poverty is lifted out of poverty—the cynical game the elites are playing will backfire. Out of the morass will appear a genuine “Christian” fascist endowed with political skill, intelligence, self-discipline, ruthlessness and charisma. The monster the elites will again unwittingly elevate, as a foil to keep themselves in power, will consume them. There would be some justice in this if we did not all have to pay.

What of Hedges' "genuine Christian fascist endowed with political skill, intelligence, self-discipline, ruthlessness and charisma"? Some have already identified him in Arkansas senator Tom Cotton.

...the perfect candidate for new era Republicans may be the junior senator from Arkansas, 39-year-old Tom Cotton who boasts a dream CV, raised on a family farm and with combat service as lieutenant in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is an extreme ideologue. He helped torpedo immigration reform to the distress of then-Republican speaker John Boehner. He sabotaged criminal justice reform declaring the US suffers not from too many in jail but too few, what he calls "under-incarceration".

In 2015 he tried to sabotage negotiations between the Obama administration and Iran by writing to Iran's Ayatollah saying any anti-nuclear agreement would be dishonoured by a future Republican president, breathtaking in undermining the foreign policy of his own country. He supported a short, sharp war against Iran. He wanted to arm Israel with B-52s to help. He received a campaign donation of nearly $1 million from Bill Kristol's Emergency Committee on Israel in fond appreciation.

His slogans make good bumper stickers. "Let 'em rot," for example, is his stand on Guantanamo prisoners.

He was described on Salon as "Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree; Ted Cruz with a war record."

...His raw inexperience combined with his relish for war elevates him to a level of menace that rivals that of 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater.

Trump might be finished. But another playwright, Bertolt Brecht, warned: "Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."


Dana said...

Nov 9 certainly has the chance to be a powder keg what with the 330,000 strong Fraternal Order of Police having declared for Trump. Brownshirts with badges.

Anonymous said...

A sign of things to come?
Religion in the USA is a powerful tool.
No successful politician will ever say he or she is an atheist; to do so would be political suicide.
The Tea Party/Evangelicals are a powerful organisation which I believe have have overstepped themselves in this current general election.
As a born again atheist I have to admit that the more moderate religious organisations within the USA do provide help and services that the socialist averse USA Government , no matter which party, will participate.


The Mound of Sound said...

I feel sorry for Hillary knowing that she will have to govern a heavily radicalized society. I feel sorry for ordinary, decent Americans who now realize that a significant faction of their society has abandoned democracy to embrace authoritarianism.

Will there be some sort of insurgency? Given that Trump and now Pence are circulating the Big Lie that the election is rigged that's more than a slim possibility. A Putsch? Militarized cops gone rogue? The last days of Weimar replayed? A new Civil War to preserve the Union?

The Mound of Sound said...

I read the NYT article, TrailBlazer. Theocracy, anyone? Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

Anonymous said...

A new Civil War to preserve the Union?

As with the now defunct USSR; the USA is too large and diverse a country to govern.
Perhaps they will go the way of the UK but for different reasons?
Bigger is better has had it's day?


Anonymous said...

What a bunch of hysterical ignorance. Anyone who compares Trump to Hitler or Mussolini is either ignorant of history or purposefully manipulating people.

Trump is Archie Bunker. An imbecile. A spoiled trust-fund kiddie. A womanizer. A racist (although nowhere near as racist as Hillary "Super Predator" Clinton.) He would make for a terrible president. But he is clearly a lesser evil to Clinton who is an actual fascist corporatist (in the tradition of Mussolini and Pinochet) who believes democratic representation should be auctioned off to plutocrats effectively nullifying democracy.

So just to compare the two campaigns:

1) Trump is most certainly NOT running on putting an end to democratic government; it's a baseless accusation (something a US president couldn't do if they wanted to because they only control 1/3rd the government and would face public backlash and impeachment if they tried.)

Hillary is. (Government by corporation via bribery is the negation of government by the people. It is literal fascist corporatism.)

2) Trump is running on putting bribe-taking crooks like Hillary behind bars (using due process of law, of course, via a special independent prosecutor) which could turn the tide on 25-years of bribe-taking corruption that began with the Clintons.

Hillary will expand pay-for-play, allowing corporations to own the government: Wall Street writes the banking regulations; the private prison industry writes criminal legislation; the military industrial complex writes foreign policy; the healthcare insurance industry writes healthcare reforms (like Obombacare); Big Oil writes environmental policy; etc.

IN SHORT: progressives have principles. Research Jill Stein! She advocates a return to the Progressive New Deal Era that began with FDR and was ended by Reagan. GREEN NEW DEAL!

Owen Gray said...

Sliding into the abyss -- and shouting Hallelujah as they go over the edge.

Northern PoV said...

"I feel sorry for Hillary "

save your sorrow

America's choice: Trump vs Clinton means the terrorists won.

Anonymous said...

Social cons are not the problem. The establishment is the problem. Neocon war-profiteering and neoliberal economic ideology.

Fact is the Republican party has developed jettisoning the neocons. The Democratic party has regressed welcoming them with open arms (pun intended.)

Anonymous said...

Fascism it is.


Anonymous said...

From Wikileaks:

“Can’t we just drone this guy?” Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother Wikileaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department sources. The statement drew laughter from the room which quickly died off when the Secretary kept talking in a terse manner, sources said. Clinton said Assange, after all, was a relatively soft target, “walking around” freely and thumbing his nose without any fear of reprisals from the United States.

Clinton was upset about Assange’s previous 2010 records releases, divulging secret U.S. documents about the war in Afghanistan in July and the war in Iraq just a month earlier in October, sources said. At that time in 2010, Assange was relatively free and not living cloistered in in the embassy of Ecuador in London.

Toby said...

Filmmaker Faces 45 Years In Prison For Reporting On Dakota Access Protests

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon 8:07. Read Andrew Bacevitch's "The New American Militarism." Or you can read the three part review I did of the book in August, 2010.

No, the Republicans are not abandoning neo-conservatism. They have facilitated the political capture of two of the three branches of American government and their fierce rejection of election finance reform ensures their obedience to the oligarchs who sponsor them.

Please, do tell us how the Republicans are abandoning neo-conservatism and in favour of exactly what? You put it out there, it's on you to back it up with facts and, no, what Donald Trump says cannot be taken at face value.

Anonymous said...

Reagan put together a coalition of Christian fundamentalists and neocons which dominated the party up until Trump became leader. Then neocons abandoned Trump for Hillary which has made the Republican base hate neocons.

Libertarian Ron Paul also put the party at odds with the neocon establishment by opposing military interventionism.

The thing about neocons (that also control Tea Party politicians like Ted Cruz) is that they are a tiny minority of Republican voters. They ONCE controlled the Republican party. Now they don't. They expect everything to go back to normal if Trump loses. It probably won't.

Fact is a significant portion of the Republican base is open to progressive policies like single-payer healthcare (64% all voters.) The main reasons they nominated Trump is his anti-free-trade and anti-interventionism talk.

Although the ESTABLISHMENT media portrays the Republican base as deplorable fascists for wanting to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants from stealing their jobs, the reality is they are gravitating back towards the economic-progressive center of the post-war era. Same with the Democratic base.

Hillary is continuing the process of moving the Democratic party rightwards — right into neocon territory.

The only difference between establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans is empty words. Both have facilitated the capture of the government and economy by oligarchs. (The Clintons made over $100-million from money being in politics; have raised $3-billion over their careers. Hillary is no election-finance reformer, that's for sure.)

Anonymous said...

Anon; I think the Tea Party started this crap.
Their inflexibility warped USA politics.
One wonders just who they will wave their guns and flags at after a Clinton win?

Re; Both have facilitated the capture of the government and economy by oligarchs.
Very true; the same goes for the rest of Western 'Democracy'.

The sad thing is that these are the people that are truly too large to fail; they will not self destruct.
Trump whilst one of them is not part of the old money club and I will not be surprised if he is not bankrupt within the next five years even though he seems to play the money game as the rich and infamous do.