Even Canadians are impacted 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 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.
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.
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.
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."
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."