Saturday, August 26, 2017

When Democracy Backfires, reprinted from New Eastern Outlook

The US media focuses on the fact that President Trump failed to win the popular vote, although he did manage to rake up more delegates to the Democratic Convention than Hillary Clinton. Clinton believes a ‘Russian intervention’ in some unspecified way, skewed the results of the election. (That ‘intervention’ is the focus of an investigation by a Special Prosecutor. The last time such a person was employed in Washington was when Bill Clinton’s’ sex life was deemed an appropriate reason for impeachment. The Congress ultimately failed to gather enough votes to evict him from office.)
During the 2016 campaign, progressive journalists like myself warned that Trump would ultimately lead to fascism, but we didn’t realize he would do so with the help of his voters.
We imagined a police state, but what we have (so far) is a demonstration of how ‘democracy’ can be a God that fails. As with Hitler, enough poorly educated people voted for Trump to bring him to power ‘democratically’. That having been accomplished, it’s not so much that he is able to pursue policies that most educated Americans reject, it’s that he can work up huge crowds who dream of ‘taking back their country’ …. by any means.
Yesterday Trump spoke to one such crowd in Phoenix, Arizona, suggesting he might pardon a racist sheriff who forced his inmates to live in tents under 110 degree heat and was finally slapped with contempt of court charges. More importantly, but somewhat confusingly, the President threatened to shut down the government over the border wall, although it’s not clear what role the government would play in preventing it from being built, since he claims that Mexico would pay for it.  
President Trump goes from one non-sequitur to another, but what is most alarming is that his based doesn’t seem to hold against him his failure to deliver on key campaign promises, believing that the fault lies with Congress (which came up one vote short to pass so-called health care ‘reform’) or with the media, which ceaselessly criticizes him. Notwithstanding the media’s failure to report any story that is inconvenient to the government, America’s fractured left wing has been unable to bust its lock on the American people. Ironically, it is Trump who is accomplishing that feat in the name of a populism whose boundaries with fascism are uncertain. 
Just as the media literally ‘made’ Trump the candidate, while mainly backing Hillary, since he was elected, it has been relentlessly trying to ‘unmake’ him, succeeding only in looking worse than ever. Today, it alternates coverage of Trump’s events with coverage of Hillary Clinton’s book explaining why she lost the election, focusing on how her ‘skin crawled’ when Trump paced back and forth behind her during one of their televised debates. Clips of those moments suggest that Trump was being discreet, leaving her the spotlight.
Meanwhile, at a rally in Reno, Nevada, Trump focused on veterans, emphasizing a tribute to the American Legion, a right-leaning organization founded in 1919 to defend veteran’s interests, by signing a bill mandating shorter waiting times for veterans to get answers to appeals. That “psychological operation” illustrates the path that Trump is charting toward fascism: it involves an alliance between active duty and former military, and the minimally educated, pro-military civilians who constitute his base.
Added to this disquieting picture is the fact that thirty-one states allow citizens to openly carry a handgun, some without a license or permit. Different states have different restrictions, but all 50 states allow people to purchase guns.  Hitler’s voters didn’t have guns, but they had the SA, also known as the ’brown shirts’, not to be confused with the SS, which broke off from it to surveil and kill citizens at will in Germany and German-occupied Europe. In the US, that job is likely to be carried out by an amalgam of militias such as those seen in the protests in Charlottesville.  
When history repeats itself, it does so under many different disguises. The question at this point is whether the Neo-Cons and their Deep State will succeed in toppling Trump, using accusations of collusion with Russia, before he gives his voters free rein. Or whether fascism will be served to us as ‘law and order’ by a Vice-President who has moved up after Trump is impeached or forced to resign for ‘inability to govern’.

More worrying for the world at large is the fact that the man who insisted during the campaign that America should not be the world’s policeman, agreed to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan, hiding the country’s vast mineral potential behind the magic word ‘security’. The generals who convinced him to do this also regard Russia as an enemy, following the Neocon playbook. Although the American public is no more in favor of continuing war in Afghanistan than it would be in favor of war with Russia, it’s difficult to see how ‘one man, one vote’ will prevent that from happening.


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