Thom Hartmann: The America I Knew Has Almost Disappeared

HUMAN RIGHTS
What’s left of our democratic institutions are under siege.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / kasha_malasha

Like an alcoholic family that won’t discuss alcoholism (proving Don Quixote’s warning never to mention rope in the home of a man who’s been hanged), far too many Americans are unwilling to acknowledge or even discuss the ongoing collapse of democracy in the United States.

President Jimmy Carter took it head on when he told me on my radio program that the Citizen’s United decision:

“[V]iolates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”

This “complete subversion of our political system” grew, in large part, out of Richard Nixon’s 1972 appointment of Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court.  Powell, in 1971, had authored the infamous Powell Memo to the US Chamber of Commerce, strongly suggesting that corporate leaders needed to get politically involved and, essentially, take over everything from academia to our court system to our political system.

In 1976, in the Buckley case, Powell began the final destruction of American democracy by declaring that when rich people or corporations own politicians, all that money that got transferred to the politicians wasn’t bribery but, instead, was Constitutionally-protected First Amendment-defined “Free Speech.”  The Court radically expanded that in 2010 with Citizens United.

As a result, there’s really very little democracy left in our democracy.  Our votes are handled in secret by private, unaccountable for-profit corporations.  Our laws are written, more often than not, by corporate lawyers/lobbyists or representatives of billionaire-level wealth.  And our media is owned by the same class of investors/stockholders, so it’s a stretch to expect them to do much critical reporting on the situation.

In his book The Decline of the West, first published in German in 1918 and then in English in 1926, Oswald Spengler suggested that what we call Western civilization was then beginning to enter a “hardening” or “classical” phase in which all the nurturing and supportive structures of culture would become, instead, instruments of the exploitation of a growing peasant class to feed the wealth of a new and strengthening aristocracy.

Culture would become a parody of itself, average people’s expectations would decline while their wants would grow, and a new peasantry would emerge, which would cause the culture to stabilize in a “classic form” that, while Spengler doesn’t use the term, seems very much like feudalism—the medieval system in which the lord owned the land and everyone else was a vassal (a tenant who owed loyalty to the landlord).

Or its more modern incarnation: fascism.

Spengler, considering himself an aristocrat, didn’t see this as a bad thing. In 1926 he prophesied that once the boom of the Roaring Twenties was over, a great bust would wash over the Western world. While this bust had the potential to create chaos, its most likely outcome would be a return to the classic, stable form of social organization, what Spengler calls “high culture” and I call neofeudalism and/or fascism.

He wrote:

In all high Cultures, therefore, there is a peasantry, which is breed stock, in the broad sense (and thus to a certain extent nature herself), and a society which is assertively and emphatically “in form.” It is a set of classes or Estates, and no doubt artificial and transitory. But the history of these classes and estates is world history at highest potential.

Twentieth and 21st century cultural observers, ranging from billionaire George Soros in his book The Crisis of Global Capitalism, to professor Noreena Hertz in The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy, have pointed to deep cracks in the foundational structure of Western civilization, traceable in part to the current legal status of corporations versus humans.

Most recently, Jane Mayer has laid out in painful detail how the Koch Network and a few other political-minded billionaires have essentially taken over the entire Republican Party in her book Dark Money as has Nancy MacLean with her new book Democracy in Chains.  The extent of the problems within our political and economic structures are laid bare with startling and sometimes frightening clarity.

As a result, Princeton scholars Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page famously foundthat the odds of average Americans’ political desires being translated into policy are about the same as random noise, whereas what they referred to as “economic elites” frequently get everything they want from the political class.

They wrote that we still have the “features” of democracy like elections, but ended their paper with this cautionary note: “[W]e believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

It seems that America has arrived at the point Spengler saw in early 20th century Europe, and, indeed, there are some concerning parallels, particularly with the late 1920s and early 1930s.  Italy, Germany, and Spain all lost their democracies and moved to fascism, while many of Spengler’s acolytes cheered.

And, indeed, it was one of FDR’s biggest challenges in the early 1930s – steering America through a “middle course” between communism (which was then growingly popular) and fascism (also growingly popular).  He pulled it off with small (compared to Europe) nods to democratic socialism, instituting programs like Social Security, the minimum wage, and establishing the right to unionize (among other things).

Mark Twain is often quoted as saying that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.  Many look at the all-out war being waged against American government right now by the hard right, from Trump and his cronies to the billionaire networks funding right-wing propaganda and lobbying outlets, and think “it can’t happen here.”

They’re wrong.  It can happen here.

We now have police intervening in electionsprivatized corporate votingsystems, and a massive voter suppression campaign to prevent elderly, young, and non-white Americans from being able to vote.

Meanwhile, as Lee Fong reported, Republican politicians and the billionaires who own them are now dropping any pretense at all to caring about the fate and future of our country’s fiscal health, so long as they get their tax cuts NOW.

In summary, what’s left of our democratic institutions are under siege.

Add to that a largely billionaire-funded/owned right-wing media machine that’s willing to regularly and openly deceive American voters (documented daily by Media Matters and Newshounds), and you have the perfect setup for a neofeudalist/fascist takeover of our government.

Or, as President Carter so correctly called it, oligarchy.

 

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Trump’s “Mein Kampf” tirade at the United Nations

20 September 2017

The speech delivered Tuesday by Donald Trump to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York was without precedent either for the UN or the American presidency.

Speaking before a world body ostensibly created to spare humanity the “scourge of war” and founded on the principles elaborated at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders, the American president openly embraced a policy of genocide, declaring that he was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people.

The fact that nobody in the assembly moved for Trump’s arrest as a war criminal, or even told the fascistic bully to sit down and shut up, is a measure of the bankruptcy of the UN itself.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump told the meeting. “Rocket Man [Trump’s imbecilic nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able…”

As with his every public utterance, Trump’s megalomaniacal remarks began with the supposed revival of America’s fortunes since his election last November, which has found expression, he argued, in the Wall Street stock market bubble and the passage of a $700 billion military budget.

At the core of Trump’s speech was the promotion of his “America First” ideology. The US president presented the promotion of nationalism as the solution to all the problems of the planet. “The nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition,” he proclaimed in a speech in which the words “sovereign” or “sovereignty” were repeated 21 times.

While declaring his supposed support for the sovereignty of every nation, Trump made it clear that his administration is prepared to wage war against any nation that fails to bow to Washington’s diktat.

In addition to threatening to incinerate North Korea for testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, he threatened to abrogate the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, describing it as an “embarrassment.’’ He thereby placed the US on the path to war against Iran, whose government he described as a “corrupt dictatorship,” a “rogue state” and a “murderous regime.”

He also singled out Venezuela, declaring that its internal situation “is completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch.” He added: “The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded in a tweet, saying that “Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times—not the 21st century UN—unworthy of a reply.”

The foreign minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, charged Trump with seeking “regime change by force,” adding that he “wants to rule the world when he can’t even rule his own country.”

Trump made no attempt to explain the glaring contradiction between his invocation of universal national sovereignty and his assertion of US imperialism’s “right” to bomb, invade or carry out regime change against any nation it sees fit.

On the eve of the speech, a senior White House official told reporters that the American president had spent a great deal of time pondering the “deeply philosophical” character of his address.

What rubbish! The speech’s “philosophy,” such as it is, is drawn from the ideology of fascism. Indeed, no world leader has delivered the kind of threat uttered by Trump against the people of North Korea since Adolf Hitler took the podium at the Reichstag in 1939 and threatened the annihilation of Europe’s Jews.

The kind of nationalist doctrine put forward by Trump at the UN distinctly echoes the positions of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. As Leon Trotsky wrote in his 1934 article “Nationalism and Economic Life”:

“Italian fascism has proclaimed national ‘sacred egoism’ as the sole creative factor. After reducing the history of humanity to national history, German fascism proceeded to reduce nation to race and race to blood… The enduring value of the nation, discovered by Mussolini and Hitler, is now set off against the false values of the 19th century: democracy and socialism.”

The parallels are not accidental. The text of the speech bears the visible fingerprints of Trump’s fascistic senior policy advisor and speechwriter Stephen Miller, who seems to work best with a volume of Hitler’s Mein Kampf close at hand.

Just as this promotion of reactionary nationalism in the 1930s was the ideological expression of world capitalism’s descent into world war, so it is today.

The threats against North Korea and Iran are bound up with far wider geostrategic aims of US imperialism, as Trump indicated in his oblique denunciation of China and Russia for trading with Pyongyang and his reference to the South China Sea and Ukraine. Moreover, the attacks on Iran and threats to tear up the 2015 nuclear accord are aimed not only against the government in Tehran, but also at Washington’s erstwhile allies in Western Europe, which are already seeking new sources of profit based on trade and investment deals with Iran.

The absence from the UN’s opening session of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was significant. No doubt they had a sense of what was coming and feared the domestic political consequences of being seen as giving legitimacy through their presence in the auditorium to Trump’s diatribe.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke shortly after Trump, delivered a right-wing speech promoting the “war on terrorism,” but was forced to directly oppose the US position on North Korea, warning against military escalation and calling for dialogue. In relation to Iran, he opposed any abrogation of the nuclear treaty. The French media compared the split to the tensions that arose during the Bush administration’s drive to war against Iraq.

The threats today, however, are far greater. Trump’s speech has made it unmistakably clear to the world that the government he heads is comprised of criminals. Having drawn multiple lines in the sand, threatening war on virtually every continent, Trump’s own demagogy leads almost inexorably to escalation and military action.

The speech included a passage warning the world that the American military is no longer subordinate to civilian control. “From now on,” Trump declared, “our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.”

In other words, the military will decide, not elected officials—the fundamental characteristic of a military dictatorship. That this “principle” is accepted by the US Congress, which approved the $700 billion Pentagon budget while voting down an amendment calling on the legislative body to reclaim its constitutional power to declare war, is a measure of the putrefaction of American democracy.

The consolidation of such a government, with the repulsive figure of Donald Trump at its head, is the culmination of a quarter-century of economic and political degeneration, combined with unending wars and military interventions waged with the aim of reversing the erosion of American capitalism’s global hegemony.

Contradicting the vision presented in Trump’s speech of a Hitlerian springtime for nationalism, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres preceded the American president with an address to the General Assembly describing “a world in pieces.”

“People are hurting and angry,” he warned. “They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.” He added that “global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.”

This undeniable reality found indirect expression in Trump’s own address, with his attempt to exploit the crisis in Venezuela—a country where the dominance of finance capital is today greater than it was three decades ago—to denounce socialism.

“Wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure,” said Trump. “Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

A quarter-century after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the proclamation of the failure of Marxism and triumph of capitalism, the threat of socialism has become a central preoccupation of an American president delivering a reactionary and militarist diatribe before the United Nations.

Trump speaks for a US financial and corporate oligarchy that feels itself under siege. It fears growing popular anger. It has been shaken to the core by the revelation during the 2016 election that a broad social constituency within the working class and among the youth is intensely hostile to the profit system and sympathetic to socialism.

Ultimately, Trump’s belligerent threats of war and nuclear annihilation are the projection onto the world stage of the class policy pursued by the American ruling class at home, and the very advanced state of political and social tensions within the United States itself.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

 

 

Paul Krugman: America Has Begun Its Slide Into Fascism

NEWS & POLITICS
The New York Times columnist sounds off on Trump’s Arpaio pardon.

Photo Credit: YouTube/Bloomberg

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio proudly referred to his tent city prison as a “concentration camp.”  For decades, the former sheriff freely carried out his abuse and racial profiling, ignoring any requests to stop, Arpaio was finally convicted for contempt of court earlier this summer, but the conviction lasted barely three weeks before Donald Trump pardoned him, paving the way for what Paul Krugman calls “fascism, American style.”

“There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law,” he writes in his Monday column. “What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed.”

It’s not hard to understand why Trump would be eager to pardon Arpaio. The president fawns over dictators like Duterte and Putin, and accuses immigrants of being rapists. Of course he’d love the idea of a strongman flourishing in an American county. In addition, Krugman points out, “the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

His base also revels in spectacular feats of racism, and with his approval rating plummeting, Trump needs them more than ever.

What’s less immediately clear is how we got here in the first place. Why was Arpaio allowed to openly engage in abuse and racial profiling? Why did we allow a failed businessman-turned-reality television star to become president? For Krugman, the blame lies with their collaborators. What made Trump’s rise possible, he explains, is “the acquiescence of people, both voters and politicians, who aren’t white supremacists, who sort-of kind-of believe in the rule of law, but are willing to go along with racists and lawbreakers if it seems to serve their interests.”

Most of is have read the reports about poorly educated white voters and the fawning profiles of Trump supporters and their “economic anxiety.” What we hear less about are the “millions of votes from well-educated Republicans who — despite the media’s orgy of false equivalence or worse (emails!) — had no excuse for not realizing what kind of man he was. For whatever reason, be it political tribalism or the desire for lower taxes, they voted for him anyway.”

Their representatives in Congress have done little more than issue verbal slaps on the wrist. The likes of Paul Ryan express “dismay” and “concern” every time Trump issues a new immigration ban, praises the KKK or acts on one draconian policy or another. Krugman isn’t optimistic that Arpaio’s pardon will lead to action to back up the flimsy concern. If anything, he writes, “We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?”

Probably not. Krugman leaves us with this chilling thought: “There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.”

Read the entire column.

 

The political and social roots of fascist violence in the US

15 August 2017

The eruption of Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend has come as a shock to millions of people in the United States and around the world. The images of pro-Nazi white supremacists assaulting counter-protesters and the brutal murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer have exposed the socially and politically rancid state of American society. Nazi thugs rampaged through a university town and terrorized students and other residents while smirking policemen stood by and winked their encouragement to the attackers. The country that presumes to preach morality to the world and holds itself up as the beacon of law and democratic stability is breaking apart at the seams.

There is a vast difference between the deep-felt anger of millions of ordinary people over the events in Charlottesville and the formal hand-wringing and hypocritical condemnations of violence by politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties and the corporate media. Their statements reek of insincerity. Their pro forma denunciations of the violence in Charlottesville are devoid of any serious examination of the underlying social and political conditions out of which it arose.

Typical was Monday’s editorial (“The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of”) in the New York Times, which speaks for the Democratic Party. The editors criticized Trump for not condemning the white supremacist groups responsible for the violence. They declared that Trump “is alone in modern presidential history in his willingness to summon demons of bigotry and intolerance in service to himself.” The president is clinging to white supremacists, the editors added, “in his desperation to rescue his failing presidency.”

Were it not for Trump, the Times implies, the streets of America would resound with hymns of brotherly love. But the “Evil Trump” interpretation of history explains nothing. The swaggering thug in the White House is, like the violence in Charlottesville, a symptom of a deep and intractable crisis.

As a political and social phenomenon, fascism is a product of capitalism in extreme crisis. Analyzing the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany in 1932, Trotsky explained that the ruling class turns to fascism “at the moment when the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium… Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat—all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.” (“What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat”)

Fascism is not yet a mass movement in the United States. The national mobilization of far-right organizations to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew only several hundred people.

Notwithstanding their limited support among the broad mass of the population, however, these reactionary elements enjoy the backing of powerful sections of the state, including the White House itself. They have the financial support of billionaire backers (Stephen Bannon, Trump’s fascistic chief strategist, has developed close ties to hedge fund executive Robert Mercer). And they have the active sympathy of significant sections of the police and military apparatus.

Throughout his campaign and his first seven months in office, Trump and his fascistic advisors have pursued a definite political strategy, based on the belief that they can exploit widespread social anger and political disorientation to develop an extra-parliamentary movement to violently suppress any popular opposition to a policy of extreme militarism and social reaction.

However, Trump is less the creator than the outcome of protracted economic, social and political processes. His administration, composed of oligarchs and generals, arises out of a quarter-century of unending war, four decades of social counterrevolution and the increasingly authoritarian character of American politics. Torture, drone assassinations, wars of aggression, police murder—overseen by both Democrats and Republicans—form the backdrop to the events in Charlottesville.

Trump’s greatest asset has been the character and orientation of his political opponents within the ruling class. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election because the Democrats ran as the party of the status quo, the embodiment of complacency and self-satisfaction. Since the election, their opposition to Trump has been oriented entirely to the intelligence agencies and the military, where fascist elements flourish, on the basis of demands for a more aggressive policy against Russia. They are unable and unwilling to advance a program that can command any significant popular support since they represent an alliance of Wall Street and privileged layers of the upper-middle class.

Trump has been able to win a certain base in regions of the country that have been devastated by deindustrialization, profiting from the reactionary role of the trade unions, which long ago abandoned any opposition to the demands of the corporations, promoting instead the poisonous ideology of economic nationalism. The “American first” agenda of the Trump administration has found fertile ground among the privileged and thoroughly corrupt trade union executives.

An additional ideological factor has served to fuel the rise of white nationalist organizations: the legitimization of explicitly racialist politics by the Democratic Party. While the Democrats and their media affiliates have denounced the openly racist actions of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, the fact remains that the white nationalists have been aided and abetted by the relentless promotion by the Democratic Party and its allies of race as the primary category of social and political analysis.

Endless columns and articles have appeared in the pages of the New YorkTimes and other publications promoting the concept of “whiteness” and “white privilege.” It was Times columnist Charles Blow who, in a June 2016 column denouncing the film Free State of Jones, attacked “the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class.” As the World Socialist Web Site commented at the time, Blow “is not a fascist, but he thinks very much like one.”

The obsessive fixation on racial politics, from the Democratic Party and the fraternity of pseudo-left organizations that operate in its orbit, reached a peak in the election campaign of Hillary Clinton, which was organized on the principal that all social problems are reducible to race and racism, and that the grievances of workers who are white are the product not of unemployment and poverty, but of racism and privilege.

The racialist interpretation of politics, culture and society by the Democrats was politically convenient in that it served to divert attention from the issues of social inequality and war, while blaming white workers—not the capitalist system and the ruling class—for the election of Trump.

As the Trump administration was intensifying its cultivation of fascistic forces over the past several months, Google—in alliance with those sections of the state particularly associated with the Democratic Party—was implementing a program of censorship targeting left-wing and progressive websites, above all, the World Socialist Web Site. The response of all factions of the ruling class to the social and political crisis that has produced Trump is to seek to block and suppress any challenge to the capitalist system.

Long historical experience has demonstrated that fascism can be fought only through the mobilization of the working class on a socialist and revolutionary program. The fight against the extreme right must be developed through the unification of all sections of the working class, of all races, genders and nationalities. Opposition to fascism must be connected to the fight against war, social inequality, unemployment, low wages, police violence and all the social ills produced by capitalism.

So long as the interests of the working class are not articulated and advanced by taking on an independent political form, it is the forces of the extreme right that will benefit. The urgent task is to build a revolutionary leadership in the working class.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/15/pers-a15.html

Fascism Here We Come: the Rise of the Reactionary Right and the Collapse of “The Left”

Photo by Alec Perkins | CC BY 2.0

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over this last weekend is an important moment in American politics, symbolizing the ascendance of the reactionary right and showcasing the dangers of its toxic assault on democracy, equality, and the rule of law.  News outlets on early Sunday reported that one person was killed on August 12th after a car accelerated into a crowd of counter-protestors, while dozens more were injured.  That intimidation, terror, and murder are tools of the reactionary right in their war on people of color and non-Christians is nothing new in history.  Still, the most recent wave of right-wing hate is instructive, offering numerous lessons regarding the state of American politics.

First, the incident reveals that right-wing fascism has officially “arrived” on the American political scene, as seen in Trump’s refusalto condemn the murders.  Trump knows he can’t afford to alienate racist elements on the right to get re-elected, and he doesn’t want to alienate them, since he himself is a racist and a bigot.  Hence the refusal to use clear lanaguage to condemn the murders.  His political reasoning here is completely transparent, as he’s spent his entire political career cultivating hate on the reactionary right.  Although Trump eventually condemned the attack after receiving a large amount of negative press, his reversal is part of a broader trend Trump is known for, in which he initially signals to racists in his support base that he approves of their actions, thereby devaluing any later reversal as merely the product of political pressure, rather than principled opposition.  The damage, of course, has alredy been done.  Far-right fascists and racists know that the president supports their behavior when he goes out of his way to provide them cover.

The second lesson from this tragedy relates to the futility of claims that Trump and his far-right supporters are the sort of people with which “the left” should be working.  First, there’s the claim among numerous “left” pundits that Trump’s campaign represented the rise of working class populism, the implication being that Trump himself was a working class hero set on restoring America’s past economic greatness.  Other nonsense abounded about Trump the principled anti-imperialist, but that rhetoric is contradicted by his administration’s beliggerent rhetoric and nuclear threats toward North Korea, his militarism in Syria, and his embrace of increased sanctions against Russia.  The rhetoric about Trump the economic populist is contradicted by his record since taking office of embracing typical corporatist Republican policies, incuding deep cuts in social welfare spending, deregulation of big business, and efforts to ram through tax cuts for the wealthy.

It would be silly and wrong to say that all Trump supporters are right-wing fascists or extremists.  Many are simply conservatives who do not embrace racism or bigotry. According to data from the Pew Research Center and elsewhere, while two-thirds to three quarters of Trump supporters embrace reactionary and bigoted social views, the quarter to third do not.  Still, the recent push among numerous “leftists” to seek an alliance between the left and the far right (a “Brown-Red” alliance) is worrisome considering the growing data suggesting the right-wing elements of Trump’s support base are out-and-out fascists.

Three recent surveys raise alarm bells on the Trump-fascist front.  First, there was a poll reported in the Washington Post which found that a plurality of Trump voters believed that white Americans face “a lot of discrimination” in the United States.  Comparatively, just 19 percent said “Latino people” face “a lot of discrimination,” while just 22 percent felt the same about “black people.”  These results suggest mass delusion on the part of much of Trump’s base, considering the mountain of social science data demonstrating that people of color are systematically discriminated against in the mass media, on the job market, in the criminal justice system, and in other social settings.  This paranoia is no doubt feeding the reactionary right’s escalation of the “culture war” against people of color.

A second recent poll suggests that much of Trump’s support base has fallen into a cultish relationship with the president, expressing a blind trust for “The Donald” and authoritarian contempt for the press.  As the Economist reports, nearly half of Republican Americans now believe that the government should “shut down” news media outlets for “broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate,” while over half think these outlets should be fined for allegedly pushing falsehoods – the First Amendment be damned.  If these reactionaries get their way, government will be empowered to decide what constitutes responsible or accurate journalism.  Cultish support for Trump is most evident in the Economist’s polling of trust for Trump, in comparison to trust of various media outlets.  Three-quarters of Republicans state they trust Trump more than each of the following news outlets: CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  While conservatives have long lambasted these outlets for their alleged liberal bias, the same cannot be said for other outlets, including the neoconservative Weekly Standard and the National Review.  But three-quarters of Republicans say they have more trust in Trump than these outlets.  More than half of Republicans express greater trust in Trump than Fox News.

Mass blind trust in a political leader – especially a con-man as narcissitic, duplicitious, and shamelessly deceptive as Trump – raises dire concerns about the ability of critical literacy skills to survive moving forward.  When citizens favor blatant propaganda as their primary source of information about the world, there is little hope that they will be able to separate themselves from reactionary, officially-endorsed fascism.  The cult of Trump will provide cover for an administration that has long expressed contempt for freedom of the press, and is now indicating its support for fascist policies aimed at criminalizing journalists for reporting on classified intelligence the Trump administration would prefer be kept secret.

A final red flag is raised regarding a new poll reported on by the Washington Post, which finds that 52 percent of Republicans would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump says it is necessary to root out voter-fraud before allowing a vote, while 56 percent say that shutting down elections is acceptable so long as Republicans in Congress agree.  No matter that Trump has presented no evidence of rampant voter fraud in the last election, or that the political experts who actually study the issue conclude that voter fraud amounts to a miniscule and trivial amount of all votes cast.  In a political world in which Lord Trump’s word is gospel, and media outlets challenging his propaganda are heretics, the truth no longer matters.

The organized left has been in serious trouble for years, which is evident in the decline of labor unions, the disappearance of leftist public intellectuals in academia, the rightward drift of the Democratic Party, and the complete failure of the Green Party to make inroads with the mass public.  There are of course some positive signs, as seen in the rise of Black Lives Matter and protests against the Trump administration – particularly those protests that provide a constructive agenda by supporting greater government funding for education and the introduction of universal health care.

Despite these positive developments, much of “the left” – if one could call them that, have turned to increasingly desperate statements and actions in an effort to become relevant again to American politics.  This desperation manifests itself in numerous forms.  First, there is the trend toward dealing with the Trump administration and reactionary supporters with kid’s gloves, downplaying the importance of the right’s bigotry and prejudice, as seen not only in racist and xenophobic rhetoric, but policies that discriminate against Muslims, people of color, and immigrants.  Some have claimed that Trump should be supported by leftists because of his election rhetoric about returning jobs to America, in opposition to free trade, and in support of normalizing relations with Russia.  None of this rhetoric has manifested itself in tangible policy proposals or actual policies, now more than half a year into this administration, which is a sign of how little commitment Trump had to these positions.  As it’s become harder and harder to maintain the myth that Trump’s electoral victory was a product of mounting anger among a working class left behind in the era of outsourcing and free trade, some on “the left” have tried to promote a “Brown-Red” alliance agenda by claiming that the far right can join with the far left to fight oppression and defeat the liberal media and the “deep state.”

Now some Green Party personalities and some of their “public intellectual” supporters who are nominally on the left seek to make common cause with openly white nationalist reactionaries.  This development demonstrates a serious intellectual decline in what counts for “the left.”  By downplaying the severity of the racist, sexist, classist, and xenophobic tendencies of the far-right and the reactionary elements of Trump’s base, individuals who claim to support the left betray the long history of resistance to bigotry, prejudice, and oppression that has historically defined progressive social movements.  Any sane person should want to have nothing to do with right-wing bigots or fascists, although this point has been obscured in talk of a “Brown-Red” alliance.

The decision by Cobb and McKinney to ally with fascists is a serious betrayal of progressive values.  It harms the credibility of anyone on the left who still claims the mantle of the democratic, anti-racist politics.  The Green’s alliance will not be forgotten by people of color, immigrant rights groups, and those opposing America’s Islamophobic turn. One can’t realistically “work with” right-wing nationalists one minute, then claim common cause with minority groups that are the targets of reactionary fascists.

Much of what remains of “the left” today is comprised of anxious, angry individuals who are rightly angry at a dysfunctional political-economic system that fails to represent the needs of the bottom 99 percent.  These individuals often feel deeply isolated from American mainstream society, and unfortunately, have been willing to gravitate toward all types of kooky ideas due to the decline of left-public intellectualism in the neoliberal era.  As public educational institutions have been dismantled and privatized, professors have been pressured and bullied by administrators and state officials to abandon advocacy work. And with the decline of American labor unions, productive venues for progressive activism have also begun to dry up.

Conspiratorial and extremist personalities have stepped forward to fill the left vacuum.  “Left” thinkers embrace authoritarian false prophets such as Assad in Syria and Putin in Russia, and portray these faux revolutionaries as on the vanguard of “anti-imperialism,” despite their repressive domestic human rights records, simply because they are against American militarism.  Others on the left fall into conspiracism, embracing 9/11 trutherism, and various “deep state” conspiracies such as claims that a secret intelligence apparatus was responsible for the JFK assassination and for framing Nixon for Watergate.  Never mind that there is a federal recording (made by Nixon himself) in which the former president openly speaks about paying off the Watergate burglars with hush money; we wouldn’t want to let evidence get in the way of a good conspiracy.

With the rise of “Brown-Red” alliance propaganda, some “leftists” have thrown their lot in with truly despicable individuals.  For example, McKinney and Cobb have recently sought to make common cause with noted Alex Jones groupies such as Mike Cernovich and Robert Steele, both with deeply troubled histories of embracing white nationalism.  Cernovich shamelessly embraces the rhetoric of “alt-right” sexists, referring to men he deems insufficiently masculine as “cucks,” while embracing conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, and advocating IQ testing for immigrants.  He has claimed that date rapeis not real, and has encouraged men to “slut shame” black women to avoid AIDS.  Steele is a David Duke sympathizer who publishes commentary along with Duke about the dangers of the “Zionist deep state,” as tied to conspiracies about how Jews control American politics, media, and banking institutions.  Steele gained infamy after an appearance on Alex Jones’ Info Wars claiming that NASA was running a child slavery ring on Mars.  And Steele explicitly compares Jews to animals, although I will not do him or Duke the favor of linking to any of his repulsive commentaries.  Echoing Steele’s anti-semitism, McKinney also has a long, sordid history of collaborating with blatant anti-semites, despite the presence of many anti-Zionist activists and intellectuals throughout the U.S. and the world who reject anti-semitism.

I’ve recently heard from numerous self-described leftists who defend the supporters of the “Brown-Red” alliance agenda, but the moral bankruptcy of these apologists’ claims have been stripped bare considering the wretched politics of individuals like Steele and Cernovich.  Steele has reached out to me in the past, seeking to recruit me in his battle against “the deep state.”  It was immediately clear that there was something very wrong with this man, which was apparent when he started spouting “deep state” conspiracies about Watergate, 9/11, and JFK.  Not yet knowing about his anti-semitism, I politely told him I had no interest in anything he was selling.  That Green Party leaders could be supportive of such a figure speaks poorly of their judgment.

Marginalized from access to mainstream political, economic, or media institutions, some claiming to speak for “the left” have concluded that the path forward is in allying with fascist forces on the right.  This act of desperation reveals the utter failure of the Green Party to make serious inroads with the public or in gaining political power.  But this Hail Mary is destined to fail. No progressive social movement is ever going to be built by propping up reactionary bigots and conspiracy theorists, who have zero interest in the fight against economic inquality, racism, and capitalism more broadly.  Progressively minded people would be far better served opposing the relatively small number of Americans who openly advocate reactionary white nationalism, and instead focusing on the millions of people of color, in addition to working class, middle class, and poor Americans who are all increasingly left behind in an era of growing corporate, plutocratic power over politics.  There is still time to return respectability to the progressive community in America, but this can’t happen so long as fascist enablers speak for the left.

More articles by:

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/15/fascism-here-we-come-the-rise-of-the-reactionary-right-and-the-collapse-of-the-left/

Donald Trump hasn’t just tolerated this upsurge of fascist violence — he enabled and encouraged it.

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

 

It’s a dark moment for America — and our president personally made this possible

Now is an era of sadness and despair in America. Not only have right-wing extremists and Nazis, mostly composed of deeply entitled and privileged young white men, marched openly in our streets, pushing well beyond free speech by committing acts of deadly violence and terror against counter-protesters, but it’s become abundantly clear that our chief executive — the president of the United States — is both an enabler and a sympathizer of their lost cause.

There have been many occasions throughout the past two years when Donald Trump has made me embarrassed to call myself an American. There is his disgraceful and unpresidential behavior, often made obvious multiple times daily. There is the disturbing reality that he’s been politically successful both despite and because of his erratic bullying, which is not reflective of a strong leader but rather a fledgling authoritarian, ignorant bigot and amoral toddler.

On Saturday, however, Trump revealed himself to be far worse, given his barely unspoken, between-the-lines support for white supremacist goon squads and, yes, Nazi terrorists inside our national borders, marching in our streets.

It was bad enough that Trump has surrounded himself with “alt-right” white supremacists like Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. It was bad enough that Trump constructed his entire political message around a racist dog-whistle, appealing explicitly to the “forgotten men and women” of America. (There was little mystery about what color they were.) It was bad enough that throughout his campaign and presidency so far, Trump has pandered to aggrieved white people angry about Black Lives Matter and the first black president, while he simultaneously demonized nonwhites, be they immigrants or citizens. And then, in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday, he vindicated all our suspicions with the most atrocious presidential remarks delivered in generations.

While victims of the graphic, horrifying terror attack in Charlottesville were still covered in freshly drawn blood, including and especially the late Heather Heyer, the president meekly denounced the “hatred, bigotry and violence” of the day. By itself, that would have been passable. The president instead decided to add his own apparently improvised qualifier: “on many sides, on many sides.”

In other words, the white supremacist who rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, killing Heyer and injuring 19 others, is on the same level as the counter-protesters who didn’t kill or severely injure anyone that day. This according to your president, the ironically dubbed “leader of the free world.” The president’s “many sides” line also appeared to link the deadly Charlottesville terrorist attack with Black Lives Matter protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and other activists who, again, haven’t engaged in any acts of terror whatsoever nor are linked in any way to the Holocaust and other atrocities of World War II.

Making matters worse, the president refused to condemn the Nazis and white supremacists who assembled in the name of defending, in this case violently, the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville and — perhaps more importantly for them — expressing their perceived grievances in an age of broadening equality and civil rights. Again, it’s worth repeating: The president refused to condemn Nazis — actual, self-identified neo-Nazis with their snappy World War II German cosplayer regalia, their matching Nazi helmets, their khaki slacks and their combat boots.

We know exactly why Trump refused to say what so many other prominent Republicans and Democrats said in response. We know that Trump performs exclusively to his base. No one else matters beyond those represented best by his googly-eyed rally-attending disciples. These are people who largely do not identify as racists or Nazis, but who seem perfectly comfortable sticking it to perceived outsiders as well as the liberal benefactors of those “others.” We know that Trump has no problem with relentlessly blasting his enemies, yet neo-Nazis and white supremacists are somehow off limits.

Indeed, the only people Trump consistently refuses to condemn are Nazis, such as the Unite the Right goons in Charlottesville, and authoritarians such as President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and, of course, Vladimir Putin. Trump was perfectly comfortable comparing the American intelligence community with “Nazi Germany” a few months back, but he defiantly refused to condemn the actual Nazis marching in his backyard, 90 minutes south of the White House.

Trump was more than happy to attack his own attorney general and his own party’s Senate leader. He condemned war hero John McCain. He repeatedly condemned the judges of the Ninth Circuit. Hell, Trump condemned both “Saturday Night Live” and Nordstrom. But he’s afraid to condemn despots like Putin or the Nazis who attacked American citizens in Charlottesville. Why? I think we know the answer.

By now you’ve probably seen the shocking video of the organizer of the Unite the Right gathering, Jason Kessler, being chased away by antifa protesters and others still hurting from Saturday’s tragedies. Knowing that our president, in addition to being a pawn of the Kremlin and a profound embarrassment to the nation, also happens to be an apparent sympathizer with Nazis and white supremacists, it’s past time that we make some hard choices as citizens.

Do we collectively demand the swift resignation or impeachment of the president for his trespasses, or do we continue to endure this tyrant through the next election, even though Trump’s accomplices in Moscow might well seek to skew the election in his favor again? Do we continue to tolerate Trump and his team of racist advisers and the actions of the pathetic young men they’re animating? If after only 207 days, neo-Nazis are so empowered by a sympathetic president to commit murders as they did on Saturday, what will America look like 207 days from now? What will America look like after Trump appoints more top officials while “deconstructing the administrative state” and dealing in unnecessary nuclear brinksmanship? Let us choose not to find out.

We’ve endured incompetent presidents before. We’ve endured criminals in the Oval Office before. But we’ve never had both a Nazi appeaser and an apparent Russian puppet in the White House before. Now we’re beginning to see the real and fatal consequences of allowing a terrifyingly incompetent villain to ascend to this station, and matters can absolutely get worse. There’s no silver lining here, just a raw and mandatory urgency for Donald Trump to be legally ejected from his intolerable stewardship of the American presidency.

 

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon.com. He’s also the host of “The Bob Cesca Show” podcast, and a weekly guest on both the “Stephanie Miller Show” and “Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

The White House and the fascist rampage in Charlottesville

14 August 2017

After months of deliberate planning and coordination with the police, the Nazi “Unite the Right” rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia reached its deadly apogee Saturday afternoon when a 20-year-old Hitler admirer from Ohio drove his car through a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter Heather Heyer and wounding 14 more people.

The corporate press has focused on Trump’s failure to verbally condemn the violence of the far right. But the American media’s handwringing over Trump’s statements is not only naive. It deliberately covers up the extent to which the White House was involved in encouraging and inciting and even planning the Nazi mobilization in Charlottesville. The White House is crawling with pro-fascist operatives. Why would Trump condemn the actions of those whom he and his pal, Steve Bannon, view as a critical political constituency?

This Nazi riot is not an aberrational event in American politics. It is the product of Donald Trump’s strategy to build an extra-constitutional fascist movement outside the framework of the two parties, itself an expression of the putrefaction and collapse of American democracy under the weight of staggering levels of social inequality.

In the past three weeks, Trump and his advisors—Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka—have escalated the administration’s efforts to whip up support among fascist elements who form the core of his political base.

Trump has attacked Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, challenging one of the most powerful legislative figures in his own party. He has made bellicose threats that the US is “locked and loaded” for war against North Korea and appealed to his billionaire constituents as well as the police, immigration and border officials, and the military to support his “tough on crime” and anti-immigrant policies.

In the process, he has emboldened the forces that took over the 22,000-student University of Virginia campus on Friday. The Nazis carried out a torchlight parade across the campus, founded and designed by the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, while chanting “blood and soil,” “Sieg Heil,” and “one people, one nation, stop immigration.”

At dawn Saturday morning, dozens of uniformed fascist militiamen armed with assault rifles and shotguns deployed downtown, establishing military control over the heart of the 50,000-person city. After the militia had secured the area, without police interference, vans filled with people from across the country poured into the city center, unloading hundreds of Nazis armed with guns, knives, chains, metal poles, baseball bats and pepper spray.

What happened next can be described only as a fascist riot. Police withdrew from the scene and Nazis began attacking counter-demonstrators in the streets, shouting racial and homophobic slurs while chanting “Heil Trump.” Straggler counter-demonstrators were pulled into the Nazi melee and beaten mercilessly, while the police looked on.

Brian McLaren, a pastor who had traveled to Charlottesville as a counter-demonstrator, told the press that “the police hung back quite a distance” as the Nazis launched their attack. Then, in the early afternoon, James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio sped through the crowd in his car, flipping bodies over the hood like bowling pins.

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, responded to criticism by stating on Sunday that the police did “great work” over the weekend. McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee and prominent fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, said the murder of counter-protestor Heather Heyer could not have been prevented. “You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon,” he declared.

The purpose of this weekend’s violence was to send a message to Trump’s detractors in the Republican and Democratic parties that he has an alternative base to which he can appeal. Accordingly, the Nazis held their rally just two hours from Washington DC.

A timeline of the three weeks preceding this weekend’s rampage makes clear the systematic and calculated campaign of the Trump White House to mobilize the most backward and reactionary social forces in the country.

  • On July 22, Trump made a bellicose speech to an audience of sailors to mark the commission of a $13 billion aircraft carrier.
  • On July 25, he delivered a speech in Youngstown, Ohio glorifying Christian religious extremism.
  • On July 26, the Department of Justice filed a “friend of the court brief” stating that private corporations are not barred from firing employees based on their sexual orientation. That same day, Trump tweeted that his administration would bar transgender people from military service and nominated antigay Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to be the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
  • On July 28, Trump told police and immigration agents in Long Island, New York that he loved watching criminal suspects “get thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.” He urged them to rough up people being detained, saying, “Please don’t be too nice.”
  • On August 2, Trump and Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue announced legislation, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment [RAISE] Act, which would slash legal immigration in half. At a press conference announcing the plan, Trump’s advisor Stephen Miller echoed the anti-Semitic language of the German Nazi Party when he denounced CNN’s Jim Acosta as having a “cosmopolitan bias.” On the same day, the media reported that the Justice Department was planning to sue colleges for “discrimination against whites.”
  • On August 6, Trump launched a “Real News” program on his Facebook page in an attempt to build a personalist following outside the framework of the mainstream media.
  • On August 8, White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who is a member of the Hungarian fascist Order of the Vitez, said the fascist bombing of a mosque near Minneapolis, Minnesota might be a “fake hate crime” that was “propagated by the left.” The following day, Gorka told Breitbart News that “white supremacists” are not “the problem,” and that terrorism is the product of Islam.

In the days that followed, Trump launched his war threats against North Korea and Venezuela and made new attacks on the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell.

This weekend’s Nazi violence is stamped with the political trademark of Bannon, Miller and Gorka. Nazi demonstration leader Jason Kessler acknowledged after the event that organizers had “networked with law enforcement” for months in advance of the “Unite the Right” provocation.

Kessler also met with several Republican officials in preparation for the Nazi mobilization. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Kessler held a press conference with Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart to denounce Charlottesville’s plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In March, Kessler traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett, who represents the Charlottesville area. Kessler posted on Facebook that he had “a very productive meeting today with Congressman Tom Garrett,” and acknowledged that he was in discussion with Garrett over how Kessler’s Nazi groups could support Trump’s anti-immigration measures: “We talked RAISE Act and Stop Arming Terrorists: 2 great bills we support,” Kessler’s post read.

The events in Charlottesville and Trump’s drive to develop an extra-constitutional fascist movement are a warning to the working class in the US and internationally. The program of the fascists in the White House and on the streets of Charlottesville is for genocidal war abroad and the mass internment and murder of immigrants, LGBT people, Jewish people and socialists at home.

Fascism is the excrescence of the decaying social order of American and world capitalism, which, in the figure of Donald Trump, has vomited up a fitting expression. It will not be stopped through moralistic appeals to the political establishment, but only through the mobilization of the working class united across racial, national and ethnic lines and politically armed with a revolutionary program for the socialist reorganization of the US and world economy.

Eric London

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/14/pers-a14.html