Reading “The Devil’s Chessboard” David Talbot’s magisterial and admittedly partial account of the rise of the CIA under Allen Dulles into what it once was, then wasn’t, and is now again — a state within a state — willing and capable of covert and clandestine (there is a difference) intervention in all matters both foreign and domestic — while also watching and listening to the coverage of the Republican Party Convention that confirmed Donald Trump as its Presidential Candidate raised many interesting and troublesome thoughts about America’s polity, its government and its foreign relations, past and present — most notably — Why does a nation that declares itself the most free and freedom loving of all nations, one rooted in the notion of a government of laws, not men; and of the people, for the people and by the people, seem to find itself — regardless of the era and regardless of the personage of the executive, or of those in the legislative or judicial branches of government — why does it find itself so often embracing, ensconcing and promoting dictatorial, fascist and repressive regimes that, were they be visited on the people of the US, would be deemed intolerable?
What is it about these despots, tyrants, kleptocrats and demagogues that America seems so comfortable with creating, shoring and/or perpetuating? Why does it, far from seeming to hold its nose and doing deals with devils (or as Franklin D. Roosevelt is alleged to have said in response to his Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, who declared Nicaragua strongman, Anastasio Somoza to be a bastard — “Yes, but he’s our bastard.”) seem only too happy and at peace to be holding hands with them into the sunset of democracy abroad while preaching it at home? And why is it that it finds this obvious contradiction no contradiction at all?
Further — and for the American people far more troubling — why does the US demand a system of checks and balances in its government, bound by a revered constitution, yet still seem to be so enamoured of any executive — of whatever stripe — that at every turn abrogates those same checks and balances? Why is it that the most fondly remembered of its Presidents — those lauded as heroes of the American ideal — are not those who have been bound by its constitution — who are remembered as weak or ineffective — but those who circumvented or merely ignored it?
And finally how does the ascendency of Donald Trump fit into all these questions and just how does he illustrate and point toward just how fundamentally these two sets of questions are related in how the present state of the US polity has been arrived at and where it may be heading.
These are the questions I found asking myself, and which form the subject of this series of posts — my aim is to outline both how these questions are related and to define the conclusions I drew from them — the result is to come to a closer understanding of the true American Obsession — an Inclination To Authoritarianism — that is to define itself not against the moral code it professes to follow but to base its policy, its values, self image and its very reason for existing through (according to a current administration insider) an addiction to primacy in global terms whatever the cost in lives, in money and in democracy abroad, and how this Inclination To Authoritarianism has now been reverse engineered toward a polity that is dangerously veering toward an absolutism of unbridled power in domestic terms. These posts I hope will demonstrate that America today stands at the cusp of creating within its borders the very conditions it has constantly fostered abroad in its client states.
Exceptionalism and Authoritarianism.
In this post we shall look at how America sees itself as a nation and its almost messianic mission to ever expand its zone of influence by believing that this mission is both morally right, and, more pertinently, existentially vital to its continued existence as just what America is; and therefore is bound to its “addiction to primacy”. This “addiction to primacy” is the raison d’etre behind both its foreign policy and how this foreign policy has, in recent years, has been retrofitted and turned inward, using the mechanisms in which it has sought to subvert and control other nations to subvert and control its own domestic policy. America’s support for authoritarians, despots, autocrats and brutal dictators has now turned inward and revived and supercharged a condition which was always latent — its Inclination To Authoritarianism — manifesting itself in ever more authoritarian rhetoric and policy. In the following I will attempt to demonstrate how this Inclination To Authoritarianism has always formed part of the US consciousness and how things have altered in recent years perhaps irrevocably so.
Firstly, to understand the dynamic at work in modern American society, we have to turn to the central creation myth of America — that of American Exceptionalism — drawn from Alexis de Tocqueville — in intention if not in actually utilizing that more contracted form (de Tocqueville actually wrote in Democracy in America in the 19th Century — “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”) is key to understanding how the US sees itself. The very phrase rings with the sentiment that because of this “exceptionalism” what America does in action is different from historical precedents — not because its motives and ambitions are different from historical precedents but rather that because America does them then by force of that alone the actions are different. Thus by this logic America cannot be colonialist or imperialist in its actions — not because its motivations or ambitions are different from previous colonialists or imperialists — but simply they are not colonialist or imperialist actions because America does them. By this tautology — America is not colonialist or imperialist because it declares itself not to be, therefore its actions cannot be colonialist or imperialist — America has been able to justify all manner of contradictions, paradoxes and outright wilful self deceptions without the gap becoming so great that it swallows the whole idea of nation set apart.
(N.B. The echoes here of Nixon’s justifications for actions that were criminal and unconstitutional and decisional basis of them are entirely intentional as will be covered in the subsequent.)
Of course this was a perversion of de Tocqueville’s meaning and intention — he arguably only meant that the place reached by the American people at the time of writing was largely unprecedented and therefore presented only an opportunity to see the world differently and therefore to do things differently, he did not mean that simply because of this almost unique position that the American polity and people were essentially different.
However this sentiment got lost both in the contraction of his term and its conflation with the concept of Manifest Destiny which broadly stated or implied –
- The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
- The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America
- An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty.
or as the Wiki article goes on to say the concept was -
“Ill-defined but keenly felt, manifest destiny was an expression of conviction in the morality and value of expansionism that complemented other popular ideas of the era, including American exceptionalism and Romantic nationalism.”
The idea that America was both different and had a purpose beyond the nation and place and into some mythical otherworld of virtuous conception and mission became ingrained, but not without the central contradiction that opens up just how and why America finds itself in such tension that allows further contractions to develop. As Wikipedia succinctly goes on to note –
“Owing in part to the lack of a definitive narrative outlining its rationale, proponents offered divergent or seemingly conflicting viewpoints [of manifest destiny]. While many writers focused primarily upon American expansionism, be it into Mexico or across the Pacific, others saw the term as a call to example. Without an agreed upon interpretation, much less an elaborated political philosophy, these conflicting views of America’s destiny were never resolved”
From this reading it becomes clear that America itself was based on contradiction — a contraction of a host of more complex ideas and a hefty dose of myth to cover the gaping lacunas — this tension and space has never been resolved and continues up to the present, it is visible throughout history and goes to central point I wish to make in in defining the basis of this reading of history.
What we shall go on to illuminate here is that America only sees itself as existentially relevant — as in fact being and continuing to be America — when it not only declares its exceptionalism and the values it stands upon drawing upon this exceptionalism (we shall come to these values shortly as they are critical to the point I wish to make in this post) — but when — through the mirror and candle of the notion of Manifest Destiny — it seeks to expand its ideas and interests globally.
In fact we may go further — and are justified and bound to do so as logic takes us — that America sees its very existential survival on expanding its interests and ideas ever more widely, ever more aggressively, and ever more dominantly — America historically has always seen itself, and remains to do so, as being threatened not just by any diminishment of its domestic situation but, more purely, through a potential diminishment of itself internationally — if it is not the overwhelmingly dominant, hegemonic and powerful international wielder of immense power then it ceases to be America. Going back to the head of this post, this American view of itself as either being totally dominant or else ceasing to be America is what has created the “addiction to primacy” and it is implemented through its Inclination To Authoritarianism — the addiction to primacy is the policy, authoritarianism is its strategy.
To truly understand this American Obsession though we have to look at a broader picture that to an extent sidesteps “American Exceptionalism” and looks at this obsession without this mythic distortion and then to fit it back into the American Exceptionalist model, in other words we have to take in the broader, bigger global picture of national development in sociological terms of moral psychology in order to be more focussed and understanding of the big questions we set ourselves at the outset — the contradictions on which American not only straddles but increasingly finds it difficult to maintain.
In a resent article in American Interest Jonathan Haidt draws attention to the rise of extreme populist nationalisms that are, or appear to be, on the march throughout the globe and to the increasing allure to authoritarian executive government holders and opposition parties in just these global and morally psychological terms. In utilizing data from the World Values Survey
he draws this conclusion -
“Countries seem to move in two directions, along two axes: first, as they industrialize, they move away from “traditional values” in which religion, ritual, and deference to authorities are important, and toward “secular rational” values that are more open to change, progress, and social engineering based on rational considerations. Second, as they grow wealthier and more citizens move into the service sector, nations move away from “survival values” emphasizing the economic and physical security found in one’s family, tribe, and other parochial groups, toward “self-expression” or “emancipative values” that emphasize individual rights and protections — not just for oneself, but as a matter of principle, for everyone.”
More pointedly as far as our focus on the Inclination To Authoritarianism is concerned he quotes from the introduction to Christian Welzel’s book Freedom Rising:
…fading existential pressures [i.e., threats and challenges to survival] open people’s minds, making them prioritize freedom over security, autonomy over authority, diversity over uniformity, and creativity over discipline. By the same token, persistent existential pressures keep people’s minds closed, in which case they emphasize the opposite priorities…the existentially relieved state of mind is the source of tolerance and solidarity beyond one’s in-group; the existentially stressed state of mind is the source of discrimination and hostility against out-groups.
[The added emphasis is mine]
From this view the idea of America has of itself is as constantly besieged by external existential threats promotes a popular and enduring tilt toward “strong” Executive Power at home, if not in constitutional terms, then in actual action. Presidents and presidential hopefuls who talk of peace, of negotiation, of diplomatic engagement are viewed as weak and even dangerous to national security, while those who speak of ruthlessly projecting American power — domestically and abroad, of widening the US sphere of influence, who speak of crushing rivals or nonconformists militarily, economically or socially are generally viewed favourably. This produces a polity in who’s electoral interest it is to constantly speak of America in decline at home due to a lack of disciple and submission to authority that is the unwritten code of being a good American — dedicated to the American Way Of Life — of conformity — and for them to be labelled un-American [a heaving and heavy accusation equivalent to a person of colour being labelled an Uncle Tom]. This manufactured creed of domestic weakness moves in lockstep with the image of America surrounded by roiling oceans of troubles from shining sea to shining sea. This in turn encourages — nigh — forces politicians to double down on the rhetoric of constant decline and taps directly into the Inclination To Authoritarianism. Canny politicians can ride this masnufactgured neurosis toward an authoritarianism manifesto and ride the wave to electoral success.
This is a self fulfilling and self-maintaining feedback loop that has been in constant progress in American politics since independence — preaching that America is in trouble, is under threat, feeds in to the popular notion that this is actually the case even if it is counterfactual — and someone, anyone, who can promise to banish these threats, rid the nation of its woes and defend it home and abroad can gain immense political rewards.
In other words, America perceives existential threats everywhere and in this light it is worth reiterating what Christian Welzel wrote in the passage quoted above –
fading existential pressures [i.e., threats and challenges to survival] open people’s minds….. persistent existential pressures keep people’s minds closed, in which case they emphasize …..opposite priorities [curtailment of freedom, conformity to the group, authority and uniformity, homogeneity, discipline]……..the existentially stressed state of mind is the source of discrimination and hostility against out-groups.
This has ever been the case with America — from the Founding Fathers who acted like Platos wise guardians acting autocratically for the good of the people, to the revolution to slavery, Lincoln to racial discrimination and on to the modern demonization of Muslims perceived threats awake the latent Inclination To Authoritarianism.
The fragmentation of the world following the ending of the Cold war has only increased the “existentially stressed state of mind” in the US and has created the recent drift from the latency of the Inclination To Authoritarianism to its actual primacy in political discourse and actions of its executive and legislative branches.
The obvious result, and perhaps its apotheosis, is triumph of Donald Trump — and it is a triumph no matter what happens in November — after all when he started his campaign for the Republican nomination he was viewed as little more than a comedic sideshow, and even after he started to gather popular momentum the mass media were slow to the point of sclerotic in realising that he had tapped into a vein of popular sentiment toward authoritarianism that was neither comedic or a sideshow. However it is premature to engage with the Trump imperium just yet and is something we shall return to shortly as we have not fully explored the other side of this American neurosis of a constant external hostility from without and a weakening of its power from within.
If the US populace prefers its leaders “strong” to the point of authoritarian, then the gloves come off in its external interests. While speaking of democracy and freedom it has historically preferred to deal with out and out authoritarian allies.
Democracy is a messy business as Otto von Bismarck noted of laws, and always carries the risk of the “wrong” side winning — that is elected governments either antithical to American interests or outright hostile toward them. The US has a long and ignoble history of intervention — both overt and covert — in subverting democracy, through coups or economic repression, to get its way; often replacing mildly oppositional rulers with brutal dictators or those intent on imposing rigorous and socially ruinous economic policies; this I have already highlighted, however there are signs that this authoritarian tilt is being imported back to the US.
In his article in American Interest Jonathan Haidt notes the roots of intolerance as being given a “moral” force — “moral” not in the sense of good or evil but as in whether to be intolerant is morally good or bad as justified to an individual — he goes on to state –
“People don’t hate others just because they have darker skin or differently shaped noses; they hate people whom they perceive as having values that are incompatible with their own, or who (they believe) engage in behaviors they find abhorrent, or whom they perceive to be a threat to something they hold dear. These moral concerns may be out of touch with reality, and they are routinely amplified by demagogues.”
In other words in times of stress, when a population feels itself, or its way of life, or even of a possible way of life — or has been influenced to see those things — as under threat it is more attracted to those who propose easy targets for the loss of an actual or implicitly promised way of life — that is those different from themselves.
In such times they are drawn to authoritarians, those who promise to restore “order”, to recover what has been lost, to fight for those who feel their voices have been crowded out. This is exactly the same code that the US has employed overseas to promote those in whom it has invested with power when US interests have been perceived as being under threat — in variably they have backed those who have sought, or whose rhetoric has proclaimed, a restoration to a calmer or more peaceful or more exclusive past. From the Shah of Iran to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi each has played upon turning the clock back to a time or place that previously has represented absolute rule and therefore absolute conformity. Whether the focus was on communists or Islamists the aim was the same — the restoration of some nation unity around a common and monolithic agency, be that a monarchy or the Army. Whether these rulers were, or are, actually popular — in the sense of the majority of a population supporting them — becomes actually irrelevant. In times of national stress the focus of the majority is on some kind of order. Since departure from a national norm in the form of a different facing democratic or revolutionary inspired sharp change of direction and governance invariably brings a period of disorder or upheaval the appeal to a former more regulated — even a previous more autocratic rule — seems appealing.
I emphasise then that in this case the majority just want peace and calm whoever administers it. Therefore an intolerant minority with authoritarian intentions need mobilize nothing more than the minimum necessary force or persuasion in order to take over and administer; the exhaustion of the masses will do the rest. So it is that that from the Third Reich through to Chile’s Pinochet whole populations seem willing to labour, to suffer, or to just live under almost intolerable conditions because it brings order.
Authoritarians win because their rule is simple — do as I say and all will be well, don’t think just follow, I have all the answers. Authoritarians also last. Kill, rob, steal, plunder, no matter, order and absolute power is what coiunts — the subjugation of the populace — subtle or the brutal — is no matter because so long as it appears there is some kind of order, some kind of code, some manner of living that ensures some kind of existence then the populace will endure anything out of fear; fear of the alternative — constant flux, constant change, the semiotics of the politics of democracy — the constant sliding and shifting of what it means to be a citizen, a subject, a national — the alternative is the constantly slippery concept of the “new normal”, the new acceptable, and, especially, the newly ordained “morally correct” or “politically correct”. In opposition authoritarians declare, as President Warren Harding did — normalcy — in his case the calm political and social order to which he wished to return the United States after the idealism and commotion of the presidency of Woodrow Wilson — as he put in a speech –
“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.” [My italic]
All these values and ethics of alien authoritarians promoted by America in its foreign policy, has been — as I have already pointed out — reverse engineered for the consumption of the people of the USA. For the people of the US have been exhausted by change, by what they perceive as the heavily tilted playing field, one that either negatively balances economic opportunity of the masses against the “insider” political establishment or the super rich or ethic or religious groups or……the list can go on and on to suit the prejudice or ire of those left “outside” some seeming exclusive elite or specially favoured group. This discontent is felt both left and right.
Bernie Sanders embodied the alienation of the politically conscious young college graduates who have seen their life chances occluded and a middle class that has seen their wages stagnate or, in real terms, decline, who have bourne the brunt of technological change and who have lost the chance of a stable job that promised social bebefits and capitalist optimism — his proscription — embodied in his radical agenda (radical for the US, rather mild in the context of social democratic Europe) is to soak the rich, bring the market to heel and lead the nation back to the milk and honey of late 50’s Americana — the stability and comfort of living American Dream within grasping distance of all — the land of Edward Hopper, picket fences and equality of economic opportunity, the land of the early scenes of the Don Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers with the small town doctor, picket fences and racially homogeneity . However his was a soft authoritarianism, one that used the rhetoric and syntax of authoritarians — the simple answers, the distinct proscriptions and the clear lines of for and against — but still adhering to the paradigm of a promise of return to order after the trauma of the 2008 depression.
It is commonly thought that Sanders and Donald Trump embody opposite poles — both politically and morally — morally in the sense that Jonathan Haidt used it in the above quotation — an individually inspired and justified moral centre — yet in fact they have more in common than what separates them. While Sanders focussed on economic discontent Trump focussed on social discontent and the perceived and projected American impotence in foreign policy matters. Both tapped an American dissatisfaction with the status quo and both promised simple policy prescriptions to right all wrongs.
However Trump is different in two key areas. Where Sanders focused on economic discontent — promising a revolution against the current economic (dis)order — his message — turbo charged by that discontent and his — largely unexpected — inspiring of an almost quasi-religious fervour in his followers — essentially that appeal was limited (especially when overmatched with Hillary Clinton’s well oiled establishment campaign, not to mention dirty tricks within the Democratic National Convention — DNC — to undermine and sabotage his pushback — once more the authoritarian principal writ small) Trump instead has focussed and tapped into a richer and more powerful seam of social discontent and preached a more stringent authoritarianism similar in sentiment to Harding’s
“sustainment in triumphant nationality.” .
Millions of Americans — similar to Nixon’s “silent majority” — have bought into his mantra that American is being undermined at home by forces that seek to remake America into something un-American — a cardinal sin — and thus be weakened without in its international relations; and his central message to “Make American great again” — a direct appeal back to more orderly times — those picket fences, well tended and mowed front lawns and everyone knowing everyone else — has resonated with millions of disaffected blue collar workers who have seen changes — cultural and economic — that they neither have consented to, agree with and which they see as having been imposed from a remote elite intent on controlling how they think, feel and must act. Therefore his message is more classically authoritarian — he has not only appealed to a return to American values of order and homogeneity but has also played upon the intolerance pointed out by Jonathan Haidt above and in Karen Stenner’s scholarly book The Authoritarian Dynamic concerned as it is with the roots of intolerance. She notes as follows (and I draw on Haidt’s quoting from the text) –
The experience or perception of disobedience [of a certain sector or sectors of society]to group authorities………..nonconformity to group norms …………lack of consensus in group values and beliefs and, in general, diversity and freedom ‘run amok’ should activate the predisposition [toward intolerance]………..
[T]he increasing license allowed by those evolving cultures generates the very conditions guaranteed to goad latent authoritarians to sudden and intense, perhaps violent, and almost certainly unexpected, expressions of intolerance.
Of course by invoking above the ghost of Nixon, I note America has been to this place before — “my country right or wrong”; “better dead than red” and Dick Chaney’s “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will” in US actions after 9/11 — all speak of the authoritarian impulse.
However things now have changed, the idea of existential threat has become ingrained, more so even than during the Cold War — then there were fixed lines of demarcation, clear and visible — and with the nuclear spectre looming close — real threats to the continuing existence of America.
Today the threats are more amorphous — visible yet invisible, all consuming yet strangely remote — this allows politicians to make the threat as large and as real as they like it, this feeds into the native impulse to look toward someone who can get “serious” with such invisible threats, in other words someone like Donald Trump. Therefore when Trump speaks of the murder of terrorists’ families and vows to deploy forms of torture “tougher than waterboarding” he clearly finds the popular pulse of the nation. Quoting from the The Economist it notes –
Politicians make such promises because they think voters want to hear them. Some clearly do, partly because they have an exaggerated idea of the danger that terrorism poses. A recent poll finds that 77% of Americans who follow the news believe that Islamic State (IS) is a serious threat to “the existence or survival of the US”. Mr Trump agrees. If America doesn’t get tough on terrorism soon, he has said, “we’re not going to have a country any more — there will be nothing left.”
It appears then that Americans seem wholly willing, perhaps as never before, to surrender many of their civil liberties, their commitment to freedom, and, ironically, the very values that they proclaim as both the defining principals and exceptionalist nature of their country — a land of liberty and promise to all — even the “huddled masses” from without, in order that true order may be restored.
A recent study reinforces this theory — it elucidated the apparent fact that support for Mr Trump was “fuelled by newly awakened “authoritarian” [my emphasis] voters” who viscerally responded to his demonization and promised persecution of Muslims and Mexicans.
as the author Matt MacWilliams noted (and I quote from the Economist) –
“Mr Trump had “replaced the dog whistle” — coded language to appeal to prejudiced voters — “with a bull horn”
All the above observations and studies quoted in this post point toward the unavoidable fact which I have repeatedly noted — that the American public is currently moved and responding to the same impulses that it has employed foreign policy has promoted over the years — the promotion of a strongman to restore order even at the expense of true freedom and liberty.
This swing toward authoritarianism is far more dangerous than in the past because it is unclear whom the “enemy” is, therefore the enemy can be both everywhere and nowhere, it can be anyone or anything, indeed it is enough to simply say some sector of American society is a threat for it to be perceived so — the dark clouds hovering over this manifestation is unavoidably fascistic.
All this of course would be academic if we follow the line peddled by the mainstream media that Trump has managed to alienate so many vital racial sections and demographics of the electorate that he simply cannot win the White House. However these are many of the same pundits who declared he was too divisive, too outspoken and too politically inexperienced to even win the Republican Party nomination — and we all know now where those predictions ended up.
The truth though is much darker, for Trump can win. He is up against a candidate — Hillary Clinton — almost as compromised as he is. A New York Times/CBS News survey conducted in July found that Sixty-seven percent of voters now say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy as compared with the same number who believe Trump to be the same, further, as the recent pre-Brexit poll numbers showed — polls can be remarkably wide of the mark.
Fuel to the “soft” poll numbers theory is that in swing states up for grabs in the Senate elections Republican candidates are holding up better than may be expected when paired with a Presidential candidate who supposedly exerts a drag on their election prospects. That Mr Trump is not losing by a bigger margin in these same swing states is to an inordinate degree due to Mrs Clinton’s unpopularity. So if (and granted it is a big if) Republican voters do turn out for their Senate candidates on polling day they may well be inclined to vote for Trump on the same ticket — many will not like Trump, his policies or his personality, but when faced with the prospect that failing to vote for him will let Hillary Clinton sail into The White House they may well hold their noses and plump for Trump.
Another wrinkle in the poll numbers are those independent voters who’s weight is nearly always underestimated in such polls, they cannot be relied upon to simply vote for Hillary Clinton just because Trump is thought to be such an awful alternative — its worth looking again at those poor ratings on trust and honesty from the other direction — only 33% of the people polled rated Mrs Clinton favourably — that leaves an awful lot of people with an awful lot of questions about Hillary Clinton’s probity undecided almost up to entering the polling booth. Should further damaging revelations about Mrs Clinton’s “unusual” use of a private e-mail server when she was Secretary of State emerge, or if the same issue provokes a fight by the Clintons to evade official scrutiny of certain private e-mails, then all bets are off.
Arguably — and it is logic I have followed here — if the election becomes polarized on issues of security and order, if it descends into a mud-fight surrounding who will protect the nation better, then Clinton may well be dragged down by the more strident Trump — and he has a good attack line — Clinton’s time as Secretary Of State under Barack Obama means she is unavoidably implicated in an administration that is perceived by many not to have protected them from “existential threats” that so many of them see; a fight on national security issues will effectively mean Hillary Clinton fighting is with one hand behind her back.
And if Trump does win? Some have argued that once elected Trump will be much more centrist, much milder and less “authoritarian” than he has sounded on the stump in the Republican Primaries and in the early general election season. Some see his walking back on some of his more incendariary promises recently as acknowledgement of the fact that he has to move more toward the centre (that and the “resignation” of Paul Manafort as Trump’s chief of staff). However we are then left with the question of who and what exactly
is the real Donald Trump — the one who has rallied millions of Americans with his authoritarian rhetoric, or a softer more consensual candidate?
The answer lies with those millions of Americans — the US today from the grass roots to the verge of the elite think it is time for America to ditch its soft pragmatism and bullishly follow it own interests — starting at home.
In this post I have argued that America’s authoritarian tendencies have always been present but reserved for client states abroad, however these same impulses are now being directed inwardly by a large minority that seeks to preserve a past by restricting a future — all it takes for them to succeed is for the majority to sway — even ever so slightly — in their direction (or indeed abstain from voting entirely) for them to achieve their dream.
In the movie Nixon, Anthony Hopkins — playing Nixon — declares “people vote not out of love but fear” — 2017 may well prove the truth of that maxim.