Why We Deserve Donald Trump/Drumpf as President
The United States has been flirting, if not downright chasing after, fascism for quite some time. Donald Trump/Drumpf is the final manifestation of this inclination towards despotism. Historically, our entire system has been moving in this direction.
Here, I’ll show you…
There have already been some intelligent articles written about the fascistic leanings of Donald Trump/Drumpf, which I will briefly point to and summarize but by way of showing the part of the argument that’s missing: namely that US flirtations with fascism are directly related to a merciless socio-economic system that stratifies, marginalizes, and silences many, to the point of creating large swathes of invisible, voiceless people; out of such mayhem and loss, a fascist will rise and in a language the imperceptible can understand, the language of violent change through overthrow.
The first of these articles that I noticed is by Ross Douthat of The New York Times, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” “Whether or not we want to call Trump a fascist outright,” says Douthat, “it seems fair to say that he’s closer to the ‘proto-fascist’ zone on the political spectrum than either the average American conservative or his recent predecessors in right-wing populism.”
Writing for Slate, Jamie Bouie, Chief Political Correspondent, in “Donald Trump is a Fascist,” says, “He shows bravado and ‘strength,’ disparaging weak opponents. He indulges racist rhetoric and encourages violence against protesters. He speaks directly to the petite bourgeoisie in American life: managers, public employees, small-business owners. People squeezed on all ends and desperate for economic and cultural security against capitalist instability and rapid demographic shifts, as represented by President Obama.” Then Bouie concludes that “The rhetoric of fascism is here. And increasingly, the policies are too. The only thing left is the violence.”
Well, the violence is here now too.
Finally, I’ll point to “Trump’s not Hitler, he’s Mussolini: How GOP anti-intellectualism created a modern fascist movement in America” by Salon’s Fedja Buri. Citing Robert Paxon’s The Anatomy of Fascism, Buri tells us that “Fascist leaders made no secret of having no program. This explains why Trump supporters are not bothered by his ideological malleability and policy contradictions: He was pro-choice before he was pro-life; donated to politicians while now he rails against that practice; married three times and now embraces evangelical Christianity; is the embodiment of capitalism and yet promises to crack down on free trade. In the words of the Italian writer Umberto Eco, fascism was ‘a beehive of contradictions.’ It bears noting that Mussolini was a socialist unionizer before becoming a fascist union buster, a journalist before cracking down on free press, a republican before becoming a monarchist.” And, “Like Mussolini, Trump is dismissive of democratic institutions. He selfishly guards his image of a self-made outsider who will ‘dismantle the establishment’ in the words of one of his supporters.”
Yet Douthat, Bouie, and Buri, as good and informative as their pieces are, leave out the context; that is to say, why does a Trump/Drumpf appear to us now? Why is Trump/Drumpf so close to being the GOP nominee, possibly the next president of the United States?
It begins with The Federalist Papers.
Listen to Hamilton’s prophetic words:
…a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of people than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.
How could Hamilton see so far down the road? This orphan born in the West Indies who went to King’s College, now Columbia University, in New York City, understood history.
What history has paved the way for our flirtation with despotism and the manifestation of such a character as Trump/Drumpf?
Our history is characterized by the desire for freedom and independence and the need for wealth and security, which, from time-to-time, has given us reason to side with strange bedfellows and do curious, as well as extraordinary things. To accomplish this, we have stratified, marginalized, and silenced many, in America and elsewhere in the world, to the point of creating large swathes of invisible people.
(The backstory for what I’m about to outline can be found in “The Cultivation of Hatred: A Brief History of Violence in America” and in “5 Writers Imagine America: Reflecting Forward, 2016.” Thus, I start in and around the end of WWII.)
Take Operation Paperclip (1949–1990). This was a program initiated by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, which brought more than 1,500 scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States from Nazi Germany. The point was to bring to the US, Russia, and the United Kingdom scientific know-how, thwarting efforts by others, namely Germany itself, Argentina (who was using the airline KLM to smuggle Nazis, with Sweden’s support), Spain (which was fascist already), and Egypt.
We understood, early on, that Nazi Germany was evolving scientifically and technologically in ways that were pointing towards a future that was leaving the United States dangerously behind. Freedom and independence were threatened so our military industrial complex needed a boost from the Nazis.
(Just as in years later, in our own time, wealth meant shipping labor and production offshore, leaving thousands in the United States without hope.)
Let’s fast-forward, then, to Richard Nixon’s America, already pre-disposed to a government he defines as his own personal tool to hold power by any means necessary. (It’s not surprising that Henry Kissinger, who more often than not is “wanted for war crimes,” was by Nixon’s side.)
In a Fresh Air interview about his new book, One Man Against the World, Tim Weiner tells us that “In Vietnam, he [Nixon] had a weapon — B-52 bombers. At home, he had bugs, break-ins, black bag jobs and burglaries. The two wars became one: Vietnam morphed into Watergate. He said so himself — Nixon did — that Vietnam found its successor in Watergate.”
So to deny opponents power and access, Nixon escalates the war, which included illegal carpet bombing of Cambodia:
What was secret about the secret bombing of Cambodia was that the military records of the bombing were falsified, which is a violation of the rules of war and American military code of justice. The pilots who took off knew they were hitting Cambodia, the crewmen didn’t. The pilots were vectored — the filed plan was to hit a certain enemy target in northern South Vietnam or southern North Vietnam, the actual target was inside Cambodia. The pilots were vectored into their targets through a signal from the United States Embassy in Laos or Thailand. We didn’t have a functioning embassy in Cambodia at the time. There would be two sets of flight plans filed — one true and one false and this was not revealed until 1973.
From Hamilton to Operation Paperclip to Nixon we see the psychology of tyranny take hold, so much so that Nixon uses his position for his own personal control of power, promising, though, to rid us of the tyranny of communism and thus protect the American people. We tend to fall for that line.
In comes Ronald Reagan and Iran-Contra during the second Reagan Administration — a political scandal of epic proportions. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. They hoped thereby to secure the release of several US hostages and to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Under the Boland Amendment, further funding of the Contras by the government had been prohibited by Congress.
This lead to the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine controversy, first uncovered, on January 18, 1996, by Gary Webb, writing for the San Jose Mercury News, who published the first installment of a three-part series of articles concerning crack cocaine, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Nicaraguan Contra army. The introduction to the first installment of the series read:
For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.
This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America . . . and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons.
Gary Webb was later found dead under mysterious circumstance. The coroner ruled suicide by two gunshots to the head.
By 1996, we were a country completely confused, this, of course, following the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Vietnam War; Civil Rights; Feminism; the Gay Rights Movement. We were a country in a shambles. We’ve yet to recover, I would argue.
(I’m skipping our obvious contemporary example: Bush-Cheney’s contemptuous war in Iraq and the false presentation of the CIA’s documentation of WMD’s.)
Socio-economically, in 1999 when Bill Clinton gave that pen that was used to sign the repeal of Glass-Steagall to Sanford Weill, it symbolized the ending of the twentieth century Democratic Party that had created the New Deal. Although the 1999 law did not repeal all of the banking Act of 1933, retaining the FDIC, it did once again allow banks to enter the securities business, becoming what some term “whole banks” (Bill Clinton’s Role in the Mortgage Crisis). This is Hillary’s legacy as well.
The foundation for the 2007–2008 banking crisis begins here. As reported on Frontline:
Just days after the administration (including the Treasury Department) agrees to support the repeal, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the former co-chairman of a major Wall Street investment bank, Goldman Sachs, raises eyebrows by accepting a top job at Citigroup as Weill’s chief lieutenant. The previous year, Weill had called Secretary Rubin to give him advance notice of the upcoming merger announcement. When Weill told Rubin he had some important news, the secretary reportedly quipped, “You’re buying the government?”
Thus, we find ourselves in what Sheldon Wolin terms inverted totalitarianism:
Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent.
Hamilton’s words in The Federalist Papers come to life; America is heading towards the unknown.
In his 2003 piece for The Nation, “How the Bush regime is effecting the transformation to a fascist-like state,” Wolin writes:
The increasing power of the state and the declining power of institutions intended to control it has been in the making for some time. The party system is a notorious example. The Republicans have emerged as a unique phenomenon in American history of a fervently doctrinal party, zealous, ruthless, antidemocratic and boasting a near majority. As Republicans have become more ideologically intolerant, the Democrats have shrugged off the liberal label and their critical reform-minded constituencies to embrace centrism and footnote the end of ideology. In ceasing to be a genuine opposition party the Democrats have smoothed the road to power of a party more than eager to use it to promote empire abroad and corporate power at home. Bear in mind that a ruthless, ideologically driven party with a mass base was a crucial element in all of the twentieth-century regimes seeking total power.
“Representative institutions no longer represent voters,” Wolin continues. “Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans.”
So here we are — Donald Trump/Drumpf in context, a perfect storm in America: Occupy Wall Street people trying to address the global inequities of capital controlled by the very few; Black Lives Matter; the increasingly violent, blue collar Trump/Drumpf followers; mediocrity in education and the further up the ladder one looks, the more bifurcating education is; an economy creeping along; the environment — climate change completely challenged, and the Supreme Court overturns landmark EPA regulation; the immigration no one is looking at realistically and compassionately; and the fact that, if we look at the census, 62% of the population in the US is white, 38.5% in California, and 33.3% in NYC.
Things have changed — and they will continue to change. Donald Trump/Drumpf, as all fascist do, is promising a change to bygone days that can never be recaptured; in any attempt to do so, he and his followers will further — and violently — divide the country.
We have been taught to look for a charismatic leader, a savior but in Donald Trump/Drumpf we have a dangerous, destructive character that threatens the very fabric of humanity.
Some additional resources/reads:
“Trump is No Accident,” Paul Krugman
“The Trump-Berlusconi Syndrome,” Roger Cohen