The Persistence of Mummery?

by John Holbo on March 20, 2018

Our Corey has a good piece in Harpers, “Forget About It”. He concludes by reflecting on how and why his ‘continuity-of-Trump-with-conservative-tradition’ thesis rubs people wrong:

My wife explained it to me recently: in making the case for continuity between past and present, I sound complacent about the now. I sound like I’m saying that nothing is wrong with Trump, that everything will work out.

It seems rhetorically effective – even obligatory – to treat an urgent problem as exceptional. But:

The truth is that we’re captives, not captains, of this strategy. We think the contrast of a burnished past allows us to see the burning present, but all it does is keep the fire going, and growing. Confronting the indecent Nixon, Roth imagines a better McCarthy. Confronting the indecent Trump, he imagines a better Nixon. At no point does he recognize that he’s been fighting the same monster all along — and losing. Overwhelmed by the monster he’s currently facing, sure that it is different from the monster no longer in view, Roth loses sight of the surrounding terrain. He doesn’t see how the rehabilitation of the last monster allows the front line to move rightward, the new monster to get closer to the territory being defended.

Speaking of monsters, this is a great line, regarding the famous Welch/McCarthy confrontation:

Welch’s broadside was less an announcement of McCarthy’s indecency, about which nobody had any doubt, than a signal of his diminished utility, a report of his weakness and isolation. Declarations of indecency are like that: they don’t slay monsters; they’re an all-clear signal, a statement that the monster is dying or dead.

Let me note: there are two theses here, one about what is effective; one about the truth. Is it rhetorically more effective to frame Trump as exceptional, or does this mean a short-term gain in focus but a long-term drain in overall awareness? Two, is it true that Trump is exceptional?

I’m of two minds about both. On the one hand, Corey demonstrates an amnesiac absurdity to some presentist alarmism. That’s most definitely a thing. But it’s possible that a-mnemonic mummery accompanies exceptional developments. People may be surprised, wrongly, when they ought to be surprised, rightly. As to the purely rhetorical point, it’s a real rock-and-hard-place problem, to which I’m not sure there is any steady solution. But it’s a really good piece, very well-written, too.



John Holbo 03.20.18 at 3:27 am

It might be useful to try to pin down the ‘exception’ in ‘exceptionalism’. On the one hand, everyone is exceptional, so presumably Trump is no exception. That’s not helpful. On the other hand, no one is truly exceptional – even truly exceptional people. That’s not helpful. The term doesn’t really have a natural, semantic center between these useless extremes. So we should try to build one, perhaps.


Whirrlaway 03.20.18 at 4:07 am

Terminus est. Not exceptional at scale, always surprising.


Alan White 03.20.18 at 4:19 am

John I’d crawl a mile through briers to throw rocks at your and Corey’s shit– that is real respect from my declasse white trash background–but really, the present mash-up of emotion and ideology isn’t really surprising is it? The election of an African-American President gave most left-leaners CPR of their near-dead progressive hope–defibrillated again after the Tea Party-induced heart attack of 2010 in 2012– but finally pronounced quite dead in 2016, and with the body hung in effigy ever since. Most even very educated folks are not attuned to the nuances of underlying currents of social and political continuities running beneath the obvious economic waves constantly tossing us about, but when it comes to a point that one sees every day that one-third of US citizens have been put in place to control the fate of this country as reflected in the soulless racist narcissist they worship–well, the response matters more than the narrative that got us here. Not that the narrative is irrelevant–but when the alarm is going off, you know you’ve got stuff to do.


faustusnotes 03.20.18 at 4:32 am

Let’s try this for global warming shall we?

The truth is that we’re captives, not captains, of this strategy. We think the contrast of a cooler past allows us to see the burning present, but all it does is keep the fire going, and growing. Confronting the warm 1960s, Roth imagines a cooler 1950s. Confronting the super-heated 2010s, he imagines a better 1970s. At no point does he recognize that he’s been fighting the same process all along — and losing. Overwhelmed by the environmental catastrophe he’s currently facing, sure that it is different from the climate no longer in view, Roth loses sight of the surrounding terrain. He doesn’t see how the rehabilitation of the last epooch allows the temperature barrier to move upward, the new monster to get closer to the territory being defended.

This is ridiculous. If a system is trending towards a catastrophic outcome – if the Republican party is indeed getting more fascist and more deranged – then the process of comparing indecent trump to better nixon is essential. Corey’s work to remind us that the GOP have always been fucked is important, but he has yet to make a convincing case that it’s not getting more fucked over time.


John Quiggin 03.20.18 at 4:37 am

I think there’s a sorites problem here. It’s not hard to imagine a gradation from Reagan to Bush to Trump to someone like Orban and then on to an American Mussolini or Hitler.

It seems to me to be true both that Trump is a continuation of long-standing trends and that he represents something exceptional.


faustusnotes 03.20.18 at 5:22 am

Also is the problem Corey identifies in Roth unique to America or to Roth or this particular issue? Because when commentators discuss Australian politics they don’t, on the whole, create a better past against which to compare the present – the present is different, or complex, and in many ways we discuss a worse past against which things are better now. Similarly for people commenting on e.g the modern Tory party vs. the past, in which they discuss its commonalities (austerity, split over europe) and its differences (more comfortable with the NHS, more comfortable with e.g. minorities and gay rights). Is this obssession with improving the past a uniquely American condition, is it only Roth, or could it be that it occurs in this way in this context because the past was better?

Perhaps if your average American political commentator could think outside of America for more than a moment they might have some context to grasp onto. Or perhaps in the all-consuming American politics they study, things really are getting worse?


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 6:58 am

– but if Trump indeed is just a ‘meme’ -(or just ”a bunch of sick tweets”) – any reference to some ”ancient” past is… some kind of a useless and very subjective exceptional… ”whatever”? –
and who ever came up with the funny thesis that a bunch off sick tweets is some ‘continuity-with-conservative-tradition’? –
But if you like that… ”fine”? –
but if ever had seen -(as a little kid) Ronald Reagan wandering confused around a golf-course and at the same time had to listen to US real ”conservative” conservatives you might believe that the only continuity is some different handicap?


Hidari 03.20.18 at 7:19 am

Not that anyone cares what I think, but I think that the odds of the United States actually and genuinely becoming a fascist regime are negligible. If one looks at the rise of Hitler in particular (looking at his rise as the Weberian ‘Ideal Type’ of a fascist putsch) we see a number of necessary preconditions:

1: Austerity. As Paul Krugman has tirelessly pointed out, the link that the right has constantly attempted to make between inflation and fascism is non-existent. It was, on the contrary, the austerity that followed the ’29 crash that formed the essential and necessary precondition for Hitler. Hitler was nowhere before the economy crashed. After it did, he was everywhere. A completely disintegrating economy seems to be fairly or pretty essential to convince people that ‘democracy isn’t working’.

2: A strong and radical left. Fascism is not exactly ‘of’ the ruling elite. In some respects, it wishes to replace it. But it must give succour to financial and military elites, at least in the early stages. The best way to do this is to tell them that it will ‘crush the left’ (or the pacifists). And this threat only makes sense if there is a left to crush. The business elite must see a tangible threat to profits before they will throw in their lot with ‘renegade outsiders’ like fascists.

With the US right now we see neither of these situations. So far the economy continues to do well (I mean, for capitalists). And the left has long since ceased to exist in the United States*, let alone the radical, armed left (don’t forget that in Germany the left was not just radical but organised into armed militias). Why bother with fascism? Google, Facebook etc. continue to make record profits. The Democrats are a farce, and no threat to corporations or the military industrial complex, even in the vanishingly unlikely event that the ‘Sanders’ wing takes power (and wins an election).

There are other issues here as well (liberals have really failed to take on board the fact that it is not a coincidence or incidental that Mussolini, Hitler etc. formed their own political parties and were, therefore, not beholden to ‘traditional’ party politics: Trump absolutely is), which I will enunciate in the unlikely event that anyone cares. But all of them tend to make it highly unlikely that any kind of fascist regime is on the immediate horizon.

*I mean the left as a threat to capital, to profits. An interesting fact that did the rounds on social media, but was ignored by the corporate media, was that strikes in the US have reached record lows this year. Good news for capitalists, bad for workers. So, to capitalists, this is a sign that the ‘system’ is working. Why on Earth would they want some ‘oik’ from outside the system to overthrow it?


MFB 03.20.18 at 7:23 am

faustusnotes’ comparison is invalid, because he is comparing scientific facts with human beings in a political context.

The degeneration of political parties and political discourse is not something which takes place in a technical context, which can be dealt with by technical means, like global warming.

The gist of the argument presented by Robin is that the degeneration of political activity is a process which takes place over time within a human context, and that we accommodate ourselves to it because we have no choice. However, we also take advantage of opportunities within it; for instance, pretending that the uniquely repulsive Trump is not only uniquely repulsive, but also an anomaly which can be fought against, not perhaps easily, but as an anomaly.

Instead, it is true that the Republican Party has degenerated (and therefore not only have the individuals within the party degenerated, but the discourse and context within which the party operates have degenerated, and the voters have degenerated). By this I don’t mean that they are “deplorables”, but that they are much more restricted in their understanding and much less capable of escaping from the box into which they have put themselves.

In order to challenge this it is necessary to challenge the whole context within which they function. (Thus, for instance, if Nixon were running for President now, he would almost certainly be a far more loathesome figure than he was in 1960 or 1972, because the negative aspects of his character and policies would be enhanced by the general degeneration of Republican politics. This is where faustusnotes’ complaint fails.)

But again, when we see Trump as unique and to be fought against, we are actually failing to see how strikingly repugnant the Democratic party and its candidates have become, and how we have accepted that repugnant nature as a norm. Republicans do not criticise this repugnancy because they accept it; what they criticise is often, in fact, largely irrelevant to what the Democratic party is.

The entire political system has become a calamity in waiting. This, in fact, is why global warming is happening; why the greatest crisis in the world is being either ignored (by the Democrats) or denied (by the Republicans). In practice, both responses add up to the same. Similarly the growing danger of global nuclear war and global economic collapse are being either ignored or actively promoted in a bipartisan fashion.

To say “but we have to remove Trump, nothing else matters but that” is to collude with this. Of course Trump has to be removed. But removing Trump and replacing him with a Trumpkin riding a blue donkey solves nothing. What is needed is a change in the context. And unless I am much mistaken, this is something which Robin is fumbling towards.


bad Jim 03.20.18 at 7:45 am

By most standards the younger Bush was catastrophically worse, but Trump is simply not respectable. He’s an ongoing embarrassment.


ph 03.20.18 at 8:31 am

Well. My goodness. The linked essay really is fantastic. Corey’s not here to thank, but thanks to you John, we should. I disagree entirely that life is getting worse, but I’m very much a believer in sameness repackaged by succeeding generations. I applaud the 91 percent negative coverage of the president I continue to support.

Nothing quite says ‘off your meds’ like freaking out over a man who’s done so little to make the world worse, compared with your two previous presidents who, with all ‘good’ and ‘wise’ souls such as Brooks, Chait, Biden, Clinton, Bush, Rubio, et al – who drove America into two needless wars in Iraq and Libya. I only wish this same level of scrutiny had been deployed over the ‘imminent’ threat presented by Saddam Hussein.

Corey is entirely right. From a distance Trump looks like a relatively gentle, but spectacularly vulgar, face of the corporation disguised as an individual, otherwise known as the president of the United States. His ‘uniqueness’ is real in the sense that he tweets, but in much else he’s a product of the system. Growing up and serving during the cold war, survival the full tenure of any presidency was always very much an open question – from Kennedy to Clinton. I remember being bundled into the family car during the Cuban crisis as my middle-class parents – both European survivors of 1939-45 – prepared to head for the hills.

Today’s big crisis is the plight of trans-activists, economic migrants who really do ‘deserve’ a better life in another nation, and an excess of obesity and cell-phones.

Trump is very much the president for our time.


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 9:08 am

”Trump is very much the president for our time.”

I hope you are not offended if I agree – or as a very German friend of mine loves to say about our President:

”Nur ein Schwanz”
-(translated: ”just a dick” or ”just a Penis”) – and that’s perhaps another reason why Coreys wife is not… happy? about what her – for sure very ”thoughtful” and ”intelligent” husband thinks about Trump?

She might know also that Trump is ”just a dick” – and then might have a problem with the idea that he presents some ‘continuity-of-conservative-tradition’.

Well? –
that might be true – as US conservatives for sure have a tradition of ”just Dicks” – and my dad had a few times the chance to talk with Andy Warhol about that – but Andy told him:
”As long as they are rich -(and famous) it doesn’t matter”.
And so Andy loved to photograph them.

And so – could it be – that thoughtful and very intelligent people say all of this thoughtful and intelligent stuff about Trump BE-cause he is Rich and Famous – and otherwise they – too – would think he is ”stupid” or ”Just a Schwanz”?

Or do you need to be pretty stupid (like me) to recognize somebody even more ”moronic” right away?


Z 03.20.18 at 9:25 am

Corey consistently (and in my mind persuasively) argues that the way Trump (taken as a synecdoche for the Trumpist movement) thinks is well within the usual Conservative/Reactionary way, with no historical solution of continuity, or even significant difference, to be observed.

The fundamental ideas did not change. As I said, I’m convinced by this part of the argument. The people, however, changed. A good deal. As a consequence, the exact same ideas do not play out – socially and politically* – in the same ways. So “Trump(ism) is business as usual” is fine intellectual history; but it is very much wanting as social analysis (though even in that respect, the great changes happened I believe a couple of decades ago already, so the “business as usual” thesis can be defended with respect to Reagan or the Clinton era – but not with respect to the 1910-1960 period, for instance).

*There, I think, the most significant change happened (and is happening) among the Democratic, not the Republican, party (the easy empirical test is to compare with France). I think that, by now but perhaps not in 2016, Corey agrees with this assessment.


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 9:33 am

– but on the other side it might be… a piece… a piece of Art?
Like… like this… ”Art” I enjoyed as a kid when the funniest Professor of my dad -(Kurt Weideman) invited all these very Rich and Famous people to present them ”a new and fabulous Artist” – and then he could them one of the most wonderful thoughtful and deep speeches about the ”continuity of a tradition AND a history – from Platos ”Höhlengleichnis” – over to ”Leonardo” to a F…face Von Clownstick’s Performing Art.

And then – after the applause – he told the Guests of the Vernissage that ”the Art” wasn’t any ”Art” – and that there wasn’t any artist – as all of the presented pictures had been done by his students for this silly joke.


J-D 03.20.18 at 9:35 am

I would expect to learn practically nothing from a discussion between two people where one of them is affirming that Trump is exceptional and the other is denying that proposition.

I might hope to learn somewhat more from a discussion between two people where one of them is affirming that the difference between Trump and Nixon is greater than the difference between Nixon and Harding and the other is affirming the converse.


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 9:46 am

”The fundamental ideas did not change. As I said, I’m convinced by this part of the argument.”

You mean that’s why Reagan could keep on golfing even in an advanced state of Alzheimers?


M Caswell 03.20.18 at 10:16 am

He loathed Republicans before it was cool.


Faustusnotes 03.20.18 at 10:21 am

MFB,it’s clear that I’m not suggesting the solution to the problem is somehow analogous to climate change. I’m simply observing that when a system is on a trend you need to analyse it as a trend, which means that things now will be worse than they were before, further up the trend. Corey Robin consistently avoids the possibility that there is a trend – specifically a decline – in the GOP, and so do many here – eg badjim suggesting Trump is not worse than bush, just not respectable, or the execrable kidneystones suggesting Trump has done nothing wrong. The essence of coreys argument requires a proof that the repubs aren’t degenerating, and Corey always plays fast and loose with this – occasionally accepting something might be happening but mostly just drawing parallels with past leaders as if that were somehow proof the GOP hasn’t changed. even a basic understanding of logic should be enough to show these parallels are not enough to dismiss the theory of degeneration.

Consider the Trump bush comparison. Bush’s reign was characterised by four key points: drifting, policy meanness,the poor handling of New Orleans and the Iraq war. On three of these points Trump has been worse than bush already, and anyone who thinks he is not going to start a war is just being stupid. Most incoming presidents start or escalate a war, so the question for Trump is not if but where, and it’s obvious he is gunning for something with north Korea or Iran. It took bush two years to get us into Iraq, and Trump is halfway to Korea already. He is obviously a degeneration of bush, and unless he uniquely shifts from his current GOP trajectory a war to make Iraq look like a picnic is his final step.

If you think the GOP isn’t degenerating your political analysis has failed.
If you think the Dems are the same as the GOP your political analysis has failed.
If you think the solution is for the Dems to become more radical your class analysis has failed.
If you think it’s not about race and the legacy of slavery your race analysis has failed.
If you think America’s slide into fascism must happen the same way to the same endpoint as in 1930s or it won’t happen , your historical analysis has failed.

Hidari is an example of this final failure at 5. He says that without a militant left fascism doesn’t arise, which was true of 1930s Europe but irrelevant now. The right wing noise machine is building a fear of the democrats getting the levers of state that easily rivals the fear of militias back then : fast and furious, the NRA, Alex Jones’s entire channel, are built on this fear. You need to look at what’s in front of you, not what happened 80 years ago in isolation.

Corey doesn’t do this, and worse still his constant claims that the GOP is not changing come with no prescription. What is to be done? The resistance have a plan: seize the state and force the repubs out of power, then consolidate. But what does Corey want? What does he offer except nihilism? Sometimes he suggests that perhaps the Dems need to try harder but he doesn’t offer any support for the idea that America wants more radical left politics and he doesn’t say how. We also now know that there was big money using very devious strategies to win the last election and the Dems policy framework may have been irrelevant to the outcome when stacked against the dirty tricks being deployed. These dirty tricks – fox news, Alex Jones, Cambridge analytica, Russia – are not the side show critics of the Dems want to pretend they are, they’re essential to the story of the GOP’s slide into fascism. They’ve reached the stage of stealing elections before the votes are cast, and yes yes bush did it too but they’re doing it more and in darker ways now.

Before you can claim that the GOP is the same and the problem is the Dems, you need to a) price the GOP is not on a slide to fascism and b) prove that the Dems lost the last election fair and square on policy. Corey hanst done either, and no one here is doing a better job. But if the GOP is sliding to fascism and the elections are now being stolen by dirty tricks and outside help, then everything Corey has written is positively dangerous.


infovore 03.20.18 at 10:36 am

Trump as the continuation of Republican politics by other means?

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek but the analogy may capture that there is continuity of the goals being pursued while something significant has changed about the ways and means by which they are being pursued.

And to pursue the analogy a bit further, those ways and means have a tendency to escape control and take on a life of their own. Which then feeds back into and changes the goals being pursued. A vicious circle in more than one sense.


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 10:47 am

– or is it the deep philosophical tradition of the United States of America -(and it’s Academia) which ”furthers” all this efforts to ”exceptionalize” just ”Ein Schwanz”

Like the deep philosophical tradition of the country of ”Dichter and Denker” Germany when some German say:

”Wem Gott ein Amt gibt gibt er auch Verstand”
(loosely translated: If God gives a Moron by accident a Presidency US academics feel the need to somehow justify it by pretending there must be some kind of ”rational” behind it)

BUT the deep philosophical German saying: ”Wem Gott ein Amt gibt gibt er auch Verstand” never was meant to be sooo seriously –

It always was meant kind of… ironic –
(even if otherwise there might very little irony in the thinking of Deep Dichter and Denkers?) but on the other hand to conclude such deep thoughts with: As long as everything and everybody which comes in contact with ”The Schwanz” right away deconstruct IT-self too – everything is… ”cool”!


ph 03.20.18 at 11:57 am

There are actually numerous proofs that Trump is immensely better than the run of the mill Republicans.

Trump ran openly on running up deficits. Trump ran openly on tossing the neo-cons. out of the bus. Trump is only mildly pro-choice and we can be sure that both Ivanka and and all the Trump women have unfettered access to all family-planning measures. Trump couldn’t care less about gender-less bathrooms. Trump ran openly and proudly on defending social security.

The most reliable evidence that Trump is remaking the GOP as a party of inclusion is the fact that despite all his race-baiting and the Access Hollywood tape, and the voluminous coverage of his every sin, real and imagined, he still managed the best GOP electoral college vote since 1988 and did so with support from Hispanics and women.

Trump and Sanders were the only openly anti-globalist candidates in either party and it’s no surprise both remain immensely popular with their supporters. A lot can change, but currently jobs are up, the economy is as solid as it’s been since Clinton and Trump is willing to talk with Kim. I somehow don’t see Ted Cruz, or Mike Pence in the same mold.

Trump is a centrist and could fit easily to the left of Biden and Clinton on foreign policy and deposing dictators. The US steel workers love Trump’s tariffs, and there’s a good chance that Trump will see some form of gun control laws passes, especially if the some GOP clowns get picked off. Trump already put a Dreamers’ deal on the table that so scared the crap out of Durbin that he had to blow-up the possibility of resolution with the ‘shit-hole scandal’, which the media dutifully passed to the public as fact.

Trump might be the closest thing to an Eisenhower presidency we’ve seen since Gerald Ford. Bring back Bush! Republicans like Boot, Frum, Golberg, and company hate Trump’s guts.

Surely that counts for something?


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 12:12 pm

and about @ 18
”if the GOP is sliding to fascism and the elections are now being stolen by dirty tricks and outside help, then everything Corey has written is positively dangerous.”

by now most people probably know ”that the GOP is sliding to fascism and the elections are now being stolen by dirty tricks and outside help” but the difference to the good ole times -(and Reagan and Bush and all the other so called ”old” conservatives) is – that this ”known” is so tremendously welcomed by so many Americans – like when I like to tell some of my FBA’s (Full Blooded American) – friends that they are ”greedy” – they take it like some kind of a… ”compliment”? – like the only way ”to survive nowadays”.

And so poor Faust probably hasn’t noticed yet that if you tell a certain type of GOPler that
he -(or even she) is sliding into to fascism – he or she might take it as a ”compliment” – just
as some of Trumps Fans took ”deplorable” as some kind of a compliment and now present it as ‘We are the Deplorables” proudly on some T-shirts?

And so in conclusion why do WE actually criticize some Russians about poisoning other Russians if in a Russians mind that makes them so exceptional ”GREAT” like ”The Schwanz” who everyday proves to his admirers – that he is ”harder” or ”stiffer” than all the other ones?


Layman 03.20.18 at 1:00 pm

Faustusnotes: “Hidari is an example of this final failure at 5. He says that without a militant left fascism doesn’t arise, which was true of 1930s Europe but irrelevant now. The right wing noise machine is building a fear of the democrats getting the levers of state that easily rivals the fear of militias back then : fast and furious, the NRA, Alex Jones’s entire channel, are built on this fear. You need to look at what’s in front of you, not what happened 80 years ago in isolation.”

Yes, I had the same reaction to Hidari’s argument. It’s clear that the entire purpose of a right-wing media that ignores facts in favor of ginning up conspiracy theories is to create the illusion that there actually is a militant radical left in America, so that the potential fascist support has something to be afraid of and to unite against. They don’t need a real enemy; an imagined one will do just as well.


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 1:58 pm

”Trump might be the closest thing to an Eisenhower presidency we’ve seen since Gerald Ford.”


BE-cause wasn’t Eisenhower the President who fought against the ”Military-Industrial Complex – AND ”the Nazis”?

and ”he sponsored and signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1957”
and ”he Balanced the Budget, Not Just Once, But Three Times”
and ”he Ended the Korean War”
and ”he Kept America at Peace”
and ”he always kept a level head. He dealt calmly and rationally with each situation”
AND ”he had this German Heritage”

Just like our beloved ”Von Clownstick” – which means – that he wasn’t ”German Nobility” – nor was he ”Swedish” -(like Trump) and so sorry… mate he – Von Clownstick probably never ever will be actually like ”Eisenhower”.


nastywoman 03.20.18 at 2:09 pm

”Von Clownstick probably never ever will be actually like ”Eisenhower”.

But @21 –
at least it was (again!!) – the funniest comment on a CT threat!


burner 03.20.18 at 2:50 pm

If I understand Hidari correctly, he’s arguing that the ruling class has objectively nothing to fear from a non-existent left, and that it knows it. They don’t need a fascist government, they’re good. Historical Fascism had kooky conspiracy theories (Jews, Masons) but the real, concrete threat was the left.


politicalfootball 03.20.18 at 2:50 pm

It seems to me to be true both that Trump is a continuation of long-standing trends and that he represents something exceptional.


Corey performs a service in reminding people of the continuities, which get less attention than the discontinuities. But I also think he gives short shrift to Trump’s genuine innovations.

Parts of the “intellectual” right understand the thing that Corey understands. Here’s Bret Stephens on Trump:

It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years.

Similarly, Max Boot:

I’m a lifelong Republican but Trump surge proves that every bad thing Democrats have ever said about GOP is basically true.

Trump is continuous in that he represents the aspirational goal of modern Republicanism, even if a lot of those same Republicans are discomfited by him. He is discontinuous in that he pushed the Republican agenda further than anyone thought it would go.

Nixon distinguished himself as a liar and a crook. Reagan’s terms were marked by the promotion of bigotry, a disregard for basic reality and the deliberate placement of incompetents in positions of authority. Bush II started an absurd war and undermined the rule of law.

Trump has achieved breakthroughs in each of those categories, with the exception of war. But he has only been in office a little more than a year.


Faustusnotes 03.20.18 at 3:15 pm

It’s cute that burner defends hidari just as another post is written in this blog pointing out that a major public figure thinks PC will force everyone into gulags. Imagined militant leftists are just as good as real ones when you need a coup.


Layman 03.20.18 at 4:54 pm

burner: “If I understand Hidari correctly, he’s arguing that the ruling class has objectively nothing to fear from a non-existent left, and that it knows it. They don’t need a fascist government, they’re good.“

Well, that’s one argument, but it confuses the right with the ruling class (some of whom are not clearly on the right), and it doesn’t do much to explain the right’s permanent rage machine. If the right has nothing to fear from the non-existent left, why go to the trouble of inventing a dangerous radical leftist threat? Why not just let them be what they are, even if they manage to win the occasional election? Nothing to fear, right?


Hidari 03.20.18 at 5:01 pm

I was going to write a super long post and then realised that the thinking of The Usual Suspects would never be changed by rational argument or evidence. So this is a short ‘un for my own personal amusement.

Briefly: The difference between the liberal and the radical is that the liberal believes in an autonomous realm, the ‘political’, which floats above and beyond ‘material interests’ like a soap bubble. Radicals OTOH, tend to see the socio-economic context as, to coin a phrase, the ‘determining factor’ (albeit in ‘the last instance’) of ostensibly ‘purely’ political decisions.

A related problem is the problem of motive. The liberal tends to see unmotivated evil as a key feature of political life. Why does Trump want a coup? Well,as Teh Hitler, that’s just the sort of thing Trump would do. Why not? He probably wants Pure Power, like Voldemort in Harry Potter. Or something like that.

The radical, however, has an explanation for why business elites might tolerate a dictator: to safeguard profits in the fact of a radical expropriative left. It’s not that the business class like Nazis per se. Ceteris Paribus, capitalists would probably prefer Bourgeois Democracy. But if they can be persuaded that the Communists are coming to take their money….and that only the fascists can save their profits…they will choose fascism.

Luckily, like good Popperians, we can make a prediction: that the only time that fascism was threatened in the US was when profits were threatened, in a time of general meltdown, and when the radical left looked strong.
And so it was.
‘’ (please note that most liberals have never even heard of this, and much work has been spent by bourgeois historians to downplay its significance or even that it happened. At the time no less an authority than the New York Times called it a ‘gigantic hoax’. Golly!).


back to Hitler.

Liberal interpretations of Hitler overestimate the degree of ideology in Naziism and, while grudgingly acknowledge industrial/financial support for the Nazis tend to downplay this until they can get onto topics they feel more comfortable with, like how wonderful Churchill was (cf this about that:

The reality is somewhat different.

The Nazis needed money to function, and without money, they had nothing. You can’t eat anti-semitism. So they had to go begging to the capitalists, and ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’.

‘The Secret Meeting of 20 February 1933 (German: Geheimtreffen vom 20. Februar 1933) was a secret meeting held by Adolf Hitler and 20 to 25 industrialists at the official residence of the President of the Reichstag Hermann Göring in Berlin. Its purpose was to raise funds for the election campaign of the Nazi Party…The Nazi Party… desired to raise three million Reichsmark to fund the campaign. According to records, two million Reichsmarks were contributed at the meeting.

Hitler appeared and gave a ninety-minute speech. He praised the concept of private property and argued that the Nazi Party would be the nation’s only salvation against the communist threat.….Concurrently, only a militarily fit nation could thrive economically‘.

As can be seen from the Wikipedia article (at the bottom), ‘liberal’ historians have attempted continuously to downplay the meaning of this event, preferring to believe in the fantasy of the noble entrepeneur, and Evil Hitler, who forced the noble capitalists to do his bidding. The reality is somewhat different. It was business interests who got Hitler into power and who forced him to destroy the Brownshirts. And in return Hitler crushed the communists and the labour movement for them. Payback.

Trump is a tool of the various economic forces that make up the American ruling elite. He deviates from the norm in some ways but only in the form of rhetoric. He has attempted to stand up to some of the ‘lobbies’ on various occasions, and been beaten down every time (he did this most recently over gun control). He is spineless and a coward, but he knows which side his bread is buttered on. It is not in his financial, business interests to be a hero, and it is not in the interests of the political and military elites who surround and control him to permit a coup to happen (which would probably be bad for business, in the short term at least). Nor is there any motive for a coup. Trump has never expressed any interest in a coup or the end of democracy (as the Nazis clearly did). As for the elites….Business is good. Profits are up. There is no left in the United States. There hasn’t been for decades. Why bother?


JRLRC 03.20.18 at 5:01 pm

Is it impossible to have similarities and differences? Is it impossible to have a connection with the past and use some new mechanisms (within a non identical context)? Continuity and change? Continuities, deterioration and thus certain changes? Etc.


TM 03.20.18 at 5:06 pm

Robin’s contuinuity argument borders on the vacuous. There are always continuities because nothing ever happens that isn’t embedded in a trajectory of history. And nobody really denies the continuities in the case of Trump (how often has Krugman for example written about how Trump in many ways is a logical extension of the recent development of the GOP) nor is there any dispute that analyzing those continuities is a worthwhile endeavor. But by Robin’s standards, nothing could ever be really exceptional. There were definitely continuities between the Nazis and the right-wing forces that preceded them. There were also continutities between the Nazis and the right-wing forces that succeedes them – a fact that the movement of 68 adamantly brought to the public attention. Despite these continuities, the Nazi era was exceptional. I don’t believe Robin would dispute that. Why then does he reject even the possibility that a US extreme right wing movement that managed to capture government might be in important ways exceptional compared to the political forces that preceded it, despite there also of course being continuities?


Hidari 03.20.18 at 5:07 pm

Sorry forgot link to that wikipedia article


TM 03.20.18 at 5:22 pm

In a comment thread during the election campaign, I likened Robin’s attitude to the frog in slowly heating water. We tend to assume that continuous change can always be reversed by continuous change in the other direction. But from a systems perspective, we know that “merely” continuous change can irreversibly trigger catastrophe when certain thresholds are passed (see fn @4). Nothing in Robin’s arguments even addresses the question of whether we are getting closer to those thresholds. In my view, his claims are irresponsible.

An American leftist friend who during the campaign wrote mass emails dissing Clinton, and who would not listen to arguments about the threat posed by Trump, now writes emails about “creeping fascism” in America now “starting to walk briskly”.


Heliopause 03.20.18 at 5:50 pm

“Is it rhetorically more effective to frame Trump as exceptional, or does this mean a short-term gain in focus but a long-term drain in overall awareness?”

One of the side effects of framing Trump this way is the rehabilitation of mass-murdering war criminals as acceptably moderate. Bush and his team and Kissinger sport body counts in the millions, something Trump probably won’t equal even in his fever dreams. Still time for him, though, if he starts the terminal nuclear conflagration with Russia that liberals and centrists keep pushing him toward.

“is it true that Trump is exceptional?”

Stylistically, yes, which is far and away the most important thing to our elite media.


Anarcissie 03.20.18 at 6:45 pm

I thought the significant thing about Trump was that the ruling class could not keep him out of the presidency. In other words, the r.c. was no longer functioning as r.c. Since the election, factions of the r.c. (McCain, Clinton, WaPo, the New York Times, etc. etc. etc.) have been trying to nail him, but thus far have failed; which means the way is open, possibly for a greater Schwanz.


Z 03.20.18 at 7:35 pm

Layman If the right has nothing to fear from the non-existent left, why go to the trouble of inventing a dangerous radical leftist threat? Why not just let them be what they are, even if they manage to win the occasional election?

The problem is not so much that they may win the occasional election, the problem is that in the grossly distorted American political system, the only intelligible reason to vote R that remains (if you are not the kleptocratic heir to a fortune) is to be convinced that D candidates present a direct existential threat that cannot possibly be evaluated according to the same criteria used for R candidates. So the Right has to tar its opponent with something, lest it disappears. Reading them, I think they’re getting increasingly desperate in their search for a boogeyman (admittedly, your task becomes harder when your president is officially the worse possible human being in every respect), but I could be wrong. In that respect, Chait’s “College students twitting about micro-agressions are exactly like the Bolsheviks” skit discussed in recent threads is not helping.

The only alternative is to abolish elections or the one man/one vote principle, and though the Right has made considerable progress in that respect (see inter alia Scott Walker’s creative use of syntax to prevent local elections in Wisconsin), it is still far from being able to rely on it consistently.


Hidari 03.20.18 at 7:53 pm

‘It’s cute that burner defends hidari just as another post is written in this blog pointing out that a major public figure thinks PC will force everyone into gulags. ‘

Jonathan Chait is a liberal. His books include ‘ Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail.’ ‘Many of his writings are critiques of what he perceives to be illogical positions taken by conservatives. ‘


Leo Casey 03.20.18 at 9:38 pm

During the 2016 election season, Corey Robin repeatedly told us that there was no chance that Trump might win, and so we should feel free to indulge whatever ‘my vote is an expression of my true political self’ impulse we might harbor. The point is not that his estimation of the election was wrong: there were very few observers who did not share in that miscalculation. But given the distinct threats posed by a Trump presidency, he chose to downplay them with the argument that it could not possibly happen, so we could blissfully ignore any strategic considerations on how we should cast our votes. His arguments since the election of Trump read to me as one long ex post facto justification for this critically wrong advice. When you end up comparing the Trump presidency to the presidency of Jimmy Carter, as he did, your continuity hypothesis has been stretched to the point of deep implausibility.


Layman 03.20.18 at 10:10 pm

Heliopause: “Still time for him, though, if he starts the terminal nuclear conflagration with Russia that liberals and centrists keep pushing him toward.”

Here’s a hint which is intended to be helpful: This sort of statement identifies you as a hopeless crank. You should avoid it.


TM 03.20.18 at 10:42 pm

Come on Hidari. You really think nobody around here has a clue about why capital supported fascism (btw especially the more backward-looking factions of capital like steel and coal – oh wait! Why is Trump all about helping out the steel and coal industry?) You really think without your lectures it would never have occurred to any of us that “business elites might tolerate a dictator to safeguard profits”? Have you read any Krugman columns lately? What a radical! (Btw I wouldn’t mind myself being called a radical but I can do without your pseudo-radical arrogance).

I have long been mystified by the disconnect discussed above between the right-wing paranoia, the strength of their fear and viciousness of their hatred of the left (actually of “liberals”), and the nonexistence of an actually credible left “threat”. Yes, the theory says that fascists are a reactionary response to socialist organization. But empirically, there clearly are fascist movements in places without relevant socialist organization. Might it be that we ought to rethink our theory? A big clue is in the treatment Hillary Clinton got. She was treated by the Right – and not just the fascist fringe but much of the mainstream right and part of the center, and with considerable help from the mainstream media establishment – with a degree of openly aggressive, mouth-frothing hatred that recalls the hatred once reserved for the likes of Leon Blum or Willy Brandt. Clinton isn’t a socialist (and neither btw is Sanders), she wasn’t likely to start expropriations as president, but she is treated exactly the way socialists have historically been treated by reactionaries. Empirically. But in theory, this can’t be true because she ought to represent and be supported by the ruling class. And so self-deluded leftists still try to justify the anti-Clinton hysteria they themselves fell victim to during the most important election campaign of their life time, and they still aren’t ashamed of having echoed anti-liberal right wing talking points when they should been out in the street shouting “No pasaran!”

Leo 39, exactly.


Donald Johnson 03.20.18 at 10:51 pm

I am not sure where I stand on this question, because it depends on whether Trump succeeds in starting a war with Iran or NK or both. If not, then Bush will have been worse. If we get into a war with NK or Iran, then Trump will be the worst President ever.

PH said—

“Republicans like Boot, Frum, Golberg, and company hate Trump’s guts.”

Golberg? Do you mean Goldberg at the Atlantic? Anyway, that’s true, and I think it is because they don’t see him as a competent warmonger. I am not saying Bush was competent, but for a few years he could pose and posture as a decisive leader and had high poll numbers. He overthrew Saddam and the neocons and some liberals including later presidential candidates applauded this. Also, Bush had the illusion of seemingly competent people like Powell supporting him.

Trump, on the other hand, is just incoherent. He might or might not have ties to Russians, he claimed to think the Iraq War was stupid, but he also arms the Ukrainians and might slip into war with Syria or Iran or even Russia. He engages in childish tweet wars with North Korea and then decides to have a summit. Even warmongers have some minimal standards for warmongering. That said, I think Trump is moving away from the blatant white nationalist types and is handing his foreign policy over to the neocons, so they might end up favoring Trumpism without Trump.

On a personal level Trump has dragged our politics even lower into the sewer. I don’t even pay attention to it anymore. You just expect him to be disgusting, racist, bigoted or sexist.


faustusnotes 03.21.18 at 1:38 am

Hidari, besides being deeply patronizing your comment is alarmingly wrong. Being stuck in the industrial age you are misunderstanding the motivations of modern elites and the crises that the societies they leech onto face; and being a radical you underestimate the role of culture and personal motivation in the trends we’re seeing. As I said, fascism won’t be the same as it was in the 1930s and we won’t get there by the same route.

First to your idea that fascism needs a militant left and that an elite that can make an accommodation with the government doesn’t need it. That may have been true in the 1930s but it isn’t now. The modern US elite need three things from their government: to protect the financialization of the economy, to avoid regulating their obsessive ecocide, and to continue shoveling tax payer’s money into their pockets. They had all this under Bush but it was clearly threatened under Obama and things are looking much harder for them now if the Dems win. Under the Bushes they managed to get money that should have gone to welfare into their pockets, but now they want to fleece the middle class. That’s a bigger project, which requires the silencing or misdirection of middle class voices. If they had not stacked the supreme court, their welfare stealing project would have been ended by Obamacare and now all Americans would have affordable helathcare, subsidized by a tax on the elite.

Many of the “radicals” commenting here are making the assumption that the Dems are equally friends with the rich, but they’re not, and this silly idea that they’re equal is the reason you fall into the trap of thinking there is no left that frightens the US elite. The US is the sole remaining obstacle to a new global order of international action on poverty, climate change and inequality. Once the US govt caves we will have an end to tax havens, a new fairer trade regime, and action on climate change. If US conservatives hadn’t stymied it for years we would already be in our post-carbon future, and the biggest victims of that move would have been the very industries – coal, energy, oil – backing Trump now. It’s no coincidence that Tillerson was the secretary of state in the government that pulled the US out of the Paris Accord. It’s no coincidence that he has stacked his government with bankers after he promised to drain the swamp.

Because the goal of US elites is to drain middle class money into their own pockets and protect themselves from regulation of their ecocide at any cost, they can’t afford to have even a weak opposition in the US, and the opposition ideas they see now are not weak – they know that if the Dems get more than 2 years’ control over the full organs of the state they’re fucked. And because their program is so antithetical to the interests of so many Americans – fleecing the bottom 80% is not popular – they need to destroy all opposition. This is exactly what the gangster fascists in Russia did – they have never faced a credible leftist opposition but they still introduced a gangster fascist state. Why? Because the interests of modern elites in Russia and the US are not the same as those of the elites of 1930s Europe.

You also ignore the role of culture in the drive to fascism. Fascism in Italy didn’t just arise from material conditions, but also from a cultural movement to renew the Italian spirit through war, a desire to roll back women’s rights and restore the role of the patriarch, and a fear of this new concept of universal suffrage (which was still new in Europe at that time). Similarly now America has many cultural imperatives towards fascism. Slavery, Jim Crow, perpetual war, McCarthyism, hyper militarism, Cointelpro … America has a long history of fascist impulses, many of them obviously derived from its racist past. You can’t ignore this impulse when discussing a small elite’s drive for a particular social order.

And finally you need to understand how small this elite is. We’re not talking about the top 20% here or even the top 5%. The whole Cambridge Analytica effort to steal the election was financed by one man – Robert Mercer. He sunk probably hundreds of millions into various propaganda organs and dark web actors. You can’t see this one man’s actions independent of his personal motivations, and this is a man who thinks that poor people should be treated like cattle. He’s a monster. A small group of industrialists whose entire careers are built on ecocide – the Kochs, peabody energy, for example – a pair of tech libertards (Thiel and Mercer) and a small number of openly fascist organizations (like the NRA) have driven almost all of the growth of fascist propaganda and activism in America in the last 10 years. You need to consider the personal motivations of grifters like Alex Jones, true believers like the NRA’s leadership, and vengeful libertarian vampires like Thiel, if you want to see what the drive to fascism is all about.

So no, lecturing us about how Hitler sucked up to big business won’t help. It’s condescending and deeply, stupidly wrong.


faustusnotes 03.21.18 at 1:42 am

I will follow up by saying, if you want to understand this impulse in America it does not do to simply study the history of fascism in Europe, you need to understand what drives the modern far right in America. You need to read The Turner Diaries and understand what level of destruction these people are willing to bring to America to prosecute their race war.

Living in the Marxist past will not help you anymore.


john c. halasz 03.21.18 at 2:56 am

@42 is one of the most hilariously deluded bits of Dembot fantasy I’ve every read. It’s not worth fisking. Let’s just say it’s iomelines are completely skewed and wrong.


Anarcissie 03.21.18 at 3:05 am

I don’t find the notion that the ruling class is currently fully coherent to be very persuasive, but I suppose I could have been fooled by the media in spite of my paranoia. For most of the r.c., it seems reasonable to think that a very comfortable accommodation could be worked out all around with the leadership of the Democratic Party. The disturbance to such an arrangement seems to be coming from below. As their lives decline and waste away, the natives are becoming restless. Thin ice is being skated upon.


Donald Johnson 03.21.18 at 3:39 am

Halas—Did you mean me? I am number 42, but am puzzled as I don’t have a timeline in my post and while I vote unenthusiastically for Democrats am not plausibly insulted as a Dembot.


john c. halasz 03.21.18 at 3:54 am


No, the numbers have moved about or I mis-typed. I was referring to Faustusnotes @ 43. While I’m at it, “oimelines” was a failed self-correct. It should have been “timelines”.


Faustusnotes 03.21.18 at 4:15 am

I think he means me Donald. Halasz has been ignoring the intense war the elites waged against Obamacare for years because it upsets his theory that the Dems are just as bad as the GOP. So he can’t see how the right wing noise machine is able to turn a supposedly compliant democratic party into a terrifying monster enemy.

The Dems used a huge tax on the interest earnings of the rich to find healthcare for all. It took the elites years of work to find a way to undermine it even partially, and they stole an election to complete the job. But halasz thinks the Dems are helping these people. So then he has no explanation for why there is this Ra kd divide in American politics. Perhaps he doesn’t even see that divide…


J-D 03.21.18 at 6:05 am

kidneystones writes

Trump might be the closest thing to an Eisenhower presidency we’ve seen since Gerald Ford.

Since this discussion is concerned partly with what people forget and what they remember, I’ll just provide this reminder that the Eisenhower presidency was responsible for the overthrow of democracy in Iran and in Guatemala, for supporting the fascist government of Spain, and for the cruelties of Operation Wetback, including eighty-eight deaths.


Hidari 03.21.18 at 6:55 am

Since the very open and plainly expressed goal of my intellectual opponents on this thread is to persuade us that
a: there is a vibrant and thriving intellectual left in the United States and that
b: it is instantiated in the Democratic Party (not the Sanders insurgency, note, but the ‘higher echelons’)
and since both of those claims (especially the second) are obviously and self-evidently ridiculous there’s not much point in continuing this conversation.

But it’s worthwhile asking why? Why are so many wealthy white Democrats so keen to persuade us of the obvious falsehood that Naziism is just round the corner and that, in 1,2,3 years Trump will suspend all civil liberties, cancel further elections and appoint himself the Fuhrer? (needless to say, the odds of this happening are absolutely zero).

1: Surprising as it might seem, I think it’s to prevent political action. I know this is counter-intuitive, but it seems to me, that many liberals are, so to speak, ‘holding their fire’. ‘I won’t do anything now’, they say. ‘But when fascism comes…ah then it will be different! I will take to the hills and start to fight back, killing cops and soldiers to fight for freedom! Vive la Resistance!’
But of course this moment will never come. So in practice they do nothing.
2: According to Faustnotes, the radical, Corey Robin: ‘But if the GOP is sliding to fascism and the elections are now being stolen by dirty tricks and outside help, then everything Corey has written is positively dangerous.’
So it’s ‘really’ Corey Robin and those like him, who are the danger, not centrist Democrats. And why? Because they don’t buy into the Captain Mainwaring style ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic’ ‘resistance’. In other words, we see for the millionth time that for Centrists it’s the radical left who are the ‘real’ threat for not doing what those nice centrist Democrats tell them to.

American centrist Democrats have the United States on the brain and are unable to conceptualise that other countries might not be America. But if they were able to think about other countries they might care to reflect that exactly the same political smears (‘he’s a tool of the Russians!’ ‘He’s leading us to dictatorship!’) are currently being used against the radical leftist Corbyn in the UK as are used against Trump. And by exactly the same people. What does this tell us about the motivation of those using them?

What remains a fact is in the absence of some kind of economic disaster, and the rise of some kind of leftist/radical threat to Capital in the US, the threat of fascism as classically defined remains literally non-existent. So we don’t ‘have to’ throw in our lot with centrist ‘Democrats’ (who aren’t) to prevent it, despite the fact that centrist Democrats are continually telling us the opposite (‘vote Democrat or get Hitler’ being the new de facto Democratic campaign slogan).

(The example of Putin doesn’t help as as Putin isn’t a fascist, he’s an oligarch, and the United States already is an oligarchy, and has been for decades. Another distraction of the ‘fascism is just round the corner’ claim is that it tries to persuade Americans that they have a democracy to lose. Americans lost that particular battle years ago).


nastywoman 03.21.18 at 6:59 am

”Since this discussion is concerned partly with what people forget and what they remember, I’ll just provide this reminder…”

Thank you – as I just thought the same – and how ”great” history and historical references are because every can pick whatever ”meeting” or ”whatever” ones likes.
And BE-cause this threat seems to be a lot about the ”fascism thing” (again!) AND Von Clownstick – and because I had to go to school in Germany for a while and so I am a true expert on this ”German and Fascism Stuff” and I had to sit through all these theories – and NO @Hidari – German school teacher didn’t downplay the meaning of Hitler meeting with industrialist – but did I mention – the great thing about history -(and Hitler) is –
that everybody is allowed to remember whatever one likes to remember – and MY favorite remembrance concerning these Hitler stories and his ”meetings” – was always his meetings with the ”German Militaristic Nobility Dudes” –
NOW these guys REALLY thought they could use and control him just (perhaps?) the way some US Generals think they could control ”Baron Von Clownstick”?

BUT no worry @TM – BE-cause there is also this very believable theory that America and Americans just can’t do ”fascism” – right – as we Americans are just NOT as well organized as them Germans –
or what did Paul Krugman once so remarkable remember:
”The real divide… is not political but philosophical; it’s not Karl Marx vs. Adam Smith, it’s Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative vs. William James’ pragmatism. What the Germans really want is a clear set of principles: rules that specify the nature of truth…
Americans, by contrast, are philosophically and personally sloppy: They go with whatever seems more or less to work.”

And real ”fascism” just doesn’t work that well in our homeland – which could let us remember that there is this theory about Hitler that he did all of this bad and horrible stuff he did – just because he was rejected by a (jewish) Professor of the Wiener Kunstakademie.

Which – if you would be a crazy person – could let you remember how Von Clownstick was rejected by the better Golfclubs of America -(and Obama at a ”meeting” of American journalist during a Correspondence Dinner) – or to make a long story short –
what’s about the theory that all of this talk about ”fascism” and ”philosophy” and even von Clownstick is nonsense –
and the true ”continuity of conservatism” in America is…
– to get spanked (by the American people)?

Preferable with a Fortune magazine?


nastywoman 03.21.18 at 7:09 am

(in big caps)
I wrote:
…and how ”great” history and histerical references are” – but somehow this dumb machine turned it into ”historical”!


nastywoman 03.21.18 at 7:39 am

– and Hidari! – Dude!! -(or Dudette?)
Yes! –
there is no ”vibrant and thriving intellectual ”LEFT” in the United States – as your ”pretty conservative” ideas of ”left and right” might be the ideas of a silly and very dogmatic past?

And so there is INDEED a ”vibrant and thriving intellectual movement” in the United States… or shall we call it ”movement” of people -(including Sanders and a lot of younger guys who still might have to sleep on the sofa of their parents but nevertheless) –


Nearly everybody in this ”movement” is NOT on the side of so called ”conservatives” or ”Republicans”.

Nearly ALL of these ”vibrant and thriving intellectuals” are somehow – attached to something called ”Democrats” – or the Democratic Party or – they just vote ”Democrat”.



nastywoman 03.21.18 at 7:46 am

– AND Hidari about the rest of your… writing – one might think you -(and a few other commenters on CT) never read:

”Die Banalität des Bösen”.


J-D 03.21.18 at 8:00 am


Is it impossible to have similarities and differences?

It is true, but a gross understatement, that it is possible to have similarities and differences; it is not just a possibility, it is invariably the case. Given any two things, any two events, any two phenomena, any two human beings, any two political parties, any two US Presidents, any two Republicans, any two Democrats, you can always find, provided you are prepared to search diligently enough, both points of similarity and points of difference. Thus the observation that the Trump Presidency is in some ways like other Republican Presidencies and in some ways different from them follows automatically from general principle and is not particularly enlightening. I think we can do better. For example, I assert–and this observation does not follow automatically from general principle–that the difference between the Trump Presidency and (let’s say) the McKinley Presidency is less than the difference between the McKinley Presidency and the Lincoln Presidency or , to put it another way, that the Republican Party changed more between Lincoln and McKinley than it did between McKinley and Trump. To put it yet another way, I affirm that the period of greatest change in the history of the Republican Party was the period after the Civil War and up to the end of Reconstruction, and it hasn’t changed as much since as it did then. If I’m wrong about that, then when was the period of greatest change in the history of the Republican Party? Is it perhaps the period we’ve just passed through, or the one we’re still in the middle of? Or, if that’s not the period of greatest change in the history of the Republican Party, does it rank second?


TM 03.21.18 at 9:30 am

fn 43, good points but you omitted the Evangelical movement with its fanatically anti-modern, anti-science, apocalyptic world view. They are really what passes for Trump’s “mass base”. The fact that they voted more enthusiastically for Trump the serial adulterer etc. than for any candidate before him speaks volumes. No, economic anaylsis doesn’t explain everything, at least not straightforwardly.

Anarcissie 46, if you expect the members of the r. c. to conduct a rational analysis and then agree on the course of action that is in their overall class interest, that is … kind of cute. The ruling class isn’t monolothic and never was. There are always different factions whose interests don’t always align. And they don’t always act rationally either. Some factions did prefer Clinton, for the quite rational reason that competent government is in their interest too and that climate change and nuclear war aren’t in their long term interests either. But clearly the larger faction aligned behind Trump. The GOP establishment along with their donor class aligned behind Trump. They celebrated his conquest of the WH. The stock markets rallied, the financial press started writing enthusistically about all the business opportunities now opening up, the wealthy lined up to pay those six figure fees to be close to their idol at Mar-A-Lago. Your contention that the r. c. mostly opposed Trump is ridiculous.


Layman 03.21.18 at 10:59 am

Hidari: “Since the very open and plainly expressed goal of my intellectual opponents on this thread is to persuade us that…”

Are you meaning to do comedy? Before you do that, maybe you could answer the question at #29. I don’t think you have answered it, but if you think you have, can you point to the answer?


bruce wilder 03.21.18 at 1:34 pm

“A.G. Sulzberger . . . will become a crucial steward of journalism at a time of widespread mistrust in the media, fueled by a President who delights in attacking the press.”

I was meandering, as is my wont, across the blogosphere, and ran across the Times article on its planned succession and this boring, pious sentence struck me as exemplifying the function Trump plays in our political-media culture. I stare at its easy self-excusing self-congratulation and even its anachronism.

The institutional lack of self-awareness or agency, let alone responsibility is remarkable, but I won’t remark on it: my moment of Zen.


alfredlordbleep 03.21.18 at 1:35 pm

@43 @52
Of industrialists, plutocrats, oligarchs, . . .
March 1940 book review
From The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of
George Orwell, Volume 2

It is a sign of the speed at which events are
moving that Hurst and Blackett’s unexpurgated
edition of Mein Kampf, published only a year
ago, is edited from a pro-Hitler angle. The obvious
intention of the translator’s preface and notes is to tone
down the book’s ferocity and present Hitler in as
kindly a light as possible. For at that date Hitler was
still respectable. He had crushed the German labour
movement, and for that the property-owning classes
were willing to forgive him almost anything.
Both Left
and Right concurred in the very shallow notion that
National Socialism was merely a version of Conservatism.

[italics added]

On a much lighter note—semi-private to n****woman

When I see the story of a young Austrian woman* and her much older
industrialist husband meeting Hitler, I am reminded (very loosely speaking, of course)
of Chump’s (or v. C’s) meeting you and your Daddy at Mar-a-Lago.
“Beautiful blue eyes”?

*later known as Hedy Lamarr


Hidari 03.21.18 at 2:15 pm

I haven’t answered your question because I don’t understand it. It’s pretty ironic that you talk about the right-wing ‘rage machine’ as, like many establishment Democrats (e.g. on this thread) you seem to be in a permanent state of boiling fury, most of it aimed at the left.

Insofar as your questions(s) have any meaning, I assume you mean this: If the Democrats aren’t a threat to the Republicans, why is there so much enmity to the Democrats from the Republicans? Simple answer: there isn’t.

‘Why conservative newspapers endorsed Hillary Clinton in droves

With a week to go before judgment day, Hillary Clinton has racked up at least 186 endorsements from daily newspapers — about 31 times more than Donald Trump,…

Reflecting the “Never Trump” contingent of the Republican Party, an impressive number of publications with a solid record of endorsing GOP candidates — the Dallas Morning News and Columbus Dispatch, for instance — have urged voters to elect Clinton. So, too, have outlets like the San Diego Union-Tribuneand Arizona Republic, neither of which has endorsed a Democrat for president in the past century….

The Clinton endorsements from conservative outlets frame the choice in a familiar way: Their editorial boards maintain that she is the lesser of two evils, as well as the country’s best hope for defeating a Republican candidate who would wreak havoc in office. ‘ (our old friend the lesser of two evils).

‘The list of Republicans supporting Hillary Clinton is still growing. For months, we have been keeping track of all of the GOP politicians, administration officials, business leaders and donors who have crossed over to back Clinton over Donald Trump.

The most recent high-profile announced was from former secretary of state Colin Powell.’

‘Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has received another endorsement from a leading Republican, two days after the first presidential debate.

On Wednesday she was endorsed by John Warner, a five-time Virginia senator.

She was also backed by the Arizona Republic newspaper, the first time it has supported a Democrat since its founding in 1890.’

And if one goes from de facto to de jure, one sees even more support. E.g. George Bush Jr. went out of his way to attack Trump, but not Clinton, which might be interpreted as de facto or tacit support for the Democrats. And this was at a time of an election! When there was particular pressure for party loyalty.

Believers in the myth that there is a left wing party in the United States, and that it is called the Democrats, might care to reflect on this question: Just how much ideological difference can there be, really, between two parties when huge swathes of one party (or at least its establishment and media ‘arms’) were prepared to openly endorse the leadership of the other in a crucial presidential election? Can we imagine large sections of the Republican establishment, for example, endorsing FDR in the 1930s? Or the British Labour Government of the early 1980s (or now) endorsing the Tories and openly campaigning for them?

It’s amazing that these facts are essentially suppressed by Democrats. It’s not as if this is Stalin’s Russia. You can’t just ‘vanish’ inconvenient facts. Establishment/media Republican support for Clinton in the run up to the election is not difficult to find. It was not just a few outliers. It was a large and influential body of opinion.


bianca steele 03.21.18 at 2:41 pm

Since Harper’s is pay-walled (and their one article per month mechanism is moreover currently not working in what I call a correct manner), who is “Roth”?


Faustusnotes 03.21.18 at 2:50 pm

Wrong hidari in many ways. First of all noone blames the radical left for Trump’s victory – we blame the right. You know, the people who voted for him,the people who paid for his propaganda. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reserve a little bit of blame for the Berniebros and TYT and all the other idiots (including some on this blog) who recycled Russian lies about Clinton. For example Corey Robin recently recycled here some material from Greenwald about how the details a are the same as the GOP for supporting mass surveillance at just the same time that the GOP were building up a big brouhaha about illegal surveillance of Trump and the Dems and the “deep state” being aligned. Remember Greenwald is the man who betrayed a whistleblower on Russia to the NSA, and along with the rapist Assange is obviously collaborating with Trump’s team. That’s dangerous stuff and it has the effect of paralyzing the left. Which is exactly what Cambridge analytica were aiming for when they were paid by Robert Mercer to get people to stay home. Your and robins view on this that the GOP and Dems are all collaborating with the elites leads to no solution except to stay home and give up. Why would you think the centrist dem argument that Trump is worse than bush would have that effect? The turnout in state and federal elections in 2018 and the coming wave is obvious evidence against this silly idea.

Next, I am not an American and am perfectly aware of what is going on in the UK and it is not the centrist left accusing Corbyn of working for Russia – unless you think the daily mail is left wing now? How are you going to analyse anything if you get your sides so confused?

This again leaves us with your – and by implication from his writings – coreys default position which is that repubs and Dems are the same, nothing is getting worse or changing, so you might as well stay home. This cedes the entire political field to the GOP, who use the power they get to roll back welfare protection, militarize civil society, suppress black votes, and enable ever more vicious ecocide. With the likely additional icing on this particular shit dessert of starting a war with north Korea that will kill millions. And what is your solution to this? To stand around ranting that nothing has changed since Nixon and what, exactly, what?


steven t johnson 03.21.18 at 3:10 pm

“Is it rhetorically more effective to frame Trump as exceptional, or does this mean a short-term gain in focus but a long-term drain in overall awareness? Two, is it true that Trump is exceptional?”

The first question calls for an opinion poll, doesn’t it? Family Feud surveys the audience at least. There may be a hint in the “or” as to the problematic nature of Trump critique. The metric for the effectiveness of rhetoric rather depends on what you want to accomplish, after all. The ins and out will always find grave reasons to portray their complements as threats to the Republic, subversive of humanity and badly dressed. So if the first question is to have any meaning at all, you have to ask, what kind of critique of Trump do we want our rhetoric to persuade people to endorse?

The fact is, near as I can tell, that most people don’t like Trump. The rock solid core of Trump support is what are fashionably called the elites. Trump is vastly more popular on Wall Street than he is in Main Street, even as he occasionally postures as a reindustrializer facing down FIRE on behalf of the Little People. The thing is, of course, is that we don’t live in a system where Trump unpopularity matters a bit, we live in a democracy. Most elite politicians are political gangsters in a rigged system. The elections are carried out after the contestants are vetted by the money men. It’s not formalized like the Guardian Council as in Iran, but the effect is very much the same. I think one reason much rhetoric about Trump seems ineffective is that it is dismissed by Corey Robin style reasoning, that it’s all both continuous and continual partisan frenzy, that is, intrinsically unpersuasive.

Most Trump critique is premised on exactly the opposite premise, that it is the filthy people who inflicted Trump on us, which I think is a damned malicious lie. The notion that Trump’s vileness is just the monster we have always been is the sly hint that “we” actually means hoi polloi, but not really ME, except for rhetorical purposes pretended to be one of the filthy people. It’s like a missionary talking about being a sinner and tactfully omitting how they’ve seen the light, so that’s inoperative in practice.

Further, almost all other Trump critique is limited to right wing buzz words and perspectives. All the hysterical jingo twaddle about treason in Clinton cash/email servers/Benghazi is exactly the same hysterical twaddle about Russiagate. The reason of course is that it is ultimately aimed at the owners, who will not be served by mobilizing the filthy people with wrong ideas. Even more importantly, almost all the substantive issues, which are foreign policy issues as it turns out, are tactical issues, like who to target first, or how much violence to use. Not even the most bitter debates about how to defend the empire are not signs of democratic discussion.

The follow up question is about whether Corey Robin’s basic thesis that Trump is indeed more of the same, is correct. Plainly he has done his Trumpery well! First, the continuity thesis applies to all politicians and parties since the left was crushed after WWII. Corey Robin only sees selective continuity, rendering his thesis useless.

Second, Corey Robin’s mode of analysis covertly relies on the entirely false presumption that it is the people who rule in this country, and ignores the real role of elections, the rule of law, etc. The rule of law is a real thing, especially if it can be waived for the proper enemies while protecting the Right People. This is exactly the kind of thing that has happened. Corey Robin either assumes this is some sort of defect, to be remedied by the revival of the people’s morality, or some such spiritualistic nonsense. Or Corey Robin hasn’t quite thought through the issue, since it’s not really relevant to him. (My guess is that it’s about Sanders, which is a swindle. My telepathy is on the fritz, so maybe there’s some other agenda, though.)

Political analysis, as opposed to moralizing, is not necessarily common, so perhaps a simple example is in order? Consider the dismissal of Andrew McCabe. Taking the pension of a senior security official is a tactic to intimidate other security officials. Doing so explicitly on the grounds that McCabe favored a political rival implicitly demands security service attacks on said rivals. That is, it is a step toward making “Lock her up!” come true. Using police against each other is not bourgeois democracy. That’s why the Watergate thing was so special. Killing Black Panthers is perfectly compatible with the rule of law in a democracy, but taking pensions of high ranking people is not. Any perspective that ignores the real power relations of democracy in favor of abstract morals is obscurantism.

Hidari at least tries to do better than a Robin. But I think Hidari has forgotten the close relationship between losing an empire/trying to establish a new empire to all the regimes that were historically deemed fascist. (Historical revisionism has been carefully disappearing them. Stanley Payne came awfully close to openly claiming Franco Spain wasn’t fascist!) The US is losing its world hegemony, its empire. And the owners of said empire don’t know what to do. So, yeah, the ruling class is a powerful support for fascism of a particular kind.

When discussing fascism, you must, must, must get your head clear of the rot peddled by reactionary scum like Arendt and Orwell. Fascism is on the same spectrum of bourgeois rule as democracy, not something other than the propaganda creation “totalitarianism.” There has been a recent effort to sell the idea that the 13th Amendment was an effort to restore slavery, on the grounds that selling convict labor was slavery. But it wasn’t, of course. The death toll for black convict labor clearly showed that this was the first effort at death camps, a tentative essay in extermination. Delusions about democracy and continuity led to inadvertent apologies for this, substituting a right-wing critique of liberalism.


MisterMr 03.21.18 at 4:11 pm

In my opinion, one important characteristic of fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan is that all these three countries were strongly imperialist, by which I mean the wanted to expand their colonial empire.

Of course almost everyone in Europe has been an imperialist for some time but, at the time of fascism, the world was mostly already partitioned, so Germany, Japan and Italy had to directly attack other and bigger powers (this is most obvious in the case of Japan).

I think that this happened because all three governments had a policy of mercantilism and, so to speak, forced/hastened industrialization, and this was a big component of fascism.
I am a big fan of Hobson’s “Imperialism – a study” (1902) and I think that fascism was in some sense the endgame of that dynamic; Hobson sees imperialism as a consequence of “underconsumption”, however I think it’s better to say that imperialism gave an outlet to the increased productivity of the industrial sectors of the developed countries of the time.

On the other hand, in the USA today there isn’t really this crave for export markets, the “underconsumption”[*] problem is solved mostly by increased financialization and bubbles.
So for this reason I don’t think that USA policy will go in the direction of “fascism” in the strict sense, I think that it is more likely that China, Russia or other “semi-periphery” countries will go in that direction.

The USA learned to solve the underconsumption through government deficits and “new deal” policies after WW2, however:

1) Capital doesn’t want steady profits, it needs continually increasing profits;
2) new deal policies, while avoid crises, keep wages high.

so the policies of the right since at least the 80s have these characteristics:

1) They try to lower taxes, mostly on high incomes;
2) They blow big deficits and/or financial bubbles (often linked to lowering taxes);
3) They demonize other forms of government spending, that would enter in competition with enhancing profits;
4) In order to do (4), they create or greatly aggrandize various bugaboos who are supposed to live on the dole at the expense of “hardworking people”, like immigrants, people of this or that group (in Italy up to some time ago it was southern italians, hence the Northern League), highly paid public workers etc.

The first two points in my list mean that, even if/when this or that policy succeeds in increasing the profit share of the pie, this leads to more financial wealth that needs even more profits to be sustained, so even mildly leftish politics, or centrist politics that tend to keep the wage share constant, are a big problem; point (4) lead to what we now call “right leaning populism”, and generally bitter identity politics.

So in my opinion what happens is that there is this cycle:

1) right leaning politician goes into power, blows big deficit or bubble in order to increase profits;
2) financial wealth increases relative to total income;
3) the profit share has to grow to keep pace with the increase of wealth;
4) leftish (or center-leftish) politics are too tepid to roll back the clock, even when they are in power;
5) right leaning politicians blame this on some outgroup, so that when they are in power the can do (1) again.

I don’t think that this can lead to fascism in the strict sense, but I think that this will lead to continuously more bitter identity politics.
Even the sort of neo-protectionism that is now promoted by Trump, or Brexit, or various italian parties, etc. probably will not get the expected results because this is sold to the proles as a way to increase the wage share, but contemporaneously is supposed to increase profits for local businesses, and both things can’t be true at the same time, so either the proles will be stuffed with even lower wage shares (as seems the case with Brexit) or protectionism will turn out to be all smoke and no fire (like in increasing tariffs but also government deficits).

[*] by underconsumption I mean a situation where, because of big inequalities in income, the economy is often at risk of a crisis, or anyway employment is low enough to cause social unrest, unless there is a constant growth in debt, or some other external source of demand.


JRLRC 03.21.18 at 4:15 pm

J-D (on similarities and differences): and yet many forget that… That was my point. So, let´s read carefully…


nastywoman 03.21.18 at 4:47 pm

“Beautiful blue eyes”?

Well – perhaps only at the Internet?
and that’s the beautiful thing – like the idea of F…face von Clownstick as a ‘continuity with-conservative-tradition’ – I -(and He?) but not you? – can be anything you – or any other commenter on this thread would like US to be –

But are you flirting with me?
If you do – I’m actually a 67 year old Russian Transvestite who believes that Americans and America believes everything which is ”on teh Internet”.

Even that ”der Schwanz” has naturally blond hair.


Heliopause 03.21.18 at 7:36 pm


Heliopause 03.21.18 at 8:05 pm

To answer the question of whether Trump truly is exceptional or not perhaps it would be instructive to list all the ways that the previous GOP POTUS was unexceptional.
He passed a massive tax cut for the rich.
He passed draconian anti-terror and surveillance laws.
He imposed tariffs on steel.
He instigated a major war of aggression.
He nominated a mix of extreme conservatives and cronies to the Supreme Court.
He commuted the sentence of an underling who had been prosecuted by a special counsel.
He passed a bill erecting nearly 700 miles of border fence.
He attempted a partial privatization of Social Security.

As you can see, Trump has accomplished only a tiny fraction of these unexceptional things. He’s got some time, but if he doesn’t get on the ball then Prof. Robin’s thesis will be disproven, as I assume it is exceptional to not do unexceptional things.


ph 03.22.18 at 12:48 am

@64 This is some distance from your best.

McCabe was dismissed on recommendation from the IG for repeatedly omitting key information required by precedent, or law, and for lying under oath during the IG investigation. Not least of which involved omitting references to Democratic party financing for the Steele dossier used to obtain and renew the FISA warrant, and the fact that his wife received some 700,000 dollars from Democratic donors. The FBI bigwigs decided to cast McCabe out the day before his pension was to kick in for reasons of their own.

You’re on firmer ground with the support Trump gets from the elites, but that would only be some during the election. Biden did not enter the race because Obama and Clinton effectively colluded to ensure all Dem money was under Clinton control. The elites support the candidate they believe will win and have historically sound reasons influence can be bought. That remains the case. Betting against Clinton in 2015 was a good bet, and a better bet (to some) once Trump moved up the polls.

Corey is essentially correct about the contours of American political economy, in my view, as are many of the comments touching on inequality and the fact that the rich tend to do extremely well no matter who is in power. It’s worth noting, btw, that a number of wealthy individuals before the French revolution were still very wealthy, and some cases much wealthier after.

Property rights are at the very core of French and American liberalism from the 18th century forward. Property of the crown, or the church, became property of the state and was sold, or leased, to private investors. The poor saw very few of the benefits of liberty, or industrialization throughout the 19th century, which gave rise to socialist measures to wrest power and wealth from the few. Democracy as we know is less than a century old, and like it or not:

Trump and his minions are what revolution looks like, in reality, and in real time. The great unwashed turned out in record numbers in rural America – that is the story of 2016.


Faustusnotes 03.22.18 at 4:36 am

It would appear heliopause that I’m not allowed to reply to your comment and link – perhaps criticizing Greenwald is not allowed at CT. I deleted it because its part of a pattern of uncivil comments. Try to make your point without pointing out how silly everyone else is – JQ


nastywoman 03.22.18 at 4:59 am

”The great unwashed turned out in record numbers in rural America – that is the story of 2016.”

As a huge – and true friend of ”the American unwashed” -(and of rural America) I have to see the story of 2016 a bit different – more like when with my friends ”the unwashed” I have one of these parties you definitely can’t have in Japan – but you can have it in ”rural” America – and I’m not ashamed of it – as a 67 year old Russian Transvestite one can’t be too choose – and if – after a long Wodka night I find a fat Orange Orang Utan in my bed – what can I say? –
as long as he is ”a Billionaire” who pays well for my service everything is okeedokee!
-(if you know what I mean?)


nastywoman 03.22.18 at 5:33 am

”perhaps criticizing Greenwald is not allowed at CT.”

I doubt it – as I have told CT before nearly everything about ”the Great Greenwald” –
(and his ”cult”)
But now as I had to… kind of ”come out” and was forced by Lord Lep to reveal my real identity -(behind ”the blue eyes”) I have to confess I actually wrote that article heliopause was quoting and that I’m Russian has nothing to do with it!

And I hope I made this point without pointing out how silly I am?


faustusnotes 03.22.18 at 6:51 am

Point taken John. The linked intercept piece is disdainful of the entire idea of Russian collusion, spends the entire first half of the piece dismissing the people claiming it is a serious intervention into American politics through various sly denigrations, and compares the whole thing to the attempt to drum up the Iraq war. The second half uses the trope of “if they really believed this stuff they would not be behaving like this” to show it’s a beat up and refers to them with phrases like “unhinged rhetoric.” It’s definitely not an example of Greenwald being anything but a patsy for Russia, and it is the kind of piece a pro-Putin hack would write if they were trying to maintain a pretence of independence.

Greenwald has nothing serious to say about Russia or about how the election was stolen, and the more it becomes clear that the election loss had nothing to do with Dem policy and everything to do with manipulation of information by rich libertarians and outside forces, the more he looks like a Trump patsy. He’s very concerned about the Dems authorizing surveillance and very unconcerned about a rich libertard paying Cambridge Analytica to steal people’s data and use it to steal an election for an oligarch.


nastywoman 03.22.18 at 7:30 am

”the more he looks like a Trump patsy.”

Now please – In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ”all religious individuals and groups -(even Trumps Patsys) are protected”.

And the Establishment Clause bars US from advancing or inhibiting religion and ensures that CT remains neutral.

”The Free Exercise Clause and supporting laws, like the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protect the right of religious individuals like Greenwald to follow his conscience in matters of faith.”

And being Russian Orthotox myself – I also believe that you are really mean to US Russians!


Hidari 03.22.18 at 9:27 am

‘In my opinion, one important characteristic of fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan is that all these three countries were strongly imperialist, by which I mean the wanted to expand their colonial empires.’

One of the many reasons you will never get a serious discussion of fascism by The Usual Suspects is for this precise reason. If one really emphasises the foreign policy (as opposed to the domestic policy, which everyone wants to talk about) of the fascist powers, then we quickly find that ‘their’ foreign policy starts to resemble ‘ours’ (racist, terrorist wars of aggression, overthrowing governments that threaten imperial interests, the ‘push to the East’ (explicitly and clearly stated by Hitler to be modelled on the ‘push to the West’ by the Americans (i.e. to California) and so on). Since support for American imperialism is a bipartisan affair (and always has been) no Democrat (shamefully, not even Sanders) wants to lift up this particular stone and see what foul beasts scurry away when faced with the light.

The whole point of the OP, which everyone seems to be determined not to understand, is that there never was a Golden Age, an era of sweet reasonableness to which we can return to.


Layman 03.22.18 at 10:38 am

Heliopause @ 68, an article which in effect says that almost no one is pushing for war with Russia doesn’t do much to support your claim that the left and centrists are pushing for war with Russia.


Lee A. Arnold 03.22.18 at 11:07 am

Polanyi, The Great Transformation chapter 20 characterizes fascism as a spontaneous emotional “move” arising from within individuals, and uses the political conditions only to discard them. It is not a movement that requires a vanguard or imperial aspirations. The ONLY thing characterizing the rise of fascism, in the dozen or more countries in which it arose, was the sudden failure of the market system:

“Fascism was an ever-given political possibility, an almost instantaneous emotional reaction in every industrial community… One may call it a ‘move’ in preference to a ‘movement,’ to indicate the impersonal nature of the crisis the symptoms of which were frequently vague and ambiguous… There were no accepted criteria of fascism, nor did it possess conventional tenets. Yet one significant feature of all its organized forms was the abruptness with which they appeared and faded out again…” (p. 238)

“Fascism, like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function. Hence, it was worldwide, catholic in scope, universal in application; the issues transcended the economic sphere and begot a general transformation of a distinctively social kind.” (p. 239)

“While conservatives were as a rule successful in carrying the domestic counterrevolutions alone, they were but rarely able to bring the national-international problem of their countries to an issue… The nascent fascist movement put itself almost everywhere into the service of the national issue; it could hardly have survived without this ‘pickup’ job. Yet it used this issue only as a stepping-stone; at other times it struck the pacifist and isolationist note. In England and the United States it was allied with appeasement; in Austria the Heimwehr cooperated with sundry Catholic pacifists; and Catholic fascism was anti-nationalist, on principle. Huey Long needed no border conflict with Mississippi or Texas to launch his fascist movement from Baton Rouge. Similar movements in Holland and Norway were non-nationalist to the point of treason—Quisling may have been a name for a good fascist, but was certainly not one for a good patriot…” (p.241)

“Now, fascism was a revolutionary tendency directed as much against conservatism as against the competing revolutionary force of socialism. That did not preclude the fascists from seeking power in the political field by offering their services to the counterrevolution. On the contrary, they claimed ascendency chiefly by virtue of the alleged impotence of conservatism to accomplish that job, which was unavoidable if socialism was to be barred…” (p. 240)

“In no case was an actual revolution against constituted authority launched; fascist tactics were invariably those of a sham rebellion arranged with the tacit approval of the authorities who pretended to have been overwhelmed by force…” (p.238)

“The fascist solution of the impasse reached by liberal capitalism can be described as a reform of market economy achieved at the price of the extirpation of all democratic institutions… The economic system which was in peril of disruption would thus be revitalized, while the people themselves were subjected to a reeducation designed to denaturalize the individual and make him unable to function as the responsible unit of the body politic…” (p. 237)


Donald Johnson 03.22.18 at 12:12 pm

I agree with Hidari on his foreign policy point. Matt Taibbi makes it here.

And yes, it is bipartisan. What is different about Trump is the combination of mental instability and his unwillingness or inability to put lipstick on a pig. That is why so many neocons and liberal interventionists are opposed to him. They want proxy wars or actual American involvement in more wars, but it is much harder to sell our good intentions or keep a straight face about it with some buffoon who openly celebrates torture, advocates going after the families of terrorists, taking the oil of countries we invade and applauding death squads in the Philippines. I was going to add giving Jerusalem to Israel while pretending to be an honest broker, but some prominent Democrats cheered that one.


ph 03.22.18 at 12:38 pm

@76 Hey, don’t lump me in with your everyone! Some of your comments here are very good, as is this one but for your too broad rebuke. By virtually every metric life has never been better – which seems to make a vocal minority extremely unhappy.

JQ’s @5 is a case in point, not unconnected to your own. Here’s an example of an intellect of some considerable ability racing off to make a claim/suggestion/argument that lacks any context, or conceivable path to fruition. Italy, Germany and Hungary share NO common historical, demographic, or political history with the United States BUT that shouldn’t stop anyone from drawing the ‘obvious?’ conclusion that two centuries plus of largely fair elections and a constitution that has survived civil war and continues to serve as a model for that of other nations mean absolutely sfa.

How does one begin to make such a comparison, much less follow it some sort of conclusion? I mean without a shred of evidence linking Weimar to any stage of American capitalism. Some may exist somewhere, but wouldn’t it be nice to see some? As for Hungary and Italy? Huh?

I rather expect these sorts of gigantic leaps into a puddle of spit from the usual suspects, but when someone of JQ’s clear ability and stature does so I really do wonder.


faustusnotes 03.22.18 at 12:39 pm

The imperialism thing is interesting. At the time Germany, Italy and Japan were locked out of the main source of resources and market growth – colonies – that the imperialist powers had, and they needed to go to war to steal colonies from those powers. How does that translate into today? People don’t do open colonial wars anymore. But we do have a huge problem of a different kind of resource – ecological services – that is shrinking and becoming increasingly conflict-prone. Water, energy and the right to pollute the commons. In the imperialist era resources were sought extra-territorially and states needed fascism to support the conquest of foreign territory, at times from equally-armed defendants. Now the resources are within our own territories – access to water courses to pollute, the ability to dump CO2 unrestricted, the power to tear fossil fuels from internally disputed territories such as national parks, the right of pastoralists to use any land they choose – and this requires a new kind of fascism, based on ecocide. You can see the growth of these elements of US fascism now – the land disputes through Bundy et al, the survivalists, drill baby drill, the global warming denialism. It all feeds into the economic demands of the coal and energy elites supporting Trump, but it’s connected to a broader ecocidal ideology with a strong christian underpinning. This – along with racist excision of blacks from the body politic, and a new attempt to control female sexuality – is what drives American fascism. Your Polanyi and your 1930s theorists have nothing to say about these modern fundamentals.


nastywoman 03.22.18 at 12:47 pm

”The whole point of the OP, which everyone seems to be determined not to understand, is that there never was a Golden Age, an era of sweet reasonableness to which we can return to.”

You are mistaken – as actually your indiancountrymedianetwork-link proves.
There was this ”Golden Age, and era of sweet reasonableness BE-fore the White Man set foot on our ”homeland”.
And as the ”Native American Indian” I am -(1/18 Paiute – by the laws of the White Man – no ”Russian” but for sure a ”American Indian”) –
– I very much believe – that we are on our way (again!) to be able ”to freely roam the Prairie” (again!!) – without any thoughts of any ”imperialism” – as ”imperialism” was a ”thing” of ”the White Man” and – as perhaps you have noticed – ”the White Man” has been nearly totally ”scalped” – and if you don’t believe me go and watch ”Black Panther”.

And – I know – I know there is still ”F…face von Clownstick” and all of these other ”White Men” – but I promise you – just by marrying all of their children off – to us the ”Brown Women” WE will end this ”imperialism thing” for good – or what are even the Crazy German Right Wingers saying:

”In 50 years Germany will be a ”Muslemic Country” – with… now what I’m saying:
a beautiful majority of beautiful ”brown people” -(some still with ”blue eyes”) but anywhoo – time and history for sure is on ”our” side and sooner or later ”the White Man” and his ”imperialism” will be totally gone!


Hidari 03.22.18 at 1:48 pm

‘The ONLY thing characterizing the rise of fascism, in the dozen or more countries in which it arose, was the sudden failure of the market system.’

I would agree with this. However, I would add that it helps (to put it mildly) to have some exterior ‘threat’ to the market system, and while (as some commentators have pointed out) this threat might be imaginary it makes some sense if it’s real.

Imagine, for example, that Trump does destroy the American economy and cause a huge recession/depression and that he is suddenly ‘surplus to requirements’. He could be easily got rid of. Mueller would ‘suddenly’ ‘stumble upon’ some terrible fact about Russia or something. The ‘pee tape’ would ‘suddenly’ turn out to be real (cf ‘Deep Fakes’). All it would take would be for some Republicans to break and then he could be impeached. (Indeed, the threat of impeachment has hung over his whole Presidency: whatever Mueller has, it’s probably enough to impeach Trump, and so he needs, really needs the Republican establishment onside to stop that from happening. His hands are tied.)

So if he suddenly stood in the way of corporate profits he would be quickly deposed, and the liberals would cheer it on.

Economic elites don’t really like fascism. It causes instability. Innocent people get killed, which doesn’t bother them, but some of these innocents might be wealthy and white, which would bother them a great deal. Elites have grown used to the personal freedoms fought for by the ‘sixties radicals. Would they enjoy living in a theocracy or the equivalent? I don’t think so.

So: they will only bankroll (and therefore permit) a fascist government to take over when the economy is tanking, yes, but also when it looks like some ‘working class’ movement (be it socialist, communist, or, as we saw recently in Egypt, Islamist) might take power instead. Remember what Hitler said: he essentially went to the business class and said ‘I know you don’t like us much. But it’s us or the communists’. And in that situation, most of the capitalist class will break for the fascists.

To repeat, as things stand (and who knows! They can change!) but as things stand the chance of fascism/dictatorship in the US is absolutely and precisely zero.*

*Some people might mention a 9/11 type event here, functioning as a Reichstag Fire type event. But this would have to be much bigger/worse than 9/11 for ordinary people to decide that ‘democracy has to go’. After all, 9/11 was pretty bad (worse than the Reichstag Fire) and the US over-reacted, but never at any point did it actually and genuinely look like it was becoming a fascist or Nazi regime.


steven t johnson 03.22.18 at 2:01 pm

MisterMr@65 commits to a shaky underconsumptionist thesis that ignores international economy, especially international finance. One of the dominant trends in politics is the difficulty of sustaining the US role in the world financial order. It was the first Bush who firmly committed the US to a policy of permanent war. The US ruling class has fished in troubled waters, and now its agents make sure the waters are always troubled.

Heliopause@69 repeats Corey Robin, even to the point of omitting the continuities with liberal and Democratic presidents and politicians since WWII.

Trump is discontinuous with most politicians and presidents because his real base is his personal wealth and his working life as a businessman. Roosevelt and Kennedy and Bush families were wealthy but their working life was in military service/politics/government. Way of life is what people are conscious of. One of the owners is running the firm hands on.

Trump is also discontinuous in that he conducted a hostile takeover of a major party.

Trump is also discontinuous in his militarization of the White House staff.

Trump is also discontinuous in his efforts to personally threaten high ranking opponents, including the use of security organizations.

Trump is also discontinuous in his open reliance on promotion of dysfunction in government, disorder in the streets.

Trump is not entirely unprecedented. But his only precedents are people like Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. Corey Robin’s position is implicitly that Nixon was just business as usual, which requires that Watergate was just a political hatchet job. It was not. But that highlights the way in which Trump is truly unprecedented, which is the extent to which the ruling class is just tired of being extorted by midlevel management like the Clintons, and ready to chuck all this democracy shit down the crapper, where it belongs.

Hidari@61 cites some newspaper endorsements and politicians. Well, the support for Trump in the news columns was vastly more important than Clinton’s support on the editorial page. There is a little precedent for Trump in the newspaper’s acceptance of Reagan’s habitual mendacity. But Reagan acted like a nice guy, doing a professional job of it too. Trump acts like a villain in pro wrestling. The billions of dollars of free publicity made Trump from a loon birther into the dude who trashed the Republican Party.

Hidari@76 seems to think that democracy was never about us versus them. It always was, back when it was us Equals in Sparta versus the helots and us Athenians versus Megara and Euboea and Samos and Delos etc., and us Romans versus everybody else in the world. And it was to be expected of Sanders, who has never been a leftist. There is nothing at all surprising about Sanders supporting imperialism, it is because he is a democrat that he does. (But the link is incorrect in thinking there is no difference between a government that functions partly as a redistributor of land on its frontiers to broad segments of the population—which it did—and a government that sends armies and navies out into the world to win an empire for the wealthy.)

ph@70 relies on taking at face value the vague excuses (not even justified by details, so far as I know) for McCabe’s dismissal, ignoring the blatant interventions of Trump. The discovery that the FISA court uses crap evidence like the Steele dossier means nothing, because FISA always accepts any evidence, no matter how crappy. The comment also assumes that Comey’s notorious interventions in the campaign didn’t reflect political enmity to Clinton and favoritism to Trump.

Non-stories like Clinton cash and email servers and Benghazi were deliberately inflated and kept alive by media support, by the media owners’ support, just as similar nonsense was kept alive for Clinton’s entire political life. The blithe presumption this stuff didn’t come directly from rich people funding their hobbyhorse falsifies the facts. The vast right wing conspiracy was vast mostly in the bank accounts of its funding fathers, but it was indeed a thing.

Clinton’s real record in the Senate and State showed she was only qualified to serve the status quo. But “Lock her up!” was lunacy. I have no use for Sanders, but the media froze him out, while promoting Trump. This was the owners’ policy (and the advertisers’.) Those are technically people, but they most certainly are not the people.

Trump will never have the support of all the ruling class, because they are his rivals, and vice versa. The whole point of democratic elections is to contest the strength of the rulers’ factions, to more or less peacefully resolve particular disputes, in the greater interests of the whole project of national conquest and empire. That’s what democracy is. When Trump wants to drain the swamp, he wants to get rid of the upstarts who wag their mandates in their betters’ faces, like a school marm scolding a wayward child. He wants to stop politicians getting billions of dollars at election time, so that somebody can just sign an order and get things done. (And why shouldn’t HE be the one?)

The notion that this is revolution is vile beyond my eloquence.


Bruce Baugh 03.22.18 at 3:36 pm

This is my take on continuity and Trump:

Stage 0 cancer and stage 4 cancer are the same cancer, and call for some of the same treatment. But there are also new features at each stage of cancer – things you need to do in hopes of containing the cancer and forestalling its advance to later stages, and in hopes of rolling it back or even squashing it outright. That’s why we identify separate stages, in fact. Quoting from a typical definition:

Stage 0. This stage describes cancer in situ, which means “in place.” Stage 0 cancers are still located in the place they started and have not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumor with surgery.

Stage I. This stage is usually a small cancer or tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues. It also has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. It is often called early-stage cancer.

Stage II and III. These stages indicate larger cancers or tumors that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue. They may have also spread to lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.

Stage IV. This stage means that the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. It may also be called advanced or metastatic cancer.

Same deal with the Republican Party and its network of funders, supporters, etc. It’s true that this administration is in specific ways not as bad as some of its predecessors. It’s also that some of the people I’ve known who died of cancer in its later stages had specific relief from some things that had been bad parts of their experience at earlier stages. They were still worsening, and they still died.

Living in history matters. Doing things like packing the higher courts with hardcore reactionaries is bad when you do it for four years, or eight. The packing itself is still the same kind of thing, but when you do it for twenty or thirty years, the effects are worse, because there’s more of it and the damage accumulates. “This is just more of the same” doesn’t help a damn bit in assessing how in what ways we should be worried now.


ph 03.22.18 at 11:25 pm

@84 Much of what you write is quite right: the rivalry for power is particularly sharp, but as a student of revolutions, some of your remarks strike me as very odd.

Most troubling is your ‘imagined’ revolution versus the real things. The English revolution was both an attack on elites and the victory of extreme social conservatism of a particularly odious sort, not to mention an anti-democratic military state. The French revolutions are just that. Pendulum swings of one sort, or another. Even within the period of 1789 to 1799, we can count several identifiable revolutions. Haiti offers very complicated examples.
I hope you’ll agree that as much as we can discover/create ‘continuity’ in patterns of human action, which must be by their very nature be highly repetitive, social interactions are not stable, and have no agency carrying them in one direction, or another, according to any moral virtue. The agents/actors are human, governed primarily by self-interest, corrupt, flawed, confused, conflicted, and no matter how smitten with the powers of second sight as they might believe quite in the dark about the unfolding of events – imminent and long-term. There was no ‘golden age’ of revolutions and never will be. Both are narrations designed for what purpose? That seems the better question.

Trump is hated by all the right people, and the fact that many I respect also loathe Trump, frankly means very little. Primarily because I’m certain I’d be reading catastrophic predictions of the dire future we all face no matter which clown R happened to be holding office. Trump is an oligarch, but there’s enough peasant in him for me in the most vulgar sense of the word, for me to cut him some slack.

Good times!


ph 03.23.18 at 12:15 am

Should have stuck this in. Mark Penn, the Clinton insider has a new book. The Mail piece teases with the salacious, but is very good on highly-educated ‘flat-earth elites’ and their intense belief in Trump laundering Russian money in exchange for election tampering. Penn makes the same point as others: that 100 k in FB adds is unlikely to make much difference against a 1.2 billion Hillary spend.

Featured is an extremely impressive list of reasons Hillary gives to herself and potential donors! why she lost. It’s long and she’s evidently intent on adding to it! Lucky Dems!


ph 03.23.18 at 12:15 am


Hidari 03.23.18 at 9:13 am


‘What is different about Trump is the combination of mental instability and his unwillingness or inability to put lipstick on a pig. That is why so many neocons and liberal interventionists are opposed to him. They want proxy wars or actual American involvement in more wars, but it is much harder to sell our good intentions or keep a straight face about it with some buffoon who openly celebrates torture, advocates going after the families of terrorists, taking the oil of countries we invade and applauding death squads in the Philippines. I was going to add giving Jerusalem to Israel while pretending to be an honest broker, but some prominent Democrats cheered that one.’

Yes! It’s not as if there aren’t a million good reasons to loathe Trump. Mainstream Democrats have gone out of their way to find bad ones. Remember Orwell’s Insight: most political language is not only a lie, but says the opposite of the truth. When Democrats accuse Trump of being a ‘liar’ what they actually mean is that he tells the truth. Trump openly boasts of torture, of the United States bombing Iraq for oil, that the United States is not exceptional, but is, instead, a utility maximising state like any other. These things are all unsayable (or were) in ‘polite’ American discourse. Obama’s blather was much more to the taste of American elites, as were Clinton’s ramblings about the United States being the world’s ‘indispensable nation’ (other nations, therefore, presumably being dispensable ). And so on.

It’s noticeable here that invariably (invariably) despite all the ramblings about ‘fascism’, when the US does in fact behave like a fascist regime (i.e. in terms of its foreign policy) this has bipartisan backing. CF the recent disgraceful vote on Yemen (to be fair, proposed by Sanders) the Nazi style genocide in which has the support not just of the Republicans but also of mainstream Democrats.

@81 ‘ People don’t do open colonial wars anymore.’

The word ‘open’ is doing a lot of work there. Incidentally it’s objectively not true that all (I know you didn’t say this, but you implied it) natural resources are available within national boundaries. For example, look at the wars in DRC, fuelled in no small measure by the ‘West’ (a euphemism). Do we think that this is in any way connected with the fact that DRC, allegedly, sits on $24 trillion worth of natural resources, including coltan, essential for Iphones etc. which cannot be mined within the US? Or what about the US’ oh so noble (and bipartisan) undeclared war on Venezuela? Is this wholly and completely unrelated to Venezuela’s possession of the largest oil reserves on planet Earth?

Nazi imperialism was caused by ideology yes (and that’s all bourgeois historians want to talk about) but it was also caused by the economic need for natural resources. ‘Everyone’ knows about the battle of Stalingrad. Far less well known is that this was only a ‘way station’ in the Nazi plans. The real goal of this operation (i.e. what they were going to do after they took Stalingrad) was to capture the oil fields of Grozny and Maikop. Hitler’s main purpose in attacking the Ukraine was to seize its grain. And so on.

So again, we see that in terms of foreign policy, which no centrist Democrat wants to talk about, American foreign policy goals are different from those of Nazi Germany. But the difference is qualitative, not quantitative. And Trump, who points out (correctly) that the attack on Iraq was based on lies, and was all about oil, blows the lid off the American ‘cover story’ of human rights and democracy etc. For this he can never be forgiven.


Layman 03.23.18 at 10:30 am

Hidari: “But this would have to be much bigger/worse than 9/11 for ordinary people to decide that ‘democracy has to go’”

Apparently all it makes is (false) claims of the wrong people voting.

“Claims of large-scale voter fraud are not true, but that has not stopped a substantial number of Republicans from believing them. But how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem.”


MisterMr 03.23.18 at 11:45 am

@steven t johnson 84

“…a shaky underconsumptionist thesis that ignores international economy, especially international finance. One of the dominant trends in politics is the difficulty of sustaining the US role in the world financial order. It was the first Bush who firmly committed the US to a policy of permanent war. The US ruling class has fished in troubled waters, and now its agents make sure the waters are always troubled.”

I think that, on the opposite, the role international finance is central in an underconsumptionist thesis, since the idea is not that there is an actual underconsumption, but rather that the growth in debt (and therefore in the size of “finance” relative to the real economy) is necessary to avoid an underconsumption crisis.

In the 19th century colonial powers stiffed colonies with debt, and then sent gunboats when colonies couldn’t pay back; today what’s different is that the USA learned to stimulate the economy by going itself into debt, but is in a situation where other economies are used to be net exporters and so to speak to depend on demand created in the USA, which is sort of the opposite of what happened in the 19th century, while American capitalists need both to keep the ball rolling and to intercept most of the profits that come from this.


bob mcmanus 03.23.18 at 11:46 am

*Some people might mention a 9/11 type event here, functioning as a Reichstag Fire type event. But this would have to be much bigger/worse than 9/11 for ordinary people to decide that ‘democracy has to go’.

I tend toward the imaginatively apocalyptic and catastrophic, but as Trump downspirals and the covert military coup we are suffering gets overt, I think the flip to fascism, or more likely military dictatorship, will be fairly easy. So much history and precedents people are ignoring, what happens in countries with strong militaries after 15 years of losing wars?

Trump (and generals) finds an excuse and nukes Tehran or Pyongyang.

Then what? No, not mad. The US becomes a pariah state, trade collapses, multiple declarations of war against us, everybody taking potshots, rioters in Germany and Bahrain kill US citizens en masse.

Domestically, what people calling for the overthrow of the gov’t in time of war? That will get a disproportionate response. You ain’t seen repression until Sessions. with wartime powers, accesses big data. As domestic disorder increases, the Repubs bring out their guns, and we have 20-30% of the population in brown shirts.

Etc. Somebody else write the rest. Won’t happen. Could.


ph 03.23.18 at 12:03 pm

@90 Bunk, de-bunk, de-bunked

From that notorious pro-Trump rag; the Atlantic:

Democrats have sometimes expressed equally worrying views in polls. In the summer of 2016, for example, a pollster found that two-thirds of Democratic voters would trade an unconstitutional third term for Obama if it meant avoiding either Clinton or Bush. Perhaps you think, They must have been joking, and would never have followed through. But that’s just the point: What happens in polling often stays in polling.

CBS quoting the bunk authors retreating from their own ‘hypothetical’ situation:

“Were Trump to seriously propose postponing the election, there would be a torrent of opposition, which would most likely include prominent Republicans,” they wrote in the Post. “Financial markets would presumably react negatively to the potential for political instability. And this is to say nothing of the various legal and constitutional complications that would immediately become clear. Citizens would almost certainly form their opinions amid such tumult, which does not at all resemble the context in which our survey was conducted…Postponing the 2020 presidential election is not something that Trump or anyone in his administration has even hinted at…”

This crap was dealt with last year when the crap poll was released.

But perhaps CBS, or the Post, would like to commission a poll today asking Dems whether Obama should have delayed the 2016 election until he could ensure the election would be held without interference. Or, if Trump should be removed from office even if no hard evidence of collusion with the Russians can be proven? If the press is any indication, large percentages of Dems want to invalidate the 2016 and are daily on the edge of their seats waiting for some, hell any, excuse to do so.

Won’t the generals step up? The orange-haired Manchurian candidate is in office and selling us out right this frigging minute! Help!!!

That’s not hypothetical, that’s daily reality for the highly-educated ‘flat-earth elites.’

What percentage of Dems would vote for delay, or a do-over?


Lee A. Arnold 03.23.18 at 12:14 pm

Faustusnotes #81: “nothing to say about these modern fundamentals”

They had plenty to say, but they categorized them as issues of the conservative counterrevolutions. Fascism adopts them as required. They are parts of a local epidemiology of fascism, not its underlying etiology.


Faustusnotes 03.23.18 at 12:19 pm

Hidari, everyone knows that Stalingrad was a way station to the oil.why do you think nobody knows this? These kinds of statements – liberals don’t know this, nobody knows that – are unprovable rhetorical guff. They set up your rhetoric but they simply aren’t correct.

I also wonder how you can tread the line that Trump was just open about America’s real imperialist goals, while also believing that Clinton was more militarist than Trump. It’s particularly difficult given that the people you claim were always doing just what Trump is openly saying didn’t actually steal much of Iraq’s oil. And now Trump has decided to appoint Bolton, which is going to be a rocky road for those of us living in his ideal killing zone. What resources do you think Bolton wants to take from north Korea? What benefit does this coming war offer the ruling elites? I think you don’t have a coherent story, and your idea that fascism can only arise from 1930s style class conflict can’t explain why an oligarch in a perfect position to loot civil society for himself and his mates wants to bring the whole thing crashing down in a nuclear war.


steven t johnson 03.23.18 at 12:38 pm

ph’s implicit assertion that the Stuart Restoration was the return of humane feeling, generosity of spirit, freedom of thought and the triumph of good taste over the totalitarian horrors of the Puritan Revolution is about as sensible as the notion that there is anything peasant-like about Donald Trump. Barring a Henry Farrell type reference to some recent marvel of scholarship that decisively refutes all previous work by presenting the sound scholarship with the appropriately subtle theoretical understanding, peasants are not simply crude people. That’s merely the snobs’ view. Historically real peasants were very much about making everyone work, including the wife (whose duties included breeding farm hands,) and the children who should stop lazing in cribs. But they didn’t want to waste money on gauds and other showing off. The ability to see Donald Trump there displays all ph’s acumen at its sharpest, I think.

The disheartening convergence of views between Hidari and ph is to be expected by someone who still takes believes in Orwell. Trump’s primary foreign policy avowal is that the US is the winner. So much for his honesty! And, when Trump makes noises about Iraq being based on lies, and for oil, it is not unforgivable. The war in Iraq is a Republican Party war, and the Republican Party has forgiven Trump. Painting Trump as speaking truth to power is the kind of nonsense ph posts. If Trump weren’t lying, then we would know a lot about the US wars in Africa. Trump the truthful laying it all out for us about Niger! Welcome to ph’s world!

And, the notion that “ordinary people” have to decide that democracy has to go, before democracy has to go, is quite bizarre. It is highly unlikely the majority of people will ever reject democracy, as they get so little of it, how could they get tired of it? That is, at least, democracy as conceived as the will of the majority. Liberals define freedom as the freedom to buy and sell whatever you can afford, and their notion of democratic freedom otherwise is the absence of majority rule. (Hence the liberal hate for Venezuela.)

The people who are getting tired of democracy are the rich. The apparatus where contesting factions safely try their strength while simultaneously ensuring continuity in the national struggle for their wealth and power, that is, in ensuring that popular majorities for things like an end to losing wars or universal health insurance just don’t matter, has become not just absurdly expensive…but it’s not resolving the issues very well any more. Attack China first? Attack Russia first? Attack Iran first?

In the most recent news, Trump has launched attacks on Chinese imports, aiming at the balance of trade. In all Corey Robin’s deranged palaver about Trumpian continuity with other Republicans (but never with Democrats!) using national security as an excuse to avoid legislative approval is nicely non-continuous I think. That is a power grab worthy of a Nixon I also think.

The thing is, this is not a part of a policy of reindustrialization. Michael Hudson has explained how Trump tariffs are not a New American System. It is an economic aggression against other countries, not part of a coherent strategy for domestic economy. Trump’s tariffs will hurt some segments of the business community, including some industry, even as it helps some others. The thing is, the unilateralism of Trump’s act is precisely the kind of authoritarian resolution of internecine conflicts with the ruling class provided by a turn to fascist methods, as opposed to democratic methods.

In addition to disciplining the wealthy in the interests of the national struggle, fascist methods also discipline the middle classes, inspiring them with a call to heroism, in lieu of stepping up to the upper class. And notoriously, the lower classes get disciplined. That gets called by another name, such as death penalty for drug dealing, of course. The need for racist/nationalist/ethnic/jingo/religious appeals lies in the need to divide the lower classes. Nations that have lost their empires, or are trying to conquer new ones, don’t have the material wherewithal to pacify the lower classes, or the middle classes either for that matter, with rising material standards of living.


ph 03.23.18 at 1:35 pm

@96 I’ve tried to compliment you where I can, but I really don’t appreciate you putting words into my mouth. To your point regarding my claims about the Stuarts. I made no claim whatsoever about the Stuart Restoration. The topic is revolutions, and on that topic I’d have to check to see if what is often called the Glorious Revolution was in any sense revolutionary.

Nor did I state that Trump speaks ‘truth to power.’ I’m not sure he ever produces truth at all, at least in public. As Scott Adams and others have demonstrated conclusively, Trump simply does A B message-testing and goes with the line that gets the biggest applause. Unlike most politicians, Trump is more interested in what other people believe to be true, than any imagined deeply-held belief of his own. As a Trump supporter, I’m not sure he has any. That’s one of the reason’s I think he makes a fine president. And on the subject of truth, here’s what truth is: it’s whatever people believe it is. The definition of a ‘good deal’ is whatever the customer believes (or can be persuaded to believe is a good deal. His worst excesses are constrained by the system of checks and balances.

Trump, brimming full of crap, is by a considerable margin more honest than most politicians, and certainly the crap candidate he beat.

I’m not annoyed by your comment, but rather disappointed in your sloppy reply.


Lee A. Arnold 03.23.18 at 1:42 pm

Hidari #83: “imagine, for example, that Trump does destroy the American economy… Economic elites don’t really like fascism… they will only bankroll (and therefore permit) a fascist government to take over when the economy is tanking… as things stand the chance of fascism/dictatorship in the US is absolutely and precisely zero.”

Not absolutely and precisely. Fascism is a socio-emotional disease that is ever-latent but suddenly arises within individuals and overcomes enough of them to make political control possible. Elites do not stop it, because it the disease overcomes them too. It is a paradoxical move: it offers an “escape from an institutional deadlock… yet… it would everywhere produce sickness unto death.” (Polanyi). Whether there is an external threat or an internal threat or both, it doesn’t matter, it’s all the same. The reasons why it won’t happen to the US at this moment is because the economy is getting a little better.

However Trump’s policies are setting up the conditions for US economic distress in the decades ahead, and it may get brutal. The rest of the world may decide to proceed in economic growth without the US because the upcoming new trade powers (Europe, China) are finally strong enough to become trade hegemons who will be happy to do without the US. Trumpists are scaring off inventive immigrants by racism, while he lets our trade allies dangle in the breeze of his unstable dealmaking. At the same time China works hard to establish technological superiority (it’s got more STEM grads than the US has high school students), and to establish a global currency, and to get poor countries into Chinese development deals in exchange for their raw materials. This is a really dangerous combination: world alienation from the US at the same time as new alternatives for world growth arise.

The US elites will be the first to bolt, because they don’t want to get stuck paying for the budget deficits, and there will be better deals elsewhere. They are going to start taking their money to tax havens outside of the US, so they aren’t on-the-hook to pay off the big budget deficits that their own tax cuts created in the first place. Facing taxes to pay off big budget deficits inside the US? Facing better trade deals outside the US? Then investing in the US will be a loser’s game — and we’re nearly there. The US will be out-maneuvered without firing a shot.

IF no shots are fired! In fact, Trump has increased military presence in every active theatre and is about to sign a massive increase in military spending. Trump’s appointment of Iraq War neocon John Bolton to National Security Adviser signals a move to war. War spending may destroy the US economy, at the same time as war itself may accelerate the world’s displeasure with the Trumpian US. (Iraq War neocons started advising Trump during the Presidential campaign.)

These are 1930’s conditions. So at the moment, Trump is leading the parade into disaster, and fascism may be an outcome.

This is what you get when you elect a person who has run his whole life on financial shenanigans. Trump was never a great businessman, he was a con artist of debt-restructuring, tax write-offs, bankruptcy and lawsuits, working in flashy commercial real estate. Now we got his “Atlantic City plan” for the whole US. He was the P.T. Barnum of commercial real estate. He’s a poster boy for the goddamned financial crash. It looks like he jilted enough of his US business partners until he finally had to go to shady Russians for money — a fact which may finally save the country quite accidentally, by getting him impeached, maybe ending him up in jail.


Lee A. Arnold 03.23.18 at 7:07 pm

Sorry, that was candidate Ted Cruz who was shacking up with the neocons. Candidate Trump had a hodgepodge of 3rd-rate foreign policy advisers, including some anti-Muslim people.


politicalfootball 03.23.18 at 7:36 pm

Bolton is a demonstration of both the accuracy and shortcomings of Corey’s thesis. Bolton is an honored Republican eminence whose stint as UN ambassador gave him far more policy influence than any sane political party would permit. And yet, the post of national security advisor is both one that Bush never would have given him, and one from which Bolton can do much more damage.

Rice and Hadley were vile, but weren’t in Bolton’s league.


Hidari 03.23.18 at 10:24 pm

Won’t bother posting on this thread again as it’s getting silly, but just a reminder that my main point is that, right now, as things stand, there is no chance that the US will turn fascist. People replying by pointing out that if things change, radically, the US might go fascist at some undetermined point in the future, are hardly invalidating my basic point.


ph 03.24.18 at 3:28 am

@98 I fear you’re losing all perspective.

A move to war assumes a state of peace which the citizens of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of recipients of US military ‘aid’ can attest does not exist and has not existed for lo these many years.

As for a fascist government ruling the United States. That will certainly occur when a majority of Americans on both sides of the political divide decide to scrap elections and the US constitution.

So, before allow your terror to take complete hold of all reason, perhaps you could reflect upon two facts: a/ it’s not going to happen, and b/ a great many bad things can occur nonetheless.

Finally, on political appointments.

I’m so old I can remember how Democrats planned to stop Reagan cold early in his administration by backing a strike by air-traffic controllers – a group deemed essential to commerce and safety. Reagan fired them and never looked back. One of the reasons the pundits and the elites are so desperate to destabilize the Trump administration is that every day the US economy tunes along and government keeps functioning without the ‘essential guidance’ of Jonah Goldberg, Ezra Klein, and the rest of the VSP’s he threatens their revenue stream, and more important, their status. I watch Brooks and Shields lament the current state of affairs on PBS and ‘so many of their friends who used to be in government’ worry that without their years of experience (leading to Iraq, Libya, the great housing bubble, and the Wall St. bailout, America is turning into a third-world country.

Trump has already called America’s infra-structure that of a third-world country, and the majority outside of the beltway who don’t fly business-class or piggy-back on corporate jets, have had that particular fact rubbed in their faces for the last few decades. We’ll see what happens. Trump gambled in signing the omnibus bill, knowing that he needs the GOP to get anything done. Trump’s base will stay with him for the first term, I suspect, no matter how many compromises he makes.

Until Democrats come up a comprehensible plan for the future, they’ll be forced to pray that Trump self-destructs and we can see how well that approach has worked out so far.
As noted the fact that Trump simply message tests lines with crowds to see what works, I suspect that the Dem economic message will have to be very similar to that of Trump/Sanders to get any similar traction and support. Pretty much everyone agrees that nobody had a clue what Hillary planned to do, or how do to it. The Dem luminaries made just that observation standing in the smoking ruins of election night.

The problem is no ‘Democrat’ besides Sanders has the credibility to claim that she/he speaks for the great unwashed. That’s the core problem Dems face – less integrity than a man with none at all. And, as the president for our time would put it:

Not good!


Lee A. Arnold 03.24.18 at 7:03 am

Hidari #101: “it’s getting silly… People replying that if things change, radically, the US might go fascist at some undetermined point in the future, are hardly invalidating my basic point.”

To review, your basic point in #8 was that fascism needs austerity and a strong and radical left. But these are only short episodes in the continuum of danger. What fascism needed was a failing market system and institutional deadlock in dealing with it. This is a description of our current condition. Things need not change radically from here to make it worse — and to get to fascism. (I sketched a possible scenario based on possible changes in world trade, above.)

Does fascism need its own movement? No, that is the culmination, the last thing that happens. Polanyi described the syndrome in his time, and the formation of a new party was not a salient characteristic:

“A country approaching the fascist phase showed symptoms among which the existence of a fascist movement proper was not necessarily one. At least as important signs were the spread of irrationalistic philosophies, racialist aesthetics, anticapitalistic demagogy, heterodox currency views, criticism of the party system, widespread disparagement of the ‘regime,’ or whatever was the name given to the existing democratic setup… In no case was an actual revolution against constituted authority launched; fascist tactics were invariably those of a sham rebellion arranged with the tacit approval of the authorities who pretended to have been overwhelmed by force…” (The Great Transformation, p. 238)

The 2016 election showed, once again, how easily an economically distressed populace will fall for a demagogue promising to break institutional deadlock by use of his personal strength instead of facts. The political system’s reaction to him has not been reassuring; it is another form of the deadlock: His own party the Republicans (or half of it) is waiting on evidence of guilt in unrelated criminal matters before removing him constitutionally, so as not to upset his Republican voters. The opposing party the Democrats (or half of it) may try to alleviate some of the economic distress by strengthening the welfare state, but only if their voters surge in the next election, and only if the party musters an intellectual understanding which it has never possessed.

There is still no general solution for current problems except to foist them onto powerless individuals, and there is no plan to ameliorate the next crisis of the market economy.

The very recent spate of commentators (here, and elsewhere) writing that fascism has been avoided in the US (or even go so far as to write that it cannot happen) rely upon a misunderstanding of what fascism was, or take too large a comfort in a narrow diversion from it. That may not be good enough, next time. Far from being silly, I see this as Corey Robin’s basic point, too.


nastywoman 03.24.18 at 7:54 am

”And, as the president for our time would put it:
Not good!”

but just for curiosities sake: ”Bolton”? (John)

– and as I know some… some ”kind of you dudes” for whom ”Bolton” is the ”total” –
(like: ”Wollt ihr den Totalen Krieg?”) – dealbraker?

So by PH – ”good”?


”Not good”??!


nastywoman 03.24.18 at 8:03 am

”Not good”??!


As it has been proven by now – that in the very short US history there – probably? – never ever was anybody – who more successfully – in a shorter time – destroyed any ”continuity of conservatism” – and Von Clownstick -(by employing them for just a short time) destroyed some of my favorite – in nearly no time – will he hopefully – also completely ”deconstruct” this Bolton Dude also in the coming month?

”And, as the president for our time would put it:


ph 03.24.18 at 9:42 am

@104 Sometimes you’re just too obtuse! Sorry! Bolton? I expect Trump to break him just as he’s cycled through the other experts. As for deal-breakers.

On my walk today, glorious – cherry blossoms in bloom – it struck me that what we really need is a shrine, not dedicated to Trump, but rather to the man-god of our age – Saint Obama the Peace Bringer. I see a big upside in statuary art, t-shirts, and pendants. He could do laying on of hands, and the faithful could share testimonials right out Kubrik – ‘I can stand!!’

As the VSPs have noted, working for Trump is something that the ‘better sort’ simply will not do. Serving in high office for Trump definitely puts a stink of a particular kind on a CV. That said, I don’t see Trump being particularly picky – have you noticed? As I mentioned, the base will stick with him, I suspect, right through to the second swearing-in, – circle that date!

Historians are going to have a field day with the national liberal media’s fixation with Trump’s semen leavings – Anderson Cooper, no less. ‘And then did he? – I don’t mean to pry – but did he ask you to? – Can you give our viewers a sense of ? All in the public interest, of course. And all this while issues go ignored – the disgusting commanding all discussion. That, and ‘space aliens hacked my election.’

I’m actually contemplating contacting the authors of the Republicans might want to delay elections in the future to see how willing they might be to do a study positing an Obama orchestrated delay of 2016 for Dems.

One more and then I’m done. Anyone familiar with the visual rhetoric of the French revolution will be at least somewhat familiar with the reconstruction of Marie Antoinette as a mythical beast. As Trump really is the embodiment of the Lizard King, shouldn’t we have all the politicos heads stuck on the bodies of say – marine iguanas – big, powerful beasts.

@ 103 Grade F – for favoring theory over fact, evidence, and context.

It’s on you and the rest of the ‘fascism is right around the bend’ to present a path by which freedom of thought, the rights of the individual, political parties, and freedom of expression get tossed, with the support, tacit or active, of the majority of US citizens – none of whom, to the best of my knowledge, are remotely interested in cancelling elections.

It simply isn’t enough to say that some economic conditions have been met, therefore. You ignore two centuries plus of US history, all US elections, the civil war, the bill of rights, the constitution – and then insist that Republicans would forego elections when, in fact, they have gained control over much of the government simply by winning elections.

Fascism isn’t an ideology – its a history specific to particular times and places – it can be the present in the right setting (not the US, I’m afraid) – it might be the future – in nations with no comparable constitution, separation of powers, and history of elections. Fascism is clowns dressed up in costumes working to terrorize the populace on behalf of the ruling class. The ruling class in the US doesn’t need to resort to fascism. They’re already in charge and pay the political class to serve them.

Get it?


Hidari 03.24.18 at 10:09 am

OK so I was lying the last time when I said that that was my last shot. Maybe I should run for President (but for which party?). But this really is my last shot.

A good article in Foreign Policy (who’da thunk it), on the predictable hysteria about the John Bolton affair from those desperate to pretend that the ironically named ‘Democrats’ constitute some kind of ‘alternative’ to the Republicans.

‘There seem to be two general reactions to the latest upheaval in Trump’s topsy-turvy. One interpretation is that this latest reshuffle amounts to Trump getting rid of the “grown-ups” who have been trying to manage the tweeter-in-chief for the past year and replacing them with advisors who see the world as he does and will let “Trump be Trump.”’ (This is of course the response of the Serious People’ in the media).

‘The second interpretation is more alarmist and basically tells you to start digging that backyard bomb shelter. In this view, the departures of Tillerson and McMaster and the arrivals of Bolton, Pompeo, and Haspel herald the ascendance of a hawkish contingent that will tear up the Iran deal, reinstate the torture regime, and eventually start a war with North Korea that goes way beyond a simple “bloody nose.” ‘ (This is of course the view of those on this thread who spend their time running around with their hands on their heads screaming ‘Oh noes! Trump is Teh Hitler!’ and preparing* for a fascist coup that will never come).

The reality, of course: ‘the real lesson of the Bolton appointment has less to do with Bolton himself and more about what it says about the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. You’re undoubtedly going to read a lot of heartfelt, knickers-in-a-twist commentaries in the next few weeks about the dangers of appointing a wild-eyed radical to such a sensitive position, but the plain fact is that Bolton is not really an outlier within the U.S. foreign-policy community. It’s not like Trump just appointed Medea Benjamin (from the left) or Rand Paul (from the right) or even an experienced and knowledgeable contrarian such as Charles W. Freeman Jr. or Andrew Bacevich. Instead, he appointed someone with decidedly hawkish views but who is still within the “acceptable” consensus in Washington.

Look at Bolton’s pedigree and career. He’s a graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School. He worked at Covington & Burling, a venerable D.C. law firm where former Secretary of State Dean Acheson also worked. He has been a senior fellow for years at the conservative but mainstream American Enterprise Institute. He writes frequently for obscure, wild-and-crazy, “radical” publications including, er … the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and even Foreign Policy. Is this your idea of a “fringe” figure?

True, Bolton was a vocal supporter of the Iraq War, but that hardly makes him a weirdo. As I’m sure he’d be the first to point out, a lot of other people drank that particular Kool-Aid, including Hillary Clinton…And don’t forget that the other geniuses who dreamed up and sold that disaster — people such as William Kristol, James Woolsey, Robert Kagan, Bret Stephens, Max Boot, Eliot Cohen, David Frum, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. — are still respected figures in the foreign-policy establishment despite having never admitted they were wrong or expressed any public regret for launching a disastrous war in which hundreds of thousands of people died.

Like Trump, Bolton seems particularly worried about Iran and North Korea, but so are most members of Congress and much of the think tank world in D.C., too. Indeed, there are plenty of people who strongly support the current nuclear deal but who also believe the United States should get tougher with Tehran. Nor is Bolton the only person in Washington who has proposed taking military action against North Korea. After all, it was Bolton’s predecessor, the now-departing McMaster, who kept making the case for the “bloody nose” approach.

Bolton is also something of an Islamophobe and is deeply suspicious of international institutions, but that hardly makes him unique in U.S. foreign-policy circles either. He seems especially fond of using military force, but how many prominent foreign-policy intellectuals are openly opposed to it and willing to stand up and say so? I’d say damn few, because nobody angling for a top job in Washington wants to be seen as “soft.” Remember how Democrats and Republicans alike applauded Trump when he authorized some strategically meaningless cruise missile strikes on Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria? That simple fact goes a long way toward explaining how the United States came to be waging wars of various sorts in a dozen or more countries, with no end in sight and with hardly anyone saying boo about it. Bolton is just a more outspoken member of the consensus here, too.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to “normalize” this appointment or suggest that it shouldn’t concern you. Rather, I’m suggesting that if you are worried about Bolton, you should ask yourself the following question: What sort of political system allows someone with his views to serve in high office, where he helps talk the country into a disastrous war, never expresses a moment’s regret for his errors, continues to advocate for more of the same for the next decade, and then gets a second chance to make the same mistakes again?

So by all means worry. But the real problem isn’t Bolton — it’s a system that permits people like him to screw up and move up again and again.’

Precisely. Clinton and Trump and Obama and Bolton and McMaster and all the rest of them (even Sanders) are symptoms of a diseased and rotten imperial system, which the Democrats and the Republicans both collude in propping up.

*Though their preparations never seem to get very far do they?


nastywoman 03.24.18 at 10:23 am

”The very recent spate of commentators (here, and elsewhere) writing that fascism has been avoided in the US (or even go so far as to write that it cannot happen) rely upon a misunderstanding of what fascism was”

As much as one can see all the parallels of Von Clownstick to German ”Fascists” and ”Fascism” – and still thinks that in the dictionary definition of ”Fascism” or ”Fascists” – F…face von Clownstick is a nearly perfect ”Fascist role model” – as little it is believable that IT ever could happen in my homeland?
-(even if the F… Moron hires a lot more Boltons)

And the major proof actually is NOT ”political” BUT ”cultural”.
As a country where a movie like ”Black Panther” -(and ”entertainment” and ”comedy”) – is ”ruling” to such an utmost degree NEVER EVER will become ”fascist” –

There are just far too many Americans to make fun of it!



nastywoman 03.24.18 at 10:34 am

– and furthermore – the fact that in a nearly totally comedy free zone like CT some Academics -(I’m not one of them) – dispute what ”Fascism” really is…
or was? –
years and years after… no – not WW2 – but Mel Brooks ”Producers” – is another proof that IT never can happen – here.

I totally would conflict with CT’s… policy of passing certain postings!


roger gathmann 03.24.18 at 10:57 am

Given our current situation in terms of inequality, racism, and the global threat of massive environmental degradation: isn’t it the case that any of the Republicans on offer in 2016 were going to become, automatically, the worst president? Imagine Jeb Bush in that office. I can’t really see a lot of difference, save for the fact that the Bush’s know more than to put their face on white supremecy – they are good at subordinating that tactic to their camp followers. Otherwise – what would be different?
Oh, I suppose I should say – besides the fact that Bill Krystal would be extolling X GOP president as the best thing that has ever happened, instead of the opposite.


J-D 03.24.18 at 11:30 am


I’m so old I can remember how Democrats planned to stop Reagan cold early in his administration by backing a strike by air-traffic controllers – a group deemed essential to commerce and safety. Reagan fired them and never looked back.

In a show of true bipartisanship, congressional Democrats stood behind the president. [Reagan’s Secretary of Transportation Drew] Lewis phoned Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts who told him, “I’ll help get you Democratic support.” To be sure, some Democrats made some unflattering noise, but no major Democratic action was taken against the president for political advantage. The president of the AFL-CIO, Lane Kirkland, also offered support to the administration.


bruce wilder 03.24.18 at 12:24 pm

@ bob mcmanus

thanks for mentioning at least one sliver of present reality: “the covert military coup”

I freely admit I tend to get caught up in thinking about the actual history, when the rhetoric around here turns to “parallels” in the past. So much of the media discourse is buried in re-enacting an imagined Watergate, to come to CT and see pompous, ignorant discussion of a “fascism” no one has a clue about is . . . boring. I thought for a moment I actually wanted to ask ph which side in the English Civil War he thought represented an “odious social conservatism”.

Is there a reason the reality of the present moment in politics can get so little airtime?


Layman 03.24.18 at 1:22 pm

Hidari: “…but just a reminder that my main point is that, right now, as things stand, there is no chance that the US will turn fascist…”

Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but what you’ve said in support of yours is hardly convincing. If you said you had no idea what the chances were, now, that would be convincing, and perfectly reasonable.


Layman 03.24.18 at 1:28 pm

kidneystones @ 93, I read that debunking and wasn’t particularly impressed. If the gist of the debunking was that the poll authors led respondents to that view, imagine how easy it would be for the right politicians to lead them to that view. As for the fact that Democrats sometimes have similar views, of course they do; but that only serves to support my point – that it is not unthinkable or impossible that the people, properly led, might kill what’s left of our democracy.


steven t johnson 03.24.18 at 4:14 pm

Hidari@101 “… my main point is that, right now, as things stand, there is no chance that the US will turn fascist. People replying by pointing out that if things change, radically, the US might go fascist at some undetermined point in the future, are hardly invalidating my basic point.”

Apparently I have failed completely to be clear. This formulation draws an imaginary distinction between fascism and democracy, which are on a continuum. Democratic nations like England, France and the US conducted genocidal wars, which certainly seems fascistic enough. The democratic revolution in Turkey immediately resorted to genocidal ethnic cleansing a part of replacing Ottoman subjects with Turkish nationals. As to going fascist, I suppose the criterion is…what? Canceling elections? We already have elections that don’t matter. A government that whips up a nationalist frenzy in the population in lieu of actually doing good for the majority, instead of serving select interest? Have that too. Repression of the left? Did that in the Forties, and everybody here is relieved to be purged of the totalitarianism. Militarism? In spades. Mass incarceration? World leadership.

A fetish for the leader who tears up the old restrictions and GETS THINGS DONE? Trump’s working on it, which is exactly why he is indeed discontinuous with anybody except Nixon (well, maybe Jackson,) except that he has the tacit support of the ruling class, which will only tolerate criticisms from the right…which play right into Trump’s hands. This is true no matter what Corey Robin wants to sell us. Police action against “elites,” which usually means democratic politicians rather than owners? Trump’s working on that too.

As the old wag has it, history doesn’t repeat: It merely rhymes. US fascism will not look anything like Nazi Germany or Franco Spain or Msgr. Tiso’s puppet regime or State Shinto in Japan. It won’t even look like today’s Ukraine, another fascist regime. When the US goes fascist will be an occasion for debate and denial, just as it is for Ukraine.

Fascism I think is a mobilization of the nation for empire (lost, to be reconquered, or a new nation seeking to conquer.) There is a de jure discrimination against some of the population, as a divide et impera strategy. There is a regimentation of the economy for militarism, starting with taxes and budgets, but turning to directed economy as more efficient for warmaking. The owners no longer have a free hand but their interests are protected overall, especially by control of the labor movement. There is a resort to a mass ideology of heroism and sacrifice to substitute for material service to the interests of the working class majority. There is a policy of extralegal action, force, threats of violence and violence, directed primarily at the scapegoat targets. But oppositional elites (primarily politicians brandishing worn out democratic credentials but also owners who lose out in the struggle to gain favor,) are also targeted. Ethnic cleansing, mass expulsions and massacres are tools of the nation, under fascism just as they are under democracy.

The advent of fascism in the US will always be a matter of debate and denial precisely because it is continuous with US democracy.


ph 03.25.18 at 7:18 am

@115 Sorry, not much better.

Conflating free elections, a constitution, a free press, an independent judiciary, and the separation of powers with any historical iterations of ‘fascism’ up to the present simply isn’t going to fly.

The empire idea certainly is an expression of power dynamics and within that context we can distinguish between elites – of the right gender, income, and ethnicity/kin getting all the good stuff and the rest getting screwed by degree. Was Napoleon a fascist before he was an emperor, or was he more a military dictator? You’re on firmer ground here.

But, we’re left with questions of degree and imperfect systems vs. some yet to be manifest ideal. China’s neighbors (Tibet comes to mind) might be tempted to see modern China as an empire. Certainly soviet satellite states were in no doubt who pulled the strings.

So, given the absence of any better evidence, I return to history and context to restate the obvious – democracy as far as gender is concerned is less than a century old. We’ve been chipping away slowly at the traditions and currently live in what can fairly be called ‘a golden age.’ The ‘fascist’ United States elected an African-American (who I didn’t much like) twice. A women (I also didn’t much like) could very well have become president.

For all those historically denied in real, or practical, terms the chance to participate at the highest level has never been better. We have elections in a number of nations that actually mean rather a lot, especially to those living in nations where elections mean nothing.

To fail to distinguish and lament the difference insults everyone living in a modern totalitarian state, and all those in the more advanced nations denied full citizenship until very recently.

Insisting no democratic progress has been made is as profoundly insulting to the poor, women, and people of color as any argument I can imagine.

So, I bid you adieu!


John Holbo 03.25.18 at 7:24 am

“So, I bid you adieu!”

I have my doubts. (I’m an empiricist.)


ph 03.25.18 at 9:28 am

@117 Ho-ho! The ‘I commend you to god’ was specific to steven.

We’ll see how little I have to add. I suspect – not much, praise be to etc.


ph 03.25.18 at 9:43 am

Hey, John.

This is only remotely on-topic – but is a health concern regarding one of my favorite complaints – legalizing the ‘perfectly’ harmless and much better than alcohol – marijuana

Great snaps of the the shrunken hippocampus! And that is it for me.

Light-up kids! It’s harmless!


nastywoman 03.25.18 at 11:30 am

”So, I bid you adieu!”

Oh please don’t go!! – not only are you the only one who talks to me on CT – you are also the only (commenter) who is -(besides Lord Blep) kind of ”funny” – or let’s say it even more as a compliment: ”Poetic” – Like describing your walk ”glorious – cherry blossoms in bloom – it struck me that what we really need is a shrine, not dedicated to Trump, but rather to the man-god of our age – Saint Obama the Peace Bringer.”

I loved that – as I just look at this ”shrine” – opposite of my desk with the photo with ME and Obama when I had the incredible chance to meet him in Baden-Baden and was completely in awe -(not so much about his ”Peace Bringing”) – but about the ”bringing” of a lot of sanity -(and humor – especially humor) to the American Landscape.

And as I got a kind of (chilly?) laugh this morning – reading comments from commenters on Breitbart – who thought the ”dealbreaker” for their love for the F… face was him signing something which didn’t have the dough for ‘a wall” in it –
Well – trying to be ”poetic” to – What a wonderful morning with the blue sky above the Lake of Constance!!


”Precisely. Clinton and Trump and Obama and Bolton and McMaster and all the rest of them (even Sanders) are symptoms of a…”

ooooh my god a… ”Western”?…
I mean not a ”Western” – ”WesternMovie”… I mean a ”Western Democracy”??

No? –
You mean:
”…a diseased and rotten imperial system, which the Democrats and the Republicans both collude in propping up.”
BUT that sounds so much worst than those ”on this thread who spend their time running around with their hands on their heads screaming ‘Oh noes! Trump is Teh Hitler!’ and preparing* for a fascist coup that will never come)”.


Lee A. Arnold 03.25.18 at 11:48 am

I imagine that the intellectual confusion and dismissal was similar in the 1920’s-30’s. It’s interesting that today so many intellectuals think that fascism originated from outside the individual, as some sort of organized imposition of structure by a vanguard. So today, we will see it coming: “It can’t happen here.” (Or else they think that our current democratic institutions and media culture are strong enough and varietal enough to withstand it.)

But the evidence is that fascism arose spontaneously within individuals. It’s almost a pure emotion in the anger & hatred quadrant. It suddenly swept up a lot of people into supporting “doing something”, to cut through the confusion and deadlock. Yet it emotionally disregards facts, logic, science, humane values. It’s not a political-economic form in the same category with liberalism, conservatism, capitalism, socialism. These are more or less democratic. Fascism is an anti-democratic disease. Yet it adopts the facade of democratic elections.

Perhaps now fascism has taken a different form, to update to the times. Perhaps we are seeing a world-wide electoral resurgence which will be stanched, but that something larger has been going on underneath. Bertram Gross’s book, Friendly Fascism (1980) argued the case that we have been moving into it for decades, and that an open resurgence of fascism may not even be required, in the clutch of deadlock in economic catastrophe. The military-industrial-cultural machinery is complete, with all the appearances of allowing freedom.

Mann and Ornstein’s book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks (2012) documents the legislative history which clearly shows that in the US the deadlock has been engineered almost entirely by the Republican Party over the last 25 years. Otherwise the workers would certainly be in much better shape. This should put an end to the endless mantra by the intellectuals that the Clintons and Obama are the big villains here, but it will not put an end to it: intellectuals have emotions too. There is no doubt that the Democratic Party believes the mainstream economics of the last 40 years, and so half of them buy into neoliberalism, or at least to the extent of trying to compromise with the Republican juggernaut to get anything at all accomplished. But it’s clear that the main culprit is the GOP, throwing facts, logic, science out the window, perhaps in the slow-roll of friendly fascism. It has been aided and abetted by less-than-majority support through well-documented gerrymandering plus the laser-like focus of the Fox propaganda network.

In this case, Bannon’s spearheading of the populist nationalist uprising to overthrow the Republican Party — not just to defeat the Democrats — would have been categorized by Karl Polanyi as yet another case of a very typical dynamic:

“Now, fascism was a revolutionary tendency directed as much against conservatism as against the competing revolutionary force of socialism. That did not preclude the fascists from seeking power in the political field by offering their services to the counterrevolution. On the contrary, they claimed ascendency chiefly by virtue of the alleged impotence of conservatism to accomplish that job, which was unavoidable if socialism was to be barred.” (The Great Transformation, p. 240)


nastywoman 03.25.18 at 11:52 am

Or Hidari – wait? – as this morning in one of the most ”imperialistic” German newspapers (ironiusly called: ”Die Welt” – ”The World”) I read the question:

”Is there any system behind Trumps chaos?”
And they answered it by giving US all the options from purposely ”Burning the Place (US) down in order to create something – New”? –
to (kind of) – the thought that the F… face finally just wants to have ”a good time” with his besty, besty friends – and as you wrote ”Maybe I should run for President (but for which party?)” – and that sounded so much like ME – perhaps – deep down inside?? – you also think a lot like… ME?


steven t johnson 03.25.18 at 11:56 am

bruce wilder@112 asks “Is there a reason the reality of the present moment in politics can get so little airtime?” Because confusion about what’s happening is so beneficial to certain people, I’d say.

For instance, Corey Robin will explain that Republicans are Republicans and have been citing the history of the world, which began when the Cold War liberated the American people, leaving the true left behind when the old, fake, totalitarian left was rejected by the American people. And Corey Robin will point out that Republican politicians are all continuous with one another and imply by omission they are never continuous with Democrats. And this is beneficial to the Sanders swindle.

The only perceptive idea I saw in the Polanyi quotes on fascism was the notion of “sham revolt.” This is Trump draining the swamp! A ph who prefers the sham to the reality is equally as interested in sowing confusion.

I do wonder why anyone, including bob mcmanus and bruce wilder, think the militarization is not just overt, but in your face, screaming like R. Lee Ermey, and, worse, in your bank account. It really is no secret that the major theater commands have tremendous influence in setting foreign policy, likely more than the Secretary of State. But those who wanted to settle a political score with Clinton pretend to forget this, counterposing an overt, yet covert, “coup” that would separate the happy now from the unhappy yet to be.

Aside from being something like the old idea of Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus returned in 1914, again, there is a continuum between fascism and democracy. There is no distinction between merely authoritarian and the novel totalitarian. It may be more comfortable to think so. But remember, Hitler himself was chosen, not elected, and his powers were authorized by parliament. One of his perfectly acceptable predecessors, Bruening, relied on decree to a marvelous extent. The street violence marking the Nazi movement was created by the Frei Korps, under the blessings of the army and the Social Democratic leaderships. People have motives for denial and debate.


Lee A. Arnold 03.25.18 at 12:09 pm

Sorry I don’t mean Bannon’s “spearheading” which means leading, but specifically the anti-GOP rhetoric of his attacks, for example recently in the Alabama special Senate election.


nastywoman 03.25.18 at 1:38 pm

– and that was a great question of Mr. Wilder.

“Is there a reason the reality of the present moment in politics can get so little airtime?”

Yes there is – as ”politics” in general in the homeland actually never got more than –
let’s say? – 15 to 20 percent airtime? -(about the amount of ”airtime” AND interest in ”politics” compared to ”entertainment”) – and it’s true that in the last 8? years interest -(and ”airtime”) for politics have grown – but probably only BE-cause WE erected a F…face
and his erection has proven that the erection of an US President is even less ”political” than ever before?


Lee A. Arnold 03.25.18 at 3:14 pm

The reality of the present moment in politics is that the Republican Party is facing a lambasting. Very strong separate emotions have arisen and emotions are conflationary. The emotions of repulsion to Trump (especially in continuing his campaign behavior even after the election), repulsion to his continued racism in the aftermath of Charlottesville, repulsion to his part in the misuse of women (#metoo), and repulsion to the NRA’s control of President & Congress (#neveragain), are all combining in a wave that is moving against Republicans.

There is not only a wave, but a sea change behind it. The Democratic Party is fielding a new kind of Blue Dog in some of the purpler districts — younger, more women, often with military experience if they can get them, but (unlike the old Blue Dogs) in favor of universal healthcare, LGBT rights, reversing the tax cuts for the wealthy, protecting environment and climate, etc.

This is all now in play, even before any indictments or referral to Congress from the Mueller probe. If that happens before November, the question of whether to impeach will be another strong emotion conflated in the wave.


nastywoman 03.25.18 at 3:24 pm

– and sometimes I wonder…?
-(thinking about how many Americans really know that – for example – ”New Mexico” is – and I repeat: ”IS” – A State of the United States –
(an not of ”Mexico”) –
and if you guys ever would have driven through our country – and would have met so many wonderful Americans who spend all of their life – completely and totally removed from any type of ”politics” or ”political thoughts” – and let’s say – there would be far, far away in a city called ”Washington” a dude suspected to be ”a fascist” – they still would live their life as if there wasn’t – and you only can do that in our homeland the US –

Who in California really – I mean REALLY – or as much as any good Californian Surfer cares about ”the Ocean” cares about some idiot in Washington?


F. Foundling 03.26.18 at 1:45 am

@ ph 03.22.18 at 11:25 pm
>The English revolution was both an attack on elites and the victory of extreme social conservatism of a particularly odious sort, not to mention an anti-democratic military state.

No side in the English civil war was ‘socially’ liberal/progressive from a contemporary point of view, but one was politically progressive (i.e. *more* democratic – albeit far from satisfactory by contemporary standards), and it wasn’t the losing one. Compared to that, the closing of theatres and suchlike matters little. And for all of Cromwell’s lapses into tyranny, the Tory side is not the one to criticise him for it, since such tyranny exercised by the king is precisely what it had been defending all along.


ph 03.26.18 at 4:15 am

@128 You’re worth a reply. I’ve no particular difficulty with your comment, other than. Puritan intolerance of Catholics, the Children of Light, and the Levelers make clear (to me) and the closing of parliament (coupled with a Cromwell succession upon Oliver’s death) that the tyrant and his generals were just as bad as the gang he replaced. Then there’s Cromwell’s founding ‘work’ in Ireland – establishing colonies/plantations and removing the indigenous population to a life of slavery in the Antilles. The Dutch republic confirmed that Protestants were just as keen to exploit and enslave as any monarchy. I made no mention of theater closings, and given that state censorship thrived under Elizabeth, I’m not sure of the utility of that metric. Schama observes that Cromwell’s legal reforms (finally) allowed Jewish folks to worship with legal protections. The practice, however, of Cromwell policies preclude any notion of benevolence and toleration from his rule. And it was his rule.

I was taught that gradual move towards constitutional monarchy, and indeed the formation of the UK, was more pragmatic than programmatic. But that’s a bigger topic.

My point is that revolutions exist as fact, and do not always lead to desired outcomes. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who knew (of) intellectuals drawn back to Iran during the infancy of their great revolution – only to be stood up against the wall and shot. In the last fifty years, we’ve seen Iran, Cambodia, Albania, and others. They vary according to their time, place, and history. There is no golden age of revolutions, past or future. And that must be last. (I like your comments very much, btw!)


nastywoman 03.26.18 at 9:16 am

”There is no golden age of revolutions, past or future. ”

Agreed again!
and I hope you are not offended if I have agreed…
again!! –
but this – your ”last” one is so… so much… let me say: in the spirit of this thread that I hope Mr. Holbo agrees with I (ME!) if I quote him:

”But it’s possible that a-mnemonic mummery accompanies exceptional developments. People may be surprised, wrongly, when they ought to be surprised, rightly.”


steven t johnson 03.26.18 at 11:16 am

Democratic revolutions were not aiming at a modern-day social democratic day dream of pacifist choirs wordlessly humming an endless crescendo. Democratic revolutions were about creating a nation fit to fight other nations, and win because they were united as a people.

Thus it is not a shocking betrayal of the revolution if Cromwell crushes the Irish, it is a culmination of the project the Tudors and Stuarts failed at. Nor was it a betrayal when Cromwell crushed the left. The Levelers and the Diggers and the like-minded in the army were weakening the nation.

It is not a shocking betrayal if the heirs of William conquered an overseas empire, it is the just fruits of victory. Nor was it a betray of the Dutch revolution when the Stadtholder returns a monarchical element to the republic.

Benjamin Franklin took inspiration from the Iroquois League because he admired the way the Iroquois League conquered such vast hunting grounds, raiding its enemies hundreds of miles away.

People seem to be confused because historically democracies do not tend to fight each other. But predators usually prey on much smaller species, because a nasty fight can lead to fatal infections of injuries. It is the same for democracies. The whole point to democracy is to truly unite the majority, to mobilize their strength. If the ruling class feels it does not need committed soldiers, that they can buy mercenaries, they are historically much less tolerant of democracy as unnecessary to its fundamental purpose.


burner 03.27.18 at 7:10 am

‘If the ruling class feels it does not need committed soldiers, that they can buy mercenaries, they are historically much less tolerant of democracy as unnecessary to its fundamental purpose.’ (steven t johnson , 131)
Not so much democracy as of the very existence of the unnecessary (for them) people. C.f. the Highland clearances. ‘You have preferred sheep to men. Let the sheep fight for you.’ The landlords descended from clan chiefs had no need of the military force of the clan and replaced it with more profitable cattle.


steven t johnson 03.27.18 at 12:01 pm

burner@132 Well, yes, there is that too. One of the few interesting ideas in Jacobinrag was Peter Frase’s vague notion of an exterminist future. You should cross-post in the immigration thread.


bruce wilder 03.28.18 at 2:45 am

I admire the comment of steven t johnson @ 131

Cromwell was competent. His competence as a general and as a statesman was of great political consequence, both to his immediate contemporaries and, because of the contrast with the mostly unlucky and incompetent Stuarts, for posterity as political precedent.

What it means in a political leader to be competent is a nice question to consider. And, Trump’s art of performance challenges us to consider it.


roger gathmann 03.28.18 at 7:42 am

“Pacifist choirs wordlessly humming”, and maybe endlessly rocking – put me down, #131! Of course, it doesn’t rouse like cornpone military hymns and Tom Clancy Inc.s Smear em video games, the dawn’s early light and generals on parade on all the tv stations, but if we’d been ruled by pacifist choirs, say over the last two decades, most people would be much better off.

In my democratic socialist dream, though, the pacifist choirs do square dancing as well. And the mens act like women!


steven t johnson 03.28.18 at 12:40 pm

bruce wilder@134 seems to have misplaced his irony. There is no getting around the fact that democracy is one of the ways to unite the nation in the struggle against other nations, tribes, peoples and desert lands that need a property title. There are times when that unity is indispensable to that victory, hence the historic importance of, say, Cromwell, not despite but because of what he did at Putney. Like Robespierre, he defeated the far left, then like Napoleon led the nation on its democratic conquests. The notion that it was Cromwell personally who did this seems to be lurking about, despite being obvious nonsense.

All this forgets the other way to gird the nation for war is fascism. Donald Trump tends rather more to that end, no matter how much Corey Robin wants to normalize Trump by seeing him as continuous with “Republicans,” rather than continuous with the entire US political history since the Cold War started. But not as a would-be system breaker like Nixon, unlike Nixon one with massive support from the wealthy. If one wants to wax ironic about Trump as Cromwell, that implies not only the owners see us as the Irish but Trump has sacked Drogheda.

roger gathmann@135 paints a lovely picture of the victory celebration. Like Ashoka, we shall all be pacifists after the Good Guys have won.


Hidari 03.29.18 at 10:06 am

‘ The Democratic Party is fielding a new kind of Blue Dog in some of the purpler districts — younger, more women, often with military experience if they can get them, but (unlike the old Blue Dogs) in favor of universal healthcare, LGBT rights, reversing the tax cuts for the wealthy, protecting environment and climate, etc.’

That’s an understatement.

(There is an) ‘an unprecedented influx of intelligence and military operatives into the Democratic Party. More than 50 such military-intelligence candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in the 102 districts identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as its targets for 2018. These include both vacant seats and those with Republican incumbents considered vulnerable in the event of a significant swing to the Democrats.

If on November 6 the Democratic Party makes the net gain of 24 seats needed to win control of the House of Representatives, former CIA agents, military commanders, and State Department officials will provide the margin of victory and hold the balance of power in Congress. The presence of so many representatives of the military-intelligence apparatus in the legislature is a situation without precedent in the history of the United States.’


Layman 03.29.18 at 1:47 pm

“The presence of so many representatives of the military-intelligence apparatus in the legislature is a situation without precedent in the history of the United States.“

Good grief. It took exactly 2 seconds to debunk that claim.

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