“The pseudo-sophisticated defenders of Trump’s assaults on judges, scientists, and civil servants try to give his crude attacks a patina of respectability. But nihilism isn’t skepticism and being a know-nothing isn’t being unconventional, no matter what his defenders pretend.”
— Bill Kristol tweet (11/25/18)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (11/26/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The sides are drawn. We need to understand the battle for what it is, and be on the right side.
Who better to describe the battle lines than former Trump senior adviser and campaign chairman Steve Bannon. Bannon is spending most of his time in Europe, here’s what he says he is up to, “The beating heart of the globalist project is in Brussels. If I drive the stake through the vampire, the whole thing will start to dissipate.”
But HERE is his definition of his strategy and it is the key to understanding the battle underway. In Bannon’s own words, “Remember ‘Bannon’s theorem’. You put a reasonable face on rightwing populism, you get elected.”
That sound good, who doesn’t like a populist? But Trump was only a populist when he had Bannon putting lipstick on the pig, he’s a white nationalist. I can imagine some on the right arguing, as Bill Kristol says, with pseudo-sophistication as if Trump’s declaration that he is a Nationalist isn’t the same as a White Nationalist. If it was that simple, why doesn’t he simply define himself as a Patriot? As French President Macron said, “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism”. Consider Trump’s own words:
“You know, they have a word – it’s sort of became old-fashioned – it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word.”
If he’s not saying White Nationalist, why add his own admonishment, “we’re not supposed to say it”?
To riff on Groucho Marx: Who are you going to believe, Trump or your own ears? Maybe you’ll believe Bannon. This is a an excellent, video from The Guardian covering Bannon’s efforts to “drive a stake” through the vampire heart of globalism in Europe.
The video includes two moments to highlight. Watch about mid-way through (12:30 mark) the video as the far-right head of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni strives to put a friendly face on Nationalism while the Guardian’s Paul Lewis confronts her denial of fascism despite her decision to launch her party in the city of Latina founded by Benito Mussolini and accompanied by Mussolini’s granddaughter.
The second moment is at the end of the video (22:00) when Bannon helps makes the point that Trump is not a populist, but an Authoritarian. Trump agrees that he is a Nationalist, just don’t confuse this with being a White Nationalist or so the Trumpsters say.
Who you going to believe?
The sides are clear. Here’s an entire new book using pseudo-sophistication to define and attack enemies of Trump: New Book By Trump Advisers Alleges That The President Has ‘embedded enemies’.
This isn’t about law and order; this is about “enemies”:
“Two of the president’s longest-serving advisers allege in a new book that scores of officials inside the White House, Congress, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are “embedded enemies of President Trump” working to stymie his agenda and delegitimize his presidency.”
Authors (former Trump campaign manager) Corey R. Lewandowski and (former Trump deputy campaign manager and Chair of Citizens United) David N. Bossie use their forum to denigrate their own enemies but reserve their worst attacks for Trump enemies such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former intelligence officers James Clapper and John Brennan. Using a ‘birther’ dog-whistle, they emphasize Obama’s middle name, Hussein.
Here’s what the authors say about the Trump-Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller:
“a sweeping work of fiction so complex, so audacious, so unbelievable that if they gave out awards for bad excuses, the Democrats would win an Oscar, an Emmy, and maybe even the Heisman Trophy.”
Guess who is a great fan of this dismissal: Trump Claims Mueller Investigation Helps Him Politically.
Do you see anything about the rule of law in this statement?
“I think it makes my base stronger,” Trump told the authors in an interview. “I would have never said this to you. But I think the level of love now is far greater than when we won. I don’t know, what do you think, Mike?” Vice President Pence, who sat in part of the interview, replied: “As strong or stronger.”
Some high school political speech is just fine-n-dandy
Let’s consider a simple example of how the battle is fought constantly: School District Won’t Punish Students In Nazi Salute Prom Photo Due To First Amendment.
In case you are not familiar, a group of Baraboo High School students gave “an apparent Nazi salute in a photo”. One student did not salute (upper right hand corner of the photo) and described the intent and his reluctance.
School district administrator Lori Mueller explained why students won’t be punished:
“The school district’s administrator, Lori Mueller, distributed a letter via a student information system on Wednesday saying that the district has completed part of an investigation into the photo but that some “key details” remain unclear, .
““We cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved,” she reportedly wrote. “Moreover, because of students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions.””
But the point here, consider what student actions ARE punished: High Schools Threaten To Punish Students Who Kneel During Anthem.
We won’t go past the headline, but is the first an instance in Baraboo of ‘let boys be boys’ or does the ban on ‘kneeling’ clarify this as ‘let white boys be white boys’?
As Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg tweets on November, 25, 2018:
Teachers have 0 problem giving detentions to young women who show their shoulders.
Meanwhile, young men snap the Nazi salute and nothing happens.
The dark side of populism
The Guardian offers this definition of Populism while launching a six-month investigative series:
“Populists tend to frame politics as a battle between the virtuous ‘ordinary’ masses and a nefarious or corrupt elite – and insist that the general will of the people must always triumph. The Guardian is adopting . Populism, he says, is often combined with a ‘host’ ideology, which can either be on the left or right.”
The challenge we face is when Populism is the face for a host ideology that is Nationalism, White Nationalism, Authoritarianism or even Fascism.
The same Guardian article that includes the observation that 1 in 4 Europeans vote for populist parties. But this is as high as 49% in Hungary where the anti-immigrant Fidesz party of Viktor Orban was voted in. Or consider how the anti-immigrant UKIP party in Great Britain managed to ignite the forces that led to Brexit, a break between Great Britain and the European Union – a stake driven into a political heart by a minority party.
Old, poisoned roots
Nationalism in the U.S. is not new and voter support of 1 in 3 can be traced back to the racial fear stoked four-time presidential campaigns of former Alabama Gov.George Wallace, through ‘new nationalism’ GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan leading up to Trump. And after Trump, likely a prettier populist face on yet another nationalist, white nationalist, campaign.
Can we keep Trump from his worst impulses, is there hope? The Guardian offers a taste: Trump At Bay: Failure Looms As Democrats Load ‘subpoena cannon’.
Let’s set the stage:
“There’s no doubt we’re entering new territory and Donald Trump is in big trouble,” said the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “The election results, no matter what he says, were devastating to him. The coalition he put together is clearly strained and he seems incapable of creating consensus.”
In the “biggest sweep since Watergate” 8.5 million more voters turned out to vote for Dem candidates and flip 40 seats in the House from red to blue.
The author offers a long list of Trump actions in response, but we’ll jump to the heart of the article:
“Perhaps. But Democrats are spoiling for a fight. a political columnist and former congressional spokesman, said: “We’re going to see for the first time in his presidency some substantive pushback from Congress. Democrats will no longer be passively commentating; they will be able to take tangible steps to find out what’s going on in this administration.
““Starting in January, Congress has the tools and mechanisms to push more and do more than be outraged. They can hold hearings, get documents, compel testimony. They can get access to the people around the White House and see what they think is going on: are people raising the alarm?
““I don’t think Trump fully understands how comprehensive the tools of oversight are for Congress because he’s never had to deal with it. These tentacles go far deeper and far broader than he can know. We’re going to see an entirely different level of paranoia with the president testing unlike any president before as the walls close in.””
Will we see substantive push-back from Congress?
Selective law ‘n order
Trumpsters support law and order when it suits their desired outcome. Those on the left believe, or at least hope, the rule of law will save us from Trump’s worst actions. Trump sees his enemies as anyone with the audacity to stand against his wishes. That’s not populism, that is authoritarianism.
Trumpsters rail against his enemies, ignoring the inconveniences of the Constitution, laws, courts or any other guard rails enacted by our founders and respected by norms that honored the intent. Trumpsters rail against elites while defending or ignoring the crimes of their elites. Lewandowki labeled former Trump chief economic adviser Gary Cohn as a “limousine liberal” which is apparently a more meaningful form of evil than say, the $14 million spent on Trump Education Secretary DeVos’ security detail.
We need Congressional pushback. We need Mueller to complete his work. We need to promote a progressive populist platform for the good of all of us.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )