Yves here. I don’t mean to seem as if I am criticizing the author of this Common Dreams piece, but rather his source, Thomas Homer-Dixon. As the saying goes, a reporter is only as good as his sources.
But pieces like this drive me crazy. First, if Trump was such a danger to democracy, why did Biden promise “Nothing fundamental will change,” and very much stick to that pledge? Second, as we have long said, the very successful neoliberal campaign of making people see themselves as individuals and weakening of community ties has resulted in social disfunction being channeled into self-harm (drug addiction, suicides) and random acts of rage and not into large scale protests. For instance, despite the press trying to pump air into the deflated Trump balloon, his 2020 Tulsa “comeback” rally and his December 2021 rallies in Florida had mainly empty seats.
Third and most important, the article does mention income inequality as a key cause, but misses that this was an engineered effect of the neoliberal counter-revolution against New Deal reforms. Homer-Dixon further misses, as Mark Blyth has pointed out, that the US went further in a reactionary direction in the wake of the financial crisis, when that was not at all an inevitable outcome, and in fact concessions to the working classes were the far more likely reaction…if nothing else, for elite long-term self-perservation. But no one does long term any more.
And as for the hand-wringing about propaganda, Homer-Dixon needs to read Alex Carey’s classic Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. Carey explains how America was the early leader in propaganda, dating to at least the National Association of Manufacturers messaging against labor at the start of the 20th century. And Goebbels developed his techniques by studying the American propagandist and father of public relations, Eddie Bernays.
That’s not to say that the US is not at the real risk of becoming a failed state…and that outcome seems more likely than a strongman taking over. But a key reason is (as Lambert has put it) the late Romanov-era-level of incompetence of our elites, and the resulting failure of the government to handle crises and even operate as anything other than a vehicle for looting. Just look at the inexcusable cost of insulin for starters. So scapegoating yet to emerge evil right wing authoritarians is so much more convenient than calling out the pervasive derelictions of duty on the watch of the professional-managerial class.
By Jake Johnson. Originally published at Common Dreams
In a matter of years, the United States’ deeply flawed and increasingly fragile democratic system could collapse under the weight of a long-running reactionary onslaught and be replaced by a right-wing dictatorship—one for which former President Donald Trump was “just a warm-up act.”
“Willingness to publicly endorse the Big Lie has become a litmus test of Republican loyalty to Mr. Trump.”
Such was the stark warning that Thomas Homer-Dixon, executive director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University and a scholar of violent conflict, delivered in an exhaustive op-ed published in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
Homer-Dixon, the former head of a center on peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto, warned that the “political and social landscape” of the U.S.—a profoundly unequal and ideologically polarized nation that also happens to be “armed to the teeth”—is “flashing with warning signals.”
“By 2025,” he wrote. “American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.”
Arguing that prominent reactionary figures such as the late right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh and Trump—who awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020—”are as much symptoms” of U.S. political dysfunction as its causes, Homer-Dixon contended that the nation’s present crises have their roots in myriad historical phenomena:
“But successful polities around the world,” he continued, “have overcome flaws just as fundamental.”
So why is U.S. democracy particularly vulnerable to full-scale collapse in the near future?
Homer-Dixon argued that “what seems to have pushed the United States to the brink of losing its democracy today is a multiplication effect between its underlying flaws and recent shifts in the society’s ‘material’ characteristics.”
“These shifts include stagnating middle-class incomes, chronic economic insecurity, and rising inequality as the country’s economy—transformed by technological change and globalization—has transitioned from muscle power, heavy industry, and manufacturing as the main sources of its wealth to idea power, information technology, symbolic production, and finance,” he wrote. “America’s economic, racial and social gaps have helped cause ideological polarization between the political right and left, and the worsening polarization has paralyzed government while aggravating the gaps.”
Eager and well-positioned to exploit such divisions are Trump and his Republican loyalists, many of whom have endorsed the so-called “Big Lie” that Trump won the 2020 presidential election but had it stolen from him by the Democratic Party.
That falsehood—which helped fuel the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection and, according to one new survey, is embraced by two-thirds of GOP voters—is “potent anti-democratic poison,” Homer-Dixon wrote.
“Willingness to publicly endorse the Big Lie has become a litmus test of Republican loyalty to Mr. Trump,” he observed. “This isn’t just an ideological move to promote Republican solidarity against Democrats. It puts its adherents one step away from the psychological dynamic of extreme dehumanization that has led to some of the worst violence in human history. And it has refashioned—into a moral crusade against evil—Republican efforts to gerrymander Congressional districts into pretzel-like shapes, to restrict voting rights, and to take control of state-level electoral apparatuses.”
As The Guardian reported Sunday, “Allies of Donald Trump and others who have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the election have launched campaigns” for key positions—from governor to secretary of state—that have significant influence over the post-election certification process.
“Republicans who have embraced lies about the election are also running for secretary of state offices in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada,” the outlet noted. “Overlooked for years, there is now a broader awareness of the enormous power these secretaries of state wield over how elections are run and ballots are counted. That power was on unprecedented display in 2020, when secretaries of state made decisions about things like how to establish ballot drop boxes and whether to automatically send out mail-in ballot applications to voters.”
“Secretaries of state wield enormous unilateral power and, if they were elected, election deniers could do extensive damage in future elections,” The Guardian added.
Looking at the historical context, it seems to me that the danger to the US is less an authoritarian right wing strongman taking control, than the possibility of the non-urban liberal class element of society (i.e. the majority) simply splitting and falling apart into competing economic/political groupings and pulling the rest of the country with it. In other words, more Yugoslavia than Kazakstan. Not one billionaire right wing authoritarian, but dozens of them.
Just as the Democrats have done an excellent job in ensuring they have nobody with an iota of competence or charisma capable of following Biden, the Republicans seem to have wiped out their talent base as well, with Trump creating an environment where any number of lunatics can claim a bunch of followers that vaguely fit under the Republican banner, while the mainstream right wing fails to control either the party or the narrative. Its hard to see any Bush type figure emerging to lead the rainbow umbrella of whatever it is that characterises the Republicans. In effect, extreme libertarian money has accidentally created far too much competition for power within the right wing itself. The Koch brothers of course, only believed in libertarianism for everyone else.
So what happens if you have literally nobody competent or electable running for election for very important posts? I’ve no idea, but we may be about to find out.
Yugoslavia is the better analogy, and do not forget either the Mormons who are a State within the State or the effects of mass migrations from the south due to climate change.
And the USA is a failed state, hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths from Covid are only one sign of that.
I had some time with my Daughter yesterday and asked her what she thought about the CDC’s recommendation that those who test positive for Covid need only isolate for 5 days?
“The airlines wanted it”.
No anger,no shock or surprise that the CDC is totally corrupt.
Because Markets,Go die.
That’s how things work.
I’ve just had covid. Felt poorly for less than a day, a bit of a cough, and a rapid test confirmed I was clear after 5 days, but possibly earlier. Given the rate of transmission and the inevitable spike in numbers, isolating for longer will just cause massive disruption everywhere, from care all the way through to loading supermarket shelves. Occasionally you just have to be practical.
Dear Bellatrix, Noting the other article posted here in NC about Omicron and Diabetic Acidosis, and possibly more accurate statistical comparisons of the impact of Delta vs Omicron, you may come to realize that the world is NOT “you”. Congratulations on being so lightly inconvenienced and unaffected. For many, 800k plus, death was the result, in some children, hospitalization and death, (many more we may be about to find out), and for those with immune issues and chronic conditions (more than you would suspect or be aware of, since you seem to be paying attention to mainly yourself), this is a “practical” problem. Nobody wants disruption, but then again, nobody wants death and illness – some long term. In truth, that is quite “disrupting”. Link attached here: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/01/more-omicron-diabetics-appear-even-more-vulnerable-as-diabetic-ketoacidosis-strikes.html
Dear MBLG, thanks for the reminder, although I think you have missed the point and should consider stepping down from your high horse. The point being that the disruption could have a much higher cost and there is no point having a standard isolation period that extends beyond the period when most people are contagious. Omicron is spreading so rapidly that requiring a longer isolation period could result in a more significant shutdown of supply chains, hospitals, ambulance services etc. than we have seen to date. It doesn’t take much to start a riot and empty supermarket shelves are a good excuse! Hospitals with no staff and ambulances with no drivers or medics aren’t much use either. My experience with omicron was the same as everyone I know and anecdotally seems to reflect the situation with the population at large. So by all means take appropriate steps to protect the vulnerable, but don’t be so one eyed or heavy handed that you cause more damage than you seek to avoid. Ultimately it is for the “health experts” to identify the isolation period that produces the optimum outcome in terms of managing the spread and keeping the wheels turning.
Sure enough, within half an hour of posting my earlier reply I saw this headline on Bloomberg: “U.S. hospitals are facing their worst staffing shortage in a year as the omicron Covid-19 variant sweeps the country with unprecedented infectiousness”. This costs lives too.
And sending people back to work sick and infectious to infect more people and make more people sick and infectious costs even more lives, too.
Your inconvenience is nobody’s problem
Duh, but is that the case and if so what proportion? I prefer to base decisions on broad statistics, anecdotal evidence and personal experience rather than automatically assume it’s all a neoliberal conspiracy. I also understand that there is a tradeoff between risk and cost. But that’s just silly old me.
I regard getting covid as an immediate problem for me. I regard longer-term social collapse from millions of people with long covid and post-covid omni-system cirrhosis as a longer-term problem for me.
Inconvenience for you is not my problem. It really isn’t anyone else’s problem either.
“In effect, extreme libertarian money has accidentally created far too much competition for power within the right wing itself.”
I think there’s something to that. But, I also think the major problem confronting each of the two parties is that they don’t actually have any solutions that they would like to pursue that might be palatable to a big enough portion of their respective coalitions of interest groups.
Trump was into tariffs, but ran into what amounts to an effective ‘veto’ from his own economics team, and from congress, including his own party. Same thing happened when he tried to do infrastructure. Unless it’s a neoliberal privatization scheme, it’s hard to build congressional support. And, after decades of failure, neo-liberal rip off schemes are easy to spot and hard to build public support for.
But, then again, maybe this goes back to the competence issue where someone with a functioning brain could have made it happen and Trump just wasn’t that guy?
“In effect, extreme libertarian money has accidentally created far too much competition for power within the right wing itself.”
Umm, that reads as a long winded way to say “greed.”
As a criticism of US habits, I point to Dr Fauchi, who is so eloquent that I fail to understand points he is making. Which results in me to calling out “bs.”
Always love it when perfessers (and a Canadian to boot) claim to know what is going on out in the American heartland. Here’s suggesting that the reality is just the opposite of the above–that far from wanting to take over and tell everyone else what to do most Americans are not into politics at all (while paying some attention during the quadrennial Dems vs Repubs Big Game). This is reflected by our long standing low voter turnout. The attraction of Trump for such folks is that he reflects this same attitude with his disinterest in how his own administration worked and fixation on pricking the bubble of meritocratic heroes like Obama. Doubtless there is some racism there. But likely there’s a larger dose of class resentment. Even though quite rich Trump is culturally with the lowers. The elites go to the opera. He’s into world wrestling and McDonald’s.
You could blame the great unwashed for not being more engaged citizens. But more properly one should blame the incumbency protected polticians of both parties for not engaging them. The country’s possibly looming anarchy is entirely of the elites’ own making including those professors and “thought leaders.” To quote our host, we have been “econned.”
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”
Sorry if I’m not all that impressed with the thoughts of Isaac Asimov.
Which is to say there’s anti-intellectualism–indeed a thing–and anti-pseudo intellectualism. One doesn’t have to defend Trump (and I’m not) to point out that there are lots of “intellectuals” who know far less about the real world than they think they do. They may have something to learn from the under educated but more experienced.
Erm, I think the classic term for intellectuals used to be
‘Someone educated above their intelligence’.
I think the base problem is probably the country’s higher
education industry, which focuses on producing career outcomes, rather than persons who are trained to think.
…..A multitude of answers, but few questions.
” An intellectual is someone who has discovered something more interesting than sex.” — who said that?
” An art ( or whatever) critic may not know what he likes, but he sure does know a lot about art ( or whatever).” —who said that?
Always love it when perfessers (and a Canadian to boot) claim to know what is going on out in the American heartland.
What you are hearing is how the rest of the world is viewing the USA. It may or may not be accurate but is some of the thinking that is influencing policy towards the USA around the world.
BTW did you read Homer-Dixon’s article rather than just Jake Johnson’s interpretation? I read Homer-Dixon’s article and as a fellow-Canadian, I find his concerns very reasonable. Remember, sometimes an outsider has a clearer view than the people in the conflict.
Homer-Dixon needs to read Alex Carey’s classic Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.
Any reason to assert that he has not?
Because just about no one has read Carey. Homer-Dixon does not acknowledge that US income inequality is the result of a well funded propaganda campaign funded on an open ended basis by what were then extreme right wingers like John Birchers and the Kochs starting in the 1960s to roll back New Deal reforms and move the values of the country to favor commerce. He’s flat out wrong about the roots.
I think Mike Pompeo is quite talented.
Maybe someone “conventionally republican” like Ron DeSantis will beat Donald Trump, then Pompeo gets to be VP to make the christian nutter wing of The Party happy, and then DeSantis decides to take on to learn roller skating in a latex suit while toasting a cheese sandwich and sadly ends up electrocuted in the pool, in a totally freak accident.
And then we have a president that really believe that Armageddon is just a ritual to summon God!
Mark my words. When Trump goes down, Paul Ryan will emerge from Fox’s shadows..kind of like Groundhog Day. The party and the media will be reconstituted and redeemed. The Cheneys will be happy about it, too.
And then the Decromats will nominate Clinton, again. Because ” third time’s a charm”.
And Neera Tanden will be her VP running mate.
Here’s a suggestion for you, PK. If the US becomes a fascist state, then Canada and Mexico are in trouble. Suggest Mexico would align with Spain and Canada with the UK. As the UK has just stupidly left the EU, it will have to reconsider that in some way and realign itself with the EU. The EU, for its part, even with Canada and Mexico on board, will not be strong enough to resist US aggression, so realpolitik might mean having to align with Russia. This gives you the US, a Euro-Russia alliance, and China. And its Hello, 1984. I’m not saying that this will take place. Only that it is not an impossible scenario, however unlikely.
Personally, I feel the media is playing a major role in all of this. There is too much media aimed at accomplishing a corporate strategy of maximizing viewership and ad revenue through topic selection, hysterical questionning and comment. It’s not just facebook; it’s the 24-hour cable news programs, too. Content and its framing are affected by hire of disproportionately many hot-air blower/entertainers rather than gritty reporters with wet armpits and dusty shoes. We’re currently getting too much paid-for profit-oriented manipulation, and it’s hardly a wonder that division is the result.
Hypothesis: For markets to work, it requires convincing people that solutions are individual and exclusionary. Isn’t that what everyone feels in proportion to media programs/ads received? Isn’t that where the country often finds itself most divided?
Private media was always there to make money, directly or not. As they said for hundreds of years, dog bites man is something no-one is interested. Media stories thrive on emotions, best on negative ones (most people forget a nice picture of a pet the next day, but something they hated they remember for weeks).
But before now, it was too expensive to personalise media feeds to you in such a way so that you got the most negative emotions (and hence follow-ups) on daily basis, to as wide audience as possible. It was too much of hit and miss, so you got middle-ground stories to hit as wide audience as possible.
With FB and similar, it became extremely cheap to elicit the most-clicks emotions (again, mostly negative) in a nicely personalised way.
IMO, personalised news feeds should be banned, or at least extremely limited.
January 4, 2022 at 6:33 am
January 4, 2022 at 7:49 am
Good comments both. My view is that the MSM is dedicated to not mentioning anything that is truly important and only providing filler – as well as promoting:
For markets to work, it requires convincing people that solutions are individual and exclusionary. Isn’t that what everyone feels in proportion to media programs/ads received? Isn’t that where the country often finds itself most divided?
Same goes for social platform companies:
With FB and similar, it became extremely cheap to elicit the most-clicks emotions (again, mostly negative) in a nicely personalised way.
Maybe, just maybe people are beginning to realize they are being played. Now I detest Trump, but maybe Trump was the first crack in the media/oligarchy heirarchy.
America is not now nor has it ever been a Democracy. As long as the Senate and Electoral Collage exist it can be charitably called a Constitutional Republic. Continuing to run a an 18th century government in 21st century will eventually lead to failure. You can’t be surprised when you “elect” people to government that say it doesn’t work and it doesn’t.
I would slightly amend that to: You can’t be surprised when you elect to government people committed to making government not work and it doesn’t.
“Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans.”
That’s a good quote, but I suppose the question is why are we like that?
I think at least part of the answer is that we have evolved into an instant gratification society. Our obsession with the short run has made us increasingly fragile, to the point where it takes all of our efforts just to stop the wheels falling off.
Instant gratification vs the Pandemic- oil and water.
America was going to get to this point anyway due
to the well-known exhaustion of resources and climate
change, but the epidemic has sort of accelerated things.
The plagues in Europe effectively ended Feudalism.
Curiously, I think we were headed in that direction, with
Capitalism headed for a new Gilded Age. Now the
“Plan” has been upended. But the Elites have not figured
it out yet, since their lives remain much the same.
I notice, for example, no one has planned or discussed
what (on top of everything else) a 1929-type market crash
in the next year or so would do. I’d love to buy an apple
from the CEO of Apple.
America was going to get to this point anyway due to the well known and continuing failure of governance since the 1960s. It started off slow and was not immediately apparent, but is now obvious for one and all to see and it would seem that it has progressed so far that it is now irreversible. Other than in our oceans, there has been no material “exhaustion of resources” and up to now climate change has largely been beneficial, although I appreciate that the conventional wisdom says otherwise on both counts. But yes, the pandemic has definitely accelerated things. Sadly I think the elites have figured it out and are simply making hay while the sun shines. The danger is that a market crash will more than likely make inequality (the issue of our times) even worse as it will most likely strike down what remains of the middle class. History will tell us how that story ends and it will do so in its own time, but I get the feeling it will all unfold before the end of the decade.
“We”? Do you mean “you”?
Lot’s of Us wanted Sanders. Them conspired to prevent Us from getting Sanders. That is not Us’s fault.
“We”? Us or Us not. There is no “We”.
Try to visualize that “Americans” are not all alike. Then, imagine how those who end up on ballots get there. They are not necessarily a mathematical representation of the rest. So, if you find this to be true, what needs to change so that candidates represent the best and the brightest?
Remember, George Carlin was interesting, but also was interested ticket sales.
I disagree. They are selfish, and greedy, and want it to “work” (deliver $) for them and their circle.
I agree that this is the case in many times and places but not all times and places. Good public services and competent public officials are possible, I have seen it with my own eyes. As I have remarked here previously, when I moved from NY state to Wisconsin, I was blown away by the general competence of the consumer-facing public sector here, much different than what I saw in NYS. (After decades of disinvestment and decay, mostly but not entirely from elected Repubs, it is much worse now.) And even in NYS, growing up near Albany, I knew many competent and dedicated public employees, though the overall performance of NYS government was generally abysmal.
Here in the UK it is the same. We complain about politicians whom we have voted for. There are better alternatives. Public officials are portrayed in the media from right to left as incompetent and oppressive, yet the reality is that most are doing the best they can in often difficult, underfunded environments. A particular culprit is the film-maker Ken Loach who claims to be socialist yet makes films that are utterly unrealistic and unjustly mis-characterise ordinary public sector workers. I,Daniel Blake made the staff who administer state benefits appear to be unendingly cruel and heartless; my long experience of them is of the very opposite. I admire their professionalism and dedication.
Democracy doesn’t work, has probably never worked, at the national level. If it did we would have a functioning society. It is possible that we really don’t want government by the people. What would it even look like? The proof of our political failure stares us in the face. Democracy does work at the local level to some degree and even at the state level a bit. In order for democracy to work we first need equality. Which means we’d have similar interests. We have never had that, anywhere. And freedom of speech is now hanging by a thread. Things, political things should be easier to smooth out. Less inequality would go a long way. We need to stop hallucinating and start solving problems. Everyday problems. I doubt a right-wing coup would help us get there. Or a left one. The only way to get to the ideal of democracy is to create wide spread equality and enforce it.
Neither in the USA nor here in the UK have we any experience of democracy. Both our nations have always been closer to oligarchies or plutocracies. So you cannot claim that democracy doesn’t work.
i am ….suspect…of any analysis of our current predicament that doesn’t even mention the demparty.
without their complicity and betrayal, the rightification of the polity would not have been possible.
the cure for the threat of fascism is still the New Deal on steroids.
ergo, the handwringing about fascism is merely performative, and feeds into the overall rush towards fascism, because it can’t look in the mirror.
Amfortas: Indeed. And those Canadians are supposed to be so caring and astute and kept on an even keel by Tim Hortons Doughnuts.
If we look at the rightwing tendencies in the US of A, tendencies that are continually discussed here at Naked Capitalism, we get:
–Suppression of the rights of labor, of unions, which means lack of a jobs policy and the poisonous fruit of employer-sponsored health-insurance plans.
–Rigidity of class boundaries with much of U.S. feminism consisting of upper-middle-class concerns, in particular, marrying up (or within one’s class–one does not marry one’s plumber).
–Which led to / flow from increased income inequality and a higher Gini quotient.
–None of which the Democrats have opposed.
–Reliance on the Supreme Court to enact the liberal agenda, a major delusion.
–Continuing abuse of the “intelligence community” as evinced by suppression of Occupy Wall Street, the Snowden affair, the current persecution of non-citizen Assange, domestic spying, adulation of Big Jim Comey, the endless propaganda at good-thinking outlets…
–Not ending the endless wars, which destroy the domestic economy and produce many veterans with needless problems, when it would be better not to channel people into the armed forces–oh, back to jobs policy, eh.
–“Shenanigans” like the Mayor Pete victory in Iowa, followed by the Mayor Pete endorsement of Biden, followed by any number of transparent abuses of the electoral system.
–The sclerotic Dem leadership.
–The endless grifting.
What could possibly go wrong?
Think Amfortas is right on as usual. DJG, there is one more Mayor Pete step …
– followed by Mayor Pete being knighted as Transportation Secretary.
Mayor Pete is the perfect embodiment of the Dem Party, no experience relevant to Transportation, but he checks the right boxes and falls right in line. THIS IS Democratic Collapse!!
Legacy New Deal Holdover Democrats tried opposing all that as long as they could. They were driven out of the party by DLC Clintonites who designed and engineered all the betrayals you describe.
The DLC Clintobamacrat Party is an obstacle which will have to be destroyed if we are to make any recovery. No New Dealocrat Party revival is possible until the DLC Clintobamacrats have been deleted from public life and private power.
In the meantime, a Good GreenCulture Resistance is certainly worth trying to create, achieve, strengthen and use against the Bad DeathCulture Establishment.
I’ll just add that a failed state attracts strongmen, for a variety of reasons. So while the US may not get there directly from where it is, it may get there eventually. Or, via the PK scenario of balkanisation.
Mind you, balkanisation when say one part has nukes while the other has resources may be only a temporary state.
And, to add to the addition: the original article by Homer-Dixon (in Globe & Mail) mainly focused on civil war, not an authoritarian / fascist state. But as you say, and as also implied in that article, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Here’s a comprehensive definition of a failed state. I’ve cherry-picked a few of the many characteristics cited:
1. “Its citizens no longer believe that their government is legitimate…” That would be an alarming percentage of the American electorate today.
2. “…the executive barely functions…” I don’t think this is true of the US currently, as executive orders fly out of the White House and Congress increasingly abdicates its law-making responsibilities. A perfect opening for a “strongman”.
3. “…armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence.” The former is not true—the armed forces of the US are still dangerously strong. The latter will be true if the strongman takes control of them.”
4. “Failed states create an environment of flourishing corruption…” Distressingly obvious.
5. The writer sums up: “…state failure manifests itself when a state can no longer deliver physical security, a productive economic environment, and a stable political system for its people.”
And so the age-old cycle repeats itself: aristocracy > democracy > anarchy (failed state) > autocracy
somebody should tell theae people that the rulers of America sold this country out a long time ago.
The populists rise when the status quo is failing.
The electorate are just looking for someone who might get things working again.
Obama offered “Hope and Change”
Let’s vote for him.
He didn’t fix anything.
Who is promising to fix things now?
Hillary is trying to pretend everything is OK, but it isn’t.
Trump didn’t deliver the goods either.
Who else is there?
Biden isn’t delivering the goods either
Who else is there?
The search continues for someone who can fix things.
Just saying what you think they want to hear isn’t enough.
An effective politician.
Does anyone know where to find one?
The electorates search gets more and more desperate as time goes on.
s/ All we want is someone to “make the trains run on time.” /s
Are populists bad people? Asking for a friend.
> An effective politician.
Does anyone know where to find one?
In case you haven’t noticed, politicians are self selecting narcissists, so if you find one that is effective you won’t like the effect.
Personally, I think FDR and LBJ had a pretty beneficial effect on the country. The trouble is that the circumstances that gave them the political (read fundraising) space to have those effects no longer exist today.
The only politician who always gets the thumbs up in every poll for honesty is Bernie Sanders and look what the Dems did to him. Both parties suck: the Democrats turned into Republicans so the Republicans turned into a freak show. Of course Democracy is failing because (1) we don’t have much Democracy anymore and (2) the ignorance of the American public is astounding.
CommonDreams is simply following David Brock’s Librul “Look, over HERE” click-bait echo-chamber, blogosphere fun-house Hall O’ Mirrors; gavaging us our designated distraction of the day. Aaron & Katie’s recounting of Sunday Morning TV agitprop included Mother Jones’ prodigiously heavy lifting for our senile Lincoln Project neocon “allies” as we await Iran’s righteous vengeance on Trump and reinfect our destitute kids, to provide Super Immunity, for fighting evil Rooskis and the heathen Chinese, as everyone’s happily back at work and school, after a blessed and joyous baby jesus day shopping spending spree?
they were not always that way. they really went that full full steam alternet is when john atcheson was killed in a accident. a convenient one as usual.
john named names to the disastrous policies, and wrote about it all of the time.
he said do not elect another nafta billy clinton type, you will get more of the same. he said either you drive them out of the democratic party, or they cannot be reformed.
he died right before the 2016 election, a lot of the left that named names to the disastrous polices of nafta billy clinton were either sidelined, or died.
the guy up in canada should look at the free trade idiot running canada today. he is a carbon copy nafta style democrat.
If the Democratic Party had been more democratic in 2016, Bernie Sanders would now be on his second term and things MIGHT look very different.
Unfortunately, the moment for real democratic leadership has passed – purposely stifled by the forces of money and corporate power – and we are no longer the country we were in 2016.
The US does not have a multiparty democracy.
I sometimes think that if Trump did not exist, that the Democrats and others would have had to invent him. Look, it is not a Trump that people should worry about. He never had the qualities or even the desire to be The Leader and if you think about it, what sort of person becomes President for four long years and is basically the same person at the end of it all as they were at the beginning with never growing into the responsibility of the job? That says something about his character in itself and I suppose that you could say that with him, “nothing fundamentally changed”.
No, it was those that took him down that would bring down democracy in the US and who boasted about it in an article not that long after the election. All those groups came together from the media, spooks, silicon valley, etc. to remove Trump and which led to a person suffering the early stages of dementia becoming the new President of the US. If they can do that, then think what would happen if they just decided to take over, all in the name of ‘protecting our democracy’ of course.
And you have to remember that all those problems that this author mentioned – stagnating middle-class incomes, chronic economic insecurity, rising inequality, economic, racial and social gaps causing ideological polarization between the political right & left – much of this was caused and helped by the very same groups that helped bring Trump down. To be honest, if Trump had run as a Democrat in 2016, would he right now be in his second term of office?
It’s not an issue of which is a greater threat. Along with their fundamental shared interest in serving predatory capitalism and the war machine, they’re different but comparably evil threats.
Even if one believes (I don’t, but that’s another discussion) that Russiagate and the impeachments were more than performance, Trump wasn’t inconvenienced, let alone deposed, and the Democrats and the vast conspiring Blob end up looking like idiots as usual.
The conservative project to achieve permanent minority rule long precedes the 2020 efforts by Trump, his cronies, the Republican elite, the media, and the rioters to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election. It’s being further codified into law in states across the country. It’s a “lesser evil” only if one thinks it’s no longer possible for electoral politics to be a part of a movement for change in the US I
Given that the Democrat party is comprised of a bunch of Reagan republicans these days, I’d say the conservative project to achieve majority rule has been very successful, and largely due to electoral politics. Somebody elected all the clowns in Congress after all and there aren’t more than a handful who have real liberal interests (as opposed to BS IdPol) at heart.
While Trump wasn’t deposed (that wasn’t ever the point), he was most definitely inconvenienced by the impeachment and Russiagate nonsense. Because that’s all the opposition had – they weren’t going to actually give real people concrete material benefits.
If it weren’t for the four years of incessant caterwauling by the Democrat party, Trump would have likely been reelected. Propaganda works.
As far the electoral process, probably “Republican project” should include a footnote itemizing the sins of the Democrats in this arena. It’s still minority rule though, from the perspective of “who should be allowed to vote and have their votes counted” or that of “who benefits.”
Republicans had the WH, House, and Senate for Trump’s first 2 years. Trump is as accountable as Obama and now Biden for not delivering material benefits in those circumstances.
Opinions may vary as to whether it was better politics to (Obama/Biden/D’s): pretend to try (ACA, BBB) or (Trump/R’s): try to make things worse (ACA repeal with no replacement) or not even bother (infrastructure).
It seems sometimes the dems committed the sports mistake of trying to play the opponents game instead of their own.
Recall the Clinton campaign’s ‘pied piper’ strategy. They did create Trump. They thought they had found someone more unelectable than Clinton, but they were off by a fraction, and picked someone slightly less unelectable. And all the pearl clutching over American Democracy would be much more compelling if there was evidence of said democracy beyond rigged elections selecting from the oligarchy’s pre-approved lackeys, and deliberative bodies openly owned by corporate donors.
“As the saying goes, a reporter is only as good as his sources.”
I learned this lesson loud and clear in college, at one point. I had one class I really enjoyed and liked the material from. Then, had to write a paper for another, completely separate class. I used the sources from the 1st class and added some supplementary material to write the paper for the 2nd class, and ***poof*** I found myself writing a stellar paper, easiest “A” I ever got!
“Overlooked for years, there is now a broader awareness of the enormous power these secretaries of state wield over how elections are run and ballots are counted
Who was the sec state of florida for the brooks bros. riot?
The perspectives above are weak tea
Thanks, I was pre coffee and drew a blank.
She was a Secretary of State who knew what she could get away with.
So, media/social-media outright censorship of Hunter Biden authentic laptop story to tilt the scale in favor of Dems is “The Big Lie” but Wikileaks publishing a bunch of authentic emails at an inopportune time for Dems is “Russian Collusion”. I think we have a double standard on our hands.
And when we’re thinking of collapse of democracy I’m much more afraid of the people who get the double standard in their favor. This article is case in point. It’s obvious that any power grab by a Trump-like figure will be met with an all-out war from the American press. But Democrats can say that democracy is in danger and use that to justify outrageously authoritarian measures (censorship of the internet, domestic surveillance, war against people based on health status, etc.) and these very authoritarian measures are being tacitly or explicitly supported by what is supposed to be a check on government power in the press.
We’re probably one disaster away from Dems having the support of the press/intellectual class to suspend elections and/or instantiate a permanent ID that only grants constitutional rights and ability to participate in society based on health care status or whatever is next. The fact is that’s plausible for DNC and it’s laughable for RNC. Who is the real threat?
(For my own biases -> my politics are much closer to Chomsky than Biden)
its almost all traceable back to the worst president america ever had. besides his successor empty suit hollowman obama.
trump is a tyrant: actually bill clinton helped to create the patriot act, proposed building a wall against mexico, used the pre patriot act to attack muslims: The harm that Obama has done to devastate some of the poorest, war-torn countries on earth: Libya was the richest in Africa, and relatively stable until Hillary Clinton decided otherwise.
Clinton was Secretary of State during Obama’s first term in office. In 2011, she craved for war. A ‘New York Times’ report citing 50 top US officials, left no doubt that Clinton was the ‘catalyst’ in the decision to go to war.
The ruling or leadership class of the United States does seem to be in consistent decline. If you think of the last several presidents, each seems to be worse — less competent — than the previous one. One possible explanation is class ossification, where the next generation of leaders and their lieutenants are selected not for competence or accomplishment but for family, connections, and wealth. Supposedly Voltaire said ‘History is the sound of hobnail boots going upstairs and velvet slippers coming down’ which would be as good a description as any.
On propaganda and the media.
I encourage everyone to go back to the original American sources. Read Bernay’s biography which is the old testament of Barnum & Bailey commercial and political propaganda, then get Public Opinion by Walter Lippman, the 1920s-1960s New Dealish editorial writer for the NYT who though his class had the duty to “Shape public opinion”, a term he invented.
And finally read-up on Woodrow Wilson and his PR man George Creel who first “Kept us out of war” and after the 11/1916 election smoothly transitioned us into the war five months later. Creel’s son was the Creel who invented the ” General Westmoreland knew about Tet beforehand” story for 60 Minutes, stuck to it all through the trial and vanished from the press when the trial was over.
The present media bias has a long American past. Remember the Maine!
Biden’s “nothing fundamental will change” was addressed to a finance industry audience, for whom nothing *did* fundamentally change — under Obama, under Trump and now under Biden.
But is it really so difficult to credit the man, hapless, corrupt and blinkered though he may be, with the most progressive platform in years? For its beneficiaries, a whole lot would change.
At least he, or the people around him, know the neo-liberal program has to yield. And in his bumbling corrupt folksy way, he probably does care, in a way Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy don’t, about the welfare of ordinary people. This concern, however sentimental and dispensable, will and has had consequences for policy.
It’s mighty easy to dismiss that program from a position of comfort.
What is Biden’s progressive program? Extension of Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care? Medicare drug price negotiation? The PRO Act? Has he shown a willingness to use his power to make these happen?
I haven’t seen it. It may be easy to dismiss Biden politically from a position of comfort, but even easier to dismiss him if you’re not comfortable.
Beyond rhetoric, what in the world are you talking about?
But is it really so difficult to credit the man, hapless, corrupt and blinkered though he may be, with the most progressive platform in years?
I do suppose that “nothing will fundamentally change” is not the same as regressive. And Obama did bail out the bankers, kept us in the wars, and continued to trash our civil liberties, which surely was not progress, and then there was the Trumpanzie… …so maybe, aside from a totally disastrous covid response, things haven’t backslid too much, or as much, as they have in recent years. Yet.
But I am still at a bit of a loss… …what is one material thing that has improved for Americans, the majority of Americans, since Biden took residence?
Carl H, I guess you missed (for example) the [now expiring] enhanced child tax credit? Food on the table is mere window-dressing? And the haplessly named BBB has nothing for you?
Of course, if you have no children, don’t work for a living in the sense of being obliged to accept poorly paid salaried employment and have decided there’s no point even trying to avert the collapse of the earth because all politicians are venal, there may be nothing in the social programs and public spending of BBB or any conceivable American administration, for you….
Because Biden falls short of, in the words of Cat Burglar — “Extension of Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care? Medicare drug price negotiation? The PRO Act? Has he shown a willingness to use his power to make these happen?” — we’ll do best by dismissing the program altogether? “They’re all the same….”?
Meanwhile, in the real world, those with nothing generally don’t insist on all or nothing. They’ll happily take something.
The view from Olympus may be dandy, but I wonder if it isn’t a luxury few share?
Except, the Build Back Better Act has not been passed by the Senate, so the child tax credit is expiring. So far, there is nothing. He has not delivered.
As of now, “nothing fundamental will change” — and that was a Biden campaign promise.
Reading some of E.H. Carr’s comments the other day, where he indicates support for strong men like Stalin and Hitler was driven by their complete contempt and lack of commitment to liberal idealism. This caused me to think about Trump, who is always accused of being a strong man but sure did not govern like one no matter how many essays to the contrary. I think people mistake a “strong man” for someone who has contempt for liberal idealism.
This caused to me construct a thesis to explain why people ran around calling Trump a strong man and a fascist even though there is no parallel to either as historical movements. PMC’s really do believe in liberal idealism, and Trump didn’t (like Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Tito and De Gaulle to name a few). They perceive the election of someone actively hostile to liberal idealism as a threat, as it invalidates their mandate for class rule based on their moral and intellectual supremacy, even if that figure is bumbling, incompetent, surrounds himself with enemies who constantly back-stab him, promotes stupid cronies and governs like Mitt Romney, etc. This is the threat, the threat to PMC moral legitimacy, and obviously, the solution is to talk about PMC moral legitimacy and explain how the world will end unless others submit. It begins and ends right there.
The other piece is that “liberal principles” are a commitment to a separation of powers, judicial veto, filibusters, “money is speech”, senate parliamentarians, OMB ratings, and the rest of the multifaceted components of the vetoaucracy which is incapable of getting anything done (except for those who can buy the most speech). Of course no one is going to talk about substance, because substance would lead to a discussion of why nothing substantive can be done, the fetishization of process over substance which seems to be the core of liberal democratic ideology (post-60’s to today).
Yes, it is hard not to imagine something getting done eventually, and not hard to see the PMC having trouble polishing their halos.
If we get a strongman he will claim to be of the left, because he will need the bureaucrats and PMC’s, at least at first, and that’s what they would want him to be. In reality, he will be about power. His policies could be anything.
And, he will be a he. There have been powerful women throughout history, Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great stand out. But they didn’t get there by winning dictator tournaments.
He’s prepping the strongman act for a 2nd term if he gets it: Potential use of the RICO statues to go after progressive activists who opposed his administration, non-violent as well as the violent–huge fines and jail terms. Not to mention deconstructing as much of the government state as possible that serves people as per Bannon.
Not interested in providing a public how-to list on strongman rule, but lawfare has been used against the extreme right for decades now without creating strongman rule. If you look at the sentences being handed down for Jan. 6, it looks like a lot of mentally ill and gullible people (say Qanon Shaman) are going down for a long time over non-violent stupidity (essentially trespass). Joe Biden is no strongman despite this development. As far as deconstructing as much of the government state as possible that serves people, see the privatization of Medicare push per the Biden admin.
Actual American strongmen in history would be Lincoln and FDR, who don’t receive that treatment historically by virtue of their ability to completely pulverize their political enemies and get their friends to write to the history books. [Supposedly, FDR brought in Truman because he thought he was too much of a left thumb to seriously continue the dictatorship. It is unclear whether Lincoln would have sought a third term.]
And… the hysteria build-up to the commemorative 1/6 – now only 2 days away(!) – MSM broadcasts continues. (and in this an election year, too.) /heh
Here is one group that supports the jailed folks. They have rallies planned in most states. It was an interesting read about the founder of the group. He is doing quite well at his new gig.
The Reverend Mothers seeded their games like that. So that when the need was great, someone in the know could pick up that TINA-based strongman mantle.
But I’ll bite. Did no one pay attention to Bush v. Gore election? Did we forget all the multiple roles the Florida Secretary of State played in that game. All political social clubs’ ground games publicly laid bare. Now suddenly Cassandras are popping up with a new TINA-Orange Man bad / strongman can’t be stopped – issue.
It can’t be stopped because the social club elites are committed to use said strongman when the time is right rather than allow the rabble to create their own. A real peoples’ strongman might strip the elite of their wealth and privileges. Even take their lives. With the chaos of The Jackpot about to be unleashed, he / she could change the game forever.
I think the pandemic and its response are the beginning marker of some new ism. That the global elite have already passed through what Teg terms as depravity of the Honored Matres. Shock Doctrine, the cleanup troops of Neoliberalism and Financial Capitalism, will be further deployed to clear the field for that new ism. The PMC as a group will continue doing what they’ve been trained to do. Like Feynman, any twinges they may feel will be put aside for the sake of the team, the emergency and its stated public goals.
If the US becomes a failed state for its people, they don’t really care. People are nothing more than spreadsheet numbers and those numbers need to dramatically come down across the globe.
What matters is that the US maintains its global reserve currency status and its lawfare practices. That way once The Jackpot is fully unleashed, the basic structure of The Machine and the wealth they’ve accumulated comes out the other side for those ordained to rule. e.g., Land and resource extraction titles / rights. AND, most importantly, the ability to collect historically owed and newly created debts, especially if they were illegitimate in the first place.
Great risk. They could lose everything. But from their perspective, the coming unstoppable Jackpot chaos requires it. Do nothing and they most likely lose everything there too. A trap of their own creation. So let the grifters grift. The looters loot. Increases the noise in the signal(s). As long as the required structures and policies are put in place with little to no opposition, who cares?. After all The Machine has survived wars before. some form of civilization will live on.
I believe marym has replied with the root of our problem, that being “predatory capitalism and the war machine”.
Groggily awake at 2:30 am this morning (that unaccustomed 2nd cup of coffee kicking in) and thinking about Fascism, due to much internet muttering about its imminence. Not being an historian, I am never quite sure what Fascism actually is, outside of Hitler, Mussolini, brutalist architecture and lots of dramatic footage featuring draped flags and precision marching. Sort of ‘I know it when I see it?’
Much of Fascism seems to involve Government dictates that funnel profits to big businesses. Citizens bend to the dictatorial powers of Corporatism and Nationalism (Patriotism?).
I thought about World War 2 in the US. The Government was everywhere: posters with Uncle Sam exhorting us to be Patriotic, button our lips, don’t eat meat, etc were on every wall and shop window. Government regulated the amount of meat and sugar and gasoline and clothing we could purchase. It convinced the us to save our cooking grease and turn it in and to bundle cardboard and newspaper and bring it to designated collection points. Women were told to smear their naked legs with tan goop, instead of wearing stockings; I remember my aunt, carefully drawing a brown line up the back of each leg to imitate the seam in nylon stockings (this was before the invention of seamless panty-hose.)
Big businesses was on-board, lured by prospects of enormous profits: the future Military-Industrial Complex, Lockheed, Boeing, McDonnell, Douglas Aircraft, and General Dynamics. The future Detroit Big Three: Ford, GM, Chrysler. The nascent canned, dehydrated, frozen and packaged food industry, including Hormel Foods, makers of Spam. And, the sparks of the future tech industry. Anti-trust legislation was set aside.
Lots of Patriotism (Nationalism?) and flags. All males of working age, were forced to register for the draft and were subject to conscription into military service. Families hung red, white and blue banners in their windows, with stars signifying a service member. War Bond rallies took place across the country, with patriotic speeches and flag waving.
Dissident or suspect opposition groups were forcibly suppressed, jailed or placed in concentration camps, including US citizens of Japanese, Italian and German ancestry. So-called ‘conscientious objectors,’ at best reviled as cowards and made to ‘serve the war effort’ as medics or ambulance drivers, at worst, jailed.
Why is what the nation experienced during WW 2 not labelled as Fascism? Are the governmental/corporate actions described as Fascism actually ok when the nation faces a grave and existential outside threat? Or when they win the war?
Was militaristic Fascism merely Stage One in the final goal of Corporate Domination? Ultimately, the Government has backed off, privatized everything, let loose the dogs of unchecked Corporate power, and has evolved, like the human appendix, into a vestigial organ. Are we, the USA, actually a Late-Stage Fascist State? And, what is the next evolutionary direction?
All these early morning confused thought ramblings led to one thing, the 800 pound gorilla: climate change, global warming, or climate disruption, however one labels it. It is definitely an existential threat, at least for millions and millions of people. For the Corporatist Billionaires among us, not so much. But for us whose billions are in the numbers of our lives and the lives of our children, whose communities will be burned, flooded, buried in dust, or leveled by monster tornadoes, we are faced with an existential threat. With the Government officially Not At Home, and the Corporatists in charge, what are we to do?
(I have gone on and on. But thanks to Yves and Lambert and the rest of the NC crew for providing an outlet for my ramblings, so I don’t go completely insane.)
Fascism is a widely used concept by leftists to mean stuff I do not like. However, historically, fascism involves one party rule, generally with the party creating a shadow state (mimicking the state apparatus) prior to assuming power. Second, dictatorship and one party rule. Third, “corporatism”, which is not rule by corporations but basically government counsels presided over by technocrats and interested stake holders, with generally the state controlling unions, etc., setting wages and working conditions without strikes and all that kind of mess, just hunky-dorey rule by technocrats and prison sentences for critics.
Fascism does not have to be right-wing, Peron was considered left-wing, but his play book was straight out of Italy, when he wasn’t in exile in fascist Spain. However, America has never been fascist, because there is an organized opposition, free elections, and private unions among other things.
The reality is that there should be a constitutional balance between separation of powers (and made up stuff like the OMB and senate parliamentarian) and the ability to decisively make central decisions. Fascism goes too far in one direction, “liberal-democracy” is basically political stalemate while capital compounds more.
One thing that many of these sorts of articles that decry Trump and his legacy have in common is that they completely ignore the damage to the nation that was caused during the Bush Jr. administration. Their wanton disregard for the constitution and international law went unchecked and we are still paying the price. The dysfunctional policies persued by Obama and Trump merely followed the roadmap laid down by W. Bush and were amateurs by comparison to the mendacity of the Bush years. But I suppose this has all disappeared down the memory hole as W. Bush has now become a hero for the mainstream liberal class.
As for the future of the US, I think that it will continue its slow, winding-down that has started since the beginning of the neoliberal era with the Reagan administration. Rather than a rightwing dictatorship, I think it is more likely that you will have various billionaires carving out fiefdoms in the country with the president becoming little more than a figurehead, much like the medieval lords of old with a relatively weak king.
These corporate and wealthy lords will probably set themselves up as rulers over their various territories and the people within and I expect that they will also start fielding large private security forces to maintain control and keep the resident population in line.
I agree with the above almost completely. Certainly, the feudal landlord scenario seems much more probable than a Trumpian dictatorship (assuming the guy manages not to stroke out by 2024).
In fairness, Homer-Dixon does spend a paragraph on inequality and the decline in the ordinary worker’s income compared with the spike in CEO compensation.
But he does not mention the 2000 election, which was clearly an undemocratic result and should have resulted in constitutional reform. Why did no elites or the Dem party call for such back then? It may have had something to do with the fact that they really don’t mind living in an undemocratic country, so long as the former always call the shots and the latter gets back in power every couple cycles. As a commenter notes above, the US has never been a democracy given its electoral college and Senate.
Yet at least your Senate is elected! Up here in Canada, we have democracy issues as bad as, if not worse than, those in the US. Our electoral system is utterly defective, and combined with our Westminster-style government it means that a party and leader can be given near-absolute power with 38% of the national vote, at turnout of under 70%. A strongman PM in Canada could make it into a fascist country even faster than a strongman President could the US. So you might say that Homer-Dixon should stick to his knitting.
Still, Canada clearly needs to think about a future in which the US is unstable and hostile. But I’m not sure we have the capacity to do so. Homer-Dixon’s recommendation to set up a parliamentary committee to study the issue is ludicrous: it would be ineffective and inflame relations. Plus, Canada’s elites are also too busy enjoying the high life and giving away our resources and expertise. In the end, we will likely simply sell our souls to keep the peace, lest the great elephant roll northward in a spasm of aggression.
“Appoint a committee” is not an exciting suggestion – but forming a multiparty consensus for precautionary action has the potential for being effective if someone takes it and runs with it – it’s clear that events in the U.S. over the next few years are likely to remain alarming. It’s not clear just how much wiggle room Canada can find to “go our own way” – we will always have the same next door neighbours – in a no longer politically correct metaphor, John Ralston Saul called us a “Siamese twin” – nevertheless, the extent of entanglement might be reduced.
Yet at least your Senate is elected!
And this is a good thing? Possibly the Fathers of Confederation considered this before opting for an appointed Senate?
I thought Homer-Dixon’s suggestion to set up a committee was a bit silly but perhaps about the best that can be done at the moment. Unfortunately I cannot completely dismiss his premise of a US civil war or, at least, extensive civil unrest and violence.
Three or four years ago I remember a US blogger suggesting that they were worried about a coup in Washington and I thought they were crazy. Now….