"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)
As long as we have Abbott, we've got that one, whether they vote for us or not.
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The term "useful idiot" may, or may not, have been invented by either Vladimir Ilyich Lenin or Joseph Stalin. But in any case, historically it has been associated with Russia/the Soviet Union and has been taken to mean "a naive or unwitting ally of a ruthless political movement." In our own time, by his enemies it has been applied to Donald J. Trump to describe his relationship with Vladimir Putin (and the only thing that latter has in common with Lenin is their first names). But in terms of what is happening to the political economy of the United States and the very real possibility that if Trump becomes President for a second term (note I did not use the term "win") the United States will turn fascist. But who is really driving this process in politico-economic terms? It's not Trump. A) he is hardly smart enough and B) personally he is driven by his personal needs and neuroses, not any consistent, complex, political ideology (which he couldn't understand even if he wanted to). The driver, rather, is William Barr. (And Trump's yelps at Barr are entirely irrelevant to the Barr-Plan-for-Fascism.
As it happens, and is well-known, because of his obviously close relationship (on a variety of levels) with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as noted Trump is often referred to as Putin's "Useful Idiot." But in terms of what is happening with the development of capitalism and the battle for the control of the capitalist state in the U.S. (see the Appendix below for a brief discussion of the nature of the capitalist politico-economic system and the Nature of the State), it has become clear that the leader of the wing of the U.S. ruling class that wants to install a fascist state is Attorney General Bill Barr, not Donald J. Trump.
As noted, Trump is simply is not smart enough to be able to do that. But since he always ran his companies in a dictatorial fashion and is obviously trying to do more of the same for the United States, he is very useful for Barr and the U.S. ruling class segment that he, Barr, represents. Those would include: fossil fuels, the petrochemical industry, factory farming, certain elements of banking/finance, the prison/industrial complex, the military/industrial complex, the elements of the gun industry (weapons, ammunition, and sales), major elements of the "health" care industry including the "insurers," and so on and so forth. (See, e.g., Bill Koch's interests.)
As noted in the Appendix below, under capitalism there can be three different patterns of organization of state power (all, of course, designed to maintain a capitalist ruling class in control of the state apparatus). The first is what can be called "social capitalism" (a term which I prefer to "social democracy") which maintains ruling class control of State Power by providing a reasonable level of economic benefit to the members of the non-owning classes (see the New Deal, and "Bernie's" version of what he calls social democracy, or "democratic socialism," which it isn't). The second is what I call "repressive parliamentary capitalism," that is, as noted below, while maintaining parliamentary/constitutional forms it has gradually whittled away many of the "social capitalist" protections/benefits for the non-owners, while pretending to be protective. See Thatcher/Blair/Reagan/Clinton-Democratic-Leadership-Council. This is what the U.S. has had under Obama (with a Republican Congress) and certainly under Trump (with much more whittling).
However, as is well-known: a) Republican/Trumpian rule is being threatened; b) major elements of the Democratic Party are moving back towards the "social capitalism" model; c) the coming demographic changes in the U.S. are threatening to upend the whole political system away from the major right-wing trajectory that has been followed since the election of Reagan. And so, along comes William Barr. He is a right-wing Republican going back to the time when he rescued G.H.W. Bush from the potential highly negative outcomes of the Iran/Contra scandal. He has been a promoter of the concept of the "unitary executive" (a major feature of fascism, by the way) since that time.
He sent the celebrated, and unsolicited, "19 page memo," some say 20 page, at the onset of the Mueller Investigation upholding the concept of unitary executive power in that context. Then, since becoming Attorney General he has attempted to deep-six the Mueller Report itself, has politicized the justice and law enforcement systems in Trump's favor, has, as is well-known, done favors for convicted "Trump-men," has given a major address to the Federalist Society upholding the concept of the "unitary executive," and in an address at Notre Dame he attacked "militant secularism" as somehow a threat to believing Christians. (As a militant secularist, I do not want to repress anyone else's speech. I just want them not to jam their religious views down my throat, using the force of law.)
The Republican Party of which Barr is, along with Mitch McConnell, the leading representative, is often described (e.g., by Joe Scarborough, of all people) as facing its relatively imminent demise. Concurrently, should Joe Biden win the Presidency it is facing the imminent loss of its control of state power, through the end of the current run of repressive capitalism. As the demographic changes come more into play, the chances of the Repubs. getting back into power anytime soon diminish fairly rapidly. Barr is thus clearly leading the drive to instill a U.S. form of fascism, with Trump as the titular head for now. (To what extent Joe Biden would bring back social capitalism is open to debate, for many a very serious debate, and will be considered at another time.)
Thus (very briefly for now --- I will deal with this prospect in more detail down the road) Barr, with a rapidly enlarging set of political and "other" allies, is clearly planning to attempt to steal the election. Some of the well-recognized elements include: voter suppression, the "State-Legislature-Steal" of electoral votes, Trump's screaming about the illegitimate nature of mail-in ballots, and Trump's just plain screaming about whatever comes into his mind at any particular time. That is the height of Trump's Useful Idiocy for Barr and his people.
I also think that: A) the Republicans (under whose leadership is unclear at this time) are planning to organize gangs in large numbers to steal and destroy large numbers of mailed-in ballots so that regardless of what might happen in the courts, large numbers of pro-Biden ballots simply could not be counted. B) Despite Trump's penchant for suing, I think that they will try to avoid getting the case to the Supreme Court. For even with Barrett on it, I don't think that, with the Chief Justice increasingly concerned with the Court's legacy, a majority would again vote to hand the Republicans another election. Finally, I think that there could well be an "October Surprise," but one other than a Trump-vaccine which few would take (and I, a firm believer in vaccination, would not take it). What might that be? Nothing less than a reprise of the "Reichstag Fire," Berlin, 1933, set, of course by a Trumpist gang disguised as "antifa," just as a group of Hermann Goering's thugs were able to make it look like it was set by a mentally-troubled Dutch Communist. The target? The U.S. Capitol, of course. Desperation? Of course.
And oh yes. Since Trump is much too dumb to be able to run the fascist state that Barr-and-company want to install. After his second term were to start, one way or another they would be getting him out-of-office pretty quickly. And then out-of-the-country., in order to avoid any potentially embarrassing New York State-City prosecutions, although then, when what I think would be the Grand Secession were to occur, they would not be able to avoid that, even in absentia.
Appendix: On the Uniqueness of the Human Species and what it Needs to do in order to Survive; the Private Ownership of the Means of Production; and the Nature of the State
Human beings are unique among the members of the animal universe in that once the species moved beyond its most primitive stage, in order to survive elements that are found in the environment for food and means of protection (e.g., clothing, shelter) must be converted from the raw versions to something else: cooked food, fabrics (after the simple use of animal skins), built shelter (rather than simply caves or other natural structures). There are a few animal species that do this sort of thing on a limited basis: beavers build dams; birds build nests. But they are few and far between and such conversions are of a very limited nature.
In early human cultures what can be called "the means of production" and then exchange was communally owned. But at some time in the distant human past, once the species moved beyond simply hunting and gathering for survival, in most societies they gradually became privately owned. And a system that we call an economy, that is the arrangements for production, exchange, finance, and transport, were gradually developed to manage the whole enterprise.
Exactly why and when they became privately, rather than communally owned, is not entirely clear (at least it's not entirely clear to me[!]). But it likely had to do with the penchant for members of the human species to use force against each other in order to achieve certain aims, a characteristic which is virtually unique to humans. And so, the private ownership of the means of production was gradually developed, and over time became gradually more sophisticated. Further, the private owners of the means of production gradually developed various forms of what is now called "state power" in order to maintain their control of those means.
Until relatively recently, state power was controlled by hereditary monarchies of one sort or another. But beginning in 18th century England, as modern industrial capitalism began to be developed, control of state power was gradually shifted away from the monarch(s) to representatives of the class that owned the means of production, distribution, exchange, and finance (called the "ruling class"). This was and is most often done through a system that is called "parliamentary democracy," which of course appears in a variety of forms around the capitalist world. Occasionally, however, when a ruling class feels that its control of the means of production (etc.) is threatened, the society and its economy is run/controlled by an authoritarian system that in function resembles those absolute monarchies in which there was no rule of law, but is run by civilians. That system is often called "fascism."
At different times, then, different capitalist ruling classes have use different forms of state power to maintain their control of the means of production, etc. Since the 19th century, in terms of their approach to the organization and maintenance of control of state power, capitalist ruling classes have always been split into three groups. What could be called "social capitalism," invented actually by the Prussian Empire's Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, provided certain benefits for the working and middle classes in order to keep them supporting capitalist control of state power by making them somewhat happy and content.
In the U.S. the "New Deal" was the principal historical representative of the type. It's called "social democracy" in Europe. But since that term is often confused with "democratic socialism," with which it has nothing in common in terms of its politico-economic structure (that is it is simply not "socialist" in any sense of the term) I prefer the term "social capitalism." Then there is what can be called "repressive parliamentary capitalism," what we have had in the US under Reagan/Clinton-DLC, in the UK under Thatcher and then Blair etc., "New Labour." While maintaining parliamentary/constitutional forms it has gradually whittled away many of the "social capitalist" protections/benefits for the non-owners, while pretending to be protective --- in order to maintain control of state power. Then comes fascism, obviously coming here if Barr/Trump win for the segment of the ruling class they represent that sees no other way to keep control of the means of production, distribution, exchange and finance. As spelled out briefly above.
An earlier version of this column appeared at: Click Here.