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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/8/18

Rotten to the Heart: Authoritarian Chickens Roosting at Home

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From Counterpunch


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Yes, He's Awful

Much of what liberals say about Donald Trump and the chilling political moment the Trump presidency represents is true enough.

Trump really is the arch-authoritarian malignant narcissist that liberals say he is. Trump thinks he deserves to rule the nation like an absolute monarch or some ridiculous Banana Republic dictator. He believes he's above all the law, consistent with Louis XIV's dictum L'etat, C'est Moi ("the state is me"). The notion that Trump can pardon himself from any crime really is the height of imperial arrogance.

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Trump really does value nothing but the advancement of his own wealth and image. There is no person, no principle, no higher loyalty he is not willing to sacrifice on the altar of self.

Trump really is the almost perfect embodiment of venal malevolence that liberals say he is. The idiotic military parade Trump has scheduled for the next Veterans Day is an exercise in proto-fascistic, Mussolini-like imperial-presidential self-adulation.

This racist and sexist beast befouls the nation and world with his ghastly, eco-cidal presence. The sooner he draws his last undeserved breath, the better for all living things (or maybe not: Mike Pence could be worse).

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The Authoritarian and Inauthentic Opposition

Fine, but why does this despicable, orange-tinted insult to common human decency occupy the White House? He holds the most powerful office in the world because the Democratic Party has long been and remains what the late liberal-left Princeton political scientist Sheldon Wolin called the Inauthentic Opposition. "Should Democrats somehow be elected," Wolin prophesied in early 2008, they would do nothing to "alter significantly the direction of society" or "substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards. ... The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts," Wolin wrote, "points to the crucial fact that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf." The corporatist Democrats would work to "marginalize any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans."

Wolin called it. A nominal Democrat was elected president along with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. What followed under Barack Obama (as under his Democratic presidential predecessor Bill Clinton) -- a different and possibly more dangerous kind of malignant narcissist -- was the standard "elite" neoliberal manipulation of campaign populism and identity politics in service to the reigning big-money bankrollers and their global empire.

Wall Street's control of Washington and the related imperial agenda of the "Pentagon System" were advanced more effectively by the nation's first Black president than they could have been by stiff and wealthy white Republicans like John McCain or Mitt Romney. The reigning U.S. system of corporate and imperial "inverted totalitarianism" (Wolin) was given a deadly, fake-democratic re-branding. The underlying "rightward drift" sharpened, fed by a widespread and easily Republican-exploited sense of popular abandonment and betrayal, as the Democrats depressed and demobilized their own purported popular base.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did nothing to correct that problem. Quite the opposite. With a colossal campaign finance war-chest fed not just by the usual Wall Street and Silicon Valley suspects but also by many traditionally Republican big money donors who were repelled by Trump's faux "populism," the transparently corporate establishmentarian candidate Clinton could barely deign to pretend to be a progressive. She ran almost completely on the argument that Trump was too terrible and unqualified to be president. Making candidate character and qualities her sole selling point was a critical and historic mistake given the angry and anti-establishment mood of the electorate and her own epic unpopularity. So was calling Trump's flyover county supporters a "basket of" racist and sexist "deplorables" in a sneering comment (one that accurately reflected her aristocratic "progressive"-neoliberal world view) to rich Manhattan campaign donors.

Authoritarianism? Single-Payer national health insurance had long been supported by most U.S.-Americans when Obama ascended to the White House. Who cared? Not the "radical socialist" Barack Obama. Like the Clintons before him, Obama coldly froze Single Payer advocates out of the health insurance policy debate. He worked with the leading drug and insurance corporations and their Wall Street backers to craft a richly corporatist "reform" that preserved those companies' power to write their super-profits into the obscenely exaggerated cost of American medical care.

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As our greatest intellectual Noam Chomsky noted two years ago, Obama "punished more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined." The Obama administration repeatedly defended George W. Bush's position on behalf of indefinite detention, maintaining that prisoners (US-Americans included) in the US global "war on [of] terror... were not entitled to habeas corpus or protection from torture or execution. Obama carried overseas assassination (by drone and Special Forces) -- execution (even of U.S. citizens) without trial or even formal charge -- to new levels. Regarding Obama's drone assassination program, Chomsky wrote acidly about how "the [Obama] Justice Department explained that the constitutional guarantee of due process, tracing to Magna Carta, is now satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch alone. The constitutional lawyer in the White House agreed. King John (1199-1216) might have nodded with satisfaction."

Hillary Clinton's 2016 Vice Presidential ticket partner, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), is currently a leading sponsor of the "Forever AUMF 2018" (SJRes 59) (Authority for the Use of Military Force). As the ACLU's Renee Parsons explains, the measure would ... eliminate Congress' sole, inviolate Constitutional authority 'to declare war.'" It "would remove Congress from its statutory authority as it transfers 'uninterrupted' authority on 'the use of all necessary and appropriate force' to one individual." That would garner another thumbs-up from King John.

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Paul Street (www.paulstreet.org and paulstreet99@yahoo.com) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (2004), Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (2007), Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (more...)
 
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