In an insightful piece in the current "The Atlantic,"* Peter Beinhart links two publications. One from 1953 entitled, "The Captive Mind" by Czeslaw Milosz describes how Polish intellectuals came to embrace Stalinism....primarily because they wanted to belong to the masses. The other, a phantom website lasting only four months, entitled, "The Journal of American Greatness," written by pseudonyms making the case "for overthrowing Americas existing political order and replacing it with the raw, dynamic, intoxicating energy of Donald Trump.
Declaring liberal democracy 'dead' current commentators, like former George W. Bush speechwriter, Peggy Noonan is quoted by Beinhart:
The Beltway intelligentsia of the conservative movement continues to be upset about Mr. Trump's coming nomination and claim they'd' support him but they have been able to sleep at night. They slept well enough through two unwon wars, the great recession, and the refusal of Republican and Democratic administrations to stop illegal immigration.
Beinhart quotes from "The Journal of American Greatness," "Decius" (a pen name) distinguishes between "tyranny" and "Caesarism", the former taking absolute power by overthrowing a constitutional republic, whereas the latter takes absolute power but only when a constitutional republic has already collapsed on its own. (This distinction is borrowed from political theorist, Leo Strauss.)
Putting lipstick on a pig, is a phrase made vernacular when a Vice-presidential candidate, the former Governor of Alaska, took the stage in the 2008 presidential election. And to attempt to justify Trump by using the distinction between whether a constitutional republic has been overthrown or collapsed on its own makes an assumption that challenges reality.
First, if the American republic has failed, over the last two decades, the evidence points to the Republican Party as the principal agent for the failure: first George W. Bush's worst mistake in American diplomatic history, the War in Iraq, and second, the Republican-controlled Congress' commitment to oppose and to thwart each and every proposal made by President Obama. The deregulation of Wall Street, while begun while President Clinton was in the White House, was enhanced and furthered by Dubya and the chicanery and deception that shrouded the instruments of the 2008-9 recession played a significant part in the mess Obama inherited. However, the 9/11 attacks, and the wars that ensued, starting from the moment Bush declared to the world, while standing on the rubble of the twin towers, "The whole world will hear from all of us soon!" plus the billions that have been spent on the seemingly mandatory "Homeland Security Monstrosity" left Obama and the country in a highly precarious position.
So now to champion Trump as the "Caesar' coming in to rescue the country from its own peril, because the constitutional republic as failed on its own not only trashes the truth. It makes one wonder if deception, lies, innuendo and propaganda have not replaced any semblance of integrity, at least in the Republican camp now led by Trump. Do the political operatives and the conservative intelligentsia really believe the Kool-aid they are drinking, that Obama and Clinton, whom they have married as the two-headed monster of their imagined dystopia, are the reason for and the evidence for their concoction of a failed constitutional republic, simply so they and Trump together can ride the wave of anger that has festered in the chests of 'grumpy old men' for years?
Projecting "dishonesty" and "untrustworthiness" on Hillary Clinton, for her failed and misleading statements and 'corrections' and 'forgetfulness' and for the potential, yet unproven mis-steps of the Clinton Foundation, says more about where the real culpability lies: within the conscience of the Republican/Trump party leadership.
They have to know that their secret meeting on the night Obama was first elected in 2008, to decide and to plan to thwart him at every turn, plus their impenetrable obstruction and defiance of every proposal and certainly of Obamacare itself, along with their refusal to give a hearing to and and up or down vote to Obama's nomination for the Supreme Court, plus their more recent refusal even to fund research to work toward a Zeka virus antidote is the pig on which they are attempting to paint this very thick and hopefully effective layer of lipstick. Their own agency in the stagnation and stench that has become "Washington" (the establishment) and then projecting that responsibility on Hillary Clinton, merely for her thirty-plus years in public life, (aided and abetted, unfortunately by Clinton herself, in her default 'legalese' language) is a step too far.
Although Trump cheerleader, Newt Gingrich, says "Trump is like the boy who says the emperor has no clothes", and while there is a kind of naive energy about such an impetuous observation and veneer of truth, it is the Republicans themselves who have no clothes.
Listening to Obama this morning from China, in his last press conference from his last G-20 Conference, one cannot help but note with awe and admiration his grasp of the subtleties of each and every issue, his command of the world stage, the respect he both has and has shared with other world leaders, (even though trust with Putin, for example, can never be taken for granted). His moderate, measured, balanced, far-sighted and 'well-tempered clavier' statesmanship is so far beyond anything the Republican leadership has, can or will offer in the next decade or more, that not only the United States but the whole world will be the lesser for his departure from office,
And while Hillary Clinton has the almost impossible task of attempting to fill Obama's shoes, while always being compared unflatteringly with her husband's ability to "explain" the most obtuse of issues in language everyone understands, she is nevertheless highly intelligent, in command of each file, (if slightly obsessive about the fine details), and a beavering if not over-achieving and committed hard worker whom every chief executive would want in his stable of talent.
Does she "connect" with the people with Obama's charisma, or even the charisma of her husband? No.
Does she have a hill to climb to surmount the political obstacles of debates, and the potential of more hacked emails being released?
Is she aware of the many obstacles in her path to the White House?
Does she have the promise and the guts and the fortitude to face both the obstacles and the many gordion knots that come to the President's desk every day?
Is there any reason why ordinary people cannot discern between a monumental propaganda machine that distorts both micro and macro reality for political gain, and a somewhat 'under seige' first female candidate who must never ask people to vote for her because she is a woman?
Will the world be more safe should Hillary become president, than should Trump ride his vacuous parade to victory?
Of course, of that there can be no doubt.
Will the American people see that their future and that of the world, not only their petty grievances, are being litigated in this campaign?
November 8 will tell the answer.
*Trumps' Intellectuals, Why are some conservative thinkers falling for Trump?, The Atlantic, September 2016