Did Trump Kill ‘Liberal Democracy’?

Donald Trump’s victory has spurred commentary about the “death of liberal democracy,” but the seeds of that demise were planted in the 1980s amid elite orthodoxy in favor of neoliberal economics, argues Mike Lofgren.

By Mike Lofgren

The election of Donald Trump has triggered as much wonderment abroad as it has in the United States. David Runciman, a professor of politics at the University of Cambridge, has written in the London Review of Books a provocative reflection on the nature of democracy in the age of Trump: “Is this how democracy ends?

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona. October 4, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

There is much to praise in his essay, including his heavy qualification that we really don’t know for sure if what we are seeing is the end phase of mature Western democracies since we do not have the appropriate historical precedents to be certain.

Runciman is correct; as an admirer of Karl Popper, I believe that there is no such thing as historical determinism, either in the form of the Marxist dialectical process, or in the guise of its mirror image, the invisible hand of laissez-faire. Accordingly there is no surefire way to tell in advance whether Trump, Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders would spell the end of democracy as we have known it. History, as Popper would tell us, is an open system, full of contingency. Waterloo, the Battle of Britain and Stalingrad were all close-run things.

That said, Runciman may, in fact, be too optimistic. He makes much of the evidence that post-election violence in America was scattered and relatively minor. There were no pitched battles in the streets on the scale of Berlin in 1932, no tanks on the Washington Mall and no generals appearing on television to announce a curfew or to say that order has been restored.

Trump Consequences

But that establishes an awfully easy test for Trump to prove he is harmless, especially as he had not even assumed office at the time of the author’s writing. We do not know what the next four years have to offer, particularly when Trump begins to dismantle government programs on which people rely for subsistence, or when he ignites a trade war with China and downscale consumers, the archetypal Walmart customers, suddenly discover either that the shelves are empty or that their cost of living has increased by 45 percent.

If we look at Russia in the age of Vladimir Putin, we also see no tanks in the streets, bloody battles between opposing factions or generalissimos restoring order. Elections there proceed in an orderly manner, as they did last September. This is what managed democracy looks like. Runciman may argue Russia was never a mature Western democracy, and he would be right.

But it also shows that an absence of chronic civil unrest or domestic military intervention is not a benchmark for deciding whether a country remains in the camp of liberal democracies. Even countries visibly undemocratic by Western standards can maintain a façade of civil order and normality. Hungary, an E.U. member since 2004 after 84 percent of the electorate approved accession, is undeniably regressing toward a one-party, authoritarian state under Brussels’ very nose.

Just as Putin’s United Russia Party has moved to disqualify troublesome opposition parties from the ballot and centralize power around the president, and as Viktor Orbán’s Fedesz Party has weakened those Hungarian institutions that challenged his power, Trump’s Republican Party has been laying the institutional groundwork for illiberal democracy for several years. States whose legislatures and governorships are controlled by Republicans not only gerrymander federal congressional districts with scientific precision, they have restricted voter qualifications, polling hours and locations as a way of hobbling their opponents.

When North Carolina voters elected a Democrat as governor this November, the Republican legislature passed measures to strip the governorship of many of its powers. Since the governor-elect had not assumed office yet, he was in no position to veto it.

Even more questionable are some of Trump’s own actions as president-elect. When do American politicians hold rallies? Typically, when they are running for office. The freshly elected Trump, rather than studying up for the job or attending intelligence briefings, went on an extended “thank you tour,” staging political rallies across the country. As the American media have noted, these are not meant to heal divisions and unite the country; they have more to do with score-settling with his opponents while stoking his political base. There was no magnanimity or graciousness as he continued to attack his bested opponent, Hillary Clinton.

He also said he intends to maintain his private security squad even after assuming office. Quite apart from its redundancy, given the presence of the taxpayer-provided Secret Service, the specter of a national leader retaining a private security contingent, particularly one that distinguished itself by roughing up protesters at campaign rallies, is troubling indeed. Bringing up party rallies and private security forces may be condemned as an inadmissible argumentum ad Hitlerum, but it is also hardly grounds for complacency given the violent imagery of Trump’s rhetoric.

Problems Beyond Easy Solutions

Runciman is absolutely correct in pointing out the hidden problems that Trump is incapable of solving, particularly the rise in the death rate in parts of Appalachia, the Midwest and the American South. This phenomenon arises from a social crisis characterized by underemployment, inadequate health care and community decay that culminates in epidemic use of opioids and alcohol. What he neglects to emphasize is that these are precisely the areas where Trump’s support is the strongest.

During the primaries, pollsters began noticing his electoral support correlated significantly with counties having the highest number of opioid addiction cases. In the general election, Trump outperformed expectations in key Rust Belt states that he had to win in order to gain an Electoral College majority; he ran particularly strongly where the opioid epidemic was acute. Correlation is not causation, of course, but opioid use may be a symptom of a cluster of social dysfunctions that lead to voters being attracted by Trump’s message.

It is at this point where Runciman’s thesis goes seriously wrong. He says that voters chose Trump to shake things up precisely because they knew he couldn’t do it; in other words, they counted on the political system they rail against as worthless to be worthy enough to protect them from the consequences of their foolish mistake.

The author shows either a remarkable ability to infer the thought processes of an unemployed Kentucky laborer without health insurance, or he is guilty of constructing an attractive-sounding paradox that is a little too clever. If he is right, then Trump was elected in some colossal mistake right out of an O. Henry short story. But among Trump’s most ardent supporters in the blighted areas of the Rust Belt, it is possible they felt the entire system had failed them and they had nothing left to lose.

Indeed, one of the striking characteristics of some Trump supporters is a kind of embittered nihilism and a perverse glee at bringing down the system. These, of course, are by no means all of his voters, although they may have been enough to make the difference.

As for the rest, American party politics has become so polarized and tribal identification with party sufficiently intense, that a Republican national candidate is virtually guaranteed a reliable 40 percent floor at the polls, and the rest of what he gets is what he earns. That 40 percent will vote for the Republican on the ballot regardless of whether the candidate has two horns and a tail; considerations as to whether the system will save them from their choice does not enter their heads.

Hubris Despite Popular Vote Loss 

And even if Trump were elected out of voters’ mistaken premises, what of it? Does that imply Trump will not perform the many potentially destructive acts he has promised to his supporters and threatened to his opponents? Despite his unprecedentedly large popular vote loss as a winning candidate, he and his operatives call his Electoral College victory a landslide and act as if they possess the most overwhelming mandate in history.

If the past is any precedent, the signs are not good. George W. Bush won under similar electoral circumstances and proceeded to bulldoze through a policy of stunning fiscal irresponsibility while provoking a war that may have been America’s single greatest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam — or possibly ever.

As to Trump’s carrying out his agenda, only time will tell, and here Runciman may be a little too optimistic about the resiliency of American institutions. As a former career congressional staff member, I had extended experience seeing them close up and interacting with them.

One of those institutions is the campaign-industrial complex that comprises both major American parties. Trump, operating from his private playbook, handily dispatched the Republican wing of that complex in the primaries and went on to defeat Hillary Clinton’s extremely well-funded machine in the general election.

As for the military-industrial-intelligence complex that Runciman suspects will save the day, I doubt senior personnel in that establishment are immune from the blandishments of career advancement or the object lesson of being sacked. Bush and his vice president succeeded in concocting a fictitious pretext for unprovoked war by jawboning intelligence agencies to give them what they wanted. “Go along to get along” is the Washington Beltway’s prime directive, and why will it be different this time?

Fear-mongering Terrorism 

One of the glaring omissions in the essay was the absence of any discussion of terrorism as a potential solvent of liberal democracy. It is precisely here that the example of Bush’s pretext for the invasion of Iraq is instructive. The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, unhinged a sizable slice of the American people; the invasion of Iraq and its unsatisfactory resolution amplified the syndrome; the rise of ISIS may have brought the public to a tipping point where a caudillo like Trump became possible.

Nor are other polities immune: the Madrid train bombing of 2004 and the London underground attack of 2005 did not engender panicked fear-mongering in Europe, but the civil war in Syria and the terrorist attacks that followed, all of them on a smaller scale than Madrid, have roiled the continent in a way that is seriously upsetting political stability there.

It is well and good for optimists to say Americans should stop being so paranoid, and to point out that the opioid epidemic is a much greater problem because it kills vastly more Americans than terrorism. But perception is political reality.

Fear of terrorism has upset the post-World War II consensus about the balance between freedom and security in the Atlantic democracies. Personal privacy and freedom of movement are essential aspects of the autonomy and dignity of the individual human being. They constitute a bedrock principle of a liberal social order; terrorism erodes these, and the all-but-interminable duration of the war on terrorism suggests time may be on the side of illiberalism.

The parliamentary liberalism unevenly developed over the past two centuries maintains another central tenet: that the litmus test of truth is not blind faith or coerced assent, but corroborable facts and evidence agreed to by all rational observers. This standard has come under attack in America as digital media have fractionated to serve hermetic partisan groups who believe only that which confirms and amplifies their existing biases.

The new approach was best summed up by Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump campaign surrogate who told a stupefied moderator and panelists on a radio talk show that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.”

She went on: “And so Mr. Trump’s tweet[s] amongst a certain crowd, a large — a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — in his — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there’s no facts to back it up. So…”

One of the paradoxical twists of history is that when leftist deconstructionists posited the notion of situational truth in the 1970s, the American right responded with fury against their “moral relativism,” a denunciation that became the leitmotif of staunch conservatives like Ronald Reagan’s education secretary, William Bennett. Now, among the Trump supporters, who have usurped the mantle of true conservative standard-bearers, the very idea of truth is relative to the beliefs of the observer.

Republican Creation 

Many observers, Runciman included, see Trump as a maverick not in tune with the American security apparatus. To some extent, this is true, but the full relationship is more differentiated than that. It is by now universal wisdom that the subversive rhetoric and insurrectionist tactics of the GOP, the Tea Party and their associated propaganda outlets helped create Trump, however much the party establishment claimed to have detested him.

But even though the GOP in the era of the Tea Party sired Trump, it shares parentage with the transpartisan national security complex of the United States. Politicians, generals, CIA directors, think tank warriors and terrorism “experts” have been driving a message of fear about terrorism into our heads for a decade and a half — a fear that has activated the latent authoritarianism and paranoia that lurk in all too many ordinary people.

This dynamic helps explain why Trump’s candidacy took off like a moon rocket in November and December of 2015, the period of the terrorist attack in Paris and the murders in San Bernardino. Government officials and the corporate media whipped up a mood in the country that approached hysteria; Trump deftly exploited that mood to his advantage. By being the only politician brazen enough to openly advocate torture — not merely to gain information, but to inflict pain for its own sake — he tapped into the revenge fantasies of millions of Americans who have been fed a steady diet of fear since 9/11.

Voters in the Republican primary in South Carolina who handed Trump a walkover victory declared terrorism to be their foremost concern, one that eclipsed a low-wage economy — deteriorating living standards that have led to an actual increase in the death rate of the GOP’s core demographic of late-middle-aged, non-college educated whites; and the most expensive and least available health care in the so-called developed world.

So while Trump — a Vietnam-era draft avoider who appeared not even to know what the nuclear triad was — could hardly be considered a product of the national security sector, his demagogic skills and authoritarian demeanor placed him in a far better position than his rivals to exploit the national neurosis created by the war on terror.

Who’s Your Daddy?

On the question of Trump’s authoritarian appeal Runciman states, “It is sometimes said that Trump appeals to his supporters because he represents the authoritarian father figure who they want to shield them from all the bad people out there making their lives hell. That can’t be right: Trump is a child, the most childish politician I have encountered in my lifetime.”

Of course, Trump would appear as a child to a cultured and educated product of Cambridge and an exponent of liberal democracy. His babyish tantrums and 4-in-the-morning tweets are hardly indicative of an adult in control of his emotions. But the problem with the author’s reasoning is that Trump’s demeanor might well appear reminiscent of an authoritarian father in a West Virginia mining town or a South Carolina trailer park.

The American media have collected dozens of quotes from Trump supporters who used father metaphors to describe him; The Washington Post chronicled the story of one rabid supporter, a late-middle-aged woman in Pennsylvania, who habitually referred to Trump as “Big Daddy.” It hardly requires the services of Dr. Freud to infer that there’s something going on there, and it assuredly doesn’t validate the rational choice theory beloved of sociologists.

Donald Trump is one aspect of a much larger story: the fraying of post-World War II institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and NATO. The oldest of these are now seven decades old. If you count its embryonic precursor, the European Coal and Steel Community, the E.U. is almost that old. It may be that these institutions have a natural lifespan.

More likely, perhaps, there was a wrong turning about midway through the postwar period, when Britain and the United States went all in for laissez-faire fundamentalism, with almost all of the Atlantic democracies following in their wake. These policies exacerbated what was already bound to be a difficult adjustment for Western industrial workers when China and other East Asian countries became manufacturing powerhouses.

Voters’ Dismay

In some ways, Trump and his European soul mates are populist reactions, albeit authoritarian ones, to voters’ dismay over the mature democracies’ own slide into illiberalism. To wall off their pet economic nostrums from popular challenge, elites wrote binding clauses into trade treaties to prevent national or regional legislatures from challenging corporate prerogatives on safety or environmental grounds.

Brussels and the European Central Bank forbade member governments, regardless of their popular mandate, from undertaking measures to help their citizens after the 2008 economic crash. The geopolitical situations may be different, but rigid austerity was as much a mistake in the Greece or Italy of today as it was in Chancellor Brüning’s Germany of 1932, or Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald’s Britain of the same year.

So perhaps democracies die of old age and we cannot quite see which event will cause their final cardiac arrest. But more likely, their leaders make avoidable mistakes, and then persist in them because their ideological disposition causes them to resist the warning signs of danger ahead. If authoritarian populism is the wave of the future, its midwife is neoliberal economics turned punitive and illiberal.

Mike Lofgren is a former career congressional staff member who served on the House and Senate budget committees. His latest book is The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.. [This article previously appeared at  http://billmoyers.com/story/maybe-democracy-ends/

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25 comments for “Did Trump Kill ‘Liberal Democracy’?

  1. Joe Tedesky
    January 12, 2017 at 10:15 am

    When President-elect Donald Trump points to a CNN White House reporter, and calls his network ‘Fake News, and no I will not take your questions’, this is what I believe the populace voted for. Trump pretty much says what the average frustrated citizen wants to say, but they can’t. It’s not so much that Trump or even Barack Obama is that great, it’s more like everyone around them is that much worst. It’s easy to look good when everything else is that bad.

    Accepting Donald Trump is bearable to some degree, but what is truly horrifying is that if something terribly goes wrong with President Donald then we end up with a President Pence. My fear is that VP Pence could end up as President by convincing congress that President Donald Trump is unable to fulfill his presidential duties, and then Pence and company can enforce Section 4 of the 25th amendment. Please someone tell me this can’t happen.

    “Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

    Other than that I think Mike Lofgren made many good points to where our democracy has been, and where it is still going. I feel sad for my grandchildren, but I’ll remain hopeful that my grandchildren and yours will battle back and win against this corporate inverted fascism that has overtaken our American Dream.

  2. Josh Stern
    January 12, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Liberal Democracy, in the sense of Mike Lofgren’s essay, was killed by the National Security Act of 1947. One can go back to both the JFK assassination and the Vietnam War as major, major events demonstrating that to be true. The public was deliberately told completely false stories (> 95% false) about both of those events. In both of cases, the truth was known to only a few insiders, protected by “national security”, while outsiders were deliberately deceived by falsehoods, propaganda, and lies.

    One can’t possibly list even a fraction of those secrets and lies in a blog reply. Some highlights:

    JFK: Before his assassination, JFK was at war with the CIA, Pentagon, and the FBI. He opposed a full-scale invasion of Cuba, which they wanted. He opposed the False Flag Operation Northwoods, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved. He opposed initiating a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis – something his generals wanted. He offered to take US nuclear missiles out of Turkey, which his generals opposed. He had signed a secret directive, to be announced in early ’64 to begin a drawdown in Vietnam – the generals opposed this and LBJ reversed it on the 1st day he was sworn in. He wanted the FBI to prosecute the KKK and the mafia, which Hoover resisted. He was having an affair with the ex-wife of CIA black ops guy Cord Meyer.

    All of the above things were known to the Deep State and unknown to the public until many years later.

    The FBI deliberately falsified many pieces of evidence in the JFK assassination. The 8 or so doctors/nurses/agents who viewed JFKs wounds in Parkland Hospital in Dallas were ignored/overruled in favor of a fraudulent autopsy done in Bethesda. The testimony of a major of witnesses at the shooting scene – over 40, not a few – were ignored/overruled. FBI reports of multiple people using an Oswald alias in different places were covered up – Hoover and LBJ had a conversation about one such instance on the day after the assassination. The Warren Commission knowingly wrote false reports and this was even discussed in the executive session – the docs became public much later.

    Vietnam – CIA began a war in Laos in the 1950s. CIA was running psyops to help American image of Diem before the CIA helped kill him and install another puppet gov. CIA began commando raids against the North, long before the non-firing, knowingly false “Gulf of Tonkin” incident was used as a pretext to start open military operations/war. CIA Operation Phoenix murdered so 20,000-50,000 civilian political opponents of their puppet govt. in South Vietnam – Mai Lai was simply one act that happened to get caught on film, not something unusual. The US dropped more than 270 million bombs on Laos. The 30% that did not explode are still killing hundreds of people in Laos, 50 years later. The FBI was criminally abusing people in the US who actively opposed the war. This was only discovered later because some intrepid burglars managed to steal files from a small, insecure FBI office in Media PA. Hoover immediately ordered the closure of all such offices after that happened to prevent the public every using that to learn about the true acts of the FBI ever again.

    The above things are just highlights of what happened 40-50 years ago. At that time there was no US “Liberal Democracy” – in the sense that Mr. Lofgren means – but the public did not realize it. The public was being fed buckets of nonsense by CIA controlled media.

    Today, the public is again being fed buckets of nonsense about “Russian hacking elections” by CIA controlled media.

    I am no fan Mr. Trump, but calling him the end of “Liberal Democracy” in the US is part of the actual problem – not part of the solution.

    • Bob Van Noy
      January 12, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Josh Stern, I totally agree with your response. As a person who has payed great attention to the JFK assassination over time, I agree with your points on Vietnam, the CIA, and the FBI. I have often stated on this forum that until the JFK assassination is properly addressed, we cannot move forward…

      • Josh Stern
        January 12, 2017 at 5:16 pm

        Going back as far as WWII…if one digs beneath the surface, and one does historical research…it turns out that there are fundamental angles on essentially ALL of the big political stories affecting US politics/foreign policy/military/warfare etc. of which the public remains largely ignorant.

        The truth of the JFK assassination is called a conspiracy, because the US govt. immediately lied about it all, and it took decades to put together most of the truth, and the FBI/CIA/media have not finished lying. In contrast, the truth of the Indochina Wars is not called a conspiracy, because the US govt. gave up lying about it. in that case, historians have the field of debate mostly to themselves, but out of the public spotlight. The public at large is still completely ignorant about the truth of the Indochina wars, beliving many false things, and, in the main, remaining completely uninformed.

        Most of the other big events that shaped US policy are similar to one or the other of the cases above. There is an official propaganda story that widely distorts reality, and continues to underpin false political narratives. More recent examples: 9/11, War on Terror, War on Drugs, etc. In these examples, and most others in the category, the official US govt .account is a knowing fraud, and the purpose of the fraud is to underpin Security State programs/expenses/power that the public would not support if it had an accurate view of history and current events.

        • Bob Van Noy
          January 12, 2017 at 8:40 pm

          Again, I agree and thanks.

        • January 13, 2017 at 9:40 am

          Thank you, Josh Stern, for your comment. One can philosophize about the “lifespan” of liberal democracies, but much more relevant in my view is your kind of analysis. The U.S. government is carrying a huge burden of deceit. This not only saps the effectiveness of day-to-day government operations, but also erodes the legitimacy of the entire system.

          Legitimacy is the coin of the realm; without it, the coercive power of government is simply regarded as brutality. And as you recount, the legitimacy of the U.S. government has largely leaked away.

          No one can do anything to stop it because everyone’s hands are tied by the need to maintain that huge burden of deceit. All those lies constrain us, keeping us from making a fresh start.

          • Josh Stern
            January 13, 2017 at 1:33 pm

            It would be good to focus on the causes of the idea/claim that everyone’s hands are tied to keep up deceit. I’ll offer up the opposite claim: a relatively small cohort of very powerful entities continue to benefit from current and past deceits. Keeping them up is not in the general public interest.

            One big structural problem we have today is that a large majority of the first-person witnesses to the most serious deceit are part of the security state, and they are threatened with both criminal charges and extra-judicial murder for talking about it.

            I don’t say that to be argumentative, but rather in the hope gaining a concrete understanding of what you mean.

        • JUNIUS
          January 13, 2017 at 9:43 am

          It includes WWII. FDR did everything in his power to provoke Japan and Germany, and he got the war the Deep State wanted. Not only did it “stimulate the economy” but more important the all-out war effort made it possible to silence dissent, which had reached alarming proportions in the U.S. in the Great Depression.

          Here’s a basic library to begin research on this theory

          Charles A. Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War 1941: A Study in Appearances and Realities (Yale University Press, 1948)

          William Henry Chamberlin, America’s Second Crusade (Henry Regnery, 1950)

          A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, (Atheneum, 1962).

          Patrick J. Buchanan, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World (Crown Publishers, 2008)

          Nicholson Baker, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (Simon & Schuster, 2008) (A compilation of hundreds of newspaper articles published 1930-42 mostly countering pro-war propaganda)

          George Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (New York: Devin-Adair, 1947)

          Rear Admiral Robert A. Theobald, The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor: The Washington Contribution to the Japanese Attack (New York: Devin-Adair, 1954)

          Charles Callan Tansill, Back Door to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy 1933—1941 (Henry Regnery, 1952)

          Harry Elmer Barnes, ed., Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Its Aftermath (The Caxton Printers, 1953).

          John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (Pantheon Books, 1986)

          Bruce M. Russett, No Clear and Present Danger: A Skeptical View of the U.S. Entry into World War II (Harper & Row, 1972)

          Michael Zezima, Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of “The Good War” (Soft Skull Press, 2000), re-issued in paperback in 2005 as There Is No Good War: The Myths of World War II

          Richard J. Maybury, World War II: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today (Bluestocking Press, 2003)

          • Josh Stern
            January 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

            Hi, I am becoming an activist for the theory that most major political/military events are misrepresented in real time and later misdescribed in conversational history. WWII is no exception. My list of the most major misconceptions about WWII includes the following angles:

            1) The extent of pre-War and early war Nazi support within the US – for example, Gerhard Westrick throwing an elaborate pro-Hitler party in the NYC Waldorf Astoria on June 26.1940 to celebrate the Nazi defeat of France. Many powerful US elite attended that party, thought Westrick a great guy, and went on being powerful elite, before and after the war.

            2) Egging Japan on prior to Pearl Harbor – this includes the embargo of Japan, the ideas of the McCollum memo, the plan to intern people of Japanese descent on Hawaii, the FBI list of people to grab if war broke out, etc. I feel that Budiansky is correct to claim that the US did not literally expect a long range carrier based strike to wipe out its fleet in Pearl Harbor (or its airplanes in the Philippines a few days later). But the US did expect Japan to initiate a war, probably attacking the Philippines first, and FDR did welcome that as a political help to getting involved in the war with Germany.

            3) The hidden history of Nazi spying in the US. These includes William Stephenson of MI6 was running a British spy outfit out of Rockefeller Center that grew to 3000 employees, some involved in killing Nazi spys, the FBI’s shameful fraud in the Operation Pastorius case, FBI success busting Union Bank after hostilities broke out, and various MI6 disinformation ruses that took advantage of SIS using faked reports of Nazi activity (e.g. in South America) in order to help get the US into the war more quickly.

            4) Katyn massacre – Stalin’s mass murder of Polish leaders. Seems clear that US/British intel kept it under wraps when they learned about it because a) they learned about it after the Nazi’s turned on Stalin and they needed Stalin as an ally at that point, b) if British/US lefties had been more clued in as to how crazy and evil Stalin was, they would have acted differently and this would have changed a lot of early Cold War history. Similar comments apply to Soviet spying in the US during WWI and immediate post-War period and Stalin’s forced population relocations/famines. The un-connected lefties got sandbagged with an incomplete picture of Stalin’s USSR.

            5) Explicit Nazi plans to commit genocide against all Slavs, Roma, Bolsheviks, mentally handicapped, and homosexuals in addition to Jews. The onset of genocide against the Slavs, following the Nazi invasion of Russia/Ukraine was a big factor in turning the war.

            6) The large ratio of USSR casualties/US+British casualties and the large ratio of Nazi Easter Front casualties/Western front casualties. People in the US like to think that the US was THE major power that won the war, but the numbers say the Easter front was the major/decisive theater for Europe. Stalin kept his commitment to FDR to enter the war against Japan after Germany surrendered, and many historians believe that would have caused a quick Japanese surrender without the nuclear bomb attacks.

            7) Alan Dulles/CIA active recruitment of many Nazi leaders/scientists while the war was still ongoing and afterward – e.g. Operation Paperclip. The CIA also backed former Nazis in some black ops against the post-WWII West German govt.

            8) Many top US military brass were against the atomic bomb drops. Also, in a way, they were a continuation of what the US was doing before that with the firebombing of civilian populations on mainland Japan. This sort of warfare was completely new to the US military. Prior to WWII, the deliberate bombing of large civilian centers was considered a no-no for US forces.

            9) The major stumbling block that prevented earlier surrender by Japan was a concern for the fate of their Emperor & Emperor tradition, which was integrated into the main religious belief in Japan at that time. Truman insisted on unconditional surrender, prolonging the war, and then ended up allowing Japan to keep the Emperor anyway. Most historians believe the war could have ended sooner if that decision had been made up front.

            10) Signals intelligence/code breaking played a huge role in both the European and Japanese theater. It was only much later that the public learned about Bletchley Park and govt. murder of war hero and leading 20thC mathematician Alan Turing. The role of the NSA in the war against Japan is still underappreciated. Also, I believe that the importance of Juan Pujol García’s work to Bletchley Park effort is still largely denied by the official story. Anyone who learns anything about cryptography understands how much easier it is to break a code with forward examples. Garcia provided the codebreakers with a big set of forward examples. That makes a night and day difference.

  3. Bill Bodden
    January 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Did Trump Kill ‘Liberal Democracy’?

    It is time to kill the word “liberal” that has been rendered meaningless by its use to mean so many things. As for liberal democracy, whatever that may be, it is probably more accurate to say that Trump is just adding one or more nails to its coffin.

  4. Emanuel E Garcia
    January 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Democracy is a very fragile and elusive thing. Has it ever really existed for any length of time? Some might argue that in Barcelona in the thirties, among the anarchists, it had a trial, quickly quashed by both communist and fascist forces.

    Better to think of modern democracy as a managed oligarchy: those In Power pull the strings and those below have some measure of freedom to rant and rave and vote and if we’re lucky, to organise a bit to effect beneficial changes. For the modern militarised warfare state populist protests will become increasingly ineffective, however unless — and this is the greatest hope — the enforcers lay down their arms, convinced by the demos that they are mere dupes of the Elites.

    DId anyone notice how, after the Boston Marathon bombing, martial law was imposed without a peep, on an entire city?

    • BART GRUZALSKI PROF. EMERITUS
      January 13, 2017 at 6:57 am

      Emanuel E Garcia,

      A very perceptive comment. There were periods of more democracy in the United States than we’ve experienced prior to the recent election. One of those was in the 1960s and the then “new” Trilateral Commission published an anthology on “”The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies”” was a 1975 report written by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington (who wrote the “too much democracy” piece on the United States), and Joji Watanuki for the Trilateral Commission. In the same year, it was republished as a book by the New York University Press (ISBN 978-0814713655).

      The report observed the political state of the United States, Europe and Japan and says that in the United States the problems of governance “stem from an excess of democracy” and thus advocates “to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions.” The report serves as an important point of reference for studies focusing on the contemporary crisis of democracies.

      I think the next upwelling of democracy was the Occupy Movement, which was put down in a nationwide crackdown but whose motto “We’re the 99%” created the backstory for the recent election when there were two democratic populist movements, one supporting Bernie Sanders and the other Supporting Donald Trump. The Clinton-Soros-neoconservative (Samuel P. Huntington was one of the first neoconservatives) squished Bernie Sanders and tried to do the same to the “uncontrollable” Deplorables who were, in fact, uncontrollable. We knew instinctively that we were being crushed and ground up by the Oligarchs who included Hilliar and Bill Clinton, George Soros, Obama, Michelle, and many more. We threw them out of power and they still are trying to fight the election result with protests and other forms of treason, as if the result were not cast in stone.

      For more on Trump and his policies, I recommend my $4.95 book “The Moral Imperative to Vote for “America First” and join the Nonviolent Christian Rebellion against America’s Royalty.” The book’s a gas and you won’t be able to spend 495 cents more effectively. It’s for sale at Amazon.

      Good morning to you, sir, and I loved your comment.

      Cordially,

      Bart Gruzalski, Professor Emeritus, Northeastern University, Boston, MA……………………………………………………..USA

  5. John
    January 12, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    It’s not about any definition of democracy….It’s always about profit and market share…..the only way to win is in the market place…..how about 5000 people sitting their asses down in the lobby of goldman sachs……any takers ? I thought not…..go home , watch TV

  6. Vesuvius
    January 13, 2017 at 6:34 am

    Thanks, Consortium and Mr Lofgren! Having read “The Deep State”, I am convinced of the accuracy in Mr Lofgren’s essay. Also Great Thanks to Josh Stern for bringing up important facts regarding the JFK assassination, and the following cover-up.

    In this context, I want to dig a Little deeper and bring the attention to a novel, published in 1935 by the first American writer to be rewarded with the Nobel Literary Prize (1930), Sinclair Lewis for his wit and humour et. al. A novel perhaps today rather forgotten: “It Can’t Happen Here”, a contrafactic story of 1936 Presidential Campaign.

    As we know, Franklin Roosevelt was reelected, but in Sinclair Lewis’ novel The Presidency is won by a businessman, who swiftly changes the political landscape and the American society, with obvious inspiration from two European countries, at the time being run by strongmen, popular in wide circles at the time and their countries by many people regarded as running in the forefront.

    Events in the story are seen from the vantage point of a newspaper man in a small town in the New England area. Lewis must have completed his story in 1934, or early in 1935. What’s amazing is that his story includes facts and circumstances which happened in the European theater such as the use of young boy’s gangs working for the Government (in Lewis’ novel called MM, Minute Men), but also some ugly facts which were not at the time known by the general European public as concentration camps — forced labor (for reeducation of opposing citizens), etc. The press is bereft of its integrity, and the protagonist of the story is brought to a concentration camp (called The Trianon!)
    The President does not live in the White House but in a hotel.

    The author brings his story up to mid-1939. The President is now assassinated, and is replaced by one of his own men in the Government. A democratic movement has risen, the “New Underground”, with Americans having fled to Canada.

    Did Mr Lewis somehow write a novel on things to come, some 80 years before?

    • BART GRUZALSKI PROF. EMERITUS
      January 13, 2017 at 7:07 am

      Vesuvius,

      Thank you for your stunning comment. I have purchased Sinclair Lewis’ book and it is arriving on Sunday.

      I’m disappointed to hear about the assassination, though my wife said that, about 10 minutes ago, that the Establishment won’t let Trump finish out two terms. She said either impeachment or assassination. I ruled out impeachment.

      And then your comment!!!!!!!!!! What serendipity!!!

    • Josh Stern
      January 13, 2017 at 10:01 am

      “It Can’t Happen Here” did not need to be prescient because those type of events were happening at that time. There were a lot of Fascist/Hitler sympathizers in the US at that time, and some of them did plot against the govt.

      FDR survived 4 different plots to kill him/remove him from office. I will refrain from posting supporting links do to the link-harshing properties of the blog software. But here is a description:

      The first of those plots was a leftist assassin who was worried that FDR, emerging from an elite upper-class background would not be kind enough to workers issues. His bullet missed the President-elect and killed Anton Cermak, the Mayor of Chicago, instead.

      The second of those plots, often referred to as “The Business Plot” was backed by powerful Wall Street/Big Biz types. They tried to involve Smedly Butler in the plot and he routed them out to Congress instead. Congress held hearings, and took testimony from Butler and some other witnesses. The owners of the New York Times and other major newspaper publishers of that time were in sympathy with the plotters, so they did their best to hush up and downplay the story. Butler got mad and became an activist. He talked about the plot on a national radio show, and gave speeches such as his famous “War Is A Racket” which, IMO, is even more relevant to the current environment than Sinclair Lewis. Some allies of the plotters, who were also sympathetic to Hitler’s Germany, went on to powerful positions in the post WWII US govt. These include the Dulles brothers and Prescott Bush.

      The third “plot” was mostly just public speeches by General George van Horn Moseley to the same crowd that had tried to organize the Business Plot. Moseley advocated armed overthrow of the govt. stripping Jews of liberties, pro Hitler, etc.

      The fourth plot was apparently a true clandestine plan to get FDR from the inside. Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. got wind of it & tipped of Eleanor, who notified FDR. FDR got the FBI to deal with it privately in a hush, hush way. This one is the least well known of the four. The main source I have for it is Talbot’s Devil Dog. I believe he got his info primarily from reading Eleanor’s archived correspondence.

      Why is this history so poorly known? One finds, over and over, that these sorts of historical facts which go against the dominant propaganda narratives are unwelcome in mainstream US media.

      The Plot to Seize The White House by Archer is a helpful historical reference. Also, “The Whitehouse Coup : BBC Radio — Mike Thomson” can be found at archive_org This is the transcript of a BBC Radio show that includes excerpts of Congressional testimony on the Business Plot.

      • BART GRUZALSKI PROF. EMERITUS
        January 14, 2017 at 11:09 am

        Josh Stern,

        Neither my wife, a history buff, nor I, a professional philosopher and therefore very poorly educated in American history by the universities, knew about the four plots to kill FDR. We are both amazed.

        As for “why is this history so poorly known?” your answer is very perceptive: “One finds, over and over, that these sorts of historical facts which go against the dominant propaganda narratives are unwelcome in mainstream US media.” That’s why no one knows about the Trilateral Commission’s anthology “Crises in Democracy” and that the crisis for America was “too much democracy” that made it hard for the ruler to rule.

        You write about the second plot: “”The second of those plots, often referred to as “The Business Plot” was backed by powerful Wall Street/Big Biz types. They tried to involve Smedly Butler in the plot and he routed them out to Congress instead. Congress held hearings, and took testimony from Butler and some other witnesses. The owners of the New York Times and other major newspaper publishers of that time were in sympathy with the plotters, so they did their best to hush up and downplay the story. Butler got mad and became an activist. He talked about the plot on a national radio show, and gave speeches such as his famous “War Is A Racket” which, IMO, is even more relevant to the current environment than Sinclair Lewis.””

        I haven’t read Sinclair Lewis yet, but I own and much admire Butler’s book. If you go to Amazon and pay $4.95 for “The Imperative to Vote for ‘America First’ and Join the Christian Rebellion Against America’s Royalty” you will notice that the last chapter, entitled the “Peace Amendment,” is explicitly based on Butler’s discussion of the same amendment that appears in his book. So you might enjoy it. Butler is extremely relevant to today, because [offense] wars are almost always fought for profit, whereas a country that mobilizes to defend itself from an aggressor would be fighting a defense war.

        There’s no need to struggle for a justification to fight in a defense war. I doubt that any of the troops on the side of the defense suffer from PTS, or at least to the same extent as the attacking soldiers who are not even in their own country.

        I make a point of this in my book, On Gandhi, which is only for resale on Amazon (hence much cheaper). It is why, by not attacking the offense soldiers, the offense soldiers can be won over—they don’t really want to kill unarmed civilians standing in front of their tanks and would rather be at home anyway. It is a powerful example of how nonviolence could have stopped—with casualties, to be certain [as there were anyway]—Hitler’s invading army.

        Do you have any books “out there” that I might be able to read? IF NOT, my publishing label is inviting you to submit a book on the “Assassination attempts on the life of FDR.” This is the label that published my own Trump book as well as the delightful, full-of-hope, and extremely moving book “Grief Alchemy: A Story of Hospice.”

        So, how to get hold of me. IF Parry would give you my email address, I hereby give him permission to do so and that would be the easiest. The slowest would be to use the email address in either the Trump book or Grief Alchemy (the latter gets checked more frequently, I think). The fastest and the best would be to look me up on FACEBOOK. Please note: I do not accept uninvited manuscripts but your story above is so riveting, the connection with Butler so powerful, your “analysis” of “why” so on the money, and your writing so incredibly clear that you are invited. I suspect, though, that you are a published author so I’ll look you up on Amazon as soon as I complete this comment.

        Please note: if we publish you, you will have full control over the content, though I will recommend that you include a chapter on Butler’s cynicism on war and on his peace amendment. We also can do pictures but only if they are yours or you own the copyright.

        Best wishes,

        Bart, Professor Emeritus, Northeastern University, Boston

        • BART GRUZALSKI PROF. EMERITUS
          January 14, 2017 at 1:29 pm

          Josh Stern,

          Nothing on Amazon. Let’s put you there! My general rule of thumb is to charge about 10cents for every page, e.g., a 200 page book (no fluff) would sell for 19.95. (I gave away the Trump book because I wanted it to get to influence the election and there is a 1/1M chance that my books [I had two] won Florida for Trump.)

  7. January 13, 2017 at 7:23 am

    ” … leaders make avoidable mistakes, and then persist in them because their ideological disposition causes them to resist the warning signs of danger ahead.”

    Everyone makes mistakes, but the second half of the above sentence, nails the real problem: to wit, doubling down on those mistakes. The leadership of the west seems to be in the grip of an incorrigible stupidity. Like the Bourbons, learnt nothing, forgotten nothing. A small cabal of ideologically motivated persons – the neo-cons – have captured the dominant institutions of the US and its vassals, and are determined to push ahead with the insane project of establishing a global US empire. If they are not stopped, war with Russia/China is inevitable. And that is about the long and short of it.

  8. J'hon Doe II
    January 13, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    The first Clinton was pure pedigree Blue Dog.
    The list of terrible things he got away with is lethal.
    As a Southern Democrat, he was the assassin who stealthily destroyed the ‘respectability’ of the US Democrat Party.
    William Jefferson Clinton wasted the Party of the People. Therefore he is, essentially, The Forerunner of a Mr.Trump.

    He was LBJ’s lethal injection,as-it-were. He was as Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln in the Killing of a Dream.

    No. Trump didn’t kill liberal democracy.
    They who killed JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy’s presidency in ’68 were slow poisons that led to “The Party’s Over”.
    ::
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0211/S00042.htm

  9. J'hon Doe II
    January 13, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    The first Clinton was pure pedigree Blue Dog.
    The list of terrible things he got away with is lethal.
    As a Southern Democrat, he was the assassin who stealthily destroyed the ‘respectability’ of the US Democrat Party.
    William Jefferson Clinton wasted the Party of the People. Therefore he is, essentially, The Forerunner of a Mr.Trump.

    He was LBJ’s lethal injection,as-it-were. He was as Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln in the Killing of a Dream.

    No. Trump didn’t kill liberal democracy.
    They who killed JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy’s presidency in ’68 were slow poisons that led to “The Party’s Over”.
    ::
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0211/S00042.htm
    ::
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1701/S00041/gordon-campbell-the-ethics-of-publishing-the-trump-dossier.htm

  10. H. W. Phillips
    January 14, 2017 at 12:17 am

    Mr. Stern,

    I read with interest your comments on Smedley Butler who was an American hero and not just because of a breast crowded with Silver Stars. He epitomized a truism uttered by Shelby Foote, who I was fortunate to hear speak on a number of occassions, the gist of which was the only true war novel deplores war. One hopes that the generals lining up to serve in the Trump administration will remember General Butler’s conversion to the side of the angels. This is probably not too likely since his sucessful examples of how to combat insurgencies have also long been ignored by the military establishment,

    H. W. Phillips

    • Josh Stern
      January 14, 2017 at 7:20 am

      Thanks, I have read that Butler is still the most decorated USMC vet of all time. I guess that the 4 big factors motivating him to become an activist were his war experiences, his view of enlisted men being mistreated (e.g. the “Bonus Army” episode), his Quaker roots, and his exposure to a treasonous plot against FDR, led by the super wealthy, motivated by opposition to the New Deal policies.

      Eisenhower is said to have worked on his final address – famously warning about the threat of the “Military Industrial Congress” – for almost a year prior to the date. It was clearly very important to him. He was likely influenced by his military experience and his inside knowledge of CIA operations to violently conduct puppetry of 3rd world countries for the benefit of large corporations.

  11. Vesuvius
    January 14, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Thanks, Josh Stern, for your post here bringing to my attention “The Business Plot”, and more, and the extraordinary Life of Major General Smedley Butler. As a European, I had not heard of this before. Better late than never.

    Is there a General Smedley Butler somewhere today? — A most needed man, or woman, in these difficult times.

  12. Zachary Smith
    January 19, 2017 at 1:11 am

    readposts

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