Getting the Left to Embrace US ‘Exceptionalism’

Exclusive: Neocons have deftly used the Left’s hatred of President Trump and the demonizing of Russia to lure liberals and progressives into an interventionist mindset to defend “American exceptionalism,” observes James W. Carden.

By James W. Carden

Last year, Donald J. Trump triumphed over 15 Republican primary opponents and a Democratic candidate with an impressive résumé largely on the strength of a simple four-word message: “Make America Great Again.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Trump’s slogan worked even though President Obama offered the rejoinder, “America is already great,” and Hillary Clinton made the counterpoint that “America is great because America is good.”

Since Trump’s victory nearly a year ago, the major American media has often reprised the Obama-Clinton messaging that America is already great as though Trump, the most unabashedly jingoistic president since perhaps Ronald Reagan, needs reminding.

Yet in Trump’s Washington, where the bipartisan foreign policy consensus is wrongly perceived to be under attack, the Establishment has been circling the wagons in order to fend off what is viewed as Trump’s frontal assault on the core tenets of American exceptionalism.

Soon after the election, political and media elites, particularly those within Democratic Party circles, began to express their dismay at Trump’s seeming disregard for what, to their way of thinking, America represents to the rest of the world.

Two months into the Trump presidency, a former Obama State Department official whose specialty is described by the most amorphous and flexible of constructions, “human rights,” took to the pages of The Atlantic magazine to inform readers that since the November election “the global club of autocrats has been crowing about Trump” because he, like they, takes a dim a view of “democracy, human rights, and transparency.”

Autocrats, declared Tom Malinkowski, now a Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey, were said to be delighted by Trump’s election because, “they’ve heard him echo their propaganda that America is too crooked and corrupt to preach moral standards to others.”

“This,” wrote Malinkowski, “makes me sad.”

Likewise, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice also has expressed alarm that the administration has been busy “jettisoning American values and abdicating United States leadership of the world.”

Rice believes that “The network of alliances that distinguishes America from other powers and has kept our nation safe and strong for decades is now in jeopardy. We will see the cost when next we need the world to rally to our side.”

Fears for American Hegemony

A number of liberal journalists have been quick to join the fretting. At The Intercept, a foreign affairs analyst worried that Trump is letting American global hegemony slip away.

Barack Obama and George W. Bush at the White House.

“Through a network of nearly 800 military bases located in 70 countries around the globe, in addition to an array of trade deals and alliances,” wrote Murtaza Hussain, “the U.S. has cemented its influence for decades across both Europe and Asia. American leaders helped impose a set of rules and norms that promoted free trade, democratic governance — in theory, if not always in practice — and a prohibition on changing borders militarily, using a mixture of force and suasion to sustain the systems that keep its hegemony intact.”

Over at Slate, Yascha Mounk, opined that, with regard to Russia, “Trump likes Putin because he admires his strong (read: autocratic) leadership. And he sees him as an ally because he shares Putin’s disdain for the liberal order, preferring a world in which strong powers do what they like in their spheres of influence without having to worry about obeying — much less enforcing — international norms or human rights.”

Similarly, when The New Republic’s Jeet Heer recently delved into the realm of U.S.-Russia relations, he warned readers that “The problem is not just the nature of Putin’s autocratic government, which uses social conservatism and nationalism to hold together a nation frayed by massive economic inequality. … The problem is that Russia’s foreign policy threatens to export many of the Putin regime’s worst features, particularly xenophobia and homophobia.”

For Heer the proper response to Putin’s foreign policy is obvious: “Fighting Trumpism in America is not enough. Leftists have to be ready to battle it in all its forms, at home and abroad.”

In other words, it’s time now to undertake yet another global crusade against Russia.

By this point it should be clear that what these worthies are doing is conflating a vision of a liberal, tolerant America with American hegemony; their concerns always come back to their quite unfounded worry that Trump is in the process of repudiating the unipolar fantasy that they themselves buy into and seek to perpetuate.

Innocents Abroad?

Among many other problems, the hubristic nature of American Exceptionalist ideology feeds delusions of innocence, which serve to prevent a critical rethinking of America’s recent, mainly catastrophic adventures abroad. We can see how this tendency manifests itself in the mainstream media.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

In July, The New York Times published a piece that whitewashed the motives behind the decision by George W. Bush’s White House to invade Iraq. “When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein,” wrote reporter Tim Arango, “it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East.”

This is now par for the course. The media critic Adam Johnson has rightly pointed out that “nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers’ motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officials—this is only permissible when covering America’s enemies.”

Similarly, the illegal American intervention in the Syrian war was portrayed as “self-defense” when U.S. forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet over Raqqa in June. “The Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer (who has now since mercifully resigned), “that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.”

Time was, during the early years of the First Cold War, that public intellectuals often looked askance at America’s belief in its innate virtue. Within a decade of the allied victory in the Second World War, during which time American power and prestige was at its zenith, prominent Anglo-American thinkers, including Graham Greene, George Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr were already casting a gimlet eye on the pretenses of the “American Century.”

Where are the contrarian voices such as these calling for restraint and reflection now that we are in the throes of a Second Cold War? They are almost utterly absent from mainstream American political discourse.

A Bipartisan Pretense

Part of the reason Trump won, of course, is that he plays and feeds into the very same pretenses that the both the Establishment and the public does — though in cruder form. There is only a difference in degree, not in kind, between “Make America Great Again” and “America Is Already Great” since both are premised on the same line of reasoning: America, due to its providential founding, cannot be and is not a normal country: it is exceptional, a “shining city on a hill.”

President Trump speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017. (Screenshot from

The idea that Trump himself hasn’t embraced and internalized the core tenets of American exceptionalism is laughable – and even some neoconservatives, like Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, have begun to notice. Lake, observing Trump’s September speech to the United Nations General Assembly, cracked, “For a moment, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting.”

Yet there’s an insoluble problem that remains for the adherents of the myth of American exceptionalism: the presumption that the rest of the world buys into the myth which largely rests upon a willful misunderstanding of the past, and blinds us to available alternatives, such as realism.

Some on the Left see little cause for concern. America, by their lights, should intervene all over the world on a values crusade. Leftist journals like Dissent and Jacobin have endeavored to excuse the Trotskyite impulse to political violence. In this way neoconservatism, the American variant of Trotskyism, is not dead yet, it remains a zombie ideology that haunts the country.

Forget anti-imperialism, some Leftists say, it’s Trumpian nationalism that is the real problem. And there are indeed elements of Trumpian nationalism that are troubling. But is the answer a crusade to impose, in the felicitous phrasing of neocon propagandist Max Boot, “the rule of law, property rights and other guarantees, at gunpoint if need be?”

In the end, the ideology of American Exceptionalism feeds delusions of American Innocence and prepares the ground for military intervention the world over. Is that really the right way to oppose Donald Trump?

James W. Carden served as an adviser on Russia policy at the US State Department. Currently a contributing writer at The Nation magazine, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Quartz, The American Conservative and The National Interest.

70 comments for “Getting the Left to Embrace US ‘Exceptionalism’

  1. Anonymous
    October 28, 2017 at 15:31

    This is, overall, a thoughtful and well-argued piece. However, Carden once again veers off onto a subject he clearly knows next to nothing about: Trotskyism. On what historical basis does Carden ground his claim of a “Trotskyite impulse to political violence”? In what way is neoconservatism “the American variant of Trotskyism”? The former Trotskyists who played a role in the founding of the neoconservative movement had long since renounced Trotskyism and Marxism in favor of a rabidly anti-communist brand of imperialism. Likewise, groups such as the International Socialist Organization are seen within the Trotskyist movement (led by the International Committee of the Fourth International) as pseudo-left apologists for imperialism who long ago broke with Trotskyism and today operate within the political establishment. Publications such as Dissent and Jacobin (the mouthpiece of the Democratic Socialists of America) are politically aligned with such pseudo-left organizations. Carden’s critiques of US foreign policy are among the best, but he clearly lacks the requisite knowledge to comment on the perspective of the Trotskyist movement, and should refrain from doing so in the future.

  2. Matt Rubenstein
    October 26, 2017 at 03:22

    I agree with the thrust of your article (and have often liked your writings on Russiagate). But your claim that “(l)eftist journals like Dissent and Jacobin have endeavored to excuse the Trotskyite impulse to political violence” is in no way borne out by the links you give. I mean: nada. The Dissent article is about human rights abuses in the Philippines, and it doesn’t advocate for anything approaching American intervention there. The Jacobin article is an editorial by a single writer, not the standpoint of the magazine, calling for solidarity with the victims of Assad. No mention of military intervention or support for military intervention.

    • Will Andermann
      October 26, 2017 at 08:01

      I totally agree. The sloppy swipe that tries to carry out an identification of neo-conservatism and Trotskyism is simply lazy and ill-informed. The supposed Trotskyist logic behind neocons like Wolfowitz is debatable enough, since you’re looking at a considerable degeneration from anti-capitalist state interventions to pro-capitalist state interventions. But to bring out this broad brush and try to apply it to Jacobin, on the basis of one writer who despairs over the hijacking of the FSA by Saudi Arabia, is laughable.

  3. REMant
    October 25, 2017 at 19:00

    The danger is neocons will return to the Democratic fold. They have nothing in common with the libertarians who pushed Trump over the top, which both appear to think are fascists.

  4. Skip Scott
    October 25, 2017 at 08:42

    I think a big part of the problem is that war is an abstract concept to the latte-sippers. They can embrace the BS that Hillary shells out because they haven’t personally experienced the horrors of war. They embrace some stupid concept like “right to protect” that hides the actual rape, pillage and plunder that these “regime change” wars bring. If we are “protecting” these civilians, what are they all doing fleeing to Europe? But the latte-sippers attention spans are so short, they’ve gone from the news to the next episode of “Game of Thrones”. To paraphrase Neil Postman, they are amusing themselves to death.

    • Sam F
      October 25, 2017 at 09:56

      Yes, the failure of US oligarchy mass media to conduct public debate and present facts, obscures both the foul motives of interventions, and the complexity of advancing any noble principle in a world of ignorance and anger. Much intervention would be necessary to protect and advance human rights, but US interventions never achieve that, both because no one in power has that goal, and because it would require long term commitments, slow progress, non-military means, great expense, etc.

      The oligarchy need only lie to persuade well-meaning fools to serve its selfish goals.

    • Susan Sunflower
      October 25, 2017 at 13:05

      nope, no reason to moderate that comment … nevermind.

  5. Thomas McGaffey
    October 25, 2017 at 02:44

    The US is exceptional in only one area – it is the largest and most prolific terrorist organization the World has ever experienced – militarily, financially and politically, and recorded history is the proof. It is forever touting itself as a ‘democracy’…while being ‘capitalistic’ – those two life styles are mutually exclusive, and capitalism won out.
    So, can we be ‘great again’?…no, not with our present course – and probably never were. the reasons why are too numerous to mention here.

  6. John
    October 24, 2017 at 21:13

    Let’s face it, when the same bullshit works on “the left” and “the right” it means the bullshit has some message that resonates in the brains of both sets of dumbasses.

    What’s the common message?

  7. Andrew Nichols
    October 24, 2017 at 20:16

    “Through a network of nearly 800 military bases located in 70 countries around the globe, in addition to an array of trade deals and alliances,” wrote Murtaza Hussain, “the U.S. has cemented its influence for decades across both Europe and Asia. American leaders helped impose a set of rules and norms that promoted free trade, democratic governance — in theory, if not always in practice — and a prohibition on changing borders militarily, using a mixture of force and suasion to sustain the systems that keep its hegemony intact.”

    Oooooh yeah. Those must be some seriously good mushrooms he’s on. How do I contact him to get some?

    • anon
      October 25, 2017 at 09:43

      Please make a specific comment with evidence and argument, not a silly remark.

  8. John V. Walsh
    October 24, 2017 at 19:40

    “Neoconservatism, the American version of Trotskyism..”. That’s for sure.

  9. Danny Weil
    October 24, 2017 at 19:20

    Trump’s slogan worked even though President Obama offered the rejoinder, “America is already great,” and Hillary Clinton made the counterpoint that “America is great because America is good.”

    Sloganeering the impossible.

    American Exceptionalism:

    no health care for citizens
    no education
    no environmental considerations
    No food for the many
    no jobs
    rising surplus labor
    rising mental illness
    suicide rate 24% rise since 1999
    2.2 million in prison
    censored speech
    no right to assembly

    debt, debt, debt

    The whole Empire is exceptionally insidious, incapable of providing a basic opportunity for jobs
    Unable to stop corruption and a failed state.

    And broke!

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 01:15

      BUT, by god, we’re the only ones that rightfully can fly the American flag (which we should all stand for!). And, some people claim that their gods bless America. What else is needed?

  10. dfc
    October 24, 2017 at 17:45

    I can’t agree with this at all. The idea behind Anti-American Exceptionalism is that everyone, every individual and every culture is equal (ie not exceptional) and so…. …this equality needs to fought for and forced upon all ignorant peoples and backward cultures from the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho (via Antifa) to the Ural Mountains of Russia (via the US military).

    America only “appears” exceptional because it is the only country that really recognizes the non-exceptional nature of all other countries and cultures. (This is a bit like staring at a photographic negative.) In reality, non-exceptional America is fighting against all of those countries, states and groups who feel that they are in someway exceptional, so we are the good guys.

    Using this rubric it is possible to condemn figures like Christopher Columbus as authors of genocide when in reality Columbus was the Progressive of his Era. He came to the Americas and saw backward cultures practicing paganism and human sacrifice and he obliterated them. Columbus was the world’s first “globalist” as well: the pioneer of the destruction of the nation state to bring about a completely free border-less world. The Left likes to think they would co-exist in harmony with the Aztec people if such a society were discovered today, but in reality they can’t tolerate the “backward” people of Idaho, never mind the Aztecs.

    If you really want to get into what is driving America’s conflicts today, you will need a vast team of psychiatrists to unwind the cognitive dissonance that permeates the national psyche.

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 01:13

      I blame the “System” for bad programming (or a lack of allowing real, independent thinking- TPTB have run a pretty good game for thousands of years- they are, without a doubt, the “masters” [now, get off your knees!]).

      But, really, some animals ARE more equal than others!

    • anon
      October 25, 2017 at 09:39

      That would confuse progressivism with the view that primitive people were advanced by the destruction of their cultures. The fact that some who identify with the left would do the same does not make either of them progressive. Psychiatrists solve nothing, as they have myth rather than science behind them and no corrective capability.

  11. D.H. Fabian
    October 24, 2017 at 17:04

    It’s hard to discuss these issues because the very meaning of “left” has been perverted in the US. The voices of the actual left have been drown out for years by Democrats and liberals/media. All they allow is a faction known as “the labor left” who, in fact, stand together for protecting the advantages of the middle class workers alone.

    If the US had a left, they would have been shining a spotlight on our poverty crisis as proof of the grotesque failures of our hard-core capitalism.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:31

      We need a new language of anti capitalism, anti fascism, anti racism, anti sexism and anti homophobia and war.

      • John
        October 24, 2017 at 21:16

        Whatever the new words are, don’t forget to use “neo” a lot. We don’t want the rubes to actually understand anything the “intellectuals” are talking about (that would take all the fun out of being an intellectual).

  12. Joe Tedesky
    October 24, 2017 at 16:26

    There are so many pots in DC calling all the other kettle’s such a variety of dull colors, that it is to the point that Washington looks like a kitchen utensil party is being thrown in the mansions hallways after the master retires to bed, that it isn’t even funny.

    I recently over a conversation with family and friends had had enough of this back and forth blame gaming to who in our nation’s capital are the real bad guys. I finally put my fist down, and just merely stated, ‘that they are all bad, there are no good guys and gals, as they are all just that plain bad’. Everyone stopped for a brief moment, until they all gave me an anonymous ‘yes, you got that right’. So apparently there is something we can all agree upon. Now, if that kind of general consensus were to only be able to carry over into a free, and fair, system of elections, then and only then could America have a half but whole chance of getting a good government in place.

    The Shadow Government is dividing us Americans, and with that we the people lose out ‘bigly’. So picking sides, is like jumping in feet first to widen our citizen divide even further apart than it already is. If our current order of government were to be reconfigured into a multiple choice test, then I would say pick the option of ‘None of the Above’ and have you answer everyone of the multiple choice questions with that answer. It’s time to put the ‘lessor of the two evil’ system to rest. We need to revamp our whole system of having a democratic society, and here’s an idea; maybe use the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the model towards rebuilding the new America, like we so wish to see. And if we Americans should ever be so lucky as to do this, then we should make doubly sure we reflect upon our not so good past, and make sure we never lose it again…that is for if we ever did have it in the first place.

    Identify the problem then fix it…that’s what the mechanic said.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:30

      There are so many pots in DC calling all the other kettle’s such a variety of dull colors, that it is to the point that Washington looks like a kitchen utensil party is being thrown in the mansions hallways after the master retires to bed, that it isn’t even funny.”

      America looks like a day room in a mental institution.

      • Joe Tedesky
        October 24, 2017 at 22:00

        Don’t ya wish at times you were an animator?

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 00:55

      When I was younger I recall reading various books of fiction about the struggle with power. It would seem that the entire issue is so heavily draped all around us yet it keeps us from actually seeing it. At that same gathering if you would have said “power corrupts” I assure you that you’d have also received an equally unanimous agreement. Yet, we continue to take a hand in redesigning our problems by assigning over-seers. “Authority” means power, and power means a special permission to commit violence.

      • Joe Tedesky
        October 25, 2017 at 01:25

        I think ambition to reach one’s goals has a lot to do with it. For instance why not hand over the State Dept. to the Neo-Zionist if there is something in it for you? Who since JFK dare go against the Pentagon, or the CIA? Why do we have a GAO if no one in Government is going to take it’s advice? Who writes the bills to put into law? Why, the. Lobbyist!

        So with that in my head I can’t snswer you to who is really in charge. The people you may want to be, if it were all about money, would be those who may have benefitted from the 2016 DOD reporting of a 6.5 trillion dollar missing money problem….I mean where did it go? So Seer you go see who’s in charge, and I will go find the missing money. Joe

  13. Mild-ly - Facetious
    October 24, 2017 at 16:17

    purvey (redirected from purveyors)

    Related to purveyors: Vagary – capricious,erratic – also; Frenetic – frenzied,insane, brain disease

    See: bear, fund, furnish, pander, provide, replenish, supply, yield — (weapons of war/war profiteers – purveyors)

  14. Abe
    October 24, 2017 at 16:02

    “Stripped of the false realities of democracy, legitimate media authorities, and American exceptionalism, U.S. society is having a ‘psychotic break’ of sorts. What many Americans have previously believed to be “reality” is disintegrating.

    “Science provides us with no monolithic explanation for what is commonly called a psychotic break, but for some people who have lived this experience, they describe their sense of who they’ve believed themselves to be as disintegrating in a massive way, a discovery that their sense of self is in some way false. This experience can be overwhelming, emotionally and cognitively, and can propel them into an altered state.

    “Every so often, the American societal-political veil lifts, and what was clear to George Carlin and other cynical nonvoters is difficult to deny even for voters skilled at denial. In the 2016 presidential selection/election process, the veil lifted, making it difficult even for previously trusting Americans to continue to believe that they lived in a democracy that provides them with a choice and a say, and made it difficult to continue to believe in the legitimacy of mainstream media. Even for those skilled in denial, it has become difficult to believe in the American exceptionalism that their nation is immune from what other nations are not immune from: a con man taking power by exploiting a sense of victimization—a reality that is now difficult to deny […]

    While science provides us with no monolithic explanation for a psychotic break, one trigger explanation that resonates with some people who have had this experience is a horrific ‘double-bind.’ […]

    “The lesser-of-two-evils choice—especially when the two choices are both extremely evil—is a double bind of sorts. […]

    “Many Sanders supporters could not shed the reality of Hillary Clinton’s anti-progressive history and that the Democratic Party establishment had sabotaged Sanders (who the polls had shown had a much better chance than Clinton of beating Trump); and these supporters lost faith in both Sanders and the electoral process and did not vote—a political-self psychotic break of sorts for people who had ardently believed in voting.

    “Other Sanders supporters followed Sanders’ direction and voted for Clinton, only to find themselves now assaulted by the reality that Sanders had instructed them to support a corrupt political process that resulted in Trump winning anyway.

    “How about Trump supporters? Millions of Trump supporters, even before his inauguration, began having their political-self psychotic break, recognizing that they had been “played,” that Trump had no intention of keeping his campaign promises, and used them to gain power and attention. […]

    “Among Trump’s approximately 63 million voters, some now claim that the most passionate rallying cry of every Trump rally – ‘lock her up’ – was just theater, and that they are unbothered that almost immediately after the election, Trump stated that he is not going to prosecute Clinton. Their focus is only on the financial promises that Trump – who they believe to be a ‘warrior businessman’ […] For this group, the future holds another likely shock. […]

    “What happens post-psychotic break?

    “The individual psychotic break and resulting altered state, from the outside, is a frightening frenzy of beliefs, speech, and behavior that makes no sense. But to those experiencing it, there can be an array of new ideas—some which they ultimately reject as delusional (e.g., no, they can’t fly) but some not delusional (e.g., yes, they have been traumatized by authorities who have lied to them).

    “On an individual level, psychotic breaks routinely go two ways. If one is lucky and has support, one can emerge from this altered state with greater clarity of one’s true self. But if one is unlucky and fear and unsafety sabotages this process, one can become permanently labeled as ‘seriously mentally ill.’

    “So, with America’s societal-political psychotic break, it is quite possible that a few more million people will emerge with George Carlin-like clarity about the truth of the American sham democratic political system—a truth borne out by studies such as ‘Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens’ (see video of findings) that validate Carlin’s observation that no matter whether Republicans or Democrats in charge, average Americans have no fucking influence on government policy.

    “Or, this societal-political ‘psychotic break’ can result in further deterioration, further ‘social-political illness,’ transforming the United States from ‘friendly fascism’ and bullshit hypocrisy about democracy to violent, boot-in-your-face fascism where truth tellers in the tradition of George Carlin are driven underground, way underground.”

    Stripped of False Realities: Americans’ Political “Psychotic Break”
    By Bruce E. Levine

    • D.H. Fabian
      October 24, 2017 at 17:10

      To sum it up: The US itself is delusion, and we’re in our post-reality era. The poor are rich, war is peace, the prison state is freedom, facts are lies and lies are simply a matter of “reframing the discussion.”

    • Lois Gagnon
      October 24, 2017 at 17:11

      Great post. My psychotic break came when Reagan became president. It was painfully clear to me where he (I should say his handlers) would take us. It has all come to pass.

      That was when the neocons took power for good. in response, the Democrats under the tutelage of the Clinton cabal and the Democratic Leadership Council moved the Democrats away from organized labor and into the arms of the corporations. The rest is history.

      I find it astonishing how gullible so many “liberals” are to the machinations of the corporatist Dems. They fall for the most obvious manipulations hook line and sinker. The latest being the rehabilitation of John McCain and George W. Bush. Beam me up Scotty!

      • richard vajs
        October 26, 2017 at 16:48

        Lois Gagnon,
        One thing that everyone on the Left must realize and accept – what Reagan talked about doing – Bill Clinton actually did. Reagan talked about killing the working class and unions; Bill Clinton did the knife work. The working class has been kicked in the face and it was a corporatist Democratic boot.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:28

      The social and psychological roots of Machiavellian thinking and Sophistic thought

      Proficient manipulators do not use their intelligence for the public good; rather, they use their intelligence to get what they want in alliance with those who they think share their vested interests, their material ambitions and their communal beliefs. Manipulation, domination, demagoguery, and control are the tools of the Sophists or Machiavellians.

      Persons proficient in the osteopathy of the mind seek to influence the beliefs and behavior of others without any regard for morals, without values and in total contempt for independent thinking. They are true nihilists and unfortunately, they have insight into what makes many people vulnerable to mental forgery.

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 00:37

      Abe, many thanks for all the gems that you bring here.

      Many years ago I found the following to be the best summation of our “political” process/environment:

      Do people demand a really just system? Well, we’ll arrange it so that they’ll be satisfied with one that’s a little less unjust … They want a revolution, and we’ll give them reforms — lots of reforms; we’ll drown them in reforms. Or rather, we’ll drown them in promises of reforms, because we’ll never give them real ones either!!

      DARIO FO, Accidental Death of an Anarchist

  15. Susan Sunflower
    October 24, 2017 at 16:00

    Yes, this “values crusade” is cultural imperialism and most likely R2P (responsibility to protect) under a new cover … but as we saw prior to 09/11, the western world was utterly unable to persuade the Taliban in Afghanistan to change their “evil ways” … lets avoid talking about North Korea, the Philippines, and/or Myanmar … Numerous ethnic cleansing campaigns we acknowledge and those many others we ignore… The massacres and famines we claim a moral obligation to stop and those we ignore … the rest of the world is largely “hip to our tricks” having noticed how well and often our “humanitarian” interests are aligned with that of American transnationals.

    My way or the highway would be a more accurate self-appraisal.

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 00:30

      Perhaps no “better” statement on the matter than Dick Cheney’s “The American way of life is not negotiable.” Cheney was basically the mouth piece of the “devil.” Perhaps no better person to exemplify it all, to speak those words. Where oh where is Dick now? How do these creatures manage to slither out of sight?

  16. elmerfudzie
    October 24, 2017 at 15:44

    The old expression or terminology of “left and right” no longer exits, not in political persuasion or party affiliation. It’s all one “beltway” now, A Property Party with two names (Democrat and Republican) . The thoroughly corrupted and compromised Property Party is stuffed with muti-millionaire Senators and Representatives who will never, ever, properly represent our citizenry at large. Exceptionalism also no longer exists, it died in the nineteen sixties, when JFK, RFK were murdered and the last brother, Ted Kennedy revealed his rather poor mark of “exceptionalism” by choosing to jeopardize career, marriage and at that same moment , lost all hope for a presidency, at a party, by a very common sin, adultery. His, still alleged?, drunken, amorous, interlude on a coastal island few American’s every heard of, occurred on a dark night- an affair with a woman who had a rather unfamiliar sounding surname… the entire misadventure ending in her death, and subsequent public pronouncements by Ted filled with prevarication(s) regarding the auto accident itself . Who the hell actually was behind the wheel? well, we still don’t really know for sure. Yes, the year was 1969 and it took three separate and severe blows from Lucifer’s hand (or his lieutenants) to destroy any hope of establishing a true American style social democracy, coupled with a throughly de-militarized infrastructure and future for our Nation. It takes no stretch of the imagination to recount what has happened since the sixties; The triumph of lawlessness, deep-state actors, instead of representative and accountable government, re-enactments of the Patriot and NDA Acts, money itself transformed into “free speech” thus corrupting the election process… the great COLLAPSE of our nation, since that decade of disaster!!! Lord have mercy!

    • D.H. Fabian
      October 24, 2017 at 17:36

      Yes. The corporate state took power over US politics and policies. We’ve been transitioning into a third world labor state that discards those who aren’t of current use. It’s not complicated. We began shipping out jobs in the 1980s, ended actual welfare aid in the 1990s, lost over 6 million manufacturing jobs alone since 2000. The overall quality of life in the US went from a rating of #1 down to (the last I saw) #48. We’re effectively killing off our poor. Meanwhile, the budget was drained out by the longest, most expensive war in US history. And the people? We’re rich vs. middle class vs. poor, further pitted against each other by race. We were divided and conquered.

      It’s hard to say how we’ll end, though. Possibly, we’ll see the complete economic collapse of the US in the near future. But we’re just as likely to see our final war. The R’s work hard to build support for war against China (via Korea at the moment) while the Ds work just as hard to build support for war against Russia — two of the world’s leading nuclear powers. This has worked to bring China and Russia together, resolving their years of conflict in view of the potential world threat — the US.

      • Abe
        October 25, 2017 at 14:33

        It’s not that complicated.

        The Democrats and Republicans are equally zealous:
        – in their loyalty to Israel
        – in their demonization of Russia
        – in beating the drum for more pro-Israel wars in the Middle East

        The pro-Israel Lobby, Israeli influence on both American political parties, and Israel’s constant efforts to direct US foreign policy toward war with Syria and Iran, are manifest realities.

        Hasbara propaganda troll “D.H. Fabian” wants us all to believe that Israel is nowhere in the picture.

        According to “D.H. Fabian” Israeli interference in US politics is merely a “trendy” notion of the “liberal bourgeoise”

        The longest, most expensive war in US history, the war that has drained out the US budget, the war that continues to shatter American families and lives, was promoted by pro-Israel warmongers.

        The Israel Lobby and pro-Israel politicians are working harder than ever now, beating the drum for more war.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:26

      Correct. Left and right are useless terms. Fascist and anti fascist resonate. As does capitalist anti capitalist.

      • Libby
        October 25, 2017 at 01:28

        “… neoliberalism appeared in Germany as the form of governmentality that would immunize us against fascism by trading the political for the economic”. Benjamin Noys, “The Grammar of Neoliberalism”.

      • Sam F
        October 25, 2017 at 09:22

        The dominance of mass media and government by the right wing, excluding the left from visibility, does not invalidate the terminology of left and right.

        The term Fascism describes only some of the extreme right, and anti-fascism does not really describe progressivism. The term Capitalism conflates free market economics with failed regulation thereof; free markets exist under socialism.

  17. Mild-ly - Facetious
    October 24, 2017 at 15:43

    The machinery of death glides upon the path of blood and is intoxicated with the macabre/grandiose, Self-Aphoristic/Spurious Declaration of “exceptionalism”.

    The Honorable MLK truthfully declared, “America is the World’s Greatest Purveyor of Violence”.

    • Mild-ly - Facetious
      October 24, 2017 at 15:51

      In King’s speech against the Vietnam War he would call the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and note that “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

  18. Chris Chuba
    October 24, 2017 at 15:34

    Neocons are positively Orwellian.
    They cry about a world where might makes right and their solution is for the U.S. to dictate terms for everyone else.
    They fear that Putin is exporting totalitarianism while they export a bastardized form of democracy which invariably means a ‘pro-U.S. govt’.

    These people accuse others of what they are guilty of. There is no group of people on this earth more blind than the people of the U.S.

    • Sam F
      October 25, 2017 at 09:09

      Yes, nationalism is rightwing propaganda to trick the left into more wars for the MIC/zionist/WallSt oligarchy that owns the mass media and controls government.

  19. fudmier
    October 24, 2017 at 15:03

    Its not about left right but about nano dividing and crossing tying the ideals and principles that motivate actions and decisions from the mass of people; no one is, to be allowed to acquire, popular consensus sufficient to defeat the cabal. D&C (divide and conquer). I agree with Guillermo Calvo Mahé October 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm” Clinton – Obama are two persons from the same mold.. except for personal jealousy afforded certain postures there is no significant difference between them, actors in charge of cabal, are puppets subject to the will of ..

    • anon
      October 25, 2017 at 09:06

      The fact that the “left” is not visible under rightwing economic control of mass media and government does not invalidate the basic terminology of left and right.

      • October 26, 2017 at 13:24

        Of course. The left/right divide has existed for millennia since hierarchical “civilization” replaced the more egalitarian agrarian village. Ever since, in one form or another, humanity has lived under “the rule of the rich,” which Edward Bellamy described so masterfully in his late 19th Century classics: “Looking Backward” and “Equality.” While the right may allow the exercise by average citizens of limited powers in the political and social arenas, the economic arena must be kept as completely as possible under plutocratic control. The left, to the contrary, wants to democratize the economic arena through some form of public influence or control up to and including socialism. There are many variations and permutations of right and left, but the distinction is as clear as night and day.

  20. Hide BehindhBehindhere have been wake up calls but they were ignored.
    October 24, 2017 at 15:00

    The vast majority of US are no more than grubbing out a living, with moral standards that reach as high as their inseams and bellies, think that income levels is equivelent to being educated and deserving of respect, and on the whole while enriching themselves have not contributed one farthing or bit of energy to enriching the nation they live in.
    Their ideas of governing .means government must supply the means towards that self enrichment, and have no cognition as too why their nation is physicly as wealthy as it is, nor the cost in blood and misery to millions of world population outside of US borders.
    Almost all live outside of the real ecological payments the land has and continues to pay for their comfort, that their plastic and concrete caves and acutrements are artificial and somewhere the lowest members of their economic and war making societies has not gained a standard of living far far below theirs.
    With all the Wars on Poverty and billions, trillions in cash that the living standards and educational as well as employment access each year is growing in percentage.

    Left Right Left Right are regimental in nature and as long as you kept in lockstep in the past it cost you and I nothing.
    Our immediate family, back to grandparents, were no different except for a short period of US HISTORY the wealth made by extraction of resources sustained a standard of living unheard of for common citizens in world history.
    There has always been but a minority who stood against this false hubris of so called American Superiority over rest of world but of course they were ignored. Or harassed not by an un-nameable government but Mr., Mrs, and Ms. With real names.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:25

      We exploited the third world. Colonization fed our parents and the generations after

      • Seer
        October 25, 2017 at 00:21


  21. Tannenhouser
    October 24, 2017 at 14:17

    There hasn’t been an actual Left or Right in Western politick for a very long time….if ever. The article is brimming with inaccuracies and fantasy that only exist if you buy into a Left/Right paradigm. Go fish JWC.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:24

      You make good points. There is no ‘left’ left in America. If one does not appear, the country will continue to fall into decay

    • Libby
      October 25, 2017 at 01:24

      Talking about ‘left’ and ‘right’ serves as a coverup for our lack of any real political life. ‘The Emperor has no clothes’.

    • Sam F
      October 25, 2017 at 09:01

      Of course the left has long been a charade, because the right has economically controlled government and mass media since FDR, but there certainly has been a left-right polarity in US politics, and the terminology is necessary to discussion.

  22. October 24, 2017 at 14:00

    My perspective is a bit different and somewhat more Machiavellian. The Clinton – Obama cabal had to have a fallback position in case they lost, one that could drag along the United States rightwing, and the only way to do it was to denigrate and calumny the Russians, to generate an updated version of the red scare, and if that brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation, well, to them the risk was worth it. They thought their total control of the mainstream media would ameliorate the risks while maximizing the potential for success, especially when bolstered by Obama appointees in the Justice Department and intelligence communities and in the federal judiciary (2/3 of the entire federal judiciary has been appointed by Democratic presidents). They also realized that Trump was a populist rather than a Republican, in fact, he’d been a Democrat most of his life and a strong financial backer and political supporter of the Clintons, and that left the GOP flank uncovered. Thus we find ourselves where we are, Identity Politics + Russiagate hopefully equaling another shot at the big white house for the uncrowned dowager or for one of her ilk (think Michelle, regardless of current protestations).


    Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected] and much of his writing is available through his blog at

    • Zachary Smith
      October 24, 2017 at 17:27

      The Clinton – Obama cabal had to have a fallback position in case they lost

      Losing was the last thing on their minds. Recall that Hillary hadn’t even bothered to write a concession note. Also, Hillary was a dyed-in-the-wool neocon herself, so a quickie strategy session to blame the Russians wasn’t much of a stretch.

      It’s true Trump posed as a “populist”, but then Obama had pretended to be a “liberal”. Promises, promises! So far Trump hasn’t done a thing (that I’ve heard about) which doesn’t put him squarely in the Republican court. He may not be as much of a neocon as Israel would like, but they’re hammering him into better form on that issue.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:23

      Clinton and Obama were water carriers for reactionary capitalists. Their stories cannot be told without reference to the failure of capitalism and their role as supplicants for power

      • richard vajs
        October 26, 2017 at 15:33

        Danny Weil, I agree that Clinton and Obama were water carriers for the reactionary capitalists. It is a massive mistake to consider either of those two as progressive or egalitarian. And Hillary is just a meaner, bitchier form of Bill Clinton. All three had/have no desire to raise the minimum wage, institute national health care, restore Wall Street regulation, revoke/reform NAFTA (which effectively traded our industrial jobs for the benefit of the intellectual property of Disney, etc., reduce the cost of higher education for the masses, or reform our tax system. All three are willing to let the racist, land-stealing Israeli “settlers” commit genocide and still receive American foreign aid. I wouldn’t sh-t on the best part of either the Democrats or Republicans – I am ready for the Sanders revolution.

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 00:19

      And properly noted in others’ comments, there was NO expectation that Clinton would lose. That is, the assumption was that there’d be a cake walk once through the convention’s formalities. Problem is, Sanders and his followers were totally kicking Clinton’s behind. TPTB, acting through the DNC, derailed Sanders: refer to Wikileaks. Clinton was the desired candidate for TPTB. With Sanders dispatched the cake walk was ON… Only, Trump turned into an immovable object; and, what is most assuredly the product of wrath from Sanders’ supporters (and or DNC insiders whistle-blowing) handing over the damning evidence of collusion against a large portion of the voting population, the tide was turned. TPTB, however, would much more readily deal with Trump and his supporters than Sanders and his supporters. If Trump were dumped his supporters could be dealt with: Trump had no real inside backers, the power around him was, and is, weak (as can be seen by the fact that nearly all his swamp-drainers have been cast out); Sanders could also have been bumped out, but those surrounding him wouldn’t likely be as quiet being escorted out the door (keep in mind that it’s very well possible that the leaks were through someone sympathetic to Sanders, if not an outright supporter). Trump is being easily manipulated as desired. His supporters (on the “outside”) are so sure that Trump has a clue and can execute they fail to really challenge TPTB. It’s an awkward-looking dance, to be sure, but the end results are happening: war continues to be pushed on all fronts; corporations and the ultra-rich are benefiting.

  23. Tom Welsh
    October 24, 2017 at 13:50

    By some definitions of “greatness”, it would be astonishing if the USA were not “great”. It has been just about two hundred years since 4-5 million colonists began gnawing ravenously at the edge of a brand new, virgin continent with the biggest windfall of natural resources ever to come the way of a community of human beings. They immediately set to work energetically to kill all the living things, extract all the inanimate resources, and convert it all to trash as quickly as possible.

    They are just about done. And that is what is causing all the angst.

    Well hard luck, people. You can’t have your continent and consume it – not for very long, at least. Yours is pretty much done, and you won’t be getting seconds.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:22

      Not even sloppy seconds

    • Andrew Nichols
      October 24, 2017 at 20:18

      virgin continent ? As a native American if he/she believe that.

    • Seer
      October 25, 2017 at 00:03

      Nature will not cooperate with the silly premise of perpetual growth on a finite plant. Human hubris, meet Mother Nature.

  24. Tom Welsh
    October 24, 2017 at 13:44

    ‘Hillary Clinton made the counterpoint that “America is great because America is good.”’

    Ha ha ha! It certainly does seem to be true that “the Devil has all the best tunes”.

    Hillary Clinton would not recognize goodness if she saw it. She seems to know the word, but she is an utter stranger to the quality.

    • Tom Welsh
      October 24, 2017 at 13:45

      Also, if she ever did see goodness it would run screaming from her.

  25. October 24, 2017 at 13:41

    What’s in a name?…that which we call Chauvinism by any other name would stink as bad. i.e. American Exceptionalism

    • Sam F
      October 25, 2017 at 08:52

      Yes, the article suffers from the vague term “exceptionalism.” Only fools believe in national virtues, and those who make excuses such as “democracy, human rights, and transparency” for US policies are the primary violators of them. Nationalism is rightwing propaganda to trick the left into more wars for the MIC/zionist/WallSt oligarchy that owns the mass media.

  26. Sally Snyder
    October 24, 2017 at 13:26

    Here is an interesting look at voter support for the Trump agenda:

    This gives us with an even clearer viewpoint on the divisiveness that plagues America today.

    • Danny Weil
      October 24, 2017 at 19:21

      You must remember, 47% of Americans eligible to vote never voted. Why? For if voting changed anything it would be illegal

  27. Ld Elon
    October 24, 2017 at 13:21

    Its not april, why this joke today aye humaphobes/russiaphobes?

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