Because I am not particularly good with the technological dimensions of operating my own blog, I have been compelled to write a new post in reply to Sam Goodfellow’s thought-provoking entry, “You Say You Want a Revolution.” When I initially posted Sam’s article, I failed to post it under his authorship. As a result, those of you who have subscribed to this site received it as a post by me. I apologize to everyone for the confusion, which is only exacerbated by the fact that we are dealing with two Sams here! More importantly, I apologize to Sam Goodfellow for my usurpation.
Normally, I would just post my response to his article as a “reply”. Because of the confusion, however, I will post my reply as a separate blog entry. I tried, but failed, to be brief.
Most importantly, I want to thank Sam Goodfellow for providing precisely the historical and global perspectives that this site hopes to present. There are not too many people who can quote Antonio Gramsci with the authority of Goodfellow. (I’ll use his last name to avoid confusion and to remind us of his character!) As chair of the History Department at historic Westminster College, where Winston Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech, he brings an authority to these discussions that is greatly appreciated. “The crisis consists precisely with the fact that the old is dying and the new can’t be born.” It is hard to imagine a more concise and poetic way of identifying the challenge we face.
Cathy and the Chipmunks
While my sister is more than capable of speaking for herself, she needlessly expressed her regrets to me for her “flippant” response to Goodfellow’s article. She had done so on the assumption that I had written it. She spoke of the curse of the “ear worm” that Goodfellow’s title spawned. My sister is an amazing cultural arbiter and I had not heard the expression “ear worm” before.
What better song is there, though, to have wandering in your head than this Beatles’ classic? We all want to change the world. We want to hear every plan. Count us out on destruction. There is, however, one line in this song that needs to be challenged. I note this very reluctantly because the lyrics of Beatles’ songs are as sacred as religious texts to many, including myself. What needs to be challenged in this song is the assertion, “But if you go carrying ‘round pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.” While this line might be opened to various interpretations, I would pose the experience of my college friend and dormmate Tim as evidence against the Beatles’ claim.
Tim was an extremely handsome young white man from Fairfield, whom I met in 1973 at Cal State Hayward. He was an outstanding student. He did not do drugs, though he enjoyed parties. He was physically fit. In short, he was the Vitruvian Man. He was also the only Maoist I have even known. He carried around Mao’s Red Book. He could talk compellingly about the peasantry as a revolutionary force. He rode his bicycle everywhere. He could handle chopsticks better than any white person I have known. He was utterly charming, and he had no problems at all attracting women. Is it possible that the Beatles are not infallible? What would Gramsci think?
For the record, Cathy, it’s better a Beatles’ ear worm than the one that I’ve been fighting for a few days now. I just cannot get The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) out of my head. What would you prefer, John, Paul, George, and Ringo; or Theodore, Simon, and Alvin?
Before you answer this Cathy, you need to be aware that the Chipmunks were the creation of Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian, who was born in Fresno in 1919 and later assumed the stage name of David Seville, the surname reflecting the station where he served in the US Army during World War II. He was also the first cousin of Fresno’s William Saroyan. Does this not complicate the question a little, Cathy? If you now cannot get the Chipmunks out of your head, I’m not sure whether to say, “I’m sorry” or “You’re welcome.”
Mike McCall and The Social Dilemma
Goodfellow’s response to Mike’s endorsement of the documentary “The Social Dilemma” was a powerful reminder that there is almost nothing in history that is completely new. His concise history of how information technology has shaped culture since the French Revolution helps us to frame the question Mike raised in a way that can lead to constructive resolutions of the problem, rather than despair. For a long time, it has been the case that our technological advances have outstripped the abilities of our societies to adapt to them. The technology is not going away. The challenge, then, is to reshape society in a way that more effectively engages the technology. This is the crisis to which Gramsci refers. More about that in my response to Goodfellow.
One more film recommendation for you, Mike. When we finally hear the voice of God, one suspects that we might be disappointed when it is not that of Morgan Freeman. There are, however, other good alternatives. First, let’s not assume it is going to be a male voice. Perhaps the voice of God will be that of Aretha Franklin. That would emphasize the mighty in the expressions of the Almighty! A personal favorite would be the voice of Dolly Parton, whose life philosophy is well-summarized in the 2018 movie, Dumplin’. A great candidate for the gentle yet authoritative voice of God would be that of David Attenborough. Is there anyone who better embodies the love for all of creation than this man? His final documentary, A Witness Statement: A Life on Our Planet, will simultaneously succor your soul and inspire you to action. Apocalyptic speculation aside, this testament at once humbles us as humans and elevates us among all of the wonders we experience during our ever-so tenuous existence on this planet.
Goodfellow and the “f” word
Goodfellow’s 2,000 word essay joins together a number of vital themes as it connects the central question of whether there is a way to emerge from this crisis without a major outbreak of violence. His focus was on the social and economic triggers that have led to violent revolutions over the last two centuries. The themes that emerged were nationalism, globalization, industrialization, imperialism, authoritarianism, debt, and environmental degradation. The patterns that Goodfellow presents are disturbing reminders of what happens when societies lose faith in key institutions.
The uniquely and distinctly American character of the current crisis, however, is what disturbs me most. Moreover, it should be stated that no political organization in the US is more responsible for the crisis than what was formerly the Republican Party. That party has now become the staging ground for the cult of Trump. It is a desecration of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln to continue to call this party the Republican Party. This party has more in common with the racist elements of the Confederacy under Jefferson Davis than it did with the abolitionists who inspired Republicanism. The mass base, cruelty, and violence inherent in Trump’s party evoke as well the demagogues of the 1930s.
The Republican Party will hereafter be referred to as the Trumpublican Party because it no longer embraces even the most basic tenets of the republican idea as represented in the US Constitution. Events of the last four years have raised the valid question of whether what remains of the Republican Party has become a contemporary expression of fascism.
Goodfellow is as much of an expert on fascism as you will find in this country and did not use the term at all in his 2000 word essay. He has published variously on this topic, including a monograph on fascism in Alsace-Lorraine. In the blog post, Goodfellow made brief and temporally bounded references to the Nazis and Mussolini, but he made no direct references to the elements of fascism in the present. I am currently working on an essay that explores the currents of fascism operant in today’s Trumpublican Party. I look forward to Goodfellow demolishing my arguments, as he did for so many years in Bloomington.
Without getting into the fascist dimensions of the Trumpublicanism, for now I just want to emphasize select elements of the disaster that this party of Trump has imposed upon our nation. If the nation falls into violence, it will be initiated and perpetuated by the fanatic extremists of the Trump cult. That is, the true threat of violence in this country comes exclusively from the right.
The good news, though, is that the election of Biden will put these violent elements under a stricter scrutiny than they have been under the disastrous Justice Department of Attorney General William Barr. Right-wing terrorists and their Trump Party cohorts will no longer operate with the impunity they have known for the last four years. It will no longer be so easy to embrace the racist extremes of Neo-Nazis, the KKK, the Proud Boys, and QAnon conspiracists, as has David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the days leading up to determining whether Mitch McConnell will continue to undermine governance in the country.
The Party of Trump, along with its army of QAnon conspiracists, racists, religious cultists, and corporate sponsors, has done us the favor of bringing into visibility the absurdity of our political culture. The preposterously corrupt figures of Trumpublicanism such as Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Elliot Broidy used to have to operate in the dark shadows of power. They have now been brought front and center. Rudy Giuliani used to be known as America’s Mayor. He has now become America’s Bator, an apt anagram that can render as well Borat. Every Trumpublican elected official, along with the institution of the Supreme Court, has to a greater or lesser degree been smeared with the orange fecality of Trumpism. Even Mitt Romney, the swank embodiment of every conservative ideal, will carry the stench of Trumpism to the end of his career. It is almost impossible to find a sitting Republican member of Congress or the Trump administration who has comported him or herself with integrity.
In a properly functioning democracy, the 106 Trumpers in Congress and the 18 Trumper Attorneys General who have baselessly challenged the election results in the four swing states would be tried for sedition. Many of these same politicians were elected in what they allege was the greatest fraud every perpetrated in the country. To say that the Trump Party is trapped in a logical conundrum is to do disservice to the complexity that a conundrum implies. The truth here is simple: the numbers do not lie. There is nothing to even argue about here. Their legal claims are beyond silly, they are stupid. Mark Twain once said: “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” Is there a more apt summary of what the Party of Trump has done to the country over the last four years?
The Trumpublican Death Toll
It is time to measure the deadly consequences of this stupidity. No country has responded as poorly to the pandemic as the USA and the specific reason the US response has been so horrific is the failure of the Trumpublican Party to take even the most elementary precautions seriously. The pandemic would have been a challenge to even the best government. The criminal neglect of the Trumpublican Party has needlessly resulted in the deaths of at least a hundred thousand Americans. What follows will be an attempt to derive a more precise number of deaths for which elected Trumpublican officials and the voters who selected them should be held accountable.
Trumpublican officials stood by silently as their Leader and many elected officials mocked the wearing of masks. These same Trumpublicans said nothing when the Leader’s Attorney General compared the lockdowns recommended by the Center for Disease Control to slavery. Only the Trumpublican Party has embraced the allegation that the numbers of Covid deaths are inflated because there are financial incentives for the health care industry to report deaths as Covid related. (This is an allegation I have heard repeatedly in my conversations with local Trumpublicans.) No evidence has ever been provided to show such incentives and this allegation also ignores the proven efforts of Trumpublican state governors to suppress the numbers of Covid deaths. Moreover, the “excess deaths” that have occurred in 2020 are fully consistent with the Covid-related deaths reported by the CDC. Only the Trumpublican Party openly embraced the improperly-named notion of “herd immunity”, which was in fact a policy of eugenics targeting the elderly, the poor, minorities, and the disabled. “Herd immunity” is a euphemism for genocide. When the Leader called for the “liberation” of Michigan while armed terrorists surrounded the capital in Lansing, Trumpublican elected officials played dumb. This incident represents a moment in recent US history that echoes key moments in the Third Reich. Can anyone point out a single instance of courage or principal by any Trumpublican either in relation to the violent threat to the courageous Governor Whitmer of Michigan or to the pandemic in general? Where was the voice of any Trumpublican when the Trumpublican Governor of Florida sent armed agents to arrest Rebekah Jones, a data scientist dedicated to ensuring that citizens of the state were getting accurate Covid statistics rather than the false ones promoted by the Governor. Again, it is difficult to not hear the echoes of Germany in the 1930s in this Florida story.
With the end of the Trump administration and the arrival of the Covid vaccine, it is time to determine a general number of American deaths for which the Trumpublican Party can be blamed. The method used here to determine this was to select some countries to use as a standard of comparison for the US response. As this country generally touts itself as a world leader, the countries chosen generally corresponded to that aspiration. Five such countries were chosen, with Nigeria being included based on comments Goodfellow had made in an earlier post. (The data from Nigeria appears to confirm Goodfellow’s argument in that earlier post.) Mexico is also included to illustrate a country whose response to the pandemic has been comparably poor to that of the US. The second column is the population of each country rounded to the nearest million based on data from the interactive and greatly enjoyable website populationpyramid.net. Column 3 is the number of Covid deaths as reported from data on the authoritative Johns Hopkins Covid website. Column 4 is the factor by which the number of deaths would be multiplied in each country in order to project that country’s numbers were it to have the population of the USA. Column 5 is those projected numbers of deaths. Column 6 is then the excess numbers of deaths relative to the other selected countries.
|Country||Population||Covid Deaths||Factor||Projected Deaths||Excess US Deaths|
It would be generous to the Trumpublican Party to attribute only 150,000 unnecessary deaths to their failure to address the pandemic. One may attempt to mitigate these numbers by pointing out how the US has higher levels of poverty, lower levels of education, and greater incidents of morbidities than the countries that have engaged the pandemic more effectively, but this only engages a circular logic whose causal factors point back to the broader picture of failed governance on the part of the Trumpublican Party.
The US death toll will continue to rise disproportionately to all of the countries above because the Trumpublican Party failed to prepare for the second wave of the virus that was correctly predicted by the medical community. Mike Pence, the head of the Corona Virus task force, mocked the doctors and journalists who predicted this second wave in the spring, accusing them of fearmongering. Of course, like all of the maskless members of the Trump administration, he jumped to the front of the line, whether it be for the vaccine or the taxpayer funded elite treatment at the Walter Reed hospital. In effect, they were all rewarded by the best medical care this society has to offer after they disregarded the recommendations of those same doctors who were warning of the danger.
Because of the fiasco of Trumpublican leadership, we never established the coherent programs of testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment that limited Covid deaths in other countries. Effective world leaders followed the guidance of medical experts and did not engage nonsensical theories about miraculous disappearances of the disease or some magical ultraviolet light or disinfecting bleach that could somehow isolate and execute the virus inside the body. Competent, democratically elected governments throughout the world communicated guidelines that were consistent with medical science. When lockdowns were necessary to limit the spread of the virus, these governments ensured that their publics did not fear homelessness or food insecurity. The governments of Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, and Canada guaranteed anywhere between 75% and 100% of pre-pandemic income to their residents. All of those effective leaders counseled patience and promoted the ideal of shared sacrifice in the face of the crisis. The notion that the pandemic is a transitional challenge that would test the commitment of everyone to the well-being of all is something that no Trumpublican ever expressed.
Instead, the Trumpublican Party used the pandemic to further drive wedges in society. Because the pandemic has resulted to date in a minimal death or casualty toll among the Trumpublican base of wealthier white voters, it was relatively easy for them to see Covid as something little worse than the seasonal flu. It was not generally the Trumpublican base that worked in the factories, slaughterhouses, food processing plants, prisons, rest homes, and other workplaces where Covid exploded. The largely Black, Brown, elderly, imprisoned, and poor who populated those places were not of central concern to those who did not have to share a communal workspace or a bedroom with multiple members of their family.
The most contemptible aspect of this soulless disregard for the well-being of others is that the Trumpublican failed response to the pandemic actually benefitted them in the 2020 elections. Responsible Democratic governors and mayors followed the advice of medical professionals and closed down schools, churches, bars, restaurants, hair salons, and other economic and cultural venues that normally operate in society. Trumpublicans immediately pounced on these necessary, difficult, and painful responses to the pandemic by denying the severity of the pandemic. Trumpublicans called the pandemic a hoax specifically designed to undermine the President’s re-election quest. In a slogan devoid of meaning, they claimed that the cure should not be worse than the disease – as if the death of potentially millions of fellow citizens following a “herd immunity” policy was somehow preferable to momentary economic restrictions until the virus could be isolated and a systematic program of immunizations could be implemented.
Trumpublicans forced the Democrats to do the responsible work of discouraging normal social and economic interactions while Trumpublicans campaigned that the situation was not serious. Trumpublicans accused Democrats of being against religion, family life, the educational needs of children, small business, faith, hope. Dems were forced to counter charges that they were against all the things that Americans love: the Easter Bunny, Jesus, Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, lap dances and slot machines. Trumpublicans asserted that god was in charge, not science or medical professionals. The fact that so many members of the Trumpublican Party contracted Covid, received priority treatment, excellent care at the best facilities in the nation, and returned to their offices claiming to be proof that the virus was not as deadly as the medical professionals claimed, only made the Democrats’ case for sober responsibility more difficult. Even a sitting Supreme Court justice added fuel to this fire of raging ignorance by inferring that the Democrats somehow embraced an anti-religious agenda. Everyone was tired of the pandemic. Everyone wanted normal life to return. But only the Trumpublicans proudly campaigned on false hope and the idea that the advice of medical professionals need not be heeded.
The Trumpublicans might have lost the presidency, but their standing in Congress is such that they are able to plot the demise of the Biden administration through economic sabotage. One of the reasons why Trumpublicans did so well in the election is that Wall Street did not reflect the damage done to main street by the pandemic. People with 401ks benefitted by a massive investment of the Federal Reserve Bank into the stock market. Because economic hardships did not affect the Trumpublican base significantly, they were able to campaign on false fears about the “socialism” that Democrats would promote.
Now that Trump is gone, these same Trumpublicans want to deprive Biden’s Fed Chair from using the same investment tools that Trump has been using for four years. Trumpublicans are already complaining about the anticipated deficits that Democrats will incur in their efforts to address the broader catastrophe that the Trumpublican pandemic has wrought. Trumpublicans will now become deficit hawks after sponsoring an $8.3 trillion increase in the national debt. This, of course, will parallel the situation that the last Trumpublican administration left the nation in 2008 after Trumpublican deregulation of financial markets led to economic collapse and compelled the bailout of “too big to fail” banks. John Fugelsang has aptly compared the Trumpublican program to that of arsonists complaining about the work of the fire department.
The Real Welfare States
At the center of all this political nonsense, of course, is the execrable Mitch McConnell. No one is more singularly responsible for the horror of the current moment than he. He has ensured that workplaces would remain death traps and that cities would fall into deeper and deeper spirals of unemployment, homelessness, and food insecurity. He is still promoting the contemptible lie that any programs helping the needy or local and state governments would be incentives for continued poor Blue state governance. In the wake of the election, it is a good time to revisit data released by the state of New York when McConnell was first making these claims.
The data, taken from page 13 and 14 of the report, largely speaks for itself. What it shows is that the Trumpublican states are takers and Democratic states are givers. Here is the data for all 50 states.
|State||Receipts||Expenditures||Balance of Payments||Expenditures per dollar of receipt||Trump or Blue (T or B)|
|W Virginia||11,773, 000,000||24,534, 000,000||12,762, 000,000||2.08||T|
|Alabama||34,889, 000,000||70,405, 000,000||35,516, 000,000||2.02||T|
|Mississippi||18,672, 000,000||37,524,000,000||18,553, 000,000||2.01||T|
|Alaska||6.920, 000,000||13,490, 000,000||6,570, 000,000||1.95||T|
|Maryland||63,520, 000,000||111,456, 000,000||47,937, 000,000||1.75||B|
|Hawaii||12,581, 000,000||20,791, 000,000||8,210, 000,000||1.65||B|
|Maine||10,863, 000,000||17,803, 000,000||6,940, 000,000||1.64||B|
|S. Carolina||37,960,000,000||61,004, 000,000||23,004, 000,000||1.61||T|
|Arkansas||21,980, 000,000||35,383, 000,000||13,403, 000,000||1.61||T|
|Louisiana||34,417, 000,000||54,705, 000,000||20,288, 000,000||1.59||T|
|Oklahoma||29,522, 000,000||46,678, 000,000||17,156, 000,000||1.58||T|
|Missouri||50,228, 000,000||75,237, 000,000||25,009, 000,000||1.50||T|
|Arizona||55,249, 000,000||81,646, 000,000||26,396, 000,000||1.48||B|
|Tennessee||55,285, 000,000||80,590, 000,000||25,306, 000,000||1.46||T|
|Montana||9,052, 000,000||13,241, 000,000||4,188, 000,000||1.46||T|
|Idaho||12,926, 000,000||18,449, 000,000||5,523, 000,000||1.43||T|
|N Carolina||82,512, 000,000||115,486, 000,000||32,974, 000,000||1.40||T|
|Vermont||5,888, 000,000||8,048, 000,000||2,160, 000,000||1.37||B|
|Ohio||95,819, 000,000||130,461, 000,000||34,641, 000,000||1.36||T|
|Delaware||8,644, 000,000||11,661, 000,000||2,997, 000,000||1.35||B|
|Rd Island||10,228, 000,000||13,357, 000,000||3,129, 000,000||1.31||B|
|Michigan||86,009, 000,000||110,007, 000,000||23,998, 000,000||1.28||B|
|Pennsylvania||124,243, 000,000||157,287, 000,000||33,004, 000,000||1.27||B|
|Indiana||54,243, 000,000||68,918, 000,000||14,595, 000,000||1.27||T|
|Oregon||37,020, 000,000||46,659, 000,000||9,640, 000,000||1.26||B|
|Georgia||86,055, 000,000||106,080, 000,000||20,025, 000,000||1.23||B|
|Kansas||23,359, 000,000||30,915, 000,000||5,556, 000,000||1.22||T|
|S Dakota||8,421, 000,000||9,644, 000,000||1,224, 000,000||1.15||T|
|Florida||215,191, 000,000||240,000, 000,000||24,908, 000,000||1.12||T|
|Nevada||27,489, 000,000||30,251, 000,000||2,762, 000,000||1.10||B|
|Wyoming||6,399, 000,000||7,062, 000,000||662, 000,000||1.10||T|
|Wisconsin||52,558, 000,000||57,204, 000,000||4,647, 000,000||1.09||B|
|Iowa||26,843, 000,000||29,333, 000,000||2,490, 000,000||1.09||T|
|N Dakota||7,586, 000,000||8,062, 000,000||476, 000,000||1.06||T|
|Texas||262,220,000,000||275,773, 000,000||13,513, 000,000||1.05||T|
|N Hampshire||15,067, 000,000||15,488, 000,000||421, 000,000||1.03||B|
|Washington||82,710, 000,000||83,431, 000,000||722, 000,000||1.01||B|
|California||428,656, 000,000||430,597, 000,000||1,940, 000,000||1.00||B|
|Illinois||131,056, 000,000||131,400, 000,000||344, 000,000||1.00||B|
|Minnesota||57,768, 000,000||57,043, 000,000||-725, 000,000||.99||B|
|Nebraska||18,254, 000,000||17,940, 000,000||-315, 000,000||.98||T|
|Utah||24,826, 000,000||24,315, 000,000||-511, 000,000||.98||T|
|Colorado||58,415, 000,000||56,857, 000,000||-1,557, 000,000||.97||B|
|New York||247,306, 000,000||225,320, 000,000||-21,986, 000,000||.91||B|
|Massachusetts||92,223, 000,000||83,155, 000,000||-9,078, 000,000||.90||B|
|New Jersey||111,954, 000,000||100,436, 000,000||-11,518, 000,000||.90||B|
|Connecticut||50,031, 000,000||41,979, 000,000||-8,052, 000,000||.84||B|
The states are listed in order of the portion of federal funds they receive in relation to their disbursements. Notice that Kentucky, with two Trumpublican senators, is the worst abuser of this system. For every tax dollar it renders to the federal government, Kentucky gets $2.41 in return. Fourteen of the top twenty recipients of this drain of wealth from Blue states are Trumpublican. Only eight states are net contributors to the federal budget, six of which are Democratic. In absolute numbers, New York loses more than any state to this interstate transfer of wealth – by far! California’s bottom line is a wash, receiving as much federal money as it disburses. But it should be noted that the federal moneys that come to California largely go to those places where Trumpublicans prevail: centers of the military-industrial complex like San Diego and the massive subsidies to the agribusiness conglomerates that subsidize the political lives of Trumpublicans Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes. The Trump states receive around $125 billion more in federal payouts than the Blue states, even though they represent less than 40% of the nation’s population.
Per capita measures further illustrate this point. Every person in Kentucky receives more than $10,000 of federal money beyond what they contribute. Alaskans get almost $9,000. Everyone in Alabama and West Virginia get over $7,000. Mississippians get over $6,300. By contrast, Californians get $49. People in the Blue states of New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts each pay out well over $1,000. The biggest per capita wealth drain is for the very Blue state of Connecticut, where the average resident of that state paid out $2,254.
The point is that no one wants to hear Trumpublican Senators now lecture the country on fiscal responsibility or lecture us on the need for austerity. Austerity needs to begin in the Trumpublican states. They need to be treated as they have treated single mothers on the SNAP program. Any state that receives more than ten cents on every dollar of tax disbursement needs to be placed in a remediation program. Otherwise, the Trumpublican states will never break their financial dependency on the Blue states.
Trumpublicanism in One Word: Cruelty
The point here is that the Trumpublican party is the principal source of corruption, ignorance, and violence that has arisen in the current moment. The factors that have contributed to this horrific political organization are deeply rooted in elements of US history. While I have tried to avoid using the “f” word (fascism) to describe the Trump phenomenon, it has become increasingly difficult for me to avoid it.
The book that gave me the greatest insight into the sources of Hitlerian fascism was Heinrich Mann’s, Man of Straw. While the main character in this book, Diederich Hessling, anticipates Trump in a prophetic manner, it is the broader critique of the jingoistic militarism and racist chauvinism permeating Wilhelmine Germany that is most instructive for understanding how so many “good Germans” came to support Hitler. While the specific elements of fascism in the US will be the subject of a later post, the parallels to Trump’s America are deeply disturbing.
It would appear, though, that our institutions are not as corrupted as those of Germany on the eve of Hitler’s takeover. The voices of women, minorities, the poor, and the disabled have grown at the local, state, and federal levels of government. A severe economic crisis such as the one that brought Hitler to power in 1933 could precipitate efforts at a violent takeover such as the one that Trump is threatening today. However, key institutions like the US military better represent the diversity of the country and the integrity of the constitution than they have before and provide a firewall against dictatorship. Racist liars and perjurers like Generals Mike Flynn and John Kelly have brought disgrace to their uniform and dishonor to their service in support of Trump, but they are increasingly the exception at the highest order of the military. Other institutions at all levels of government still operate in a broadly democratic manner, despite every effort of the Trumpublican party to suppress the voice of the people. Social media’s contributions to right-wing extremism are deeply disturbing, but the framework for addressing this challenge can work to peripheralize maniacal ideas while promoting the open discourse that the technology offers. Our institutions still have integrity, though four years of Trumpublicanism have eroded it considerably.
Despite this guarded optimism, it is time to reflect on the cruelty that has defined the last four years. Jacob Soboroff’s powerfully disturbing reports from the detention camps at the US-Mexico border are reminders of how gratuitously vicious the US has been to some of the most vulnerable and desperate people on earth. At the same time as Trump will be selling blanket pardons to the highest bidder and disbursing them to his family members and closest associates in the days to come, he will also be further intensifying the executions of federal death row inmates. Deliberate violence and cruelty are how these four years began. Deliberate violence and cruelty are how these four years are ending.
A society gets the leaders it deserves. What has always astounded in my studies of Nazi Germany is how many people chose to simply ignore the suffering that their government was inflicting on others. Moreover, as the powerfully disturbing book by Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men, showed, the number of “good” people willing to carry out the most immoral acts needs to always be considered.
The decision of Trump to intensify executions in his final days of office recalls Hitler’s persistent commitment to the Final Solution long after it was evident that Germany would lose the war. While such an observation in no way intends to parallel the Holocaust to the disregard for life exhibited by Trump and his legions, the common thread of cruelty and gleeful celebrations of violence should not go unnoticed. At the heart of Trumpism is an obscene disregard for the well-being of others. The obsession with killing as a means of asserting one’s vitality is the disturbing parallel. Something to think about, Goodfellow?