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January 28, 2018


I am a commentator on the blog of Sheila Suess Kennedy, professor at IUPUI in Indianapolis. Today she wrote that we may be going through a cultural revolution, citing cults of personality, attacks on our institutions and other Mao-like symptoms heralding a new order – and posing the question of whether our democratic institutions, our federalism and our constitutional order will be able to withstand the resulting chaos in our currently polarized political atmosphere. I responded, slightly edited, as follows:

Sheila’s topic for the day is one whose vestiges we have seen simmering since Reagan, who introduced the Ayn Randian notion of total greed which in turn destroyed remnants of New Deal thinking and the idea that “We’re all in this together” goodwill following WW II versus “I’ve got mine and I’m going to get yours” thinking of today. We are aware that Reagan was influenced by the infamous Powell memo of 1971 which outlined the means by which the rich and corporate class could take over government and the trickledown nonsense of Friedman and his Chicago School of Economics, among other blueprints for greed mongering setting the stage for cultural revolution of some sort or other.

However, a mere thumbnail recitation of economic history does not treat the trip to the Mao cliff Sheila notes today, which involves political history, both past and present. I think that our Randian culture of Reagan-inspired greed began in earnest with the advent of the Tea Party hardliners who view compromise as evil and who, though a minority, make a critical difference in proposing and fashioning legislation, and that such adherents are slaves to ideology and oblivious to outcome. I think further that their steadfast and unyielding refusal to compromise has created a certain paralysis in governing and that it is intentional, which may explain why the popularity of Congress is even below that of Trump. The libertarian (see Mercers and Kochs) idea is to make government look bad, overreaching, controlling and against freedom for its citizenry. All of us remember Reagan’s declaration that “government is the problem.”
Given such a do-nothing background and the political vacuum thus created where no significant legislation is on the drawing board (other than ill-considered tax cuts and reductions in regulations for the rich and corporate class), Trumpism or something like it had to happen, as not only nature but politics abhor a vacuum, and as we have seen with Lenin, Hitler and Mao in their respective milieus. The modus operandi of these three and now Trump is to incite hatred of  current government and sew doubt and confusion in its institutions (FBI, CIA et al.) in order to create a situational impasse calling for “a strong man” to ride in on his white horse (apologies to Sir Walter Scott) and save the day.

Trump is that horseman. Our task? Resist the horseman and his fellow conspirators in the defense of our most valuable asset held in common – our democracy. How? To the Bastille in November, 2018, while sturdily resisting those who would destroy our democracy, one of the last few things worth dying for, during the interim.      GERALD       E






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