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Thoughts about the rise of Trump

Update post the Orlando massacre:

Delving into online political commentary during the current presidential election cycle feels as unsafe as being cast afloat on a small iceberg, a small iceberg that is slowly melting due to the heat one receives for having an opinion. For those that have dared criticize Donald Trump publicly, the backlash has been appalling. More on that below.

I will certainly not vote for Donald Trump, and, unless a miracle occurs this summer, I doubt that I will be voting for Bernie in November, although I am so grateful that he brought a lot of important issues to the fore during his campaign, issues that have to now be addressed. I did vote for him in the Oregon primary. Hillary, currently, leaves me stone cold. Thankfully Elizabeth Warren is a sparkling surrogate.

Yet, were Donald Trump to become president - and it could happen - I believe we would be staring down the barrel of a gun (a cliché I know, and yet it feels apt.) 

If people are puzzled over the rise of Donald Trump, a man who has never held office, who has no experience of running a state never mind a country comprised of states, (that lack of experience is, of course, a badge of honor these days,) they may be well served by reading Oriana Fallaci's 1979 essay and interview with Muammar el-Qaddafi, the self-styled and self-imposed late leader of Libya.

In Fallaci's essay, a run up to the actual interview, she shares remarkable insights regarding the rise of "revolutionaries," noting that it is usually the military grabbing power through the use of a coup d'etat. Non-revolutionaries in other words; real revolutionaries, she writes, have been few and far between. I am not suggesting that the Donald would ever be able to turn the USA's military might against its own people (although polling shows a large majority of our armed forces support him,) nor that he would even go there, yet I am certain that he is not a revolutionary. I became stirred and concerned after reading Fallaci's essay outlining what propels seemingly ordinary people to lead a so-called revolution; the trick to gaining power is to win the acquiescence of the people to aid in their power grabs, before turning on them.

As always, history provides us with the ability to look back, showing us how in the past, modernization and new technologies became very useful in reaching the populace of a state. When el_Qaddafi deposed King Idris in Libya in 1969, ninety-five percent of the population were illiterate - but they had access to televisions and transistor radios. As Fallaci points out: "In the past, adventurers who had set their sites on becoming dictators needed triumphal arches, newspapers, foolish or sellout intellectuals. Today, (she wrote this in 1979) all they need is some photographs, a cameraman, and a transistor." 

And so the people were, and still are, duped. We can thank our media for that.

Back to Fallaci on how a seemingly ordinary person grabs power. It goes like this:

"Heroes are few and far between, and heroes that stand against the powerful are even scarcer. The large majority (of the populace) are paralyzed by fear, shocked by the uncertainty of the future, and only want to know who they should love, respect and obey. They want a leader, basically, a king to replace the deposed king, a king who will fulfill their shameful and eternal need for a king."

She goes on: "...those who can't exist without a king and who cut off kingly heads only try to stick them back on again. Since it's impossible to reattach a head, they live in regret for what they have destroyed and they have no peace until a dead king is replaced with a live one, whoever it might be, whatever he might be called: Führer, Guardian of the Revolution, Caudillo, Imam, Supreme Leader, Mr. President, Monsieur Le President. The history of the world confirms this, and one of the oldest lies in the world is the lie of the republic.” 

Fallaci was one of our greatest interviewers and critics, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out; if only one prominent member of the media in the United States today was as brave as her we may be having a different conversation.

I mentioned above the backlash that people have received when publicly criticizing Donald Trump. Well, here's an eye-opening article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic: A Brief Introduction to Pro-Holocaust Twitter. "Donald Trump has expressed no interest in opening up death camps for Jews should he win the presidency, but his ardent supporters on the racist right have their hopes."

Meanwhile, Archie Brown, a political scientist, historian, and the Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford, warns us against worshipping the false god of the strong leader in this essay.

As I write, it appears that Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democrat nomination, and Bernie Sanders continues to fight on. The problem for Bernie that I see, (the issue of Super delegates aside, which I would argue needs to be addressed,) is that he simply didn't win enough votes. Here's Paul Krugman channeling Nate Silver on the outcome of the Democratic primaries recently:

"And no, saying that the race is effectively over isn’t somehow aiding a nefarious plot to shut it down by prematurely declaring victory. Nate Silver recently summed it up: “Clinton ‘strategy’ is to persuade more ‘people’ to ‘vote’ for her, hence producing a ‘majority’ of ‘delegates.’” You may think those people chose the wrong candidate, but choose her they did." Link.

The bottom-line is, that even though the choices for president may come across as unsavory, we must use our vote.


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