Sunday, August 23, 2015

Trump Happens

Sinclair Lewis warned us about this character 80 years ago.

The resemblance between the quasi-fictional postmodern demagogue named Donald Trump and the fictional Depression-era demagogue named Buzz Windrip is so uncanny as to make me wonder whether Trump hasn't used It Can't Happen Here as a handy guide to how to win the presidency during hard economic times.

See if you can guess which of the two candidates spun out the following word salads: (answers are below) 

"I want to stand up on my hind legs and not just admit but frankly holler right out we've got to change our country. The Executive has got to have a freer hand and to be able to move quick in an emergency, and not be tied down by a bunch of shyster lawyer congressmen taking months to shoot off their mouths in debates..., But these economic changes are only a means to an end and that end must be fundamentally the same principles of liberty, equality and justice that were advocated by the founding fathers of this grand land back in 1776."


"I will build a Great Wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me -- and I'll build them very, very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."

"My one ambition is to get all Americans to realize that they are, and must continue to be, the greatest Race on the face of this old Earth, and second, to realize that whatever apparent differences there may be among us, in wealth, knowledge, skill, ancestry or strength -- though, of course, all this does not apply to people who are racially different from us -- we are all brothers, bound together in the great and wonderful bond of National Unity, for which we should all be very glad."


"I shall not be content until this country can produce every single thing we need. even cocoa, coffee and rubber, and so we keep all our dollars at home."


"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. they're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

"Usually I'm pretty mild, in fact many of my friends are kind enough to call it 'folksy'... but I hope none of the gentlemen who have honored me with their enmity think for one single minute that when I run into a gross public evil or a persistent enough detractor I can't get up on my hind legs and make a sound like a two-tailed grizzly in April.... I have always succeeded in licking them, so that my indignation at these homicidal kleptomaniacs is not personal by entirely on behalf of the general public."

"So I've watched the politicians, I've dealt with them all my life, if you can't make a good deal with a politician then there's something wrong with you. You're certainly not very good. And that's what we have representing us. They will never make America great again. They don't even have a chance. They're controlled fully, they're controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors, by the special interests, fully."

"An honest propagandist for any cause, that is one who honestly studies and figures out the best way of putting over his message, will learn fairly early that it is not fair to ordinary folks, it just confuses them, to try to make them swallow all the true facts that would be suitable to a higher class of people."

"One of the earliest things I would do, probably before I even got in, and I wouldn't even use, you know I have you know the best negotiators in the world. I know the good ones. I know the bad ones. I know the overrated ones. You get a lot of them. They are not good. They get the good stories, because the newspapers get buffaloed, but they're not good. But I know the negotiators in the world,  and I put them one for each country. Believe me folks, we will do very well very very well."

(Answers: Windrip, Trump, Windrip, Windrip, Trump, Windrip, Trump, Windrip, Trump. The quotes from Windrip are from "his" bestselling book, Zero Hour: Over the Top.) 

Sinclair Lewis wrote his cautionary dystopian satire as Hitler and Mussolini were increasing their power in Europe, and FDR, still in his first term, was beginning to implement New Deal policies to combat crushing 25 percent unemployment. The novel has Windrip wresting the Democratic nomination away from Roosevelt because the incumbent president and other candidates were "far too lacking in circus tinsel and general clownishness to succeed at this critical hour of the nation's hysteria, when the electorate wanted a ringmaster-revolutionist."

Sound familiar?

Windrip offers a hodgepodge of a platform, capped by a promise of a guaranteed yearly income of $5,000 to white citizens only. He calls for a nationalization of the banks by the new "Corpo" party, and lower taxes for only those plutocrats who swear fealty to Windrip and his regime Just as Trump loudly dog-whistles persecution of Mexicans, Windrip openly calls for the persecution of blacks and Jews -- because, as Lewis trenchantly noted, "nothing elevates a dispossessed farmer or factory worker on relief as to have some race, any race, that he can look down upon."

Windrip also calls for an end to labor unions and putting women back in the home where they belong. He vows unlimited financial support for police, the military and veterans.

Sound familiar yet?

Windrip, like Trump, is so extreme and so gruesome and so hilarious that none of the establishment press takes him seriously as they chronicle his every word, as they are drawn to his every public appearance like flies to a jar of rancid honey. And that includes Doremus Jessup, the newspaper editor hero of the novel, who counsels his readers that "this comic tyranny cannot endure.... It can't happen here."
The one thing that most perplexed him that there could be a dictator with some of the earthy sense of humor of Mark Twain, a George Ade, a Will Rogers, an Artemus Ward.... Windrip could be ever so funny about solemn jaw-dropping opponents. Did that, puzzled Doremus, make him more or less dangerous?
Sound even a teensy bit familiar? How many of us have chuckled appreciatively as Donald Trump skewers the denizens of the GOP Clown Car and exposes the inbred corruption of the entire political system that the rest of them don't dare address for fear of evoking the wrath of their plutocratic sugar daddies? Trump makes us temporarily forget our woes by allowing us into the inner sanctum of his billionaire brain, letting us rise to the level of his own incompetence. He has made stupidity cool again. He's made the world safe for xenophobia.

But back to Sinclair Lewis's warning. Buzz Windrip's first order of business, upon taking the oath of office, is to declare martial law and temporarily suspend habeas corpus because of some unnamed outside threat and to preserve "national security." His storm troopers, dubbed the Minute Men, proceed to place recalcitrant Congress members and other critics into protective custody. Poor people are beaten by police for the crime of being poor. The unemployed are herded into labor camps. And once their new sub-minimum wage jobs force the gainfully, privately employed themselves into forced labor camps, the cycle continues. Concentration camp torture sessions under the guidance of licensed physicians are the order of the day for dissidents and independent journalists and political prisoners.

Just like Windrip, Donald Trump appeals to the basest instincts of the masses, with his toxic combination of stand-up comedy, racial dog-whistling, zombie economics, jingoism,  and paranoia. So far anyway, there has been no line he hasn't been able to cross without a "yuge" uptick in his favorable ratings. Even when some Boston thugs beat up and urinated over a homeless Latino man last week, even after Trump approvingly called them "passionate followers of mine," the cheers from the right wing and the astounded coverage from the pseudo-left media continues unabated.

This is not funny. This is, frankly, getting downright scary.

The fascism, or corporism, that Sinclair Lewis warned about, has actually been with us for a long time now. Trump just trumpets it more brayingly. Trump and his progenitor Buzz are "just something nasty that's been vomited up," as wealth inequality, a permanent state of war and mass surveillance, and racist police brutality "continue to ferment like ptomaine" in our national gut.

Under the Obama administration there has been an unprecedented war on whistle-blowers and journalists, an ever-escalating drone assassination program, a record number of deportations, a complete blurring of lines between government and big business, increased incarceration of black and brown people, burgeoning poverty, and an over-stressed, underpaid, precarious labor force.

While the liberal class gasps in phony outrage over the Republicans' use of the odious term "anchor babies," it largely ignores the Obama administration's own cruel and inhuman imprisonment of babies, children and mothers in America's privatized migrant detention centers. A federal judge has recently issued a scathing critique of the Department of Homeland Security for keeping innocent refugees from Central American violence locked up like animals and denied due process of law. To the howls of indignation from the Obama regime over "national security," she has ordered those gulags emptied within two months.

So forget about the Republican vs. Democrat, Greater Evil vs Lesser Evil, electoral match-ups.

What we are really witnessing is an epic battle between the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment. 

Playground At a Family-Friendly Housing Unit


Patricia M. said...

You are on to something, Karen, and, as always, you express the essence. We are In a scary place, and you describe it perfectly: "What we're witnessing now is an epic battle between the forces of the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment." We should all strive to convey the reality of this conflict into the universe in every way we can. I believe the future of the world depends on it. Thank you again. And thank you, too, for calling up Sinclair Lewis.

Meredith NYC said...

Excellent to display the similar statements.
Now that we've had the first horrific beating that explicitly cites a candidate, your Dowd comment fits perfectly. You laid it out.

I'm pissed b/c my reply to your comment to Dowd wasn't published---can't imagine why---tho others I sent were.

my reply to your Dowd comment--

Exactly—2 thugs beat a homeless man severely and then justify it by citing a candidate for president of the United States of America! Wow. That’s the time to bring up Sinclair Lewis---“It Can’t Happen Here.” How about it NY Times? Got any columnist ready to explain that?

Scary—it starts small. Can’t help thinking that Trump’s response to the beating so perfectly recalls Nazi thugs who “passionately loved their country and wanted it to be great again”.

They were ever so inspired by a thug in politician’s clothing, who then quickly metastasized. The Nazi’s designated a despised underclass and used it to gain power. Sadly the US has its own 2015 underclasses in minorities. Their protections are weak, despite our rhetoric.

Trump is being hyped ....get on the bandwagon and not be left out of the sensation of the week. A beating makes it more sensational.
Trump is perfect for celebrity hawk Dowd, and her reality show. She and Bruni each made sure to impress us that they dined with Donald. Prestige! The pundits and Trump are in a symbiotic relationship. Windrip...what a perfect name for some of our candidates. Drips and straws in the wind?

We need some columns on the Issues – a change of this stifling, fetid campaign air, please, NYTimes.

Meredith NYC said...

Seems Times comments are screwed up. Periodically, my email notifications stop for no reason and I have to resubscribe--so annoying. Does this ever happen to anyone else here?

Also when I scroll down he comments clicking read more, after several times, I keep getting the same comment repeated at bottom of screen, instead of a new one. Does that mean it's stuck and won't scroll to the end?

Some of my comments to Krugman's blog don't get it, tho some do but are very delayed. Seems replies get in quicker than stand alone comments. So iffy.
I'm thinking of asking the Times to please let me be have 'trusted commenter' status to avoid all this. Or is that full up? I wonder if they'd accept me! I'm trustworthy and sometimes even get Times picks!
Do they have an office for that somewhere, I wonder, for the poor huddled masses yearning to get published can fill out an application to be 'trusted'?

Jay–Ottawa said...

Yes, a fine bumper sticker that would make: "Trump Happens."

I've just finished my homework for today, i.e., reading Chris Hedges's Monday morning essay. So, what's this have to do with Donald Trump? Everything in a good old-fashioned "compare-and-contrast" sort of way. Hedges is not channeling the fire and brimstone of Savonarola this morning. Instead, he simply delivers a moving eulogy for a dear friend, Rev. Terry Burke of Boston.

Want to know what's wrong with Donald Trump? Well, Trump stands for everything Rev. Burke fought against; and Burke fought for everything Trump is trashing. Hedges counts the ways (without every referring to Trump and his brother fakes). What a tragedy that Trump's values, which are quite common if not so often and explicitly proclaimed across the political spectrum in America, trump those of a Terry Burke.

Between Trump and Burke who is the real loser?

The ignorant who flock to Pastor Trump and his faith of oppression, selfishness and open hatred are lost souls indeed. They drag us all down.

It's up to the rest of us to copy Terry Burke in every way we can, and in the manner he did.

Jay–Ottawa said...

And here's the link I forgot to append: