How Donald Trump Stole America
Not since the caning of Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate chambers back in 1856 have we borne witness to the brand of hate that has paralyzed the American democracy. The ongoing political culture war―pitting far-right conservatives against far-left liberals―has spawned a populist movement of anger, discontent, paranoia and racial hatred that swept a psychopath into the White House.
This new group―which according to differing estimates amounts to somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of the electorate―astonishingly ignored conventional wisdom in selecting a leader, and apparently will not be changing their settled opinion anytime soon. Indeed, that so-called “immovable object” we understand as the base of Trump support is in fact a cult. Consequently, we are witness to history in the making, for brick-by-brick―or perhaps even in a flash―we shall observe the foundations of American institutions disappear.
In the mid nineteenth century, abolitionist and pro-slavery forces had generally settled their territories north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. This followed enactment of the Missouri Compromise, which named Mason’s and Dixon’s line as part of the boundary between free territory and slave territory.
The first shots in the American Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861. Only a horse was killed in the battle between 85 members of the 1st United States Artillery and an estimated 500 to 6000 members of the Confederate States Army. One day later, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the garrison to Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard.
But the American Civil War, for all intents and purposes, had begun nearly five years earlier on May 22, 1856 when South Carolina slave owner and U.S. Congressman Preston Brooks walked into the Senate chambers and mercilessly beat Senator Charles Sumner unconscious with a metal-topped walking cane. It was on that date that each side of the slavery issue, both in Congress and throughout the country, decided that further civil discourse was futile.
Now the United States is embroiled in a similar dispute. Rather than slavery, however, the battle is between conservatives and liberals. Unlike the Civil War where the approximate beginning date can be determined, a date for the onset of the current imbroglio is a bit fuzzy. But the evidence that proves the existence of this civil war was provided when liberal-minded Barack Obama was inaugurated and conservative leaders in Congress later declared they would no longer be working for the people of the United States, and instead would oppose each and every initiative by Obama―whether or not those measures were in the public interest.
Now some background on the combatants. Reduced to basic elements, conservatives demand less government and more individual rights, while liberals demand more government and attenuated rights―from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, so to speak (The origin of this catch phrase, often attributed to Karl Marx, comes from the 1755 treatise Code of Nature, authored by the French communist Morelly). Both positions make untenable assumptions.
The conservative notion that people will police themselves and their businesses is destroyed by one word: greed. As will be demonstrated, greed invades the public domain through budget proposals and the business world through outright fraud.
Americans lived through deprivations of a Great Depression and went on to save the world from expansionist madmen during World War II. In his book The Greatest Generation, author Tom Brokaw wrote, “it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” The people from that era were splendid humanitarians. Wherever disaster or famine struck―anyplace in the world―Americans were there to lend a helping hand. But these historically benevolent citizens are rapidly aging. Advances in medicine means that people are now living longer than ever, and longer life spans, unfortunately, brings more ailments and a need for assisted care in living, and in some cases, residence in nursing homes. The conservative mindset boldly excludes these individuals from its master plan; indeed, there is no compassion for that 19 year-old boy who sat in the landing craft in the first assault wave on Omaha Beach, knowing he was likely facing death, or, for those people back home who sacrificed mightily for the war effort.
Well-informed politicians explain that deep cuts in social spending in the most recent presidential budget proposal represent an aggressive attempt by the Koch brothers to put more money in their pockets at the expense of the Greatest Generation. In other words, we may as well back dump trucks up to nursing homes across America and cart grandpa and grandma off to landfills.
There is also a lack of honest restraint in conservative-minded media outlets. Fox News, ostensibly brought into existence to counter-balance a decidedly liberal media presentation, routinely inoculated their viewing public against truth and facts. At the same time, Roger Ailes and others at the organization were either molesting, or attempting to molest, female colleagues. Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact declared that nearly 60 per cent of the statements it checked on Fox News were either mostly or entirely false. Another 19 per cent were only half-true.
When it comes to regulations on the financial industry, conservatives develop convenient amnesia with respect to the savings and loan collapse in the 80’s and the meltdown that brought the world economy to its knees in 2008.
According to the Economic History Association (EH.net), deregulation was the primary cause for failure across a broad front of the savings and loan institutions. Charles H. Keating, Jr. went to prison for fraud and became a 150 billion dollar poster boy for deregulation gone wrong.
Now conservatives are in the process of dismantling the Dodd-Frank Act, legislation that was enacted in response to unbridled acts of corporate greed and fraud, which led to the 2008 worldwide recession. Clearly, this ideological group ignores earth-shattering lessons taught by history. Other than greed and shame, there is nothing factual or provident to support the current fiscal and administrative policy of far-right conservatives.
Insofar as the far-left liberal is concerned, human nature would never provide incentive for any individual to labor mightily so the proceeds of that endeavor could be delivered to a complete stranger. The failure of this Marxist doctrine has been known since the very first day that European immigrants came to the shores of America. William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony at various times between 1621 and 1657 recorded in his diary that wealth redistribution in the earliest colony bred confusion, discontent, distrust and the colonists considered it a form of slavery.
The obvious answer lies in a position central to the extreme ideologies here presented. But in recent years, every person who attempted to occupy that place was ultimately destroyed―by caustic rhetoric from both sides.
There is a logical explanation underlying this conservative-liberal impasse. Unless the object of persuasion is a misanthrope, common sense tells us that people do not choose to be conservative or liberal. Rather, the label is pinned upon them by family or peer groups. Human nature dictates that personal philosophy will follow the path of least resistance. Once beliefs are formed, as psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer relates in his book The Believing Brain (copyright 2011), “Our brains subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them―and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop.” It would be a breath of fresh air to find even a few disciples of moderation and open-mindedness, however, as Shermer concludes at page 343, “that species of human who carefully weighs all decisions through cold, hard logic and rational analysis of the data―is not only extinct, but probably never existed.”
Gridlock thus created an opening for a populist movement to occupy the centrist space ignored by ultra conservatives and liberals. Donald Trump, long on motive and tactics, but short on long-range strategy, exploited that opening with his “Make America Great Again” and “drain the swamp” slogans. His outrageous and unconventional statements found a sympathetic ear. An unlikely cult ―not one of the usual religion-based variety ―but a coalition consisting of racists, angry people, conspiracy theorists and the mentally ill was born.
We can identify this inexplicably loyal Trump coalition as a “cult” by reviewing how Americans in the past summarily rejected politicians who varied only slightly from the norm.
Back in 1972, Thomas Eagleton, a U.S. Senator from Missouri spent 18 days as Democrat George McGovern’s running mate for the presidential election―until it was discovered that Eagleton had undergone treatment for depression and received electric shock treatments. Under pressure from his running mate and other Democrats, Eagleton withdrew from the race.
George Romney was a legitimate contender for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. However, on September 4, 1967 he related during a television interview that he had been “brainwashed” by American generals into supporting the Vietnam War when he toured Southeast Asia in 1965. Partisan attacks against Romney’s gaffe forced him to withdraw from the race.
Now we live in an age where honesty, mental health and political gaffes no longer prove a stumbling block to elected office. Alas, Donald Trump launched his career as a candidate by awakening a latent desire for the most dishonest, outrageous and insulting political discourse ever seen in American politics. His success revealed a large crack in the moral code of many citizens. In this manner, Trump became a “savior” to a loyal and morally defiant cult following.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 60 million Americans have some form of mental illness. That estimate means that approximately 18% of the population lacks ability to make rational decisions. Further, it is universally known that anger impedes the decision making process. Add to this delusional and angry group an odd collection of racists and conspiracy theorists, and one comes up with a die-hard group that constitutes 30-40 per cent of the electorate.
The salient feature of a cult is thought reform. Thought reform was thoroughly explored by Robert Jay Lifton in his book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing in China.” In Chapter 22, Ideological Totalism, Loading the Language, Lifton stated:
…To be sure, this kind of language exists to some degree within any cultural or organizational group, and all systems of belief depend on it. It is in part an expression of unity and exclusiveness: as Edward Sapir put it, “He talks like us” is equivalent to saying “He is one of us.”
“He is one of us” and the “Washington elite group (both Democrats and Republicans) is one of them” explains precisely how Donald Trump used his “Make America Great Again” and “drain the swamp” slogans to capture the hearts and minds of racists, angry people, conspiracy theorists and the mentally ill. This cult gathering of American voters was in no way connected to any religion, but we can nevertheless look at one of the notorious religious cults to develop an understanding as to why the Trump base remains intact.
David Koresh took over a religious sect, or “cult,” which had adopted the name “Branch Davidians.” The cult identified itself as an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and created a domicile in a compound near Waco, Texas. However, it should be noted that mainstream Seventh Day Adventists and their leaders denied validity of the Branch Davidian sect. Koresh believed himself to be, and convinced a sufficient number of members of the group that he was the final prophet, or “Messiah,” and became its recognized leader. Following reports of criminal sexual conduct against Koresh, most of the group perished in a fiery standoff with federal authorities and the Texas National Guard on April 19, 1993.
Tim Madigan was a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram during the standoff and published a book about the incident one month later entitled See No Evil. Twenty years later, in 2013, Madigan interviewed Clive Doyle, a surviving cult member and father of one of those who died in the conflagration. Koresh had taken Doyle’s 18 year-old daughter as one of his sex partners. Madigan asked Doyle about the indulgences of David Koresh:
All the sex. The car. The motorcycle. The guitars and rock bands. Who else got any of the benefits? Wasn’t that convenient?
Doyle responded, “I guess we won’t know for sure until David comes back.” This response defines how cult members view cult leaders: a rock-solid entitlement to blind faith, even long after they have perished.
In a nutshell, “blind faith” explains how Donald Trump threw out the red meat and gained a loyal cult of racists, angry people, conspiracy theorists and the mentally ill. Nothing, it appears, incontrovertible facts included, will sway their belief. The dangerous ideation that naturally follows is that Trump, in his own mind, now legitimately believes that he can walk out onto Fifth Avenue and shoot an innocent bystander while a throng of frenzied supporters cheers him on. Those who believe otherwise have to completely ignore the lessons learned from the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
There is dire consequence for allowing such a cult to take hold.
Russia has been a continuing archenemy of the United States of America since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Former president Ronald Reagan correctly described Russia as the “Evil Empire,” because, for 100 years, nearly all of its leaders have held every free country in the world in contempt―and sought to destroy them.
Masquerading as a communist regime, but operating as an autocracy, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) under Joseph Stalin reportedly murdered more than 50 million of its own citizens while at the same time attempting to destabilize any nation on the planet it could identify as a free will democracy. From that population which escaped death, all of the dissidents were exiled to prisons in Siberia. More recently, under Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, critics either disappear, or meet with an untimely and unexplained death.
The current instrument of governance in Russia is clear. Much in the same manner as the American Mafia controlled organized crime for decades in the United States, Putin maintains power through a network of wealthy Russian oligarchs. Those who follow his orders stay in favor; the fate of those who do not cooperate is best left to the imagination.
So, what happens when a deadbeat like Donald Trump can’t pay his bills or get loans from legitimate sources in the United States? He comes desperately groveling, either to Putin or his minions, for the necessary funds. Obviously, this so-called “Putin capital” in every case comes with strings attached; one must serve the interests of Russia to close the deal. In most circles, giving such comfort to an archenemy is known as treason.
Furthermore, it now appears that Donald Trump’s son-in-law has likewise become entangled in this Russian web of deceit. This is a contemporary version of the Judas Iscariot biblical legend. Deutsche Bank holds billions of dollars deposited by Russian oligarchs. The bank has is currently under sanctions by the U.S. government for past spy activities and money laundering. It appears the bank has outstanding loans and credit lines issued to several members of the Trump family, including Jared Kushner. Possible betrayal, or treason―the 30 pieces of silver in this case―was reported by Reuters News Service on May 22, 2017:
“FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to individuals with ties to the Trump campaign.”
History will look back somewhat forgivingly on Donald Trump as a corrupt man with a diseased mind who carved a populist cult out of a raging political war. His followers and their twisted values will be remembered as an affront to the Greatest Generation.
On the other hand, history will prosecute as traitors those shills with a sound mind who enabled this man to achieve election to the highest office in the world―knowing all the while he was unfit to hold any elective office, and further knowing that Russians interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf. But these individuals so hated the projected opponent for Trump that they chose to ignore the obvious. This includes former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich.
While not likewise treasonous, others, also knowing this man was unfit for office, nevertheless became Trump apologists for selfish reasons. This includes former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs and Fox News anchor Sean Hannity.
Lou Dobbs, one of the original anchors for Cable News Network (CNN), in mid-2009 used his CNN prime-time show to spread discredited theories and false claims. His efforts were labeled as “conspiracy theories” by CNN colleagues. Further, he railed against immigrants while at the same time employing undocumented laborers at several of his horse farms. Hypocrisy aside, he quite naturally slipped into Donald Trump’s xenophobic choir.
After leaving CNN in November 2009 Dobbs and his conspiracy theories found a welcoming new home at Fox Business Network―a media outlet that, according to Politifact, brings a completely new meaning to “editorial license.” Dobbs’ shameless tour de force came on October 13, 2016 when he published a twitter link which contained the address and phone number of a woman who had come forward with allegations of being sexually assaulted by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Dobbs later apologized for the tweet―as if the bell could be unrung.
Sean Hannity lost a number of advertisers for Fox News, but managed to stoke the hard-core Trump base of supporters when he falsely claimed on several occasions during his “news” program that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was shot “because he was the one who passed Clinton e-mails to Wikileaks.” There is zero evidence to support such a claim; in fact, numerous American intelligence agencies have identified the Wikileak hacker and informer as the Russian government. At the same time, Washington DC police suspect the murder was the result of a botched robbery attempt.
According to staff writer Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic Magazine, quoting David French at National Review, concerning Hannity’s conduct:
“It’s a dramatic and lurid misdirection, one that even writers of the House of Cards would find far-fetched, and it has the benefit of tricking gullible Trump supporters into further mistrusting the media. After all, the real story is over at Gateway Pundit or at Breitbart or Drudge, or on Fox News at 10:00 p.m. The true facts are known only to those who can perceive the pure evil of the Clintons, the deep state, and the rest of the established media.
Every time Hannity and his allies hyped this story, they disrespected their conservative audience, they hurt a grieving family, and they violated their own professional obligations to carefully check facts rather than engage in wild speculation. Decent people fell for this con. Decent people even spread it online. It’s time for Hannity and his allies to stand down, permanently, and relegate this story to the place where it belongs―right next to UFO documentaries, flat-earth videos, and “proof” the NASA faked the moon landing.”
Friedersdorf further wrote:
“If you have elderly, Fox-News watching relatives you’re probably familiar with the way a bit of scaremongering from Sean Hannity can change the tenor of an evening, causing grandpa to become agitated or anxious at what is clearly misinformation.
Grandpa Trump watches television an average of five hours every day.”
Now, Trump either ignores, or listens casually to the intelligence briefings he receives every morning, leaving important national security matters to people who have been appointed―like Stephen Bannon. This idea of a chief executive shunning intelligence briefings in favor of watching several hours each day of conspiracy theories hatched by the likes of Sean Hannity quite disturbingly leads one to think of a Stanley Kubrick movie, Dr. Strangelove. After all, this man, unhinged, as many have noted, holds the nuclear codes.
In the movie, a similarly unhinged U.S. Air Force general Jack Ripper orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Frantic attempts to reverse the order prove futile. The movie ends with the all too familiar mushroom cloud rising into the atmosphere.
Not even a misguided, adoring cult could welcome such an ending.
Truman Goodspeed, Editor