© Josh Sager – April 2016
Put simply, the 2016 presidential primary on the Republican side has been an exemplar for bigotry, policy ignorance, blatant corruption, religious extremism, and flagrant calls commit to war crimes. The right wing extremist id has revealed itself for all to see, leading many in the USA and abroad to react with horror and concern for the course of the nation.
Donald Trump has spent the entire campaign at the center of the stage, calling for banning or registering Muslims, torturing and killing the families of those who are suspected of attacking the USA, and imposing draconian punishments on undocumented immigrants. He insults minority groups, gives blatantly stupid policy proposals, and declares his intent to bully other nations if elected (e.g. threatening military force if Mexico refuses to pay for a wall, withdrawing from NATO, etc.). Right behind Trump, Cruz supports most of the same discriminatory and insane policies, while adding that we should cluster-bomb ISIS and try to make “the sand glow” in the Middle East (a reference to using nuclear weapons).
The rest of the Western world looks at the GOP primary and reacts with worry and surprise. They see reflections of the European fascist movements that have long lingered on the fringes of their politics (e.g. the National Front, neo-Nazi movements, etc.) and are terrified to see such extremism gain power in the USA (a couple of the people I studied poli-sci with at BU work abroad, and they are regularly bombarded with questions and worries on this).
Authoritarian forces look at the current predicament of the USA and react with delight. Islamic terrorists like ISIS want nothing more than to provoke the USA to attack them and drive the Middle East to support their cause. Repressive regimes like North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran see what is happening and understand that we are throwing away our moral high ground to criticize them on issues of civil liberties, torture, civilian deaths, and surveillance (if we torture, how can we condemn them for following our example?).
Here is a still from an ISIS propaganda video which uses his bigotry as a rallying cry to attack the west
The USA is the most powerful nation on earth, both in terms of economics and military force, and the revelation that an appreciable percentage of our population is bordering on fascism is truly terrifying. When less powerful nations fall to authoritarianism, the damage can be contained by preventing them from aggressing into other nations and sending humanitarian aid. If the USA were to fall to authoritarianism, there simply isn’t a global force capable of matching us, thus the damage we could inflict on the world would be very hard to limit (remember, the world is still reeling from the consequences of us breaking Iraq and destabilizing the Middle East).
Even if the Democrats win in November, the worries created during this Republican primary is likely to remain—people will remember how fascism captured nearly half of our political system and the idea that the USA could be one bad election away from becoming a threat to the stability of our planet will linger.
The corporate/mainstream media is the primary culprit to blame for this international embarrassment. They have refused to call a liar a liar and have allowed the GOP to stray so far into extremism that they are now unrecognizable. Because they have failed act as an objective fact-checker the right wing has had cover to promote fascist and discriminatory policies without having to worry that they will be brought to task. Even worse, the media has often acted as an unflinching delivery mechanism for GOP extremism, granting extremely high levels of free media to extremist candidates (with Trump gaining particularly high levels of support).
In a fair world, the first time a candidate decided to openly advocate for war crimes on a debate stage, the media would spend the next several days excoriating them, calling them immoral, and explaining just why those actions are illegal (both under federal law and ratified treaties). They would chase that candidate out of the race and ensure that the Overton window (the range of acceptable political debate) doesn’t keep shifting to into ever more unacceptable policies.
It has been a long road to get to this point. When there were only 3 TV news outlets..ABC, CBS, and NBC the news was a public service. Cronkite or Huntley or Brinkley did not cover a story unless they had multiple, reliable sources. A politician’s personal life and his family were off limits. As the news outlets and especially the internet has grown, news has become primarily entertainment. The desire to bring in an audience (whether for TV or the internet) is the prime mover. Not facts. Not truth, And certainly not depth. Whatever can attract viewers will be reported, sourced or not. The more salacious the better. The more idiotic the better. (One of the few exceptions is McClatchy).
At the first TV debate (JFK vs. Nixon) and subsequent debates the candidates were expected to answer questions in some depth. Then , in the 1990s, the two major political parties took the debates out of the hands of the League of Women voters and took control. They effectively kept out 3rd party candidates (like Ross Perot) and made sure that each candidate could deliver canned “sound bites”. Now we have one minute or 30 second answers to questions with extra time given only for insults. Lincoln and Douglas debated for 3 hours, 1.5 hours each. Can you imagine trying to listen to Trump make sense for 1.5 hours?
Mr Trump gets coverage because he is entertainment. He is a “brand”. He is good for “ratings”. And when he dodges questions or simply says things that are blatantly untrue the “press” does not force him to answer. Perhaps they are no brighter than he is. After all, you have to be prepared in order to ask intelligent questions. Look at some of the debate “moderators”. Lightweights.
I can see why people in other countries would be very concerned about the USA. Imagining Donald Trump or Ted Cruz with access to the greatest nuclear arsenal in the world. That should be frightening for anyone. We can only hope that this current attempt to destroy democracy in America is a last gasp of a dying philosophy.
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“A last gasp of a dying philosophy?”
Wasn’t that what you and your hippie friends said 40 years ago? It doesn’t appear as though the philosophy is dying.
Joe C. The “Dying Philosophy” to which I refer:
Racism. As the older generation slowly dies out the percentage of racists diminishes significantly. Not totally, of course. For example, people my age raised south of the Mason-Dixon Line (and to some extent north of that line) were taught that blacks were inferior to whites. They were that that blacks should not be allowed to use the same restaurants, housing, bathrooms,etc as whites. They were taught that marriage between blacks and whites was wrong. They were sometimes brought to KKK rallies by poppa. I doubt that many people in their twenties or thirties were ever taught those things. A few, yes. But that type of ignorance is part of the “Dying Philosophy” of which I speak.
War vs. Diplomacy. As an aftermath of WW2 my generation was taught to think that war was the FIRST or sometimes only response to other nations. As the only superpower remaining after WW2 the USA was on top of the world militarily. Fear of the USSR was the driving force. But the Vietnam War demonstrated that military might could not crush nationalistic movements. The old guard USSR learned that same lesson as nationalistic movements ripped apart the old Soviet Union. the African continent changed form one of “colonies” to one of “nations”. Still, many people of my generation cling to the false Idea that the US can somehow dominate the rest of the world by military force. Their mindset sees every other nation as a potential enemy to be bullied into submission, I think people in their twenties and thirties who have learned history understand that war is a last resort. And they have certainlyseen (VIetnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) that wars never seem to turn out the way we hope. So, the second aspect of the “Dying Philosophy” is the dependence on war as a first, rather than last resort.
Third. The attitude toward women. When I was very young women in many states did not have the right to own property. Were not allowed to use birth control. Did not have the right to an abortion. Could not hold positions of power in the military. Were not involved in professional athletics except in a few areas. Were regularly and systematically paid less than men. All of that has been slowly changing. The “Dying Philosophy” of the female as an inferior citizen, without equal rights ,has been busted apart by the Women’s Liberation Movement. People in their twenties and thirties today were raised knowing that women play sports, hold positions of power, are involved in politics, have access to safe abortions, can use birth control, etc. It is a given. The Dying Philosophy” of female subjugation is also part of what I speak.
Finally. gay rights, My generation grew up being taught that homosexuality was an abomination. There was something nasty and awful about gays. Gays, themselves, had to remain “closeted”. Afraid. That is slowly changing. Or I should say rapidly changing. Over the past few years homosexuals have achieved a great deal of freedom. To serve openly in the Armed Forces. To marry. To share end of life decisions. To share economic rights. Of course, there are still the haters. But, kids today are living in a world where being a homosexual is no longer the stigma it once was. In another 10 years the “gay rights” movement will be seen as the necessary step toward freedom. The “Dying Philosophy” to which I refer is the philosophy by such folks as Kim Davis in Kentucky and many religious preachers who hate people. They are still with us. But their ilk is dying off. Slowly.But surely.
So, the Dying Philosophy as I see it? Racism, Militarism, Authoritarianism, Sexism, Homophobia. Xenophobia. All still with us, to be sure. But the demographics are heading in the right direction.
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