As the Trump Presidency moves inexorably toward a constitutional crisis, journalists fail to note that two groups are pulling the country in opposite directions: the youth are pulling it toward a socialist-oriented future, while the right is allied with a century-old gangster culture. The American locomotive is shunted wildly between tracks representing The March for our Lives and the illicit “deals” involving Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen’s office was raided last week by the FBI on suspicion that, among other things, President Trump is his only client and that he is more of a ‘fixer’ than a lawyer, suggesting that collusion with Moscow is not the only behavior both could be guilty of. Aside from lying about being in Prague to meet with Russians before the 2016 election, Cohen infringed campaign contribution rules by paying off a porn star to keep quiet about a one-nighter with Trump, and more seriously, the two could be indicted for a host of shady international business deals.
Too late, the tiny American left (which does not include “progressives” ) discovered that the Clinton Democratic Party had shut out the Sanders candidacy, whose popularity rivaled that of candidate Obama, enabling a television star cum real estate mogul to capture the votes of disgruntled workers. Trump’s win stunned the press and its pundits, yet they failed to anticipate the world he would bring to the White House.
Chosen by Steve Bannon and the billionaire Mercers, Trump’s cabinet represented everything the candidate claimed he would sweep away by “draining the swamp”. But department secretaries ordering thirty-one thousand dollar dining tables and sleeping in $50 a night rooms owned by lobbyists turned out to be nothing compared to the machinations of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who tried to borrow money from the Iran-allied Qataris and when they refused, urged Trump to approve a Saudi-backed campaign against them.
With this soap opera dominating the news, the youth movement has lost its prime-time coverage. That is unfortunate because polls suggest that the word socialism is no longer anathema to future voters: a few socialist and green candidates have even made it into state and municipal governing bodies. The downside to these domestic wins is that they have crowded out foreign policy from the news: even as political analysts warn of a real possibility of nuclear war with Russia, the powerful anti-war movement of the sixties has yet to be resuscitated by those who have been marching for their lives.
In the midst of all this, Prague-born Madeleine Albright, first-term Obama’s Ambassador to the UN, has reappeared with a book warning of creeping fascism. Noting that Trump has undemocratic instincts, that he accuses the press of being the enemy of the people, that he considers himself the above law, identifying with a specific group of (white) people, exacerbating differences and playing to the crowd in a way that is dangerous, Albright recognizes that people forget (if they ever knew) how incremental the rise of fascism was. (Mussolini’s “You pluck a chicken one feather at a time” is similar to Hitler’s “salami tactics).
Albright points out that like Mussolini and Hitler long ago, currently in Hungary, Poland, Turkey and the Philippines, proto-fascists have been elected or otherwise attained power constitutionally. Citing the growing rejection of Muslim immigrants around the world, Albright mouths the claim that diversity is great, and that a resilient democracy requires public participation. Encouraging people to speak out and run for office, she softens previous assertions that America must lead to: “America can have a leadership role, but it can’t be for torture, and it must care about what happens elsewhere”. This is the same Albright who, in a 1996 interview famously declared that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to US sanctions were ‘worth it’, later accusing the journalist of posing a loaded question.
In 1998, Albright similarly stated that “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation.” Twenty years later, she justifies American force by claiming that: “We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” Governments that fail to do as they are told are not viewed simply as renegades: they are existential threats that justify the maintenance of a thousand US bases around the world. Hitler claimed that the world was against Germans, depriving them of sufficient ‘room to live’ (Lebensraum). Twenty-first century Washington claims that those with different ideas about how the world should be run justify a sharp turn to the right to ensure that its own ideas remain dominant.
In a sense, we are back where we were after World War I. It was the Russian Revolution that led to a turn toward fascism, not only in Europe, but in the United States. (In the US, fascism spoke quietly,— see Lindenburg and Prescott Bush, for example — while carrying the proverbial big stick.)
Madeleine Albright’s alarm over creeping fascism would be more meaningful if it included a full-throated backing for the youth’s incipient turn toward social democracy, but her anti-Russian life history makes that impossible. And if Donald Trump loses the presidency for having followed in the footsteps of the Mafia, as the former FBI Director James Comey suggests in his newly released book, rather than because he is a proto-fascist, this would suggest that the youth movement has arrived too late to provide American voters with the ideological education they have lacked for a century. And World War III would indeed be ‘the war that ends all wars’, but not in the same way as was hoped by those of goodwill in 1914.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.