Inflammatory Reaction: America Veers Right

Gorsuch’s nomination is merely an item in Trump’s remaking of the American polity in a fascist direction. This is not traditional conservatism. The fuller picture thus far is akin to a coup d’etat hiding under the name of the Constitution, Gorsuch actually less objectionable than, although perfectly consistent with, the rapid makeover of whatever vestiges remain of a democratic social order. Trump, with his foreign policy pronouncements, Cabinet selections, intimidatory, in-your-face treatment of those who disagree with him, is not merely a heavy-handed bull in a china shop, but a menace moving nation and world alike to the glorification of force, conflict, ultimately the breakdown and destruction of hard-earned human respect in modern history.

Wherever one turns, not a moment’s respite, America’s future grows darker. Bannon, Spicer, Kushner, central casting could not come up with more evil background figures, again, tip-of-the-iceberg for the underlying structure of government and society now emerging. Years are telescoped into weeks and days, a juggernaut of compressed hatred for an interpretation of human rights grounded in equalitarian belief and practice. Instead, the valuing of repression, as in hardened attitudes to, and solutions for, immigration, the social safety net, religious toleration, characterizes a prideful consistency in defying respect for the values of justice and freedom.

The wellsprings of fascism have been tapped, a fountainhead of elitism, contaminated patriotism, self-righteous justification of class and wealth, all springing forth to liberate an underlying militarism which structuralizes hierarchy at home and globally signaling the rightful ascendance of ruling groups bound together by common understanding of—it is hard to say what, beyond their own self-interest, but surely authoritarianism drives them and explains their rise. Trump, if not yet Hitler, is Mussolini in a blue suit and tie, demagogic, ready and waiting to give orders, stage events, a one-man version of shock and awe, who thus far shows a degree of reticence compared with what he is capable of: nonstop churning out of edicts and tweets which become a substitute for government, hence, one-man rule (guided by sinister figures in the background, of whom he has chosen to listen to, rather than being manipulated by) in disregard of constitutional restraints. The State, c’est moi, is a landmark already passed, in the modernization of divine rule.

But why mumble about the obvious, the bold contours of a dangerous regime now in power, when it is the minute-by-minute actions that are the most telling. Firing Sally Yates is another small sign of things to come, as is each and every designee for a cabinet post, all part of ripping up democracy at its roots and starting over with the use of government against rather than for the people. Public education? Ha. Health care? Ha. Peace? Ha, to the nth power. Arrestment of climate change and environmental degradation? The litany goes on, as though the hatred and contempt for social decency have been turned on against America itself. For what is left to despoil and destroy, all for a sterile, atrophied capitalism?

Yes, capitalism, surmounting nation-state identity, has become the driving ideological force, not the elephant in the room, the room itself, which admits of no criticism. Trump is single-minded here; he knows no greater god to serve, unless it be war itself still in the service of capitalism. This is not an abstract devotion to a system, but a command structure for the rightful leaders, with commensurate rewards for their leadership. And America, as the flagship of world capitalism, entitles it to global leadership of the “free world,” no, the whole and only legitimate world. Legitimacy thrives on power, in his eyes, that of his associates and colleagues, and the millions of Americans satisfied and cheering him on. Trump has not lost his popularity. Fascism has been vindicated in the results of the election (although I would maintain, Clinton is traveling the same road at a slower pace).

In the final analysis, it is not Trump, it is the America that has put him in a position of power, that must concern us. Can it throw off the yoke of totalitarianism that makes a Trump viable? I don’t mean, necessarily, revolution, but what is now beginning to happen, with more pointed demonstrations at airports and public buildings. Will Americans wake up to the present dangers of fascism? Or is it already too late? That comparatively less resistance than one would hope, particularly on the part of a Democratic party that is largely bluster before caving in, gives little grounds for hope. Fascism is neither a pleasant word, nor state of society, but signals coming out of Washington are more than threshold noise; they confirm the real thing.

Update: Galloping Fascism

Fascism is a volatile political force. Once it has made inroads in society, it no longer crawls, but very quickly starts to gallop, feeding on itself like so many parasites hungry for contamination and power. America has just passed the take-off point, after several decades of big-business favoritism, environmental indifference, and worse—an interventionist foreign policy adopting a hard-line confrontational approach to Russia and China and ruthless military and economic treatment of Left governments while showing favoritism to Right dictatorship. All of this is a matter of long-standing record, which only the American public (blind to US unilateralism devoted to the expansion of its hegemonic capitalism) refuses to see or admit.

But now, things have gotten worse, enough so as to elicit varying responses of protest, none—as witness the Democratic party—sufficiently fundamental to address serious concerns about the totalitarian implications, both of American policy at home, a unitary package of corporatist organization, wealth concentration, and massive surveillance, and abroad, a monolithic stance of global imperialism, and the willingness to surrender democratic values in exchange for the comfort and security of strong leadership. A voluntary compliance of large numbers in fascism proper should, yet does not, seem evident. Let’s start with Rex Tillerson’s confirmation as Secretary of State, since the part above was written, the leadership principle, beloved by Nazism as epitomizing hierarchy, power, and the expected deference of the people, in which a leading business executive, with no experience in government (just as well), and head of the gargantuan and politically sensitive OIL company with a notorious record of foreign-affairs involvement, is presumably to guide policy in this area. I say “presumably,” because Trump gives every indication of being personally committed to a Fortress-America position with grave counterrevolutionary consequences. Together, Tillerson and Trump will redefine what is permissible to discuss and act upon in foreign policy, Trump of course taking the lead. With no stone unturned in advancing capitalist interests.

As Gardner Harris writes in The New York Times (Feb. 1), the confirmation comes “just as serious strains have emerged with important international allies.” Tillerson’s appointment will not lessen the strains (mine), given his experience and narrow concern with business (and his reported six-continent dealmaking). To the politics of oil, add unilateralism and an even stronger presence in the Middle East. One problem he faces is Iran, to which the Trump people (e.g., Flynn) have already shown great hostility. Harris writes that Tillerson “struck deals with repressive governments—in at least one case, against the advice of the State Department. Environmentalists largely opposed his nomination.” And then we have the refugee and immigration problems; it is unlikely he will stand up to Trump on these, nor that he would want to. It only gets worse, given Trumps ultra-nationalism, as in relations with Mexico, and his views toward the EU and, increasingly, Merkel and Germany. Fortress America and America First are reciprocally entwined, Trump’s jingoism a natural seedbed for fascism.

Trump is not about politics-as-usual; he acts without constitutional restraint and with complete cynicism, knowing his opponents have not the heart to fight him (in Congress, on procedural grounds, in public, generally confined to single issues, with everything from race to foreign policy conspicuously absent). Long-term practices and guidelines are meant to be trampled, as when he directly intervened with Congress advising the Senate to adopt the “nuclear option,” i.e., lower the voting threshold for approving Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Gorsuch stamped from the same cookie cutter as Tillerson and all the other Trump clones of vitriolic conservatism. At 49, Gorsuch will ensure a reactionary (read here, “originalist” Court for decades to come—part of Trump’s extreme makeover of a government that has already demonstrated its proto-fascist ways. For Gorsuch, abortion, euthanasia, other issues he has taken up, are code for a deeper-lying judicially retrograde philosophy not seen since Bork and going back to Stephen Field in the 19th century. The other cabinet appointments, such as DeVos, equally indicate a compulsion to destroy government in the assigned functions of their departments—a detestable lot of billionaires having no sympathy for or knowledge of working people, the poor, minorities of every description.

High-handed, usurpation-oriented, as a preview of things to come, Hatch, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, suspended the rules to approve Mnuchin and Price for Treasury and Health and Human Services, respectively, when Democrats stayed away, a preview of what to expect whenever Trump and Republicans’ absolute control is challenged. The net of ideological Reaction is spread wider and wider, from Bannon, provocateur par excellence, who is to be the public face (along with Trump) of ethnocentrism and xenophobia (his 1,000% Americanism as warrant for his contempt shown immigrants), a view of sovereignty carried to fascist heights, to—you name it, they are all coming out of the rat-infested woodwork. Bannon: “I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors”—one who relishes and does not draw back from POWER.

And this is only Wednesday evening, well before publication date. I noted that Trump bears watching, on a minute-to-minute basis, not as though a wild man, but as dedicated (this now within reach) to a chaos of restructuring principles and values which will throw the American people into the waiting arms of a self-propelled, self-defined Strong Man we once in more innocent days called a dictator. For the present, before the veil is taken off, he is simply our POTUS.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at