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The Rape of Modern America: Example, Forced Resignation of US Attorneys

Trump has called for the forced resignation of all 46 US Attorneys for the nation as a whole, as reported by Weiser and Rashbaum, in the New York Times (3-11-17), and most notably, that of Preet Bharara, the US Attorney in Manhattan, facetiously, the Sovereign District of New York. I will not go into these and other forced resignations among those who had served under Obama, except to designate them for what they are: a political lynching, or better yet, the legitimation of arbitrary rulings under the cover of executive authority, in either case, against what democratic societies have traditionally regarded as safeguards to supremacy of the legal fabric of society. All of that is changing rapidly, an egg with the yolk sucked out, leaving only repression in its place.

Trump will have his way, no matter what, whether wholesale deportations, or, wholesale firings (the more cynical the explanations, the more crushing the defeat of the opposition—and ultimately effective the restraint of the protest. Trump has gauged America well. It bends or breaks, even to the exhibition of power. Inflexibiiity, in the name of patriotism and supposed class interest, allows a working class already disposed to complicity with ruling groups to seek higher esteem in the grand rankings of fascism than to make a stand, increasingly solitary in character, that obstructs the design of an integrated state formation, business and government, together with the insertion of the military factor into a dynamic system of order, hierarchy, and a polity whose irrefutable future lies with accommodation to, and subscription in, a fascistic mode of status-guarantees having ideological implications for what we have escaped thus far: the vulnerable exposure of dissent to the pressures of thought control, and—except for the prison system—the rising proportion of minorities and the poor both in and out of that system. One does not need icebergs to make a gulag.

Knowing Trump is sufficient as a ticket of admission, with a new staff at Justice now clearing the slate for the necessary candidates. Soon, anti-terrorism will no longer be sufficient in selection of a likely conviction (and for starters, natural-born citizens, although the charge, loosely cast, will go a long way to preparing the ground for illegal deportation or long-term incarceration. Once the system of law has been attacked, there is very little society can do to prevent future violations. To know, is ample reason for suppression, widening outward to seeking what Paul Robeson might have called a stand-up-kind-of-a-guy, marked for exposure, censure, outright denunciation and perhaps extermination. America did this not long ago in Chile (some of the same enforcers of US policy no doubt involved). The contagion is widespread, and is to be expected from such a condition. Contagion–Webster’s–a corrupting influence or contact, is where a compromise of the immune system already has led in capitalism to a weakening of the body politic, cancer rushing in to fill the vacuum. Its commodification has become a half-step to alienation, here, the divorcement of means and ends, treating the human being as an object rather than subject, in a world of similarly placed objects, thereby encouraging power and manipulation all the more than if the social order were organized on strict democratic lines.

Perhaps it is too late, in historical-sociological terms, for America to be organized on these lines. At least insofar as Trump is concerned, America has entered unknown territory, not only a victim of its own hubris (sans retribution), but also, a victim of its ideological rigidness in facing problems so deeply entrenched in its mentality, like striving to overcome under-consumption and the declining rate of profit, that it throws up its arms in trying for their solution. Actually, retribution becomes understandable because of this rigidness: punishment and reward alike a means of achieving psychological balance, the result the freezing into place a status quo which postpones the very solutions favorable to socialism yet inimical to the long-term interests of capitalism. America has chosen its way, as has much of the world following in its wake. One does not have to subscribe categorically to the present course to recognize its deficiencies as an alternative model of modernization. Force is morally bankrupt; so is the commodity, and with it surplus value, as the central organizing principle of society (which it is, under an unflinching view of commodity’s meaning in its epistemological dimension, and not applicable to profit alone).

Trump, verily, is an agent of death, if by death one means to press forward in structural ways the signification of its own negation; it negates its opposite, life in its myriad forms tokening the affirmation of itself, its valuing of human dignity and rights in the face of the odds favorable to regimentation, consensus, acquiescence. With that, I return to the Times article noted before, Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum’s “With Preet Bharara’s Dismissal, Storied Office Loses Its Top Fighter,” who “made a name for himself as one of the nation’s most aggressive and outspoken prosecutors of public corruption and Wall Street crime.” Bharara, like the others, was told to vacate his position, which, as of this writing, he refused to do, he alone, at least publicly, of the stalwart “46” thus refusing.

Indeed, for Bharara, this was more than holding on to a job. (He had far more to lose than to gain from taking this position, preferment given the cold shoulder in the face of supposed inadequacy, ingratitude, or disobedience.) In fact, he was working on several high-profile cases, affecting adversely Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio’s record in office, as well as “Sheldon Silver, the former Democratic speaker of New York’s Assembly, and Dean G. Skelos, the former Republican majority leader of the State Senate.” As the last testifies, he was not partisan in his prosecution of members of both parties when the occasion warranted. That attitude combined with his established integrity and intellectual and rhetorical skills made him seemingly unfit for his post, an expected defensive strategic position in protection of his superiors. Trump was fully acquainted with his record, and yet persisted in pushing him out, the one-case-fits-all mode of action, or policy rationale, hardly consistent with rule of law doctrine and practice.

Trump looks bad any way you slice it; the de Blasio case, now far advanced, and perhaps more promising than the others, comes at the time when the reporters acknowledge, “And with the mayor gearing up for his re-election campaign … his lawyers are pressing prosecutors to conclude the investigation or, they say, risk affecting the election’s outcome.” Add to his potential for doing harm to the governing classes, Bharara’s stewardship, seen through a de Blasio filter, “was also known for its insider trading investigations, civil rights cases and terrorism prosecutions,” an altogether estimable record. As of Friday night, he saw himself as not severed from the appointment, and free—he told him—to pursue “’the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years.’” Bharara gets the last word: “[If there is a] “credible ‘whiff that justice has been politicized, there’s nothing worse than that.’”

Saturday, March 11, the day after he made his stand, refusing to resign, and “to immediately clean out” his office, he announced that he was fired. There was no explanation or justification offered on the decision, simple as that. A Justice Department spokesperson stated, “I can confirm [he] is no longer the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.” The reporters further observe: “All presidents choose their own appointees” for these positions and “almost always ask those from their predecessors to leave.” But the clincher defining this story is that under Trump “the process … was unusually abrupt, and it was yet another rocky encounter between the Trump administration and the nation’s law enforcement apparatus.” What can one say here? The more purposeful the action taken (and not returning calls to clarify policy, seemingly negative, is instead an active, cohesive, coherent policy, even if a stall technique), the more destructive the action and its consequences.

Too, remaining with the givens here, can it be said that Trump remains an enigma, or more, an adherent of conspiracy-theory strategy and thinking, when preparations were made earlier for a clean sweep of ideology and politics? I believe not. For proponents of policy, starting with a hands-on active president, hence showing determination on a local scale of operations, one singles out Bannon, etc., in what appears a mentally-binding adversarial context, confrontation would seem to follow naturally, these proponents therefore not political imbeciles or cretins. When capitalism is thought to be attacked, counter-attack is regarded as feasible and expected. The clean sweep, presumably hanging in the balance, has already taken a Rightward course, the Right a new political locus for what was once ideological Centrism. Beyond that, we must wait and see.

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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 pollackn@msu.edu.

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