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The Perennial Smoldering of America’s Reichstag

“Historian Timothy Snyder warns that America is already in its own ‘slow-motion Reichstag Fire’” proclaims a current article in Salon. [1]

“Obviously, we are in a slow-motion Reichstag Fire right now. That is what is happening. Donald Trump is not as skilled as Hitler. He doesn’t work as hard as Hitler. He doesn’t have the same level of confidence as Hitler, but he’s clearly looking for that Reichstag Fire emergency. Trump tried to make Black Lives Matter into that emergency. ‘Antifascists’ and ‘thugs’ and ‘law and order’ and so on is part of that effort. Donald Trump keeps trying to make the Reichstag Fire work.” — Timothy Snyder.

I have heard this idea being applied to U.S. politics for some time (since Reagan). I think it reflects the fear of many people, which arises as their previously taken-for-granted assumptions of the general benevolence of U.S. institutions and the U.S. political elite as a whole, drop away in the face of scandals and public disclosures of the obviously cruel and predatory nature of U.S. foreign and even domestic policy goals.

The first major incident of this sort since WWII was the Vietnam War: the Tonkin Bay Incident deception, the Pentagon Papers, My Lai, the Secret Invasion of Cambodia, Agent Orange; and then the many negative incidents of domestic fallout from all this: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., urban riots, Watergate, the exposure of the CIA assassination plots (the Senate’s Church Committee), COINTELPRO (domestic spying), and the FBI/Police assassination of Black Panther Party people.

So, I think that widespread loss of trust in the U.S. Government by sectors for the population that still believed in “our way of life” (so, not for Black America, which was only too well-acquainted with immunized murderous racist policing; nor Native Americans) became a permanent feature in the public consciousness, and is expressed differently depending on the people involved: pro-gun idiocy by ignorant people being one example, and “Reichstag Fire” alarms by intellectual liberals and academics being another.

I think that the truth of the matter is that the actual purposes and goals of government policies, and the intentions of the insiders who instigate and enact those policies, have always been the same: the enrichment of capitalists and the protection of their wealth, with the costs of these actions being passed on to the population at large in the form of taxes and the manning of the military for “doing the dirty work” and providing the necessary bleeding and fatalities required to “get the job done.” I think the American people are by and large a “human shield” to the “owners” who run the whole government-economy game. The comedian George Carlin famously said: “It’s one big club, and you ain’t in it!”

So, while I agree that Trump and his cult followers are a real low point in American history, and threats to the wellbeing of most of us, I don’t think a Biden-Harris administration will be dramatically different as regards the substance of American foreign and domestic policies. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are where they are today because they are fully vetted as reliable agents for that “Inner Party” (from Orwell’s “1984”). Both are personally invested in (careerism) and fully compromised (bought) by the Wall Street Inner Party (WSIP), to work in the management bureaucracy that continues the long-standing mission of corporate-owned government: the enrichment of capitalists and the protection of their wealth.

The WSIP is finding that Trump is too unstable and too incompetent for their convenience; he is spoiling the smooth continuation of their profitable operations. They want someone like Obama, a smooth operator to calm the masses so they do not interfere with the status quo which in no way benefits them. Obama was superb at doing that job. Kamala Harris is just a shameless careerist who is hoping to graft Hillary Clinton “femaleness” to Barack Obama “Blackness” into a winning (for her) public image. She smiles today because Biden’s nod indicates that the WSIP has bought into Kamala’s “business proposal” of the utility of her personal branding (or subterfuge, as far the public good is concerned).

If the November 3 election proves to be a disaster for the Democratic Party, then the WSIP will soldier along profitably, as it is always assured of doing, but with a rockier and much crasser political “leadership,” and thus a more restive public. If Biden-Harris win decisively as many hope, then the WSIP will gain the benefit of Biden-Harris being a political soporific for the masses, which would make WSIP business-as-usual predatory profiteering easier to carry on and map out into the long term.

At this point, all those elected and appointed political insiders are scrambling to work out their own careerist bailouts or takeover plans, depending on how they see themselves positioned with respect to their public images and their approval ratings with the WSIP. So, for sure the cast will change for 2021, but by how much is not yet clear. The play, on the other hand, will not change in any fundamental way, though clearly a Biden-Harris win would require them to make some highly visible, but not necessarily significantly revolutionary changes: bones tossed to the chained-up dogs barking out in the rain.

Relative to berserker Trump, whatever palliatives (I’m sure weak ones) Biden-Harris might toss out would still be welcome. But they will be items that the WSIP would be prepared to “pay” in exchange for a return to the “stability of business conditions,” under a Biden-Harris (or, Obama III) Administration, a stability (of guaranteed subsidies and political protection) that they so highly prize for their maximum ROI and ease of planning (“investing”).

My view on the election of 3 November 2020 is this: The time now is to plug the holes in the boat to keep it from sinking, only after that can you decide which direction to row it in. Beyond that, no matter who you vote for, with whatever idealism and revolutionary vision you wish to have, you will get the same functional result: the WSIP owned government will focus its awesome powers, foreign and domestic, on the enrichment of capitalists and the protection of their wealth.

To change THAT, will require much much more continuing social and political activism and agitation for a long long time. Dumping Trump and his gang is a necessary first step to begin advancing that idealistic process, and without doubt would be a major morale boost far and wide. So we should all make sure it happens, but have no illusions about it’s depth of change of the American reality. Having that kind of voting attitude requires maturity: the having of a realist outlook enabling pragmatic action without falling into despair and having childish tantrums of frustration over being denied the immediate gratification of realizing revolutionary utopian dreams at the push of a button.

And if, in the extremely unlikely event that we really do suddenly drop into a new 1933-style Nazi free-fall, then we will just have to fall back on our personal moral character, and work out our various paths toward lives of merit, as so many others were challenged to do throughout human history.

Thus, I agree we should have intelligent, realistic concerns about the course of American politics, but I think it counterproductive and personally harmful to have exaggerated irrational fears. Whatever happens (or doesn’t happen) during the November 3 pivot, maintaining your equanimity and psychological strength are essential for carrying on with your life.

[1] Historian Timothy Snyder warns that America is already in its own “slow-motion Reichstag Fire” (Salon talks to Snyder about how Donald Trump uses pain and suffering as a weapon to remain in power), Chauncey DeVega, Salon, October 18, 2020

Manuel Garcia Jr, once a physicist, is now a lazy househusband who writes out his analyses of physical or societal problems or interactions. He can be reached at mangogarcia@att.net

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