Home > Uncategorized > Let us Avoid Hyperbole

Let us Avoid Hyperbole

I don’t want to prematurely throw the term “fascist” at President Trump, and the term is in no way applicable to Obama. Unlike the folks at Black Agenda Report, I won’t engage in hyperbole and pretend they are equally bad. It is well that so far, Trump  echoes Obama’s reluctance to start shooting down MIGs over Syria or go to war over former Soviet Socialist Republics. It looked at first as if Trump would be under less pressure than Obama was, to generate tensions around a NATO buildup.   John McCain is no Major Kong, and neither is Hillary Clinton, but for whatever reasons both of them have spoken as if inclined towards the same kind of brinkmanship that might have obliterated civilization in October 1962.  I speak of the Cuban Missile crisis, for which I neither  admire nor blame Kennedy, but I do not praise him for that moment of the Cuban missile crisis, any more than I do for the Bay of Pigs. With respect to North and South Korea, I shall not be rash or overly optimistic, but the policies of the previous sixty-five years were not productive, and Trump may yet stumble onto something useful.  Unfortunately, the best conceivable short-term solution would seem to be a rapprochement between the two governments and some movement across the borders, at least equivalent to what existed between East and West Germany, during the eighteen year existence of the ugly Berlin Wall.  That is hardly a desirable solution, but having crossed back and forth between East and W Berlin numerous times, I will call even that disgusting situation better than what currently exists between North and South Korea.

I am one the very rare persons who managed to hold visiting professorships and actually lecture in all three of the following: East Germany, West Germany, and Austria, and I was one of those Fulbright recipients who took German courses as high as CEFR level C1. I That’s not as good as it looks on paper, but I learned enough to know that a German would have to be exceedingly ungenerous to accuse John F. Kennedy of calling himself a doughnut.

I won’t attempt to categorize or criticize Bernie Sanders.   He shares some points of similarity with Bismarck, Du Bois (ca. 1912), Thorstein Veblen, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The commonality is the attempt to administer the industrial state by technocratic elites. The flaw in that approach is the same as in the systems of Plato and Confucius. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.” Robert A. Heinlein was the author who first translated if for me when I was fourteen. “Who will watch the watchers.”

It is important to understand that Juvenal, who framed those words, and Heinlein who first brought them to my attention, were satirists and capable of irony.  I think I can appreciate some irony, and I shan’t be a judge in the case of my own satire, but I admire the irony of Hobbes, Voltaire and the Huxleys—both Aldous and Thomas Henry.

I am not attempting satire, however, nor am I employing metaphor, when I speak of the American Civil War as a revolution leading to a Second Republic. The war 1860-1865, was a violent revolution that led to clearing away the so-called Jeffersonian/Jacksonian “democracy” and laid the foundations of modern industrial capitalism, thereby fulfilling Lincoln’s Whig agenda of centralized banking, continental railroads.  Its far reaching results were the growth of urban complexes such as Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.  To speak of this change is no mere metaphor; it was real structural change; it marked an actual bourgeois revolution, and a rotation of elites.  But this “New Commonwealth” as it is sometimes called, collapsed in 1929, partly for reasons that Marx and Engels predicted—the inability of industrial capitalism to consume the products of its own tremendous industrial efficiency.  The so-called “Say’s Law” simply denies a truth that is self evident, and Frédéric Bastiat’s Law is faith-based superstition.

The collapse of the Great Depression necessitated the Third Republic of F. D. Roosevelt’s Military Keynesianism and L. B. Johnson’s Cold War Liberalism.   The military industrial complex, the Marshall Plan, the USIA, and NATO were among the foreign policy expressions of this era.  The domestic expressions of the Third Republic were Social Security, Medicare, the availability of low-cost, university education, racial desegregation, and the collaboration between organized labor, big government, and big insurance companies. The important presidents were Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Johnson.

Trump seems to be a significant transitional figure, but he is a messianic leader, whose followers are loyal to his personality, not to a set of ideas.   It is foolish to underestimate his intelligence, but he is contemptuous of ideology and intellectualism.  He is a greater genius than Ronald Reagan, and he is brilliant at marketing in an age where marketing is more important than the content that is packaged.  I cannot predict whether Trump has any motivation or inclination towards creating a Fourth Republic. If he has any, he has not condescended to reveal what it is, other than building his iconic wall.  Possibly, he will remain president for twelve years, or even longer; possibly he may crumble in less than four. Trump is capable of destroying the Third Republic, but I cannot predict whether he will be successful, or what form a Fourth Republic might take, after him. When the revolution comes, I am not certain whether it can or will be effected without war, pestilence, famine, and Death.

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