When the Democrats obtained a modest majority in the House of Representatives fourteen months ago, Donald Trump received a multifaceted weapon in his ongoing battle for re-election: it is the weapon of ostensible impotence. No longer can the impatient conservatives and unaffiliated voters blame Trump, should he fail to accomplish anything legislatively, or even judicially; the president can point to his obstreperous opponents in Congress, the neoliberal contrarians who refuse to allow him to make progress. Such an excuse would be asinine, of course: twenty-four hours after voting to impeach Trump, the Democrat-jockeyed House voted in favor of his Mexican trade deal, so the spirit of cooperation appears to thrive in Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, the bemused and distracted American consumers cannot perceive this substantive homogeneity, but apprehend only effervescent style—in politics as much as in any other realm. If they are guiltless in their gullibility, then the wrongdoer here is the mass media, which perpetuates the popular delusion of ideological diversity in Congress so as to sustain the political game. Every consumer of the American press is told one hundred times daily, by gussied-up millionaires sitting in spotless studios, that the gussied-up millionaires on Capitol Hill who place a D after their names have very different values from the gussied-up millionaires on Capitol Hill who sport an R in the same place. The illusory distinction transcends the plane of theoretical prejudice (“If they belong to Party X, then they must believe in Y!”) and permeates the prism of practical action: “If Event A occurred, then it must have been the result of the actions of Party X!”
If, through some preternatural power, you have emerged from this diagram with your head intact, then perhaps you are wondering how, in the midst of such chaos, any powerful person can be ever be held to account. If so, then I congratulate you, for you have learned the game: accountability is impossible in this malicious morass. Such a dizzyingly dysfunctional system of design isn’t unique to the United States Congress; au contraire, Hitler faced the same structural nightmare in Germany a century ago.
“It is not the aim of our present-day parliamentarianism to constitute an assembly of wise men,” he wrote in Mein Kampf, “but rather to compose a band of mentally dependent nonentities who are the more easily led in certain directions, the greater is the personal limitation of the individual.” In the present state of the American Empire, those “certain directions” are the ends favored by the corporate elite, who have stacked the rosters of both political parties with their most trustworthy henchmen and -women. Their deliberate and relentless interference in the political process perverts the supposed principles of the Constitution, a perversion which persists and is preserved through their devious reconstruction of the legislative labyrinth. Anyone who aspires to hold a seat in the United States Congress must be empowered by incredible wealth, and every source of such wealth is corrupted. Our only revision of Hitler’s description would be the substitution of “financially dependent nonentities for “mentally dependent nonentities”, although there may be no meaningful difference in the modern political climate.
Once Congress—or parliament—is populated only by representatives of the corporate oligarchy, then we have perfected a system whereby accountability, fault, and blame are simply impractical. Continuing with his description of parliamentary submission, Hitler concludes that “only in this way is it possible for the real wirepuller to remain carefully in the background and never personally be called to responsibility.” Only under the most preferable conditions is “the real wirepuller” even mentioned: the neoliberal journalists never tire of faulting Trump for gifting superfluous tax breaks to billionaires and millionaires, but these same supposedly activist scribes never identify or name the specific people who reap the benefits of Trump’s ridiculous bill. His indefensible agenda seems to exist in a vacuum, benefiting people like him, though we never know anyone but him.
[Hold up, Dack. You’re describing the perspective of neoliberals, and possibly the perspective of progressives, too; but what about the perspective of conservatives? Haven’t they been taught, by the rigorous and repetitive rituals of media, that Trump and “people like him” are working hard on the behalf of the American people, and that it is the Democrats in Congress who are toiling to take what they don’t deserve? What they and people like them don’t deserve, I mean?]
You are perfectly correct, and that is why we can’t expect a substantive shift or elemental change in government, regardless of what transpires at the ballot box. We began this piece by describing Trump’s ability to blame, however dishonestly, the Democrat majority for his executive failures; and we have not forgotten how Obama enjoyed, and capitalized upon, the same advantage in 2012. He portrayed the Tea Party, probably not inaccurately, as the barbarians at the gate, as the far-right fanatics desperate to shred the quintessential fibers of the social fabric. Yet, the general public has forgotten the complex inanities of that epoch, displacing its lessons with the incomprehensible and untethered immediacy of the present: Trump is all in the minds of the American electorate. When the root of the problem remains underground, then, as Hitler observed, “every decision, regardless how harmful to the nation, will not be set to the account of a scoundrel visible to all, but will be unloaded on the shoulders of a whole fraction.”
[Ugh. Was Hitler really this poor of a writer? “A whole fraction”? Really?]
Yes, I’ve thought more than once in my reading of his book that we might have benefited from the services of a ghostwriter. Then again, he may have excused his own stylistic and conceptual faults with the following argument, taken from later on in Mein Kampf: “The man who is fighting for his own existence cannot have much left over for the community.”
[What community? The community of grammar?]
I was trying to make a point about institutional formalities in contrast to a practical point.
[Implying that the two are mutually exclusive?]
Why are you pretending that I’m defending Hitler? I’m just trying to play the devil’s advocate.
[No, you’re just making a fool of yourself.]
Anyway, the fictitious, frivolous differences between Democrats and Republicans expose a much more troubling problem: the cultural incompatibility of the American people. The great experiment of the melting pot has ended in a catastrophic conflagration. Now, before the social justice warriors respond, I am not suggesting, as Hitler might’ve, that the admission of immigrants is to blame for our nation’s internal disunity; anybody who is ignorant enough to complain of that fails to consider our country’s extensive history of full-throated calls for expatriates, and so, has probably failed to learn the meaning of false advertising. No, the “cultural incompatibility” of which I speak is really more of an irreconcilable clash between the agrarian and the urban, which is usually reduced, albeit inaccurately, to the clash between the north and the south.
To be clear, much of the north is agrarian and much of the south is urban, and the political terms “conservative” and “liberal” can be substituted for the preceding adjectives. Nevertheless, there is a disparity of values, ethics, morals, and mores in this dichotomy, and our government’s refusal to establish a definitive code of conduct has produced an incoherent culture. This is an internal issue or fault, one which is exacerbated by our external (or foreign) policy of aggressive imperialism: according to our government, we promote “American” values overseas, but what, exactly, are our “American” values? Lacking a fixed domestic definition, how can we possibly hope to inspire any understanding of “American” values internationally?
[Oh, I see where you’re going with this: you’re introducing Hitler’s concept of a “national state”, which is defined, above all else, by the stability of its internal structure. We shall quote from Mein Kampf, in which he wrote: “Old Austria [depended] on the greatness of her leaders. The foundation was lacking for a national state, which … can, by virtue of the natural inertia of is inhabitants, and the resulting power of resistance, sometimes withstand astonishingly long periods of the worst administration or leadership without inwardly disintegrating.” Emphasis added, if anyone cares. If that is the case, then one might remark favorably on America’s ability to “withstand astonishingly long periods of the worst administration or leadership without inwardly disintegrating”. Perhaps it is incredible, not that we are finally falling apart, but that we have held it together for this long.]
Well, we shouldn’t underestimate the unifying power of omnipotent force. For all of our boastful claims to political independence, we as Americans are subject to an authority of state that is largely unprecedented in human history. Every street is crawling with indignant cops, military helicopters fly over neighborhoods impoverished and wealthy, and some low-ranking agent at the FBI knows I have written this sentence before it is published. Such uniform (and unilateral) authority endures despite the aforementioned internal discord, which speaks not only to the supremacy of the state, but to the vulnerability of the American people.
The good news is that this vulnerability extends to the state, as well. Hitler might have had America in mind when he wrote of “an empire not consisting of similar peoples, which is held together not by common blood but by a common fist. In this case the weakness of leadership will not cause a hibernation of the state, but an awakening of all the individual instincts which are present in the blood, but cannot develop in times when there is a dominant will.”
[Are you suggesting that Trump is an uncommonly weak leader?]
We are still attempting to understand his relationship to the establishment, but it was obvious long before he was elected that he didn’t exactly inspire confidence in people. Come to think of it, we haven’t had a truly “inspirational” president for the last several decades—and, as Hitler observes, you can get away with executive mediocrity for a certain length of time, but after a while, you’re going to have to get serious. Trump doesn’t help us to “get serious”, and none of his challengers in the Democrat Party will help us to “get serious”, either—none of the people who have a chance of appeasing the establishment, at least.
Now, as the case of Trump illustrates, not every candidate who is rejected by the establishment is worthy of our respect; the trick, then, is to determine why the establishment is crusading against a particular candidate or cause. In our time, any serious criticism of the military-industrial complex is inevitably met with increasingly hostile corporate opposition; in Hitler’s day, it might have been any earnest suggestion to reunite Germany with Austria. “The press either killed [the Pan-German movement] will silence or mutilated their speeches in such a way that any coherence [was] twisted or entirely lost, and public opinion received a very poor picture of the aims of the new movement”.
[You know, every time you quote one of Hitler’s criticisms of nineteenth- and twentieth-century German politics, you bring yourself perilously close to Trump’s criticisms of the “liberal media”. I trust that you’re aware of the similarity?]
I am, and I will respond to your observation, as nebulous as it is inflammatory, with another quote of Hitler’s: “What the various gentlemen said was quite unimportant; the important thing was what people read about them. And this was an extract from their speeches, so disjointed that it could—as intended—only seem absurd.”
[Oh, I see: the mendacious mouthpieces in the media have always known what they are doing. For example, they might seize on your analysis of Hitler to besmirch your reputation and depict you as a neo-Nazi, or something, even though you know you’re the furthest thing from it.”
Right, and that speaks to the emotional gullibility and intellectual incompetence of the American people. It is not exactly innovative to speak of the stupidity of the American people, but their lack of intellectual strength really needs to be contextualized: they have been raised by benighted and brainwashed parents, educated in state-funded institutions promoting propaganda, and cultivated in a culture shaped by corporate interests. Obviously, they lack the cognitive resources and social supports necessary to appreciate the totality of their own manipulation.
[Yes, that reminds me of one of Hitler’s observations: “The political understanding of the broad masses is far from being highly enough developed to arrive at definite general political views of their own accord and seek out the suitable personalities.” Why bother looking for an iconoclastic intellectual role model—like Malcolm X, or even Tulsi Gabbard—when all of your ignorant buds are volunteering for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign?]
And why does Cory Booker enjoy such relative cultural clout? Because he appeals to the authority of the state, to the supremacy of the establishment. Irrespective of his assiduous efforts to associate and ingratiate himself with the victims of our economic structure, Booker remains an unmistakable apologist for the elite, and his perfidious populism earns him corporate support, but denies him the respect of those who have been liberated psychologically. Hitler believed that a “state authority is entitled to demand respect and protection only when it meets the interests of a people, or at least does not harm them”. Booker serves the interests of the elite, even and especially when it harms the people, which is why he was chosen, albeit prematurely and injudiciously, to shepherd the poor and susceptible masses into the oligarchy’s sanctioned anti-revolution.
[The term “revolution” is ubiquitous in our political culture, and has been for the last ten years, at least. How does it pertain to this discussion?]
Many of the current presidential candidates, and several of those in recent memory, have promised to effect some kind of political revolution. In doing so, they make two mistakes, the first of which is believing that any revolution is possible through the democratic process; after all, revolution and democracy are mutually exclusive. The other mistake is channeling this supposedly revolutionary energy into a campaign for a corporate prostitute. When we waste our energies and efforts on an inherently hopeless cause—though it may not seem hopeless to us at the beginning—we run a very serious risk of disheartenment through disillusionment, and that intensely negative and corrosive psychic energy threatens the patience of the conned.
The consequence of this may be that the victim of this con decides to pursue a truly revolutionary course, for only a true revolution will ensure that the fibbing representatives of the oligarchy have been vanquished at last. Hitler believed that, “[if] a nationality is led toward its destruction, then rebellion is not only the right of every member of such a people—it is his duty”. Whether rebellion is advisable or even feasible is irrelevant to the conned: his foremost consideration is dismantling the structure that empowered his despised charlatans in the first place. And even if he missteps and conquers a few well-meaning politicians, still he can seek solace in his incontrovertible principle: “In general it should not be forgotten that the highest aim of human existence is not the preservation of a state, let alone a government, but the preservation of the species.”
[What species do the politicians aim to preserve? The maladaptive species of the political party?]
If not the party, then the system—which, in this case, depends on the endurance of the duopoly. If the system can’t be preserved through proof of its inherent value, then it will be preserved through a superstitious faith in its ethereal value, in its claim to represent something of value, even if that something and that value are forever undefined. So far, the party apologists appear to be winning, hence why the destructive system endures.
If I may be permitted a single example: recently, someone on Twitter described me as “smug” and accused me of inflicting “potential devastation” upon the world—all because I have no intentions of casting a major-party vote in the general election of 2020. This accuser, who is obviously a fan of Elizabeth Warren’s, believes that the only moral thing to do is to vote for the Democratic Party nominee, regardless of who that nominee is. Those who agree to hold their noses and forsake their values for the benefit of the Democrats are described, in Hitler’s words, as “the fighters”, while those who question the wisdom of this submission are, in Hitler’s words again, “the lukewarm”, and those who refuse to prostrate themselves to this tyranny are “the traitors”.
Such a reduction to simplistic moral absolutes reveals nothing about the independent voter, but all too much about the party loyalist. The loyalist’s capacity to demonize those who disagree (to say nothing of those who oppose) eventually becomes an enthusiasm to punish those who, by virtue of casting a dissenting ballot, failed to support the loyalist’s vicarious political ambitions. In that state of desperation and self-evasion, the loyalist will defend the party above humanity, even after claiming that humanity ought to be the driving force behind voting. And in that state of desultory deflection, the loyalist will choose the party as the ultimate expression of political power—and that is precisely how Trump came to enjoy a counterintuitive victory when he lost control of the House in 2018.