One of the major problems of our over saturation of news and not so much news sources is that often much of what we are fed daily is a current update as if this is all happening in a vacuum unconnected to other current events or to events in history. Without tying many of these strings together into a narrative our current mess becomes a jumble of disorganized threads.
However, digging through similar threads in history can often bring clarity to the current mess and offer some insights as to where we are going.
With that in mind I stumbled across a couple of diaries at dailykos.com that really helped in understanding that the current administration is in one sense the continuation of rule by the elite that has gone on probably since time immemorial and in another sense perhaps the culmination of the drive to end the New Deal since FDR’s inaugural.
We need to understand this to make sense of some of the maneuvers that the Republican Party has made in the past several decades. These diaries also helps to make sense of why those who will suffer most under the rule of the elites will oftentimes be those who support them most.
In the diary “BOOKMARK: A Dire Warning and Hugely Cited History Lesson. The Dangers We Face Today“ diarist War on Error looks at the prescient warnings of Ambassador to Germany William Dodd who warned of a possible fascist dictatorship financed by an American billionaire:
During the 1936 U.S. election campaign, Dodd wrote a public letter warning that the defeat of Roosevelt’s programs would produce a fascist dictatorship financed by an American billionaire: “There are individuals of great wealth who wish a dictatorship….There are politicians who think they may gain powers like those exercised in Europe. One man, I have been told by friends, who owns nearly a billion dollars, is ready to support such a program and, of course, control it.”
The diarist then digs deep into a speech given by Ambassador Dodd where he uses historical examples to make sense of the turmoil in the world of the 1930s. The diarist has the whole speech in the diary but also pulls out some of the best quotes from Dodd:
With the breakdown of the old Roman democracy after the enormous success of the Punic Wars, great group leaders contending for personal and group advantages brought the Republic to the verge of collapse.
Governments from the top fail as often as those from the bottom; and every great failure brings a sad social reaction, thousands and millions of helpless men laying down their lives in the unhappy process. Why may not statesmen study the past and avoid such catastrophes?
No scheme has ever worked well more than a decade or two without popular support…
We must not think our generation is the only one that has suffered from violent economic and social disruptions.
In conclusion, one may safely say that it would be no sin if statesmen learned enough of history to realise that no system, which implies control of society by privilege seekers, has ever ended in any other way than collapse.
In his second diary, War on Error follows the history of the attacks on the New Deal from FDR to the point now where New Deal programs are directly in the sight of today’s radical right progeny of the radical right of FDR’s era, through the 50s and down to today. Not surprisingly one of the threads throughout these decades is the perversion of religion.
The Family was founded in April 1935 by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant who made his living as a traveling preacher. One night, while lying in bed fretting about socialists, Wobblies, and a Swedish Communist who, he was sure, planned to bring Seattle under the control of Moscow, Vereide received a visitation: a voice, and a light in the dark, bright and blinding. The next day he met a friend, a wealthy businessman and former major, and the two men agreed upon a spiritual plan. They enlisted nineteen business executives in a weekly breakfast meeting and together they prayed, convinced that Jesus alone could redeem Seattle and crush the radical unions. They wanted to give Jesus a vessel, and so they asked God to raise up a leader. One of their number, a city councilman named Arthur Langlie, stood and said, “I am ready to let God use me.” Langlie was made first mayor and later governor, backed in both campaigns by money and muscle from his prayer-breakfast friends, whose number had rapidly multiplied. As Vereide recounted in a 1961 biography, Modern Viking, one union boss joined the group, proclaiming that the prayer movement would make unions obsolete. He said, “’I got down on my knees and asked God to forgive me… for I have been a disturbing factor and a thorn in Your flesh.’” A “rugged capitalist who had been the chairman of the employers’ committee in the big strike” put his left hand on the labor leader’s shoulder and said, “’Jimmy, on this basis we go on together.’” Vereide and his new brothers spread out across the Northwest in chauffeured vehicles (a $20,000 Dusenburg carried brothers on one mission, he boasted).
Just to add to the direness of these diaries comes an analysis by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo that shows how the current assaults on government are stressing the system:
But while we are glued to the show (the current Trump reality show in the White House – ed.), Richard Haass warns, democracy is breaking down around the world. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes:
Not just democracy but the rule of law and respect for civil society and individual liberty are in decline around the world. One reason is that the United States is failing to set an example that many wish to emulate.
The president’s attacks “on everyone from judges to journalists undermine trust in essential institutions.” Removing promotion of democracy and human rights from the U.S. agenda is not helping. Neither does hollowing out the State Department and the Foreign Service, which Haass does not mention.
Economic, social and physical insecurity have driven the global trend toward illiberalism. Understandably, those forces place greater emphasis on a government’s ability to deliver tangible goods than on its fealty to intangible ideals such as individual freedoms and human rights. We are seeing this in countries as diverse as Russia, China, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Egypt and the Philippines.
Adding to the trend, China is headed towards reverting to a cult of personality, abolishing term limits and making Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, leader for life.