A Not-So-Brave New World

So Trump took New Hampshire. A man who could hardly be more unfit for public office won a primary election held by one of America’s major parties.

This paragraph from a recent post on Political Animal pretty much sums up the situation–and the inability or unwillingness of the media to cover it accurately:

To make better predictions about electoral politics, traditional pundits need to look in the mirror and revise their assumptions about the electorate. Americans in both parties are afraid for their futures and fed with up the current system, the Republican Party has become far more extreme on the right than the Democratic Party on the left, and the GOP electorate specifically is far more demographically isolated and less interested in small-government conservatism and far more driven by racial animus, authoritarianism and cultural backlash than most centrist pundits care to admit.

Despite all the abuse aimed at the “lame stream media” and its perceived bias, most traditional media reporters and pundits have a deep-seated urge to be seen as “playing fair”—to focus on conflict, yes, but to avoid any impression that they are playing favorites. That determination leads to what has been called false equivalence: party A does something truly awful, and when party B does something wrong that most of us would consider far less troubling, the reporter paints them as equally wrongheaded. “They both do it.”

But they aren’t equivalent.

The truth is that today’s GOP bears virtually no resemblance to the party I worked for for 35 years.In 1980, I won a Republican Congressional primary; I was pro-choice, pro separation of church and state, pro public education. That would never happen today. Today’s Republican party is dominated by inflexible ideologues and proud know-nothings; it has become home to unashamed racists and would-be theocrats. The flaws of the Democrats—and there are many—pale in comparison.

There have been other times in America’s history when one or another party has “gone off the rails.” We can only hope that we are seeing the crest of this particular wave of paranoia and anti-intellectualism. (Kasich–arguably the only sane Republican candidate– did come in second.) But we can’t defeat the forces of fear and reaction unless we name them for what they are—unless we stop pretending that this is just another instance of “politics as usual.”

It isn’t. It’s ugly and it’s very, very dangerous.


  1. Now that the “News” on national outlets, is considered part of the “Entertainment” divisions and is now just another profit center, they do not have a real interest in informing the voter. They are all about EYEBALLS. How many viewers they can draw. If they point out that the leader of a major party is bat shit crazy and should not be elected dog catcher, that MIGHT be bad for ratings. GASP. Better not say that. One of the guests on Charlie Rose pointed out that the other candidates on the stage are the ones that need to point out , in NO uncertain terms, that this guy is bat shit crazy and not qualified to run for president and needs to go. THEY need to do it. Clearly. Forcefully . I hope they do it. but…
    On the bright side: Young people seem to get a lot of info over their smart phones and computers. I have NO idea what they are looking at but I hope it is more informative than the TV the my generation watches.

  2. I agree with all of the above, but I have to confess that I was relieved that Trump won NH and not Cruz or Rubio. The news media should be ashamed of its performance, but it’s not. The same for most of the Republican candidates.

  3. I don’t have much access to the US media except for CNN Int’l and BBC News America. Sure we have other news outlets here and I’ve seen most of the debates and townhalls on-line, but one thing I do not do is listen to the pundits. When I got up this morning and turned on CNN Int’l, Wolf was still on and there were 8 pundits on Anderson Cooper’s panel discussing the results at 1:15am EST. Really? John King was at the board showing the breakdown of each district in NH with populations counts etc. in between the commercials. I couldn’t believe that CNN had this going until the wee hours of the morning (east coast time). This is how they ruin their reputations in the media. By showcasing talking heads going on and on and I just don’t have time for that nonsense anymore.
    When you have the internet available at the tip of your mouse click, why waste time watching any of that talking head infotainment. The Media needs to realize that half the population uses computers for their information and the talking heads are always wrong but they sure are pretty and dress well. Rarely does one get it right, Bill Moyers notwithstanding.
    If Trump gets the nomination, the GOP is doomed and will deserve the humiliation of defeat finally and maybe we can get some justice for them lying the US into wars costing trillions, And innocent lives and leaving our country in shambles for the Dems to clean up. Please, as an American living abroad, don’t make my home country the laughing stock of the world again. We must stop the GOP and keep a Dem in the WH.
    #FeelTheBern 🙂

  4. I have sooo had it with the conventional news media. I now get my news from Al Jazeera (yes, there is a whole world out there besides Trump et. al.) and The Young Turks (online).

  5. “less interested in small-government conservatism and far more driven by racial animus, authoritarianism and cultural backlash than most centrist pundits care to admit.”

    What they’re interested in is surviving – surviving a disaster called Cheney. Their formula? Take all of the campaign money that they can get from special interests like oligarchy and spend it misleading rubes of all flavors, the rubier the better, through mass media.

    Their miscalculation? Mass media being replaced at the rate it has been by social media. Two instead of one way communication. Democratic media displacing autocratic media. Sheila replacing Rush.

    Trump is the poster boy for aristocracy and celebrity, Bernie for democracy, we the people.

    The south will lose the second civil war just like they lost the first, and America will survive another attack.

    Thank you President Obama for holding the fort while we counter attacked.

    Living free, informed and unafraid is back on its feet.

  6. The last vestige of decent television journalism ended when Dan Rather was dimissed from CBS. He told the truth about W’s service, or lack thereof, and he was carpetbombed by the swiftboaters. Yes, children, the National Guard was a great place to hide from the draft during the Vietnam War.

    That said, please do not rely on the internet for “fair and balanced” news. The good thing about social media is that it provides an outlet for everyone. The bad thing out social media is that it provides an outlet for everyone.

  7. The last vestige of decent television journalism ended when Dan Rather was dimissed from CBS. He told the truth about W’s service, or lack thereof, and he was carpetbombed by the swiftboaters. Yes, children, the National Guard was a great place to hide from the draft during the Vietnam War.

    That said, please do not rely on the internet for “fair and balanced” news. The good thing about social media is that it provides an outlet for everyone. The bad thing out social media is that it provides an outlet for everyone.

  8. Alphons,

    “I have sooo had it with the conventional news media. I now get my news from Al Jazeera….”

    It’s not just the news media. It’s also the books and bookstores.

    We don’t “burn books” in America. We don’t need to do that. We just “buy ’em” all up.

    Yesterday on this blog, I made some comparisons between Adoph Hitler and the Republican contenders for the presidency. A few minutes after making my “pitch,” I thought it would be helpful if I recommended an extremely important book: “22 Cells in Nuremberg” by Douglas Kelly the only psychiatrist who had access to the elite group of Nazis awaiting trial at Nuremberg.

    “Doctor Kelly studied and tested them all-Hess and Rosenberg and Goering-Jodl, Streicher and Ley-Hans Frank-Speer. Even Hitler, himself, through the words and beliefs of the men in the 22 cells, and here at last, we learn what caused these men to become the greatest collection of murderers in modern history.” (From the back cover)

    Would you like to read “22 Cells in Nuremberg? It’s going to cost you a lot. According to Amazon,YESTERDAY, the 1947 hard copy will cost you $260.00. That ‘s a good deal, since the 1961 copy will cost $495.00. There was only one used paperback of the 1961 edition and it was for sale for $20.00. I was thinking about buying it. Unfortunately, I had lunch first and it was gone in 30 minutes.

    Fortunately, I have a copy of the paperback 1961 edition in very poor condition. Nevertheless, the type is still very clear. So let me save everyone the expense and convey the most important words of this most important book.

    All of the following are excerpts from Chapter 20: What does it mean to America?

    “In my study of the Nuremberg Nazis, it became apparent that their personalities and their reign of terror in Germany yielded information which could well be adapted and applied to our problems. In Germany we found a businesslike machine set up to control 80 million persons and to assure unlimited personal power for those in charge. This political machine had been developed LEGALLY—even DEMOCRATICALLY. Once in power, however, it rolled like a juggernaut over the rights of the people.

    Are we, then, so very different from those people on whom totalitarianism has been painfully and brutally imposed? The answer is that, so far as I can determine, there is no real difference between the individual German and the individual American except for the German’s more ardent belief in his ideologies. It is true that the German nation has a more homogeneous culture. It has had a common speech, a common philosophy, perhaps, for a much longer period than we have been a nation. Consequently, Germany would be more easily swayed by skillful propaganda. But, aside from our lack of homogeneity, and all that it implies in varying origins, a two-party system, and legal “paper” guarantees of minority rights, I am convinced that there is little in America today which could prevent the establishment of a Nazi-like state.

    Let us examine the facts:

    As far as the leaders go, the Hitlers and the Goerings, the Goebbels’ and all the rest of them were not special types. Their personality patterns indicate that, while they are not socially desirable individuals, their like could easily be found in America. Neurotic individuals like Adolph Hitler, suffering from hysterical disorders and obsessive complaints, can be found in any psychiatric clinic. And there are countless hundreds of similar ones, thwarted, discouraged, determined to do great deeds, roaming the streets of any American city this very moment.

    Strong, dominant, agressive, egocentric personalities like Goering (remember George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”), differing from the normal chiefly in their lack of conscience, are not rare. They can be found anywhere in the country—-behind big desks deciding big affairs as businessmen, politicians, and racketeers.

    Shrewd, smooth, conscienceless speakers and writers like Goebbels, slick big-time salesmen like Ribbentrop, and all the financial and legalistic hangers-on can be counted among the men whose faces we know by sight.

    No the Nazi leaders were not spectacular types, not personalities such as appear only once in a century. They simply had three quite unremarkable characteristics in common–and the opportunity to seize power. These three characteristics were: overwhelming ambition, low ethical standards, a strongly developed nationalism which justified anything done in the name of Germandom.

    The power politics of Huey Long, who enforced his opinions by police control, were identical with those of Hitler. Hitler’s success in seizing first a small area (today like Jacksonville) and making it firmly totalitarian must not be forgotten. From a center of strength in Bavaria, he extended his control over all Germany (today that would include Indianapolis). From a similar center of strength in any single state of this country a similar extension could be predicted.

    Then Goebbels went to work. In arguments reminiscent of “As Maine goes—” the Party press heralded the election as symptomatic of the will of the entire nation.

    But, you may argue, “This is a democracy and in a democracy every individual should be able to vote. In a democracy it should be easy to spot the budding dictator and defeat him at the polls, legally and democratically, before he gains power.”

    Theorectically, this is true. But we must never forget that Hitler was elected by democratic methods in a democratic system, which we ourselves help set up. He was elected in a democratic way because of the FAILURE OF GERMAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES to prevent his election, because of the fundamental apathy and lack of interest of those forces. Such apathy and disinterest is not unknown in the United States. It has been made painfully obvious in many elections that a small minority, functioning as an active unit, can and does win elections that determine the fate of an apathetic, lethargic, nonvoiting majority.

    We cannot have a mature nation of infantile citizens. As a psychiatrist in the Army, I became convinced that the country which had produced so many thousands of infantile young men was itself emotionally immature. Far too few of our soldiers, or their officers, were mature; a
    frightening high percentage had an emotional-intellectual age of about ten years. One can say with reason, that the Germans behaved like children under the rule of Adolph Hitler. We are not reduced to such a state but we are like Hess—-teetering on the curbstone. (Don’t forget this was written 70 years ago)

    We can achieve national maturity only through the development of each individual to a true adult status. When such maturity is reached, each individual will then be competent with himself to evaluate properly the mouthings of our propagandists. UNTIL THEN, total voting and an attempt to guard ourselves against the tyranny of words and to evaluate properly each candidate for public office is the only answer. This answer depends on the citizens of the United States—every single one of us.”

  9. Thanks Marv. A brilliantly executed wake up call at least to the choir. But the power of social media is that it is a network. We’re all connected. We can all speak and listen. We all must speak and listen until the current threat is in the past.

  10. Pete,

    “We ALL must speak and listen until the current threat is in the past.”

    You can’t say it any better than that. They have no defense against the TRUTH.

  11. While I largely agree with Marv, there were unique circumstances in Germany that helped pave the way for Hitler: economic instability both in the early and the late 1920s, the absence of a democratic tradition before the Weimar Republic, and the political chaos following the end of World War One.

  12. Nominating Trump equals … I don’t know, stupidity? I can assure you that Trump has many intelligent supporters and we intend to put him in the WH. On the democrat side, we have 2 people running; neither one will be the democratic nominee for POTUS.

  13. Marv,

    “As Maine goes . . .”, indeed, and just look at whose been at our helm for five years. He ran against the evils of big government and, ironically, through his own actions he seems to be making it true, post hoc. Close observation of our legislature shows the inexorable effect of an executive style characterized by “when will the other shoe drop” uncertainty and fear, but a measured attempt to even study eight distinct elements of his inadequacy, which — in three groupings, lessened the designed equal position of the Legislature, appear to constitute “official oppression”, and undermine the function of other government bodies as well as the direct sovereignty of the people in their referendum authority — was soundly defeated. A common complaint about legislative bodies is that they study things to death while only occasionally doing anything. Not here in Maine. Our Governor is a piece of the same cloth of politician Sheila Kennedy worries about — autocratic, vindictive, too often deploringly ignorant, devoted to rant and sarcasm, playing to fear and bigotism, unwilling or unable to compromise. There is so much of this going around as we stride into the 21st century, not a day seems to go by I don’t hear the echoes of Ben Franklin’s “if you can keep it” lingering in my head.

  14. wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact an overwhelming majority of americans want gun laws changed…immigration reform….and a balanced budget but their representatives ignore them in favor of corporations and big money donors?

  15. Last night once I realized stunning victory Bernie Sanders was rolling onto, I decided to tune into MSNBC to see their reaction. IMHO MSNBC might as well as be paid by the Hillary Campaign as continuous paid political announcement. I always thought Chris Matthews was especially biased in favor Hillary. Now there is interesting an article on the Counter Punch Web Site, which has a link to the Daily Caller .

    Hillary Donors Helping Chris Matthews’ Wife Into Congress. The Daily Caller reveals that Hillary’s biggest donors are backing Matthews’ wife — Kathleen Matthews — in her congressional race in Maryland, even though many of them don’t even live in the same state, much less the same district, that Matthews is seeking to represent. Kathleen Matthews “led a four-year initiative with the Clinton Foundation to open a Marriott hotel in Haiti.”

    TheDC has not found any instance where Chris Matthews publicly disclosed what some voters might see as a conflict-of-interest. Neither MSNBC nor the Matthews campaign responded to TheDC’s request for comment by press time.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/09/hillary-donors-helping-chris-matthews-wife-into-congress/#ixzz3znHcKYKn
    When you dump a jig saw puzzle out, you see a mess. Interesting, how at times everything fits together once you have the information to put it together.

  16. Mike,

    “I can assure you that Trump has many intelligent supporters and we intend to put him in the White House.”

    If we’re going to base this all on intelligence, I believe the Democratic Party candidate can’t lose.

    “What we have learned in the hard school of our modern political life is the fact that human culture is by no means the firmly established thing that we once supposed it to be…..We must always be prepared for violent concussions that may shake our cultural world and our social order to its very foundations.

    The great thinkers of the past were not only “their own times apprehended in thought.” Very often they had to think beyond and against their times. Without the intellectual and moral courage, philosophy could not fulfill its task in man’s cultural and social life.

    It is beyond the power of philosophy to destroy the political myths (white supremacy). A myth is in a sense invulnerable. It is impervious to rational arguments; it cannot be refuted by syllogisms ( a form of reasoning in which two premises are made and a logical conclusion is drawn from them ~ Webster’s New World Dictionary).

    But philosophy can do us another important service. It can make us understand the adversary. In order to fight an enemy, you must know him. (See http://www.Sonshi.com-the website for “Sun Tzu’s Art of War”) That is one of the first principles of a sound strategy. To know him means not only to know his defects and weaknesses; it means to know his strengths. All of us have been liable to underrate this strength. When we first heard of the political myths (Nazism) we found them so absurd and incongruous, so fantastic and ludicrous that we could hardly be prevailed upon to take them seriously. By now it has become clear to all of us that this was a great mistake.

    We should not commit the same error a second time. We should carefully study the ORIGIN, the STRUCTURE, the METHODS, and the TECHNIQUE of the political myths. We should see the adversary face to face in order to know how to combat him.” “The Myth of the State” by Ernst Cassirer, (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1955) pp.372-373. [Dr. Cassirer was a preeminent political scientist who escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to the U.S. in the early 40’s]

  17. Max,

    “While I largely agree with Marv, there were unique circumstances in Germany……”

    You’re right on all three accounts. But, we don’t know what the situation will be in the following months.

    The Republican Party is being controlled by the force of the Tea Party. It’s a movement. It’s not stationary. It’s dynamic. It can change its direction overnight and completely change the nature of the battle.

    There’s still nine months before the election. By then, more than likely, the political environment will be much different than it is now.

  18. Pete,

    “Truth….But it Is it more powerful than lies? Only to some”

    You’re right, especially when it comes to partisan politics. But there are some truths that “in the long run” are nonpartisan. A good example would be “racial warfare.” That disastrous scenario affects MANY not just SOME.

  19. Pete,


    Maybe Mike talks too much. What I think he is trying to say: “The Trump forces are going to attack the reputations of Hillary and Bernie to such an extent that the Democrats won’t even have a candidate for POTUS. “Not a bad plan if you’re living in a “fools paradise.”

  20. With our “them vs. us” mentality in the left, we focus on the behavior of the electorate on the right and label it negatively; we don’t register the fear that causes people to act out with what Political Animal called “racial animus, authoritarianism and cultural backlash.” Focusing on that fear we can see why the voters seem to us to work against their own better interests.

    What is really sad is the extreme right candidates can see that fear and pander to it and at the same time their funding and ideology causes them to promote policies that make the situation worse for that same electorate. The pull of Trump is that he is not Cruz or Rubio, saying one thing and doing another, he is really an unknown who says all the right things.

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