The Devil’s Comb Over

John Steppling

“It is this author’s analysis that the effect of the Donald Trump presidency has been, somewhat paradoxically, to put wind in the sails of a kind of patriotic liberalism, reaffirming confidence in the forms and functions of US governance. Since Trump’s election, the calling words have been “not my president,” “not my country,” “this isn’t the America I know”–and the protagonists in the valiant anti-Trump struggle has been Robert Mueller, the FBI, Nancy Pelosi, the CIA, and NATO. With the theatrics of Trump’s supposed move to withdraw US forces from Syria, which of course never materialized (and, without going too afar of this piece, which was never the primary thrust of US policy in Syria), the Democrats raised a furor over this disastrous misstep that supposedly threatened US national security. In the realm of the media, liberals have re-affirmed the trustworthiness of the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media against the foil of Trump’s “fake news.” In short, there has already been a substantial rightward swing in mainstream politics that has been achieved in the “resistance” against Trump–as if the ruling class aren’t all co-conspirators behind closed doors.”
International Dispatch (Dec 30th 2019)

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. ‘When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect’.”
Confucius, The Analects -13 (Legge tr.)

“In order to allow narcissistic identification, the leader has to appear himself as absolutely narcissistic…”
Theodor Adorno (Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda)

The entrance of Michael Bloomberg into the race for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the presidency is giving more proof to George Carlin’s old saying ‘its a big club, and you ain’t in it’. The ruling class, the billionaire class, now control the electoral process as never before. Or they control it with less subterfuge.

The narrative that is being imposed on this race for the nomination is that of ‘socialist’ Bernie Sanders, aka outsider, vs the establishment. Now the most significant aspect of this narrative is the constant insistence on changing the meaning of key words. Sanders for example is not even remotely close to the conventional and accepted meaning of socialist. The dictionary definition for socialist reads “a person who advocates or practises socialism.” Miriam Webster defines socialism as

“any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” And the second definition reads “a system of society or group living in which there is no private property.”

But we are at a place in the evolution of language in which dictionaries are hardly foolproof in terms of accuracy. The so-called Urban Dictionary includes this in its definition “A socialist will usually distance himself from communist dictators like Stalin, and instead claim loyalty to the original ideas of Marx and Lenin. Unlike a communist, a socialist need not to be an atheist.”

The mind reels. But the take away here is that the disappearing of the actual meaning of socialism serves the interests of the ruling class. The system would never actually allow a real socialist to enter the debates or gain any visibility in media and certainly the DNC would make short work of shutting down any such idea. Of course no socialist would be part of the Democratic Party.

One also hears a lot about ‘the left’. Usually this refers to either supporters of Sanders, or sometimes (often actually) Elizabeth Warren and very often Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Illhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib; aka The Squad. For a clear example of just how NOT socialist AOC is, read Jacob Levich’s Feb 14th article at Counterpunch.

On November 16, four days after the military coup that destroyed Bolivian democracy, Ocasio-Cortez met with a group of pro-Áñez, pro-Camacho activists led by one Ana Carola Traverso. Traverso’s connections to the Bolivian coup plotters have been extensively documented online.”
Jacob Levich (Ocasio-Cortez to Constituents on Bolivian Coup: Drop Dead)

This is hardly surprising as the entirety of the Democratic Party stood and applauded the fascist interloper and flunky of the U.S. State Department Juan Guaido when introduced at the State of the Union address. The entirety of the Democratic Party has been supportive of the new fascist regime in Bolivia. Save for Bernie Sanders..but…while Sanders did manage to finally choke out the words “coup”, he has for the most part remained silent on the issue since his first called it a coup (a week after the coup actually took place).

That said, he did meet with Gustavo Guzman, the legitimate ambassador of Bolivia, which is more than anyone else in his party did. On the other hand Sanders referred to Hugo Chavez as “that dead communist dictator”. So without belabouring the point, Sanders is a liberal democrat, a sort of new age FDR progressive. But he is not an anti-imperialist, and was and remains a cheerleader for Bill Clinton’s illegal assault on the former Yugoslavia. And then there is this…

Sanders tells New York Times he would consider a preemptive strike against Iran or North Korea
World Socialist Website, 14/02/2020

So, ok, Bernie is a Democratic Socialist (like in Norway and Denmark). Except he’s not even that. Would that he were.

Bernie has been too often fully on board with defense spending (that helps his home state of Vermont) and with U.S. military coercion and threats abroad. His criticism, such as it is, of American militarism sounds much Obama’s before he was elected (and even like Trump’s before he was elected). Sanders is an economic nationalist with barely suppressed racism that crops up in fears about Mexican workers stealing jobs.

The take away here is that Presidents are not czars or Kings, they are simply the brand of the moment — and while they exert style and emphasis, they never really change U.S. foreign policy for that foreign policy has not changed in sixty years. One cannot support wars abroad, fought on behalf of the U.S. ruling elite, and then claim to battle them at home.

The rest of the field…

In a statement issued January 29, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, called for a massive effort to impose internet censorship during the 2020 presidential election. Elizabeth Warren, proponent of economic nationalism, campaigning in Las Vegas She also pledged that a President Warren would push for “tough civil and criminal penalties” on social media platforms and web sites that publish misleading information about when, where and how to vote, or that engage in any conduct to suppress or discourage voter participation.


Warren called on Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms to step up their efforts against “disinformation” and “fake” or “manipulated” content. Who decides what is false content, however, she did not specify—but obviously, that would be the corporate-controlled media monopolies and the US intelligence agencies.

– Patrick Martin (WSWS 2020)

So what is the electoral theatre really? In the end it serves the system by changing the meaning of language, by normalizing ruling class rights and interests, and by normalizing a hierarchical class system. And this bleeds into the climate discourse as well, where Cory Morningstar has so throughly catalogued the billionaire and corporate designs for purchasing what is left for sale of the planet. The electoral circus is more about its secondary effects than about who is going to win.

A quick look at Pete Buttigieg reveals youth (he is 37), openly gay (which has not seemed to impact his numbers in either direction, somewhat surprisingly) and a history in Naval Intelligence (where he worked targeting for drone assassinations in Afghanistan). He is the mayor of a smallish midwestern city where most of his accomplishments were to assist gentrifiers (South Bend has among the highest eviction rates in the country). The rest of his platform is generic and opaque, at best.

It should be noted that his early career rather mirrors that of Obama. Buttigieg worked for Cohen Associates, run by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Then worked for McKinsey & Company, a billion-dollar a year consulting firm. His background is that of an overachieving (Oxford and Harvard) and driven company man.

Amy Klobucher has failed to gain even a tiny bump from her split NYTimes endorsement. Which in and of itself is something of an accomplishment (negative though it may be). But Klobucher is a perfect laboratory created *centrist* candidate (normalizing the change in the meaning of words, again). Former prosecutor (like Kamala Harris, with just as an intense law & order record), comparatively young, worked for corporate law firm, and dutifully signed off on all Party policy.

As county attorney, Klobuchar oversaw the systematic cover-up of police murders and violence. During her approximate tenure as county attorney, the city of Minneapolis paid out $4.8 million in legal settlement fees for 122 police misconduct incidents. Meanwhile, during this same period, local police and Hennepin County sheriffs killed 29 people. Klobuchar did not once file criminal charges against police for misconduct, even when they killed people. Instead, she put such cases for decision by a grand jury, a process which was heavily criticized for its secrecy and for having the reputation of allowing testimonies in favor of police.

– George Gallanis (WSWS 2019)

Centrist means, today, right-wing Democrat, or not quite full-blown Nazi Republican, a law & order racist, and reflexive Imperialist. Klobucher also had her own Willie Horton in the person of Myon Burrell. This is all without even touching on the massive defense industry donations to her campaign or her rabid (even by DNC standards) support for Israeli crimes.

I don’t think anyone needs a rundown on Joe Biden at this point. He seems to be peacefully sailing off into the mental and literal sunset of his public life.

Who is left? Well, Michael Bloomberg. A man who is on record (for decades, literally) making openly racist comments, proves that extreme 1% wealth can buy you almost anything.

An interesting footnote to all this is the overlap with Trump on the Central Park 5 case and how both Trump (who took out an ad at the time in the NY Times calling for the execution of the five young men) and Bloomberg who was mayor and zealously encouraged the prosecution, stood stoutly for white supremacism. In fact Mayor Bloomberg and the City spent ten years and over 6 million dollars fighting against the civil rights lawsuit brought by the five men before finally giving up. He recently said, when questioned about the case…“I just don’t remember”.

But Bloomberg has always been openly contemptuous of the lower classes, and of blacks and latinos in particular.

His history of slamming public workers and of taxing the middle class instead of the rich make that clear. So too did his cracking down severely on dissent (his NYPD’s violent night-time rousting of the Wall Street Occupation provided the model for similar violent crushing of Occupy encampments across the country), and his making Wall Street and Lower Manhattan the most video-surveilled jurisdiction in America.”

– Dave Lindorff (Counterpunch 2020)

Bloomberg has authorized his 2,000-strong field staff — the best that money can buy — to double their spending in post-Iowa arenas. He has spent almost twice that much – around $200 million – on advertising, and tens of millions more in building a campaign infrastructure and buying endorsements from a host of Black political prostitutes, including Chicago Rep. Bobby Rush, Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser and San Francisco mayor London Breed. Indeed, Bloomberg’s billions have bought him more mayoral endorsements in top 100 cities than any other candidate. This is how you buy the Democrats, who are actually much more of a brand name than a political party.

– Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report, 2020)

Ralph Nadar recently complained that the Democrats don’t go after Trump the way he goes after them. But the problem is that Trump … mentored by Roy Cohn… knows how to create a teflon image. He admits to being immoral, to being a gangster essentially, he brags about it. You can’t call him anything he hasn’t already called himself, and bragged about himself. For this returns us to the real effects of the electoral circus.

The Trump presidency has accelerated the erosion of literacy and meaning in language. And Americans have long been imbued with the inclination to just accept winners AS winners, to view winning as an achievement free of other factors. Couple that to the destruction of public education, the effects of screen habituated voters distracted from most everything of an historical nature, and you get a public indifferent to global politics.

How many Americans know who the Yellow Vests are? How many know there is a general strike in France? How many know about the destruction of Yemen (begun under Obama) and how many know the real story of Syria?

Stories surface about faked gas attacks blamed on Assad and nobody cares. Stories about the DPRK surface, lurid propaganda demonizing that small country and the truth is now utterly irrelevant to most Americans. How many care in the least about the rise of far-right parties in Europe? How many know the hyper-nationalism of Modi’s regime in India? The answer is very very few.

We see that the object is being treated in the same way as our own ego, so that when we are in love a considerable amount of narcissistic libido overflows on the object. It is even obvious, in many forms of love choice, that the object serves as a substitute for some unattained ego ideal of our own. We love it on account of the perfections which we have striven to reach for our own ego, and which we should now like to procure in this roundabout way as a means of satisfying our narcissism.”
Freud (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego)

Americans want to see themselves as winners. Nobody in America is working class, they are *middle class*. Adorno wrote of the psychology of the fascist leader in a paper from 1951. It is hugely relevant for today.

The fascist leader must be both Superman and everyman, or as Adorno noted with Hitler, part King Kong and part suburban barber. And this is Trump and a good part of his appeal. He is both a clear *winner*, wealthy, rich, and powerful — but also a slouch, paunchy, with a ridiculous comb over and tanning salon face. He is like you or me or the Joe the mechanic. But he is also PRESIDENT, rich and surrounded by beautiful trophy women.

Even the fascist leader’s startling symptoms of inferiority , his resemblance to ham actors and asocial psychopaths, is thus anticipated in Freud’s theory. For the sake of those parts of the follower’s narcissistic libido which have not been thrown into the leader image but remain attached to the follower’s own ego, the superman must still resemble the follower and appear as his “enlargement.”

Accordingly, one of the basic devices of personalized fascist propaganda is the concept of the “great little man,” a person who suggests both omnipotence and the idea that he is just one of the folks, a plain, redblooded American, untainted by material or spiritual wealth. Psychological ambivalence helps to work a social miracle. The leader image gratifies the follower’s twofold wish to submit to authority and to be the authority himself.
– Adorno (ibid)

Now, of course, the reality here is that Trump is not doing much that Obama did not already do (or Bush or Clinton). The significance is in how he is doing it. The way he is doing it. That Trump will almost certainly win a second term suggests a good many Americans see themselves in Trump. And hierarchical structures are compatible with the sado/masochistic personality — hence the need to constantly punish those beneath you, the weakest and most vulnerable, as well as any ‘hated outside’ group.

This need to find others to blame is tied to what Rene Girard wrote of scapegoats, but also to all religions finally, and is not (risking a digression here) unrelated to the insistence of the overpopulation alarmists and neo eugenicists, who see threat in the poorest and desperate peoples of the planet.

The narcissistic gain provided by fascist propaganda is obvious.It suggests continuously and sometimes in rather devious ways, that the follower. simply through belonging to the in-group , is better, higher and purer than those who are excluded. At the same time, any kind of critique or self-awareness is resented as a narcissistic loss and elicits rage.”
Adorno (ibid)

Trump is the delivery system for fascist aesthetics. Obama was the inverse, in a sense. His was the last expression of the button downed repressed white male — a not insignificant irony (or not) given his fame as the first black President. But just as Hillary would have been the first woman president who gave expression to the quintessential militarist authoritarian male, Obama was paradoxically the liberal ideal of a white leader — and I quote here Molly Klein from a short piece on Laurence Lessig’s fawning video promo on Obama.

We can confirm this by listening to and reading the best and brightest – this guy, Lawrence Lessig, is imagined to be not only a grown up, an actual adult, but an expert of some kind, savvy and slightly dissident, a bright guy and a sincere one – advising us on how to cast the role of Prez for the next hundred episodes in the four year series pre-order of Leader of The Free World. Lawrence Lessig easily explains that Barack Obama would be better television.

So. That’s that.

But he doesn’t even seem to comprehend that this is what he is saying. That he is speaking of a spectacle as if it were all there is. It sounds just like he is spitballing for a season of The West Wing – the policies yeah yeah, who cares, they’re fine, they’re the norm, there’s no choice anyway, there is no alternative. But this doesn’t matter for our nationwide casting session because the policies are not part of the drama anyway – they’re not featured in the Free World storyline.

You don’t cast a lead role like The Prez in a hit show like New Free World Order according to some trivia like policies. What matters is the Prez should be compelling and likeable. And a good actor. He should embody. He should symbolise. He should convince. He should have a certain charisma and image.

For this is electoral theatre. It is the Spectacle and it exists as a form of reality TV. That Trump is a former reality TV star is hardly beside the point.

Trump is additionally the accumulative embodiment of the loss of taste and decorum — the end of the gentry or aristocracy in some sense. His is the vulgar stamped ‘authenticated’.

Allow me a final quote from Adorno here…

The leader can guess the psychological wants and needs of those susceptible to his propaganda because he resembles them psychologically, and is distinguished from them by a capacity to express without inhibitions what is latent in them, rather than by any intrinsic superiority. The leaders are generally oral character types, with a compulsion to speak incessantly and to befool the others.

The famous spell they exercise over their followers seems largely to depend on their orality: language itself, devoid of its rational significance, functions in a magical way and furthers those archaic regressions which reduce individuals to members of crowds. Since this very quality of uninhibited but largely associative speech presupposes at least a temporary lack of ego control, it may well indicate weakness rather than strength.”
– Adorno (ibid)

This is another reason Trump won’t lose. You can’t parody him, can’t out-talk him, or out-shout him.

Sanders cannot win the nomination. Bloomberg is there to see to that if for no other reason. And even if he weren’t the popularity of Sanders in the youth demographic hardly matters. Bernie is not Eugene Debs. He isn’t going to fight for you. Bernie feels like a guy who has already lost once (and didn’t fight it). Even in the recent Iowa caucuses Bernie got stitched up, and said nothing.

Nadar points out, rightly, regarding the Democrats, in an interview with Jeremy Scahill…

…they want to continue dialing for corporate dollars. They want to continue Obama’s record-setting fundraising from Wall Street which exceeded his Republican opponents. Imagine, he got more money from Wall Street than John McCain in 2008. He even got more money from Romney’s venture capital firm. So, that’s the internal struggle. This business about socialism, that’s just a cover but they’re willing to immolate themselves this year, and let Trump win by basically stereotyping any kind of progressive legislation as socialism. “
The Intercept (Feb. 2020)

Calling it socialism, which it isn’t, means that actual socialism isn’t even in the discussion. Turning fake socialism into a pejorative means real socialism is rendered the ‘unspeakable’ crime.

Warren wants the intelligence community to censor dissent. This is a so-called liberal democrat. Remember it was Obama who invented the whole ‘fake news’ meme. Trump did not invent ICE raids, either, or detention centers for children of immigrants. Nor did he invent targeted drone hits. That’s all Obama.

No, Trump is the bringer of golden curtains in the oval office, the golden fake tan (increasingly scary) and the golden comb over. He is the tribute to both orality and anality. That Boris Johnson so reflects Trump is startling. A third-generation dupe of Trump on one level, but BoJo is also the death rattle of the British ruling class made manifest. Corbyn was Britain’s Bernie. And Bernie will suffer a similar fate. For this is a new fascist age.

The persistently anal character of the Devil has not been emphasized enough…equally persistent is the association of the Devil with a sulphurous or other evil smell…the origin of which is plainly revealed in the article Di Crepitu Diaboli..in an 18th century compendium of folklore.”
Norman O. Brown (Life Against Death)

Brown also notes the magical origins of the feces/money connection in terms of usury and interest. But that’s too large a digression for here. Suffice it to say that Trump is a shiny golden walking talking piece of shit, rather literally. And he is the mouth that spews forth abusive diarrhoea, a racist Imperialist scapegoating orality — in short fascism. And this will mark an age of acute ambivalence, too, as Adorno took note of in passing.

The fascist, the leader, will always betray himself by his weakness. And no leader in American history is so obviously weak as Trump. But that is where we are.

Adorno also noted at the end of the essay…“It may well be the secret of fascist propaganda that it simply takes men for what they are: the true children of today’s standardized mass culture, largely robbed of autonomy and spontaneity…”

In terms of instinctual economy, the irrationality of Trump feels rational. For a while anyway. Obama, Bush Jr, and Clinton (Bill) were all figures that sold a certain aspect of the irrational. But it has come all come together in Trump. But it is worth reminding one, again, this is style. Of course style is important. The way of Trump, that matters. Aesthetics matter. Maybe more now than ever, in fact.

The decisions belong to guys like Mike Pompeo — and I personally find Dominionist Pompeo the scariest man in Washington. And the global billionaires. To the think tank wonks and defense industry insiders. But it now goes through Trump via those golden curtains.

My personal prediction is for a brokered convention in which Hillary Clinton emerges with the nomination. And Bernie will tell his followers to get on board, to do the right thing. And Hillary will lose badly, maybe the worst loss ever. And she will have a massive mental breakdown. And with growing homelessness and precarity, with fewer and fewer jobs, the implementation of martial law will be upon us, and FEMA camps and debtors prison and a new Victorianism of savagely enforced social hierarchies.

I hope I am proved wrong.


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Adam Hyatt
Adam Hyatt
Dec 30, 2020 8:41 AM

The take away here is that Presidents are not czars or Kings, they are simply the brand of the moment — and while they exert style and emphasis, they never really change U.S. foreign policy for that foreign policy has not changed in sixty years. 

Apr 17, 2020 6:32 PM

What a load of psycho-babble!

Gary Weglarz
Gary Weglarz
Feb 25, 2020 5:49 PM

It surprises me that some commenting here find that by simply adding reflections upon individual and group psychological factors (and apparently by quoting Adorno) that this implies that the author is somehow betraying “class analysis.” My personal bias as a retired therapist is that those “psychological” factors, both individual and group, are quite obviously of tremendous and rather self-evident importance to how power systems psychologically operate in order to “mystify” we masses in service to the destruction of any form of conscious “class analysis” and understanding.

I think Steppling is all too accurate in his attempt at a “psychological” examination of how the psyches of many Americans actually function today – in spite of it being both sad and frightening to have to agree with him. With all due respect to traditional Marxist theory, anyone living within a self-imposed theoretical construct that has them waiting for some future in which the American proletariat coalesce and rise up against our capitalist masters is I dare say living a rather outdated fantasy world of some sort.

One can be, as I am, an avowed Marxist, without being so blinded by theory that one can “only see” economic man in one’s attempt to understand our shared “humanity,” as well as to better understand our rather dire straights collectively as a species. Economic man is after all only one of many possible theoretical groupings of our “individual psyches” in our search for understanding the “whys” and “hows” regarding the effectiveness of our current systems of hierarchy, power and control.

While I personally examine and rely on class analysis to better understand the workings of power in the world – this does not blind me to the myriad of individual and group psychological factors that are always at play, and are always being intentionally manipulated by the endless propaganda emanating from those power systems. It is always both our individual and our collective humanity that are the targets of our 24/7 “culture industry” of propaganda production. Whether we are conscious of them or not, individual and group psychological factors don’t disappear simply because we deny their importance, or find their existence inconvenient to our theories. I quite appreciate that Steppling embraces a broader rather than narrower vision in his attempt to better “understand” the madness of our current human predicament.

Tim Drayton
Tim Drayton
Feb 24, 2020 4:49 PM

BoJo is also the death rattle of the British ruling class made manifest. … For this is a new fascist age.

I am not sure about that analysis. Classicial Marxist analysis would have it that fascism steps in to save the ruling class’s bacon at times of extreme crisis. A nasty little jerk from Austria bearing virtually no resemblence to the highly cultured and educated ruling classes of the German-speaking world may have inspired large numbers of German speakers to join him in making the Nazi salute and sweep him into power, but the interests of the German and Austrian ruling classes were never threatened, as is evidenced by the way the shareholders of the company Hoechst were able to make a fortune selling Zyklon-B to the death camps. In my opinion, if it is facism then by definition it does not threaten the ruling class.

Thomas Byrne
Thomas Byrne
Feb 24, 2020 12:26 PM

Is it not just a given in America, that whoever becomes President gets the gig for 8 years anyway and all the rest is just bullshit. Trump is President and that wont change until 2028.

It was and always will be a rich mans game, and just that……a game.

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Feb 23, 2020 7:58 PM

Points off for plugging Adorno. As with the other Frankfurt Schoolers, he did a lot to replace class struggle with a ton of psycho-babble, forever pathologizing away the working class. ‘The problem with the workers, you see, is not that they’re oppressed, but that they’re so vain and egocentric!’ It was just a short skip and a hop away from that to today’s identity politics run amok.

George Mc
George Mc
Feb 23, 2020 8:28 PM
Reply to  Seamus Padraig

Adorno never tired of blaming the victims for failing to deliver a revolution that he had no intention of dirtying his hands with.

johny conspiranoid
johny conspiranoid
Feb 24, 2020 8:57 AM
Reply to  George Mc

Surely something like what Adorno says must be going on to explain what we can see.

George Mc
George Mc
Feb 24, 2020 8:41 PM

Have you read Adorno? Explanation isn’t his strong point.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
Feb 23, 2020 5:24 PM

Just like Britain America’s electorate has yet to realise the full extent to which the elite has declared all-out war on them (via political proxies) albeit without full-blown use of military tactics that define the way they approach geopolitical problems such as relieving Iraq of its oil, or Syria of its rights over the routing gas supplies.

It’s difficult to see how this will change given the cesspit the media has become, allied to high levels of public apathy bound to arise when balanced, or objective news reporting is forbidden – for example look at the MSMs indifference to the torture of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning or the hounding of Ed Snowden, and other whistle blowers.

Nowadays progressive candidates are up against sinister economic forces explaining why the majority of them follow exactly the same path as Anthony Charles Lynton Blair – ie amoral opportunists who have adopted the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ philosophy (while getting stinking rich in the process).

As we know Corbyn tried and failed, not least because he was sabotaged by his own party, as well as being subject to a relentless smear campaign by Britain’s rabid media, while Bernie has already learned the hard way just how low the Democrats have sunk.

So what else does this leave apart from a clear path for corporate fascists to have their way with communities that are complicit with their own misfortune because of if nothing else they still have a chance to pick the least worst options – so far they haven’t.

Richard Le Sarc
Richard Le Sarc
Feb 23, 2020 7:45 PM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

Sanders is a Trojan Horse, I tell ye! He’ll accept being dudded at the Convention, millions will absent themselves from voting, and Trump, the oligarch’s choice, will triumph. All deck-chairs stuff, as we career towards self-destruction by 2050, at the outside.

Charlotte Russe
Charlotte Russe
Feb 23, 2020 2:51 PM

WOW, that was a mindfucking bouillabaisse innudated with a variety of indigestible spices–adding fennel with cumin was a bit of a disaster. Obviously, a full-fledged socialist would never be associated with the Democratic Party just like a right-wing Republican would never be a practicing Marxist–this is just common sense.

Be that as it may, what we do have is three distinct ideologies smothered into a corrupt political duopoly. Centrist Democrats as correctly defined by Steppling as little more than right-wing Republicans but not quite full-blown Nazis. However, they’re still law & order racists, and reflexively Imperialist.

Bernie, considered the most Leftist candidate is for all intents and purposes just an FDR Democrat. Yes, Bernie’s foreign policy is questionable something which should be fleshed out in much greater detail. Perhaps, in a single issue foreign policy debate. In any case, this will never happen. So all we really can do is speculate based on “recent history.” Bernie, did not not vote for Trump’s military budget, he voted against the Iraq war, he tried to pass legislation to end the genocide in Yemen, he says military aid to Israel should be contingent on whether they end the brutality against Palestinians, and Bernie did say the removal of Evo Morales was a coup. Having said all that, Bernie has unfortunately gone along and accepted the Russiagate narrative–this is troubling. Antiwar activists don’t want to exchange “guarding the oil” gangsterism for humanitarian interventionism….. Imperialism is imperialism no matter how you gift wrap it.

And then we have the Republicans and Trump the faux populist orangeman who Steppling flawlessly describes “as a shiny golden walking talking piece of shit, with a mouth that spews forth abusive diarrhoea, a racist Imperialist scapegoating orality — in short fascism.”

So there you have it– the three ideological “exceptional” choices offered within the corrupt political duopoly–two nuanced forms of fascism and one FDR Dem whose platform is based on economic social justice. Yesterday, immediately following the Nevada Caucus Bernie landslide, Van Jones, a popular black moderator on CNN summed it up: “The Democratic establishment better throw marbles or a banana peel under Bernie Sanders step to stop his surge.”

sharon marlowe
sharon marlowe
Feb 23, 2020 3:04 PM

You’re a little softer on Bernie than I am, but your comment was great!

Charlotte Russe
Charlotte Russe
Feb 23, 2020 3:34 PM
Reply to  sharon marlowe

Thank you.

sharon marlowe
sharon marlowe
Feb 23, 2020 2:37 PM

Dear OffGuardian,

I accidentally upvoted my comment, can you erase it please? It was an error, thanks:)

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Feb 23, 2020 7:43 PM
Reply to  sharon marlowe

You can always cancel out an upvote by giving it a downvote.

sharon marlowe
sharon marlowe
Feb 24, 2020 2:14 AM
Reply to  Seamus Padraig

No, I thought it was a quickie-solve super-minor problem. I just hate when people upvote themselves. But I’ll just upvote you, Seamus. That’ll feel better:)

Greg Bacon
Greg Bacon
Feb 23, 2020 1:17 PM

“The entrance of Michael Bloomberg into the race for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the presidency…”

Let me correct that erroneous sentence: “The entrance of Michael Bloomberg into the farce for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the VP of North American affairs…”

Good Americans will vote for Trump, so he can keep doing wonderful things for Israel and give anudda’ tax break to those overwhelmed billionaires and multi-millionaires…and bomb Iran, since Americans can’t get enough of wars against nations to small to fight back.

Stephen Morrell
Stephen Morrell
Feb 23, 2020 12:46 PM

There’s this persistent myth that Trump is some kind of ‘fascist’, and his ‘base’ of ‘deplorables’ essentially is the frenzied lumpenproletariat which typically forms the shock troops of fascist movements. Except Trump, a dangerous racist, misogynist and demagogic US chauvinist to be sure, is not a fascist; his real ‘base’ is the ruling class of billionaires and the Republican party, despite his parvenu status; and while his rightwing populism has attracted a popular following of the victims of decaying US capitalism, he also attracted followers tired of the bloated US world police bleeding the country white with its imperial adventures and a taxpayer-funded military industrial complex living high on the hog and accelerating the decline of government services and the ruin of infrastructure and its people. Trump’s followers aren’t all racists, let alone ‘fascists’.

Nor does Trump have a non-state paramilitary organisation at his command, as any fascist leader would. The hallmark of a fascist movement is a paramilitary organisation with explicit aims of genocide and the destruction of the left and organised labour. Such movements are unleashed during a social crisis, and the US hasn’t reached that stage yet. And Trump didn’t come to power through a fascist coup at the head of a paramilitary movement. He was elected like normal.

Trump’s rallies aren’t those of Nuremberg (or Charlottesville) either — they’re more like the Tea Party rallies. While his US chauvinist demagogy certainly emboldens fascists, Trump whips up his followers not to commit genocide but to blame immigrants and other countries like China or Mexico for the US’s social and economic woes. He gains popular support to use typical Democrat, not Republican, protectionist measures in the vain hope of restoring US industry. His rallies are for his re-election, not for racial ‘cleansing’. And none of this is beyond the realm of normal mainstream US politics.

Trump certainly has Bonapartist impulses and appetites; he apes Mussolini’s mannerisms; he has a commandist, entitled mentality so typical of the capitalist class; but he also has the psychology and rap of a cult leader able to tap into the felt needs of his followers. This is what really unnerves liberals (eg, like Chris Hedges), who really do think he’s the leader of ‘deplorables’, a ‘fascist’.

But what unnerves the ruling class even more, as distinct from liberals, is that Trump shows the American class rule in all its unvarnished horror. He mouths ruling class motives that normally would never leave the hushed confines of the Knickerbocker Club. While George Carlin may have said the rulers are in a club that we’re not in, to an extent Trump the parvenu isn’t in their ‘club’ either. He gives them all they want, but it’s not merely his ‘style’. It’s his complete inability to sugar coat the bitter pill meant for the rest of us that fundamentally undermines their ‘legitimacy’ and their innate sense of entitlement. What’s to stop the pitchforks if the leader of the ‘free’ world keeps blurting out some home truths of ruling class rapacity that for decades, centuries, have been carefully crafted and massaged into their opposite?

As with all populists, Trump’s simplistic ‘solutions’, which always require scapegoats, inevitably will fail. And as the social crisis continues to deepen, as the imperium continues its decay, dangerously lashing out in all directions, the real Bonapartists will come out of the woodwork and, when needed, so too will the fascists. And the real fascists must be crushed before they grow too powerful.

Francis Lee
Francis Lee
Feb 23, 2020 1:47 PM

”There’s this persistent myth that Trump is some kind of ‘fascist’, and his ‘base’ of ‘deplorables’ essentially is the frenzied lumpenproletariat which typically forms the shock troops of fascist movements.”

Agreed. For most of the time in 1930s Germany Hitler had to balance between the SA radicals under the command of Ernst Roehm, and the industrialists of the Ruhr and, in addition, the aristocratic Junker landowning classes in the East. The Junkers were a dominant force in the civil service army and navy and were not receptive to the semi-socialist Nazi ideals of the Storm Troopers. When Hitler had built up his own Praetorian Guard of the SS he was in a position to dispense with the SA and its leadership, most of whom were murdered on the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934. He had been appointed Chancellor in 1933 and had patiently waited until the moment when he could strike at the National Socialist revolutionaries.

This is nothing like the political situation in the US. As you say Trump’s social-political base is not the reactionary lumpenproletariat completely unorganized like Marx’s view of the French peasantry the ‘sack of potatoes’ – no his real base is the Republican billionaire class, along with the zionist lobby the MIC and the NSA and MSM who are all signing from the same hymnsheet. The American counter-revolution happened took place many years ago and it has become immovable, I would say since the Kennedys.

Richard Le Sarc
Richard Le Sarc
Feb 23, 2020 7:51 PM
Reply to  Francis Lee

Oligarchic rule in the USA has been adamantine since 1789. As John Jay, the first Chief Justice used, allegedly, to observe-‘Those people who own this country are going to run this country’.

Feb 23, 2020 1:48 PM

The real fascists are already too powerful. They have non-governmental armies of contractors and proxy armies of terrorists.

The hallmark of a fascist movement is a paramilitary organisation with explicit aims of genocide and the destruction of the left and organised labour. Such movements are unleashed during a social crisis, and the US hasn’t reached that stage yet.

The US might not have, but that is what they’re currently exporting to other countries along with secret prisons, concentration camps and execution squads.
The fact that Trump is unable to do anything about it….no one is able to do anything about it, means the coup has been successful.

Richard Le Sarc
Richard Le Sarc
Feb 23, 2020 7:52 PM
Reply to  lundiel

Privatised fascism-the Holy Market’s apotheosis.

Feb 23, 2020 11:03 PM
Reply to  lundiel

Blackwater, militias, blanket surveillance and snooping, extra judicial executions, torture, rigid censorship and accompanying enabling legislation are already in place. It would only take the flick of a switch or a phone call to start filling up the FEMA camps. And some Democrat functionary is just as likely to set the ball rolling as Trump.

Feb 23, 2020 8:31 PM

I agree. Trump considers himself to be and to a degree acts like a Jacksonian Democrat. To that extent a populist. Personally I always thought that what is called the “left’s” frantic efforts to label him as Hitler were absurd.

George Mc
George Mc
Feb 23, 2020 9:13 AM

It says volumes for the current state of capitalism that even a feeble straw man pseudo-socialist like Sanders has little chance of actually becoming president. In the unlikely event that he does, the media would go into meltdown with screaming headlines about America becoming a communist state!

George Mc
George Mc
Feb 23, 2020 8:34 AM

What strikes me is how much of this article is already applicable to those in the UK where e.g. political developments in France are regularly pushed out of the way for royal “news” and Boris Johnson is seen as some kind of accessible “regular guy”.

Feb 23, 2020 7:49 AM

Michael Parenti made much of the same claims as the author did in this essay. But he did that before 2016, and in (as usual for Parenti) a funny way.

In the same interview Parenti explains that we should not stare ourselves blind on politicians, but instead should aim for alternative programs that, although they may seem unreachable, are much more interesting to think of than reasons why a politician will or will not cop out (they all cop)

Here is that interview: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OLNQEHbusSA

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Feb 23, 2020 7:34 AM

I, too, hope you’re proved wrong, Mr Steppling.

Feb 23, 2020 7:22 AM

Too much psychobabble. The fact is that many weren’t voting for Trump but against Clinton just as they voted against Mittens in the previous election. Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment was much like Romney’s “47%”. One doesn’t have to be psychoanalyst or even a mathematician to see that both of them just insulted close to 50% of their potential voters.

Another factor that despite the oversampled polls showing Clinton clearly in the lead was one poll that said like the fireworks she planned fire off after her coronation that she was going to lose with an exclamation point and that was over 50% of the public polled thought she should have indicted under the Espionage Act for her “gross negligence” what mealy mouth Comey euphemistically called “extremely careless” handling of classified materials as SOS. The above and this was not exactly a winning combination.

Another factor was she wanted the presidency so badly. So badly that she was willing to rig the primary. Not only did she with the help of DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz rig the primary but so audaciously with the help of her friends in the media that many voters voted against her for that reason alone.

In other words she would have LOST even if she was running against Bozo the Clown.

Another thing is that Clinton doesn’t really have a chance of being selected as a candidate since selecting candidates at conventions went out with tail fins on Buicks. The only chance she has is if she is picked as a running mate and the President if elected dies usually mysteriously especially when dealing with the Clintons this is always a possibility. In which case the most likely candidate for Clinton would be Bernie who’s already had one heart attack. Nobody would ask too many questions if he suddenly had another one while in office this time fatal maybe with the help of some Amal Nitrate surreptitiously supplied by his VP waiting in the wings to invoke the 25th.

Trump is just another Obama. Don’t let the color fool you. Ruder and Cruder maybe but like silver tongued Obama he lured his audience with talk of ending endless wars and getting back to domestic policy. In fact Trump is so much like Obama in many ways that it’s scary. That’s probably why they hate each other so much. No love lost there. Another thing is that Trump’s role model is not the over glorified Abraham Lincoln the standard bearer of the Grand ol’ Party but Andrew Jackson!

Yes the con is not on the Democrats but the Republicans who managed to get a Jacksonian Democrat elected to office. Go figure.

Like Jackson dictatorially ignored the Supreme Court in regard to the Cherokee. Trump totally ignores the Supremes regarding his Muslim ban. Both men were and are inveterate racists and white supremacists like Obama who was second only to Bill Clinton in sending more Black men to prison than any other President. As many of my Afro-American friends would say. “First Black President, my ass!”

Anyway Trump is no better than any other President who “graced” the office which is why I’m ignoring the “two” party system which is really only one and voting for Mark Charles:


John Steppling
John Steppling
Feb 26, 2020 1:11 PM
Reply to  Gall

im voting …if i bother… for charles.

sharon marlowe
sharon marlowe
Feb 23, 2020 4:27 AM

I think Bernie Sanders will win the Presidency. I also think Sanders will continue as the new face of imperialism. Trump has of course been horrible for many countries around the world, and Sanders will be just as bad. But America is a christian country, and it will embrace the heaven/hell analogy–Americans will vote for healthcare and debt relief for themselves, while ignoring the damned in America’s endless wars.

Feb 23, 2020 11:07 PM
Reply to  sharon marlowe

Boynie will get screwed on 3rd March. You can put money on it.

Feb 23, 2020 4:16 AM

Who ever is the mast head of the US of A is going to be irrelevant soon as the US $ and stock market are up for a nose dive due to endless QE.

Feb 23, 2020 4:50 PM
Reply to  Antonym

A common tactic: a competitor projects a losing impression/attitude as to let their opponent feel winning is guaranteed without extra effort. Only for the opponent to face defeat for the lack of making that extra effort. This tactic usually works well.

Boycott everything American!