Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I came back from my trip to Gettysburg yesterday pondering the future of the country and I find little solace in history right now. It seems to me that no-matter what the outcome, whether Donald Trump loses, or by some chance wins, that the country will have been changed for the worse and that no-matter the outcome that the results of this election will continue to divide the country. The seething hatred which has been building for years through conservative talk radio, political preachers, and a Republican Party so devoid of ideas that it has to cow-tow to the raging racists of the Alt Right, Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and paranoid preachers of doom to support Donald Trump is a genie that won’t go back into poisonous bottle from which it came without a fight.
If Trump wins we will have elected an authoritarian with no respect for any virtue other than might and money make right. We will have elected a man who has promised during his campaign to crush the very liberties enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; a man who has promised to jail, prosecute, or sue political opponents and critics; a man who has promised to rule through race and religion not the principle that “all men are created equal.”
Trump has brought out the worst in many Americans and he cultivates hatred and fear. He exemplifies what the late Richard Hofstadter called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Trump demonstrates a profound sense of ignorance, rabid paranoia, wrapped in narcissism, and bathed in privileged self-pity never seen in a major party nominee for President in this country. Bit his followers don’t seem to mind.
But then he has tapped into and attracted people who have been immersed in the paranoia of the religious right and the devotees of conservative talk-radio, Fox News, and the histrionic bevy conservative media websites and organizations, especially the Drudge Report, Breitbart News, and World Net Daily. These media organs have long prepared and sowed both anger and hatred toward any and all political opponents which made Trump’s rise a given. This is a group of people who have no sense of the Constitution or the merits of Republican government and democracy. What they want they want now, and they prefer an authoritarian leader who will trample the institutions of government that Americans have preserved for 241 years and endured a bloody civil war in order to protect.
Hofstadter, a historian who died far to0 young wrote:
“All this is the more maddening, as Edward Shils has pointed out, in a populistic culture which has always set a premium on government by the common man and through the common judgement and which believes deeply in the sacred character of publicity. Here the politician expresses what a large part of the public feels. The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as the pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser. There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies. Filled with obscure and ill-directed grievances and frustrations, with elaborate hallucinations about secrets and conspiracies, groups of malcontents have found scapegoats at various times in Masons or abolitionists, Catholics, Mormons, or Jews, Negroes, or immigrants, the liquor interests or the international bankers. In the succession of scapegoats chosen by the followers of this tradition of Know-Nothingism, the intelligentsia have at last in our time found a place.”
As far as their leader, Trump himself, Hofstadter writing over fifty years ago wrote:
“As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated–if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.”
The style is that of despots worldwide, Trump’s rhetorical devices are much like those of Adolf Hitler. The message of Trump, in his own words is “I alone can fix it.”
Tuesday, November 8th will be a watershed election, but as I said at the beginning of the article, no-matter what happens with Donald Trump, is that the paranoia and hatred that he has brought into mainstream will not go away quietly, and most likely will get worse, for in victory he and his supporters will take revenge on their opponents using the police power of the government that many so despise; while if he loses, the most frustrated and deluded of his supporters may turn to violence.
Neither is good for our nation, and I would very much like to be proven wrong in my assessment; but that being said and we must be vigilant if our Republic is to survive.