Matt Taibbi has a marvelously revealing article in the latest edition of Rolling Stone magazine in which he argues that the establishment oligarchs, who are railing against Trump mightily, will use the Trump candidacy to further their power and further compromise popular government. “Trump is going to lose this election, then live on as the reason for an emboldened, even less-responsive oligarchy. And you thought this election season couldn't get any worse.”
Taibbi has hit the nail on its head. And he could have pointed out that such a response is nothing new. In the 70’s, after Nixon’s Watergate meltdown, after the debacle in Vietnam, after revelations about the fact that the CIA was not only engaged in all kinds of assassination attempts overseas but was also spying on American citizens in dissent, there was another democratic awakening. One result of this awakening led to the presidency of Jimmy Carter, who was promptly and without much fanfare destroyed politically – with him helping out those who would destroy him.
But take note of how this democratic awakening was described by the established oligarchy, including the media. In its 1976 special edition, Newsweek said that “Americans are sunk in malaise.” The New York Times said that Americans were suffering from “self-doubts uncharacteristic of the nation.” In other words, as Walter Karp put it, “The democratic awakening, in short, is a spiritual disease.” [Liberty Under Siege, p. 7] The people’s response to the debacle in Nam, that is, a refusal “to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy” was labeled “post-Vietnam trauma” and the “Vietnam syndrome,” something we needed to “kick,” as Bush the First put it after Desert Storm. For Henry Kissinger, the American people were in a “Spenglerian gloom” and had lost their “will and resolve.”
Even the popular response to Watergate was referred to as “post-Watergate morality,” as if “popular lawfulness [was] yet another spiritual illness of the people.” Post-Watergate there was, it was claimed, a great “appetite for scandalous implication” and vigilance and mistrust of government officials was deemed a vice. One eminent social scientist feared that “popular participation in public affairs [was] a menace to ‘constitutional democracy.’” The same eminence also concluded that “we [the American people] [were] becoming moralistic and extreme in our politics.”
These “blatherings” led Karp to ask: “How is it that the democratic awakening can be so readily distorted and reviled?” It is time, or will be very soon, to raise this question again when the oligarchic establishment once again asserts itself after November 2016.