Monday, May 23, 2016

Kagan On Trump



Robert Kagan has been a consistent neo-conservative voice for the last twenty-five years. From his desk at the Brookings Institution, he has advocated for a tougher, more militaristic American foreign policy. Successive Republican administrations have adopted his suggestions. That is why his take on Donald Trump is so interesting. In a recent column, "This Is How Fascism Comes To America," he writes:

The entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

Neo-conservatives fear government. But Trump is what the American Founding Fathers feared most -- rule of the mob:

But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.

And when a nation chooses one man who will run roughshod over its system of government, the result is fascism:

This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Fuhrer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how. Today, there is Putinism, which also has nothing to do with belief or policy but is about the tough man who singlehandedly defends his people against all threats, foreign and domestic.

Kagan warns his readers that:

Once in power, Trump will owe politicians and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election imagine the power he would wield: at his command would be the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today? Does vast power uncorrupt?

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Kagan used to be a Republican. He now claims that he is an Independent.

Image: Brookings.edu

10 comments:

Lorne said...

When I read Kagan's article, Owen, the thought that occurred to me was that the path toward fascism was facilitated by the typical short-term thinking of capitalism. When the Soviet Union fell, the triumphalism of a gloating capitalism was much in evidence. It was at that point that a competing political and economic system had been 'vanquished,' thereby giving the victors the encouragement to make a bold play only for their immediate profits, leaving the workers with only a few scraps. With their pursuit of short-term profit, their export of good-paying jobs to Third World nations, the unbridled capitalists created a huge swath of disaffected and disenfranchised people, thereby paving the way for a demagogue like Trump to resonate with their victims.

Owen Gray said...

Capitalists these days are their own worst enemies, Lorne -- like the French aristocracy of 250 years ago.

Steve said...

Kagan loves Hillary Clinton. I put Trump in that you got to break eggs to make an omelet bowel. Hillary Clinton is perhaps the worst liberal candidate since Iggy.

Owen Gray said...

Recent polls suggest that both Trump and Clinton are the least popular candidates in a long time, Steve. That bit of news does not bode well.

The Mound of Sound said...


How does Trump dissolve Congress to rule by fiat as Hitler and Mussolini did? Every key player in the US government, including the military and the national security apparatus, has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, something that Americans hold in genuine reverence. I just cannot see that many powerful people who, above all, consider themselves patriots allowing Trump to make that sort of move. I've had my doubts that Trump would survive long if he was elected. Let's hope he chooses a decent running mate.

Owen Gray said...

I understand that Sarah Palin has volunteered for the job, Mound.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Kagan talks as if the US is still a democracy. Their military that he continually recommends should expand, has been bringing fascism to the world for more then 70 yrs.
Donald Trump doesn't have to bring Fascism to America, it's already there, or at the very least the seeds of it.Donald Trump is a crude racist, who is policy vacant and shouldn't be anywhere near the Oval Office. As to his followers, Kagan needs to look to his own Neoconservative, Neoliberal ideas that are reponsible for excluding them, economically and politically. Having Ted Cruz as president would also be a disaster. Why does Kagan not think that Americans should be alarmed at a group of fundamentalist evangelicals getting Cruz into office?

What a laugh. American Imperialism dominating and plundering the world, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. The violent bully and demagogue, who is the number 1 threat to the world and Kagan is worried that the new demagogue on the block, Donald Trump will bring harm to the US, a country whose democracy has already been destroyed. The US governments whether Democratic or Republican have not been governing , something the citizens vote them in to do, for years now. They are both criminal cabals lying, conning and manipulating the American people, while executing endless wars on the rest of the world and plundering the world and the US economy. Donald Trump, the true face of the American right.

Owen Gray said...

What's sad, Pam, is that the majority of Americans don't understand what has happened. They just wave the flag and assume they are a light on the hill.

The Mound of Sound said...


It also strikes me, Owen, that any power grab by Trump, even if he did somehow manage to get past Congress and the supreme court, would threaten some very powerful vested interests at the fringes of power but within the private sector (yes, the line between them is increasingly vague).

Owen Gray said...

I suspect, Mound, that if Trump is elected president, there will be institutional chaos. And I suspect that he will demand "special" powers to deal with the emergency. Then all bets will be off.