Any reasonable person who has not been sleepwalking through the endless political chaos churned up by the Trump administration is not only struck by the dysfunction of this most undemocratic regime, but also sickened and astonished in equal measure by its cruelty, cynicism and hypocrisy. Its Republican enablers in Congress have so lowered the bar on moral, ethical and responsible conduct in their defense of this administration that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez was recently moved to declare that the party of Lincoln is dead. This certainly seems to be the case, but the deeper, more urgent issue is the impending death of democracy itself.
The Republican Party is now the party of a billionaire real estate and reality TV star, the frontman for an American oligarchy that is rapidly consolidating its power. The extreme right wing of the GOP is driving this consolidation, and more than willing to force the nation down the path toward dictatorship, if need be, a forced march that may extinguish the last flicker of democracy. The political chaos that we are witnessing is a direct result of this ongoing process, with key members of the professional political class, particularly within the Justice and State departments, resisting the restructuring of society along fully oligarchic lines.
Up until the election of Donald Trump and the radical shift of the Republican Party, something of a civil oligarchy had been in place. This is where the needs of average citizens are met only if the powers that be, the corporate elite and their wealthy donors, do not contest or override proposed legislation in the interests of such citizens. In other words, if it is deemed that the interests of corporations and the wealthy overlap those of the working and middle classes, then the policy, whatever it is, is not opposed. It seems that the niceties of an “enlightened oligarchy” are being overturned for the sake of a stronger competitive stance among other oligarchies, principally China, but perhaps more significantly, Russia. However, the relationship between the Trump administration and Putin’s Russia seems marked by something like “competitive cooperation” (provided that each leader honors the other’s spheres of interest). This odd-couple relationship raises some serious questions concerning Mr. Trump’s financial dealings in Russia and his unexpected victory in November 2016.
That the Trump administration and its enablers in Congress have attempted to obstruct the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling from day one is in keeping with a reforming, hopefully more competitive U.S. oligarchy. The problem of Russian interference in our electoral process in and of itself undermines what little democracy remains in the United States. Those who cynically propose to “Make America Great Again!” seem unconcerned with or downplay this verified meddling by the Russians because democracy has never played well in the corporate suites of CEOs. All this seems to point to a power struggle in the highest echelons of American capital. The American people are not being fully informed, let alone consulted as to what this might mean for their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren.
The transformation of the United States into a fully functioning oligarchy (complete with military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue) hangs in the balance. What democracy could be found under its civil administration has to some extent put the brakes on the situation and, interestingly enough, raised the hopes of those who would rekindle democracy in both political and economic senses of the term. It may be that the election of Donald Trump and the rabid turn taken by the Republican Party are paradoxically both the best and the worst things that could happen to our political system. On the one hand, many of us have been alerted to the ugly reality of oligarchy in our country and are prepared to defend the Constitution and renew democracy as fully as possible. On the other hand, even if Trump’s putsch succeeds, the misery that it inflicts upon the poor and the working and middle classes will go a long way toward initiating fundamental social, political and economic change. Complacency and apathy have their limits even where bread and circuses is concerned.
Our system of government is under enormous strain just now. All the fruits of our however compromised democracy are falling by the wayside. And yet, a fragile spark remains, perhaps held in Robert Mueller’s hands, a spark of justice that may reset our course.
The author is a resident of Wakefield.