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Or maybe not.
We may not have been here before as many of us are too young, way too young actually, like me, to have experienced this in person. But it’s gone around before nonetheless, mais certainment.
Society has experienced this, domestically and internationally, and multiple times; as the song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, from 1970 goes:
“We have all been here before…”
And we have.
This is not the first time our politics, indeed, our entire society, has been taken over by a man who feels he is inviolate and that the forces who could/would resist him do not coalesce around a unified defense to stop him. It’s not the first time this has gone down like that at all. It’s all been done before. Our “stable genius” of a President did not invent his route to power and control, not one bit. Trumpie is not unique here, but a follower of precedent and form. Trumpie has merely maximized what worked before for another demagogue, applied those old precepts well, and so he rules today with impunity.
Way back, as Trumpie first rose to power, I equated his rise with the machinations of Richard Nixon…
… and Nixons’ division of America into the:
“Silent Majority” …
… and everyone else.
Nixon was right on the money then, as after the turmoil of the Kennedy/Johnson years, “Guns and Butter”, the birth of the Women’s Lib Movement, and all of the ancillary, adjunct movements along with it (and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964), that Nixonian Silent Majority wanted some peace.
The “silent majority” of yore never got any “peace” though, as there hasn’t been a moments “peace” anywhere in America as the Culture Wars…
… have raged fiercely ever since. That supposed “silent majority” wants “peace” still. But the reality of today is that the “silent majority” of yore is no longer “silent”, nor a “majority” any longer; and there’s the rub. The “majority” of today is “loud”, and Democratic. But that “loud majority” is fractured, fragmented, and 100% unable to assert its will.
The vocal, smear based El Trumpo, and his small state, small population, elected Republican minions, are in complete control over the much larger, LOUD, but disenfranchised, Democratic majority population.
But this isn’t about the now, or the inability of the majority players to assert their will at present. This is about how we got here.
El Trumpo didn’t invent his winning playbook, he just applied the playbook as it was written. Trumpie took what was already there and did it again; and perhaps better. And that playbook didn’t come from “Tricky Dickie” like I first opined years ago, either. I’ve since realized that Dickie had adapted that playbook for his own needs too. The seeds for this perverted political moment in time, indeed the entire playbook for what went down to get El Trumpo elected, and allows him to rule today, came about years earlier than Dickie.
No one stopped McCarthy either.
Just like Trump, McCarthy, the previously obscure junior senator from the state of Wisconsin, came to fame by creating and honing fear, ridicule, and personal smear attacks into a precise arsenal. McCarthy used that arsenal to enhance his publicity and personal acclaim; publicity and personal acclaim that McCarthy then used to amass notoriety and, to a degree, POWER.
From the beginning McCarthy used religion as a base.
McCarthy used the Catholics as his core base of support. It was to the advantage of some powerful Catholic families, with political dreams of their own, think the Kennedy’s, father Joe Kennedy in particular …
… to foster McCarthy and his horrific campaigns against the many helpless individuals he attacked. Kennedy’s son, Robert, yes liberal icon RFK, was a counsel on McCarthy’s staff until he disagreed with the lead counsel Roy Cohn. Even after Robert left McCarthy’s employ, father Joseph was a vocal, and loyal, McCarthy supporter all through McCarthy’s career, and John, JFK, the future president himself, never criticized McCarthy at any time they were in the Senate together.
Kennedy is purported to have said when queried:
"Hell, half my voters in Massachusetts look on McCarthy as a hero."
McCarthy rose to power utilizing fear, and one personal smear attack after another. For years McCarthy’s tactics of (from Wikipedia):
“… demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character, or patriotism, of political opponents…”
… went on unabated and unchallenged.
No one could/would stop him. President Truman couldn’t/didn’t stop him in the early 1950’s, and General Eisenhower did nothing but seek his support as he ran for President in 1952.
Eisenhower’s advisors felt he would lose Wisconsin if he alienated McCarthy’s local adherents. McCarthy continued to flower through most of the first two years of the Eisenhower administration.
The Trump playbook was written then, from 1947 to 1954 as McCarthy rose to power and held court over Washington. Trump followed that same playbook, that same road to power, and religiously, only he did/does it better; after all El Trumpo is President, and not a lowly Senator. Trumpie rules over-ALL, and no one can stop him today.
Trumpie is the master of McCarthys’ innuendo, and:
“… demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations…
… as well as public attacks on the character, or patriotism, of political opponents…”
Only Trump does it better.
No one can dispute that El Trumpo is a master of the “smear” campaign; a master. And no one can dispute that it’s a religious base that anchors him to power throughout the Midwest and South; the Evangelicals.
And what can anyone say about the capitulation of the Republican party to his obscene reign of terror; no current Republican politician will disagree with him on any level out of fear of his wrath. All is now under his complete control; Trumpie reigns over all, supreme.
The similarities between McCarthy’s play book and Trumps’ are abundant.
We know how El Trumpo got here, and how he maintains his power. It’s in the history books now, all is known about him, and about his mentor McCarthy. What we don’t know is how Trumpie will fall (if we’re lucky), when it will occur, or even “if”. But we do know how McCarthy fell. That story is available to all. It began slowly as an opposition formed. That opposition became pointed in 1952 with the election of the first Republican president in 20 years, Eisenhower. IKE’s, election, and his disdain for McCarthy…
… was known by then (sayeth Wikipedia):
“On several occasions Eisenhower is reported to have said of McCarthy that he did not want to:
‘get down in the gutter with that guy.’"
That he would never confront McCarthy directly as:
“… nothing would please him [McCarthy] more than to get the publicity that would be generated by a public repudiation by the President.
(How like the opposition of today is that?)
Over time, incident by incident, slowly, the perception of the value of McCarthy’s actions in the eyes of the many, in the then majority, changed. There was no one event that did Joe in, but a series of circumstances, committee hearings in the Senate, and outside events, helped. At one Senate hearing a lawyer defending an individual from a vile McCarthy smear campaign said:
"Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"
“… No sense of decency?"
At another Senate hearing Stuart Symington, Democratic Senator from Missouri confronted McCarthy with:
"Senator, the American people have had a look at you now for six weeks; you're not fooling anyone…"
At around the same time, the senior journalist of the day, Edward R. Murrow, ran an installment of his TV show “See It Now” consisting mostly of McCarthy speech video clips.
In those clips McCarthy berated his chosen foes in his usual sleazy and unsubstantiated style. Murrow closed the show with a statement not on McCarthy, but on the need for the “Public” to be informed as it was the “Public” that was responsible for the man’s actions. Murrow quoted Shakespeare, Julius Cesar to be exact, in closing. As Cassius spake in the play:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Maybe the stars aligned against Joe then as his approval rating with the public, via Gallup, dropped from 54% to 34%, and Joe’s disapproval rating went from 29% to 45%. It was apparent that the blush was off his rose, and that Joe who previously could do wrong, was now out of favor and soon to be out of power. Some three short years later Joe was to die in relative obscurity, still a Senator, but a Senator who was censured by his colleagues and of no importance any longer…
… (Still another similarity to El Trumpo, no?) …
That vote of censure was on December 2, 1954. McCarthy was censured by a vote of 67 of his peers, with every Democrat in the Senate but one (JFK), voting in favor.
A triple play came to bear against McCarthy. A triple play instituted by the media, some political heavy hitters, and some legal beavers who were appalled by the man and his behavior. Finally, the Public reacted, they turned on McCarthy. Of course the big, very heavy, hitter, the current president, was quietly behind that triple play. That can’t happen today. Shit, today we have to rely on much less, as the media is split on the circumstance, as is the legal profession, and El Trumpo is the president. It’s only a lonely single senator in the Republican party bucking his control.
Today we have a Senator leading the “moral” political charge, with two smaller news networks, MSNBC and CNN, doing the job of the press. Where the nation previously, 66 years ago, had the moral leadership of an IKE, a war hero, and then President, and the father of TV journalism doing the same job.
Joe’s playbook worked, and for years, and years. El Trumpo has refined that playbook brilliantly.
But maybe, just maybe, the stars will align again (the Democrats will unite), and the end of the story will be the same.