Leaders like Lukashenko, Duterte, Erdoğan, Bolsonaro, Orbán, and Trump*; do they indeed represent a global move toward authoritarianism? Or, is there perhaps another explanation? Was there something specific that brought these once titular democracies to such a state of state; a common underlying reason for this lots rise to power? Did the world change, or, were each of these guys simply taking advantage of a local situation, at about the same time?
In common, the Philippines, Turkey, Belarus, Brazil, and Hungary have all long suffered from corruption. In nations suffering from corruption, getting rid of corruption has broad appeal. After five years in office, Duterte still campaigns on getting rid of corruption. Others in this lot of the corrupted also ran against corruption.
In common, these five countries all also had weak governments. Corruption does best in weak governments.
How about the US, is our government corrupt? The Katrina, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Fat Leonard scandals were strong indicators that America has become more corrupt over the past twenty-some years. The corruption in three of these, Katrina, Iraq, and Afghanistan, were in great part attributable to one man, Dick Cheney.
Cheney doesn’t explain how did the U.S. Navy’s Seventh-Fleet become corrupt?
—Was the concerted move toward privatization of government a factor?
—Was this increased level of corruption indicative of a weakened government?
—Was the election of Trump* itself an indication that our government has been weakened?
Probably yes, probably yes, and no doubt about it. Our government has been weakened with full intent, deliberative planning, significant expenditure, and no small amount of effort by a handful of protagonists.
Meet three of the more significant political protagonists in the weakening of our government in the order of their assuming a role:
He said that he believed that the government was the problem. It was given to him, this belief, by those that may or may not have believed it themselves but understood that it was in their best interests. That it was in their best interest that people believe that business could do a better job of running things. It wasn’t that they didn’t know that it was wrong. They knew all about the consequences of weak governments; had always been the first to take advantage of them. It was only natural that they look to Hollywood for their candidate. For two generations and more Hollywood had shown Americans how to act, what to think. He was a natural; their natural. Americans loved Hollywood actors. He had experience in telling Americans what to think.
Soon next came a credentialed sociopathic blowhard who didn’t believe in anything except perhaps his own egomania. But another in a never-ending stream of Machiavellis who would do anything to bring down the house of government; his objectives were to destroy this usurper in the Whitehouse, to neuter the knowledgeable, and to return the power of government to its rightful owners; the rich and their ignorant. Congress has yet to begin to, may never, recover from his wrought. To him, democracy was only tolerable when controlled by those entitled. Plus, the rich, they paid well.
The third, yet another white male politician to catch the wave of southern Dixiecrats becoming Conservative Republican, made his way from County Executive in a small state to the US Senate in a single bound. Then, just as had his political forebearers, he became an obstructionist to anything proposed by the ‘liberals’ and ‘blue states’. Some folks never change. War, tax cuts for the rich, pro-business legislation, and pandering to white conservative ‘values’ were good. Anything to the contrary was bad. Anything proposed by the opposition was bad. Even if it meant turning a blind eye to Russian interference in our elections. Even if it meant congressional gridlock. Democracy works best when your constituents can be led around by their cultures and your supporters throw wads of money at you. A natural in his own state and way. Bipartisanship meant his way.
Each in his own way, at times collaboratively, they set about to weaken the US Government. Each in his own way, and at times collaboratively, these three white males have succeeded. If they had cared to even look about they could have seen that a strong government is essential to a nation’s survival; that weak governments foster corruption, autocracy. In their own lifetimes, all three had witnessed American imperialism take advantage of weak governments. One of them was a former history professor. A strong government was not in their best interest. Their interests and the interests of their patrons came before those of the nation. Better a weak nation. Better to be a banana republic than progressive and strong.
These pathfinders paved the way for the likes of the Tea Party Republicans and the Freedom Caucus; two groups that set out to be, were, masters of tyranny by a minority; that used this tyranny to further weaken our government.
A strong government had denied ‘them’ the right to decide, had acted instead in the interests of the people. A weakened government permitted a return to the good old days, the good old ways. Allowed for regression. Back when, the Republican Party invited white southern Democrats into their tent. Only the guests emerged from the tent. The Republican Party had been swallowed whole by the invitees. In a short while, the southern Democrats became the Republican Party. Gone was the Party of Lincoln, of the Liberal Republican. Now, the Republican Party is a coalition of regressive interests; is in all reality the Regressive Party.
Since when, they were about getting rid of any and all progressive legislation. Back to a time before Old Age Pensions, welfare, Social Security; to a time before OSHA, the EPA, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Women’s Rights, and Gay Rights; and, maybe even to a time before then. This now Regressive Party still had the support of business, and of its lackey, the Chamber of Commerce. They, the pairing, found it in their interest. Cast about for partners enough to remain politically viable; often using culture as bait. More and more, the coalition came to be made up of groups each with their own agenda, each of these groups was willing to use one another for their own purposes. Meanwhile, the more traditional fiscal conservatives desperately looked about for a way to square their ideology with this new coalition.
Be it Federalism, States Rights, Conservatism, or Grover’s bathtub analogy, by any name or descriptor, any rhetoric; it is about regression with a purpose, regression that was in at least one of the group’s interest. Regressivism in and of itself is completely acceptable. Individuals and couples return to the land and farm with a team of horses, to another place and time. Notable religious sects are premised on a time past. These are individual choices. The now Regressive Party would, by hook or by crook, take the nation backward; take us with them.
Nothing new. Since the 1930s, we Americans had seen a concerted effort by certain groups to take the nation back to a time past. Often, this was an effort to undo popular legislation they considered to be contrary to their interest. States Rights was always a euphemism for white supremacy. Conservatism was always pro wealth and pro status quo. Both were always regressive. Grover with his bathtub analogy was there to lend the conservatives and the states rights folks a rhetorical hand with this weakening of the government. The sophistry of Federalists’ Society, too, was intended to lend a hand in this weakening of the government.
Since the 1950s, especially since 1965, we have seen various groups coalesce under the aegis of the Republican Party to form the now Regressive Party. The idea for the weakening of the central government as a way of attaining their regressive objectives arose from this coalescing. A weakened central government made it more likely that each of them could get their way. Their ability to control government depended on it being weak. Examples: If they could jigger the vote, they could achieve and hold congress, and win the presidency. If they could control the Senate, they could control the Judiciary.
*the Recently Disposed one