“I love to have enemies. I fight my enemies. I like beating my enemies into the ground” – Donald J Trump
(Photo courtesy:Mark Reeves Photography)
The term McCarthyism refers to a philosophy that is demagogic, one which recklessly engages in unsubstantiated accusations that are deeply offensive and personal, attacks which are public and tend to question the patriotism or the very character of political opponents.
The world still shudders to look back in the 1950s and remember Tail-Gunner Joe a.k.a. Wisconsin Republican Senator, Joseph Raymond “Joe” McCarthy (1908-1957), the rabidly anti-communist who created and expanded lists of supposed traitors and communists whom he claimed to have uncovered, insinuating that anyone who opposed him might be on this list. He never backed up his claims of treachery and commie sympathy with any evidence, since he really didn’t have any.
McCarthy’s victims were usually hounded out of office if they were public servants, their reputations in tatters. In fact, anyone who could vaguely be classified as liberal was fair game. That included media personalities, artists, authors, film and television personalities. Gradually he expanded his black list to include immigrants, LGBTs, dark-skinned aliens and moderate whites who opposed racism and segregation.
By the mid-1950s, Tail Gunner Joe (he was a bomber tail gunner during WW2) had grown so powerful and feared that even Presidents and law enforcement agencies tried not to piss him off. Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt was the American equivalent of the Stalinist purge of the 1920s when millions of Russians were executed for simply not being communist enough, or the Reign of Terror in France of the 1790s, a period of violent unrest that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, marked by mass executions of “enemies of the revolution”.
Senator Joe McCarthy, in his heyday, holding forth in front of the cameras
McCarthy’s harangues against communism made him wildly popular among ordinary Americans who had by then begun to live in the unparalleled prosperity that the Second World War had suddenly created for America. They didn’t want to see that dream end and were prepared to vote in a neo-conservative demagogue who promised to keep out all ‘undesirables’.
Joe McCarthy was simply a bully and it takes just one indiscretion for a bully to come crashing down. And so it was with Tail Gunner Joe. It was when he began feeling all-powerful and started taking on the US Army, claiming that it too was riddled with commies, that the American political establishment sat up and collectively said ‘enough is enough’ and censured and sidelined him completely. The press deserted him, robbing him off his pulpit and suddenly no one wanted to listen to him speak anymore.
Joe McCarthy died in 1957 of alcoholism, at the age of 48, a shrunken and lonely man. In Eisenhower’s own words, McCarthyism finally became ‘McCarthywasm’.
The world has it’s fair share of demagoguery. Demagogues are usually far-right in ideology but they thrive in every social situation, be it one with a restless, disenfranchised populace in an Islamic nation as Abu Bakr A-Baghdadi has accomplished with his group, the dreaded ISIS. Demagoguery can flourish in an impoverished nation like India, with educated but poverty-stricken folks or it could spread in the wealthy west, where rising unemployment due to outsourcing has given rise to an equally restless but dumb, illiterate and unprepared white majority. Of late, the far right is doing exceedingly well in almost all western nations.
India had it’s own demagogue, by the name of Bal Thakeray (1926-2012), a singularly abrasive, ultra-right wing Hindu nationalist politician who founded the Hindu ethnocentric political party, the Shiv Sena. Mumbai’s melting pot of poverty created this monster, whose minions go around even today, beating up girls who visit pubs and burning stores that sell Valentine’s Day cards.
The Shiv Sena vehemently opposes not only the spread of both, Islam and Christianity but even the influx of labor from other impoverished parts of India. On the day Thakeray died of cardiac arrest, Mumbai (and most parts of the Indian state of Maharashtra) ground to a halt. Did he make even the tiniest contribution to society, even to his beloved Mumbai? No. Did he leave behind a legacy? Yes – hate and fear.
Of late, another demagogue has emerged out of the woodwork in the US, a very close parallel to Tail Gunner Joe – Donald John Trump Sr. (b.1946), real estate tycoon, media personality and a Republican ‘front-runner’ in the race for the 2016 US Presidency. Polls among Republican voters show that, if the Republican Primary were to be held today, Donald Trump would stand a very good chance of winning it.
On June 16th , at his flagship property in New York, The Trump Tower, Donald Trump announced to the media his plans to run for president. His speech included this gem…….
The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Did Trump realize that 48% of American eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 49 are Latino and that they are most likely to take serious offense to his statement? Of course he did. These are the Presidential Primaries, stupid. This is when you try to get elected among your own racist ilk. So, Latinos can go f—k themselves, at least for the moment. If you get nominated, you then hire spin doctors to make your image warm and fuzzy, to suit the wider American audience, for the Presidential Elections. Americans are gullible shmucks. They have fallen for that flip-flop for two centuries now. That is the way the great American electoral system works.
Besides, Trump is not really serious about the Presidency. He consciously wants to make it as difficult as possible for himself, to win. To him it is a game, nothing more, a challenge to be overcome. He is like the great Alpiner, George Mallory, who some experts claim, conquered the Everest three decades before Tenzing and Hillary, in 1923, but could never prove it since he died in the attempt (his corpse was recovered in 1999).
When Mallory was asked before the assault on Everest, why he wanted it so bad, why he was so obsessed by it, Mallory is reported to have replied, “Because it is there.” So is the American Presidency, for Donald Trump – because it is there. For the polls to put him as a front-runner speaks volumes about the lackadaisicalness of the American electorate.
Now, if you had asked Trump to show any basis for the statement he made about Mexicans, he would probably have brushed your question aside. This was essentially hate speech at it’s dirtiest and he carried it off with aplomb, amid raucous cheers from ‘supporters’ most of whom were out of work actors, hired for $50 cash by a firm called Extra Mile Casting which was under contract with Trump’s campaign organization. Their job was to fill the seats and applaud in front of the cameras.
As to Trump’s general world view, his Trump Tower tirade was nothing to be surprised about. When the prospect of having a black as President became real, the rabid racist in him began making the media rounds, keynoting his interviews with outlandish and hurtful claims against President Obama and the authenticity of his citizenship and his birth certificate and therefore his eligibility to be President. Till today, Trump has not been able to produce even a shred of evidence supporting those claims.
But then, Donald Trump has never been an ordinary man. The first thing he did after taking over the reins of his father’s real estate company, was to change it’s name from Elizabeth Trump & Son to The Trump Organization. He did not know it then, but round and about the same time, the American Psychiatric Association published the name of a new diagnosable disease, called Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD), the main symptoms of which are an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a need for admiration and a complete lack of empathy.
NPD is associated with psychopaths and sociopaths, who are usually highly intelligent and very often, successful in what they do. They can range from the psychotic homicidal maniac to simply the conceited megalomaniac. I would classify Donald Trump as a socially functioning psychopath who is closer to the latter model. Adolph Hitler was a blazing example of one.
The issue of concern is that as they age, lose their looks and are beset by health problems, socially functioning psychopaths can turn darker and more Machiavellian. They are by then captains of their societies, in a position to be crowned Presidents and world leaders and craft policy. It is then that these men can prove ruinous to the society they live in, capable of bringing it to it’s knees through their warped world view.
The interesting thing is that, during their ascent on the world stage, these men are lionized and idolized by a public that goes into a state of denial, refusing to see beyond the façade. With his near lead in the polls for the Republican Primary, Donald Trump is proving every bit of this premise.
This, my friends, is the long and short of an American Presidential front-runner. Instead of ‘God bless America’, the time has come for ordinary Americans to change their slogan to ‘Oh God, please help America’.