A little history
In 1991 the Soviet Union broke up. Historians are to this day baffled by that cataclysm, which some consider to have been the most significant political event in the twentieth century. The experts declare that the U.S. was not responsible. Yet—in both East and West—a pervasive suspicion exists that foreign subterfuge was at least complicit. Leaving that interesting angle aside, let’s note an aspect of Russian society that preceded the Soviet breakup. As we read in one article:
To Gorbachev’s prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, the “moral state of the society” in 1985 was its “most terrifying” feature:
[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this — from top to bottom and from bottom to top.
Another member of Gorbachev’s very small original coterie of liberalizers, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, was just as pained by ubiquitous lawlessness and corruption. He recalls telling Gorbachev in the winter of 1984-1985: “Everything is rotten. It has to be changed.”
The above excerpt has to do with institutional government corruption on multiple levels. That, I suggest, is what ultimately weakened the USSR and permitted democratic forces—from within and without—to break apart the Soviet Union. We shall see (below) that something similar has taken place in the U.S.A. where, in 2016, American government agencies were both unable and unwilling to carry out their legitimate constitutional duties.In 1991, Vladimir Putin was a Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB. He eventually became Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the primary intelligence and security organization of the Russian Federation and successor of the KGB. If Putin is anything, he is an intelligence wonk—a man keenly aware of foreign influences, and of the converse: how to influence foreign governments. Furthermore, Putin witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet empire first-hand. In 1989, beginning in Poland, the western-backed Solidarity movement bargained with the Communist government for freer elections and enjoyed great success. This, in turn, sparked peaceful revolutions across Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall fell in November. According to his official biography, Putin burned KGB files to prevent demonstrators from obtaining them. That same month, the “velvet revolution” in Czechoslovakia overthrew that country’s Communist government. Finally, in December, a firing squad executed Romania’s Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu, and his wife. In short, Putin witnessed the Eastern European alliances “crumble like a dry saltine cracker in just a few months”—as Mikhail Gorbachev put it.
2016: Payback time?
All the intelligence agencies, and “99 out of 100 senators”—in the words of Sen. Lindsay Graham—are convinced that Russia played a decisive role in tilting this election against Clinton and for Donald Trump. However, foreign intervention alone would not have succeeded. Domestic cooperation was necessary—as we see most graphically in Donald Trump’s asking Vladimir Putin if he had any of those “30,000 emails” of Hillary Clinton. More broadly, however, domestic cooperation with Russian machinations (whether knowingly or not) manifested simply as multiple failures of the U.S. government to do its job. In the 2016 election, then, foreign intervention and pervasive domestic incompetence (and perhaps corruption) colluded to warp the outcome, one whose actual vote count is still (and will probably ever be) unknown. Time, of course, is now running out on getting that ‘true’ vote count. Hope is running out that the U.S. government will intervene to do the right thing. Hence, my message sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the U.S. Department of Justice this morning, January 2, 2017:
The USA is already coming apart because the People lack trust in this election. We need transparency–what Jill Stein was trying to get. We need trust that the vote was accurate, in the face of so many red flags that it wasn’t: exit polling that didn’t match final vote tallies, undervotes for president in Detroit, machines not working in minority precincts, and (the clincher) the GOP fighting tooth and nail to PREVENT transparency, to prevent the Green Party and the People from investigating and accurately counting the vote. And now, the DOJ is complicit in that. So is the entire Obama administration. They are very afraid, one presumes, that they’ll find that the machines were indeed hacked–perhaps with domestic accomplices. That would probably spark social mayhem—which, of course, the government wishes to avoid.
But the country is coming apart now anyway… Already Jerry Brown is saying California will not abide by the incoming administration’s policies. In some ways, the country is already breaking up. If so, the DOJ will shoulder part of the blame.There are now less than three weeks for the DOJ to act. I’m very disappointed and won’t hold my breath. But I and others will not cease to speak the truth until all realize that the Trump administration is illegitimate. Hillary really won.
It’s been building for a long time. Ideologically, the two coasts think one way, while the South and Flyover Country think another. Red and blue—different values. The insistence on abiding by law (the Constitution) vs. the view that red values outrank the law itself. And so, the GOP states have managed (again) to game the American system—this time with major help from Russia. Then, too, Obama and co. played nicey-nicey with the bank robber who stole the loot… Very bad. Very un-American. There will now be irreversible and grave consequences. But first, a question: What in the dickens just happened?
This wasn’t normal
This election has presented us with so many enigmas: a president elect with no governmental experience; one thought to be losing until the very last minute (even exit polls indicated this)—yet who pulled off a miraculous upset; who called on our arch-enemy Russia for help—and got it; who insulted American icons like John McCain, a gold-star family, and a sitting federal judge with impunity; who bragged about grabbing women by the p**ssy; who got the FBI (“Trumpland” according to insiders) to break all convention and intervene on his behalf in the closing days of the campaign; who defied (and still defies) the CIA-NSA intelligence of Russian involvement; who was the teflon candidate par excellence (nothing stuck to the Donald, while the emails sure stuck to Clinton); who had the uncanny knack for garnering massive free media time (especially on CNN)…And perhaps most enigmatic of all: hand-verification of the votes, and forensic analysis of machines in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania was stoutly prevented by a wall of GOP and Democrat bureaucrats. The Governor of Pennsylvania—ground zero for deciding this election—is a Democrat. He allied with the GOP in obstructing a hand-recount in minority wards. The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes—also a Democrat—said there was “no evidence of any sort of cyberattacks or irregularities in the election.” Mind you, he said this about a Pennsylvania election system that has been called a “national disgrace” by experts: “Voters are forced to use vulnerable, hackable, antiquated technology banned in other states, then rely on the kindness of machines. There is no paper trail. Voting machines are electoral black sites: no one permits voters or candidates to examine them… It is a disaster.” The upshot: in November we witnessed Democrats in Pennsylvania refusing to bat for their own presidential candidate. Astonishing. This election represents a grand breakdown of democracy on both sides of the aisle. And that’s the key to understanding what happened. The Green Party emerged as the only strong voice for democracy. It’s presidential candidate Jill Stein tried mightily to get a hand count of the votes in the swing states. She was sternly rebuffed by the establishment. She also attempted to get a forensic examination of the voting machines. No dice. Since the election we have witnessed the widespread refusal of this country to live up to its own democratic ideals. Now, that represents a massive, across-the-board betrayal of the People and of our Constitution.
And the aftermath is equally bizarre. Everyone is blithely saying, “Let’s move on.” Say what? “This toxic election has delivered a uniquely toxic result: right wing extremists, bigots and blowhards will take control of government starting in January.” That’s the wording of a “Resist Trump” email in my Inbox sent today from the Green Party. Okay… And the establishment wants the People to just “move on”?!
The media is saying that Trump won—even though he didn’t win by the numbers. He lost the popular vote massively to Clinton (by 2.9 million votes), and every sign indicates that he also lost the electoral college if the American government would accurately count the votes. But it won’t. Our own government refuses to count the People’s votes. And there you have the problem, in stark simplicity. What this means, of course, is that the government no longer belongs to the People. To whom, then, does it belong? Read on…
Everybody remembers that surreal night, November 8. At about midnight eastern time the nausea set in, as Dems watched helplessly and with bated breath—like watching a thief make off with the family jewels in slow motion. It can’t be happening… Stop him! But, after breaking all the rules, Trump simply walked out the front door, untouched, loot held high. One might even say that Trump paraded out the front door.Obviously, things like this don’t usually happen. And they don’t happen by themselves. To get at the underlying explanation, though, we first have to understand that this election reveals a massive miscarriage of proper governmental oversight on every level. If you look at the big picture (campaign, election, aftermath) you’ll see that the institutional checks and balances—things ordinary Americans count on—didn’t work. At the same time, the media spin machine was in overdrive for Trump. The proof is in the pudding. For her life, Clinton couldn’t shake a fairly minor infraction like emails (no earth-shattering information was ever compromised). At the same time, Teflon Trump got away repeatedly with massive no-no’s against just about everybody. He insulted large segments of the electorate absolutely needed to win (blacks, latinos, women…). Yet—after insulting them—he still won!
It simply doesn’t add up. And that’s why I am convinced that in 2016 an invisible, and extremely powerful, hand was busy behind the scenes warping the correct functioning of our democracy. That hand helped Trump at every turn and hindered Clinton. Yes, I know this sounds conspiratorial… But look at the data: a weird campaign, a contrary-to-expectations election, and an anti-democratic post-election period when the country couldn’t even manage a trustworthy vote count. This is not America. At least, it is not the America that we have all known.
The only thing that could have influenced events in the above ways is a combination of three elements: (a) deep knowledge of American institutional weaknesses; (b) access to players in government and media; and (c) an incredible amount of money, expended on many levels, in many states, and for many months. And there you have your answer, folks. There is only one name in this country with that kind of money, power, and reach, able to warp democracy in the stunning ways we’ve just witnessed—and able to sustain the victory. And that name is Koch.
Say “Hello” to our new masters
Trump is not our new master. How could he be, when his world doesn’t include the 99%? Trump lives in a gilded cage of endless suites, chandeliers, and footmen. The rest of us are evidently so much decoration. But Trump does serve a master. His master is the “Lord of the 1%.” For all of Trump’s wealth and position, he is not a free man. The Donald comes into office with massive IOUs, ties, and obligations far and wide. He is a long-time dealmaker who owns one side of myriad contracts—entanglements that will certainly complicate his presidency going forward. To coin a phrase, he may be Trump-poor: rich, yet beholden to the whole world.
Up until now, Trump has been a rising corporate player in an elite corporate world. But his role has suddenly changed. As the head of government, The Donald will be distinguished from all the other CEOs and corporate leaders of the 1%. He is now the necessary tool, avenue, and agent for other corporatists (not to mention: for the People). This can only represent an uncomfortable role for him. Up until now, Trump has ruthlessly served himself—and his family. After January 20, however, he must also serve the entire corporate (and non-corporate) world. How he handles this new, expanded, role will be interesting.While Trump can follow old patterns and find ways to self-deal and enrich himself via the presidency, he knows full well that he will not survive in his new role if he is a poor steward for his powerful peers. Just look at his cabinet appointments: they could have been (were they?) hand-picked by the Koch brothers themselves! The People don’t rank very high in all this. In fact, the 99%—whom Trump has now been appointed to govern—hardly rate. The Donald will probably give the People crumbs—just enough to make them manageable. We see this already from his tax proposal, which slashes 14% in taxes on the rich but only about 1% on those in the middle class. Early indications are also that Trump’s massive infrastructure program will be financed on the backs of the public. Equitable sharing of the burden simply does not appear to exist for Trump. From his statements to date, it seems that democracy is a foreign concept to him—one he actually views with hostility. We may wonder: does Trump view the People with hostility, too?
As is well known, the president-elect is not a traditional Republican. We read almost daily that Trump puts his finger in the eye of mainline Republicans. Certainly, they are not his boss. Of course, the Democrats aren’t his boss either. Nor are the people of this country. So, who is?
As mentioned above, the corporate interests are now Trump’s boss. And at the center of those corporate interests are Charles and David Koch.
Even the GOP is too ideological for the Koch brothers. Sure, the GOP is the party of the elites. Yet it also has a faction of patriots—people who believe that America is actually the place to get ahead. After all, there has been something called “the American dream.” I recall the recent Speaker of the House Bob Boehner, crying profusely as he recounted his family history of ascent from humble beginnings, due to hard work and perseverance. Though progressives like myself disagreed with Boehner’s politics, he is nonetheless a patriot, an American—and a Republican. But people like him are not on the Trump bandwagon. That’s because a certain segment of the Republican Party (notably excluding Mitch McConnell) still believes that we are a country built on the Constitution.
The Koch brothers don’t give two hoots for the Constitution. (Nor does Trump.) As Common Cause notes, these brothers promote “an agenda that advances their private interests at the expense of the public interest.” I’ll put some links at the bottom of this post for further reading on the Kochs. But here I’d just like to emphasize that this election was no fluke. It comes on the heels of the rise of the Tea Party (an anti-establishment movement), the Citizens United debacle, and the denial of global warming—all three heavily promoted by the Koch brothers. The 2016 election is the crowning jewel of a decade of overt and covert activism by these siblings who prefer to stay out of the spotlight, and whom Common Cause described a few years ago with the following words:
Conservative and libertarian activists Charles and David Koch are the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, America’s second-largest privately owned company with annual revenues of more than $100 billion. The firm runs oil refineries in Alaska, Texas and Mexico and owns consumer brands like Brawny Paper towels, Stainmaster carpets, and Dixie cups… They favor dramatically lower personal and corporate income taxes, less government oversight of industry — particularly when it involves environmental regulations that impact their businesses — and minimal public assistance for the needy. The Kochs and their network are expected to invest up to $400 million in the 2014 election, most of it through a network of non-profit groups created to conceal the identities of the donors. They are founders and major financial backers of Americans for Prosperity, a group that bankrolled the rise of the Tea Party.
In 2016 the Kochs won. And it is indeed a massive victory. But, ultimately, it may be self-defeating. I say this because a free market also requires robust democratic institutions. Take away freedom of choice, take away upward mobility, take away the general distribution of wealth itself—and the free market dies. Capitalism dies. This, I submit, will be the long term effect of what the Kochs and their Tea Party have effected. They have won a short-term victory, but they are suffocating the goose that lays the golden egg.
And even in the short term, problems are quickly appearing. The firm girders that have underpinned our democracy are already wobbling. A certain insecurity and foreboding pervades conversations. People are hesitant, no longer sure of their future—of their health care, of their entitlements, you name it… And business, too, is newly hesitant—unsure of the incoming administration’s intentions, putting off contracts, deferring expenditures, aware that come January 20, this country enters a post-Constitution era. Laws will be optional. Facts negotiable (as one Trump surrogate noted). The only rationale will be making money—for a few of the largest corporations. Amorality, pragmatism, and total selfishness are now the order of the day. Ayn Rand would be proud.But the country is no longer free. It wasn’t so long ago that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, asked the FBI to investigate anti-Trump protesters. Yet the coming repression/suppression will inevitably engender (and stiffen) resistance. And that resistance will in turn bring a renewal of People-power.
I don’t know where it will come from, or how long it will take. History has a way of writing itself that is independent of solitary voices. But in my view, the greatest societies—civilization itself—are a balance between individualism (raw self-interest) and collectivism (deferred self interest). When one of those two necessary elements completely takes over, then the society breaks down and all of its members lose. That is what’s happening now. Society is breaking down and a form of corporate tyranny is bidding to fill the void.
With Trump’s imminent accession, the rumblings of war have also gotten much louder. “Let it be an arms race,” the president-elect said recently. “We will outmatch them at every pass, and outlast them all.” I hope he was only talking about an arms race, and not about outlasting a nuclear war. One hopes…
Corporatism is now replacing individualism. The Supreme Court will be conservative for at least the next generation. The chance of reversing Citizens United is dead as far as the eye can see. Global warming will be delinked from fossil fuel burning—contrary to all reason and science. All this will have severe consequences for ordinary folk, for freedom, for the quality of the environment and for the quality of life itself. But as the People realize their subservience, their strength will slowly gather and democracy will rise again. And this is the key: when the government functionaries appointed to serve the People routinely rise above corruption and do their jobs, then the great pendulum will swing once more—in the direction of democracy.