Category Archives: Trump

Do Americans care about democracy?


It turns out Bill Maher was wrong. Democracy in America is not dead. It is clinging to life by its fingernails. I hope people don’t think the issue has gone away.

Benjamin Franklin said America had a republic, if it could keep it.

According to Bill Maher

 “They can’t. They don’t want it. They want theology instead…Democracy is on the ballot on Tuesday and unfortunately it’s going to lose. And once it’s gone it’s gone. It’s not something you can change your mind about and reverse.  That’s gender.”

Thank goodness is seem Maher was wrong. For now.

Some of Donald Trump’s anti-democratic partners appear to have lost their bids for election yesterday. Others seem to have won. Some results are uncertain. Some of the luster of Donald Trump seems to have fallen down. There is hope, but democracy must be struggled for.

Many people point out truthfully that America has been in highly divisive  spots before. And they have survived. Americans are nothing if not resilient. But there are 2 differences that I see now.

One is the incredibly corrosive power of the Internet and how rapidly lies can travel on that medium. Much faster than truth. Lies and hate feed the Internet because they are immensely profitable. How does anyone fight that?

Secondly, many Americans, but thankfully not all,  seem to have given up on democracy. They literally  don’t seem to care any more if they have a democracy of not. And that is a very large group. They just care if their side wins. That is all that matters. How does anyone fight that?

The problem is that many people in America have demonstrated they don’t care about democracy. The Republican who was up for election  as governor in Wisconsin said ““Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor.” But he appears to have lost. But he lost narrowly. He got more than a million votes, less than 100,000 votes behind the winner.

Maher made another very important point about how democracies can be lost if we are not vigilant:

“This is how it happens. Hitler was elected. So was Mussolini. Putin. Erdogan. Viktor Orban.”

That has not happened.  I would say today it looks more like it won’t happen then yesterday. There is hope. But there is not certainty.


We are Doomed


Not every one likes Bill Maher.  I know he is the worst interviewer on television.  Often he does not let his guests speak, but speaks up for them instead.  As well, when he lets them speak, he has some very interesting guests from all ends of the political spectrum from Steve Bannon to Nancy Pelosi.  And he sometimes makes some very interesting points.

For example, he was the first one to predict that Trump would never resign after he was elected president. He said that almost immediately after the election in 2016!  Now every one knows that. But not many said that in 2016. But Maher has also appreciated, as few others do, that this refusal now has important consequences.  Americans seem to be tolerating, if not encouraging,  this refusal even though the peaceful transfer of power has for long been considered the most important characteristic of democracy. It is what distinguishes democracy from autocracy.

And now millions of Americans have demonstrated clearly that they don’t think this element of democracy is important. They don’t care! I have found this astonishing. Many have not. Many shrug their shoulders as if it didn’t matter.

Maher said “Well we had a good run.”  On November 8, 2022 Americans had a chance to vote for democracy. As Joe Biden and many Democrats said, “Democracy is on the ballot.”  And they were right. And it didn’t matter to millions Americans. Inflation was more important than democracy. Bill Maher predicted this 4 days before the election as if it was a foregone conclusion. This is what he said,

“Tuesday is the election and I know I should tell you to vote in the most important election ever. So, O.K., yes. You should vote.  And it should be for the one party that still stands for democracy preservation. But it’s also a waste of breath because anyone who believes that is already voting and anybody who needs to learn that isn’t watching and no one in America can be persuaded about anything anymore anyway.”

On this point Maher is right.  No one will change their mind. Trump was right when he said he could stand in Times Square, murder someone and it wouldn’t make any difference to his supporters. They are that determined to vote for him no matter what he says or does. that gives him a lot of rope.  Look at the mountains of evidence revealing his nefarious deeds. Yet, his supporters are filled with religious devotion that cannot be altered. No one can be convinced out of a theological devotion. That in itself is enough to kill democracy.

Maher gave another pertinent example—the January 6th hearings. Those hearings provided Americans with an overwhelmingly convincing narrative that Donald Trump had no respect for democracy as he led the charge against democracy and his devoted followers followed. As Maher said,

“The January 6th hearings it turned out changed nobody’s mind. Democrat Jamie Raskin said the hearings “will tell a story that will really blow the roof off the House.”  No that was Hurricane Ian. Hearings roof not blown. The Committee did a masterful job laying out the case but we live in Partisan American now. So it’s a little like doing stand-up when half the crowd only speaks Mandarin. No matter how good the material is it’s not going to go over. After all the hearings the percentage of Americans who thought Trump did nothing wrong. Went up 3 points! That’s America now.”


Again, Maher is right. The truth did not matter! All that mattered was that millions of people are devoted to Trump and nothing—absolutely nothing—will turn them away from their religious leader. The overwhelming narrative is irrelevant.

I am a Canadian; I have no dog in this hunt. But I do. America is the leader of the modern world. Maybe not for much longer, but for now that is true. If America coughs the rest of the world catches a cold.

 I am posting this as the election is drawing to a close. I don’t know any results. I hope Maher is wrong; if fear he is right.

Are we doomed?  Let’s see what happens tonight.

Is Civil War in the US possible?

One of the two respected jurists William S. Cohen who wrote about the disappointing actions of Republicans complaining about the Justice Department warrants at Donald Trump’s home, is a former secretary of defense and former Republican senator from Maine who was such a moderate Republican that he served as Secretary of Defence in the Democrat Clinton administration. The other, William H. Webster is a former director of the FBI and the CIA and a retired judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. He served under both Democrat and Republican administrations, including that of Donald Trump.  These are not partisans.


These men have pointed out that the Republican leaders, disrespect for maintaining law and order is serious, and can have very serious consequences.  They even suggested those actions might lead to Civil War! Remember these are not fringe leftists clamouring about the possibility of Civil War. These are respected lawyers who served both Democrat and Republican administrations in national security matters and they are not alarmists. They remind us that fears and warnings of Civil War are not outlandish, given the conduct of Republican leaders and the former president. They are real possibilities.


The opinion of Cohen and Webster was based on their personal experience and also their reading of respecting historian Barbara F. Walter who in her book “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,


“Walter raises valid concerns about the United States slipping into a place where civil war is possible. She writes about a netherworld of anocracy — between democracy and autocracy — a breeding ground for political violence, where the grievances and resentments of a large white underclass have greatly increased the potential for civil war.


These predictions once sounded like the fever dreams of far-right lunatics who would welcome such a bloody conflict; today, such predictions are coming from responsible voices such as Walter and others who have carefully studied this phenomenon around the world.”



Please note how Cohen and Webster refer to “these valid concerns” and that such opinions are not “the fever dreams of far-right lunatics.”  These concerns are brought forward by the upper echelons of American jurists and public servants. Again, this is serious stuff and should be taken seriously.

Some people have suggested Merrick and Wray should not have issued and executed the warrants at Mar-a-Lago, because the risk of causing civil unrest, which Trump in fact has been encouraging, again, but these two jurists rightly point out that, “our nation’s senior law enforcer, a man who has an impeccable record of fairness and impartiality as a distinguished jurist, cannot tailor his judgment to accommodate the rage of the lawless.

Genuine believers in the rule of law, like Merrick and Wray, must do their duty, rather than bowing to the reckless cries of lawless insurrectionists and their Republican enablers. There was a time when conservatives were dedicated to law and order. This is not one of those times. If there are no longer many conservatives, the radical left or the radical right will the vacuum.

Trump Calls for Insurrection (Again)


Did you hear what Trump said? Just a couple of days ago, on September 15, 2022 Donald Trump was interviewed by a Mr. Hewitt on the radio and was asked what would happen if he was indicted. This is what Trump said said,

I think if it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.


Then he was asked by Mr. Hewitt what kind of troubles, Mr. President? Trump responded this way:

“I think they’d have big problems, I just don’t think they’d stand for it.”

It was chilling. I thought of January 6th 2021. Don Lemon asked Phillip Mudd, a CNN analyst and former counterterrorism analyst if that was a threat.  Mr. Mudd’s answer was about as direct as you can get.  This was his answer:

Yes! I don’t know if that is a subtle enough answer Don. That’s a yes, Don. Let me be clear about what this is.  In the world of extremism which I followed for decades, that is what I would refer to as validation. So we saw on January 6th there were a lot of people who watch leadership. Whether it’s Lindsay Graham or other members of the White House, or the president of lawyers, who watch leadership and determine whether that leadership is validating the citizen’s belief that they were robbed. You don’t have to tell someone to go out there and commit an act of violence for them to say, ‘Well if we were robbed then it is my constitutional right and responsibility to go to the Congress and storm it.’ That is the president of the United States having witnessed January 6th saying, ‘Well let me have a redo of that. That redo will happen if I ever get indicted.’  To me as an extremist follower that is not a political statement, that is a statement that anybody who follows extremists can understand. That is validation…”


Juliette Kayyem, a CNN National Security Analyst agreed completely. She said,

“It is not even hinting anymore. We used to use the word “dog whistle” when we talk about Trump. This is now directing. Don’t just listen to Trump’s words. Imagine what his supporters are hearing. They are hearing the call to action…We need to call it what it is that we have a former president who is inciting violence as an extension of his political defeat. That’s what it is now.”


I know Trump’s supporters don’t believe anything CNN says, but I think they got this right from Trump’s own words. I listened to his words and I agree with the CNN interpretation. This was the only logical interpretation of what Trump said. This was a call to violent action if he was charge with a criminal offence  without mentioning the word. The message was absolutely clear, just as his words were absolutely clear to his supporters on January 6th. They knew what to do. And Trump was threatening to do it all over again if he was charged! This was doing what Donald Trump always does when he is cornered. He does not back down. He doubles down.

Americans must realize what Trump is doing. He is doing the same thing Hitler did after the German Reichstag burned down. The German people knew what to do and they did it.

Now the question is what will the American people do? Will they acquiesce with this dangerous slide into fascism?  I know many of his supporters will do that. They will accept that with the enthusiasm they showed on January 6, 2021.

I am not sure of what the majority of Americans will do, but I am uneasy.


 Hannah Arendt also wrote a book about the trial of Adolf Eichmann. She used that famous expression “the banality of evil” to describe him and his kind.  He was a man who facilitated horrid acts of violence against the Jews.  But Arendt said what set him apart was his “thoughtlessness.” To her he looked and acted like a boring accountant.

She had been shocked by how glib he was in court. He talked about exterminating millions of Jews as if it was nothing. What was there for him to admit to, he asked. He suggested, as did Himmler, that they could be reconciled with the Jews.  They had a sense of elation when they considered this possibility. But the feelings were not real. It was, in Arendt’s phrase, “an outrageous cliché.”  She said, “it was a self-fabricated stock phrase, as devoid of reality as those clichés by which people had lived for twelve years.”  As Carol Brightman said, “Clichés and conventional sentiments functioned as armor blocking the consciousness of the accused at just those painful junctures where painful intrusions of reality threatened.” These are some of the enemies of thought. In fact, during the trial Arendt had noticed how Eichmann was not perturbed by his starling contradictions. He was certainly not engaged in thinking. He was not stupid. He was just completely thoughtless.

Arendt was stunned that such horrific crimes could be committed without consciousness. She said she disagreed with Kant, who, according to her believed that stupidity was caused by a wicked heart. She contended instead that “absence of thought is not stupidity, it can be found in highly intelligent people, and a wicked heart is not its cause, it is probably the other way around, that wickedness may be caused by absence of thought.”

According to her teaching assistant Kohn, Arendt believed, as I believe, that “thinking conditions people to resist evildoing.”  Most ethicists do not accept this, but I find it profoundly compelling. I believe, like the American novelist Henry James, that ethics is high reason. Where there is no reason there is no ethics. this is what the sleep of reason is all about.

Arendt was clear when she said that everyone could think. Of course, that does not mean that everyone will think. You didn’t have to have an education to think. She was not elitist.

Arendt got mad when Jews accused her of being self-hating and anti-Jewish as a result of her book on Eichmann. She said that all she wanted to do was to think about what he had done. She wanted to understand him and that was not the same as forgiving him or being soft on the Nazis. It was her job as a philosopher to think about these things. And she thought that was very important. In the film about her, Arendt summed up her thinking this way,

“Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness. It is my responsibility to try to understand. It is the responsibility of anyone who tries to put pen to paper on this subject. Since Socrates and Plato we have understood thinking to be a silent dialogue between me and myself. In refusing to be a person Eichmann utterly surrendered that single most defining human quality, that of being able to think. And consequently he was no longer capable of making moral judgments. This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which one had never seen before. It is true I have considered these questions in a philosophical way. The manifestation of the mind of thought is not knowledge, but the ability to tell right from wrong; beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down.  ”


For Hannah Arendt, what thinking meant was to train the mind to go wandering.  I love that concept. It brings me back to my concept of meandering.  I love to meander–physically and mentally. That is the essence of free thinking (and there is really no other kind) to meander through thoughts without regard to preconceived ideas, ideologies, or prejudices. Only the free mind can think. I said that. But that is a concept directly inspired by Arendt.

Arendt’s first major book was On the Origins of Totalitarianism. She thought there was something new or modern about totalitarianism. It was not like anything we had seen before. It presented profound change from everything that preceded it. It was much more than tyranny or dictatorship. It cut at individual will. It cut at our individual identity. In fact, according to one of Arendt’s most profound insights, totalitarianism cuts at our capacity to think.

As always, I ask myself how this is relevant to our times. There are not many totalitarian regimes around right now, but there are movements—various forms of populist movements—that tend in the same direction. I think often of the American near fascists—i.e. the Trumpsters, the insurrectionists on Capitol Hill that were looking to hang Mike Pence only because their leader told them that he had been betrayed by Pence.  That was enough to set off ordinary people looking to hang the vice-president of their country! Had they lost the capacity to think? To me it seemed that way.

Absolute Loyalty


As Hannah Arendt said in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism totalitarian movements required and received absolute loyalty. A member might have to let himself be tried, found guilty of any crime, cooperate with the authorities, without objection—all in the name of the movement.

Of course, not everyone is able to give such loyalty. As Arendt said,

“Such loyalty can be expected only from the completely isolated human being who, without any other social ties to family, friends, comrades, or even mere acquaintances, derives his sense of having a place in the world only from his belonging to a movement, his membership in the party.”

Notably, that was also the kind of loyalty Trump demanded of the Trumpsters, and usually got. That’s what he told James Comey who refused to give it. It did not take long and Coney was out of his job as Director of the FBI. That happened to countless others.

Arendt found it interesting who was able to give such loyalty. It was surprising. As she said,

“What is more disturbing to our peace of mind than the unconditional loyalty of members of totalitarian movements, and the popular support of totalitarian regimes, is the unquestionable attraction these movements exert on the elite, and not only on the mob elements in society. It would be rash indeed to discount, because of artistic vagaries or scholarly naiveté, the terrifying roster of distinguished men whom totalitarianism can count among its sympathizers, fellow-travelers, and inscribed party members.”


Again Trumpism found similar support among elite conservatives. Trump and Trumpsters expected Mike Pence to overthrow the votes of states despite the fact that courts had refused to do this, and despite the fact that there was no way this could be done and when he refused Trump immediately turned on him even though he had received 4 years of abject loyalty from Pence. And with only the vaguest of suggestions, the Trumpian mob marched to the White House with chants “Hang Mike Pence.” Later. even though his life had been endangered by Trump and his followers at his behest, Pence did not overturn the election results because he thought he could not do that, but after this devotion to the leader was stubbornly persistent

Loyalty is an astonishing thing. Absolute loyalty is incomprehensible. But it is real. It can persist long past what reason would suggest.


Hannah Arendt: Mass Support for authoritarians


Dictators live on mass support. To many people that seems strange, but it isn’t. Massive power comes from mass support. They can’t do it alone. That does not mean a democracy is necessary. Not at all. Tyrants realize that democracy is not important. Mass support is important and there are better ways to get it than messy elections. Hannah Arendt described it this way in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism:

“It would be a still more serious mistake to forget, because of this impermanence, that totalitarian regimes, so long as they are in power, and the totalitarian leaders, so long as they are alive, “command and rest upon mass support” up to the end. Hitler’s rise to power was legal in terms of majority rule and neither he nor Stalin could have maintained the leadership of large populations, survived many interior and exterior crises, and braved numerous dangers of relentless intra-party struggles if they had not had the confidence of the masses.


Often it is startling how brazen tyrannical leaders can be. Trump was not the first, though I acknowledge he was not a tyrannical leader-so far he is just a wanna be authoritarian, but he could easily tip in that direction if elected again. Arendt had another important observation here:

“Nor can their (totalitarian leaders) popularity be attributed to the victory of masterful and lying propaganda over ignorance and stupidity. For the totalitarian movements which precede and accompany totalitarian regimes, invariably as frank as it is mendacious, and would-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones.”


Trump did exactly that many times. For example, when he talked openly to Bob Woodward a reporter about how he minimized the risks of Covid-19 and told the American public they had nothing to fear. Later he kept saying, without evidence again, that “the end of the pandemic is around the corner.” He also bragged how he could stand in Times Square and kill someone and would not lose any support. He might have been right.


Trump trumps truth


I don’t know about you but I have been mesmerized by the House Select committee hearings into the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2020. The house committee members have been impressively methodical in their presentation. To me it is like watching a snake.


Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr, who had been a loyal Trump supporter right to the end when the lies from Trump became unbearable, said he was personally demoralized by what happened because in the past he had always been able to talk sense into President Trump when he got some crazy ideas. But this time, before January 6th he could not persuade Trump that he was wrong. As he told the House Select Committee, Barr reached the conclusion that Trump was “detached from reality.” Those are pretty strong words about the American president entrusted with the nuclear codes that could set off World War III and lead to the destruction of society. And those are words from one of Trump’s most reliable and loyalty Cabinet ministers!


Asha Rangappa is a Senior Lecturer at the Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and a former Associate Dean at Yale Law School who served as a Special Agent with the FBI was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour, disagreed with Barr, but what she said was perhaps even more alarming.  She said,

“I don’t think he was detached from reality, I think he understood the maxim that a lie can get half way around the world before the truth puts its boots on. His interest was in promoting a narrative as soon as he could, whether or not it was true.”


I agree. Trump is not a liar, he is a bullshitter. By that I mean, he actually doesn’t care if a statement is true or not, he just cares if the statement is useful to him. As Rangappa said, “In fact often a lie is more effective that the truth.” Trump has groomed the American public since before the election when he said if he lost the election it was rigged. He wanted the American public to be receptive to his Big Lie. And he was surprisingly effective. Millions of Americans came to believe it not only without evidence but against the evidence. That is why he told Department of Justice officials, ‘Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the other Republicans.” That is why he asked the Secretary of State for Georgia to “just find me 11,870 votes” which was one more than he needed to win the state of Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. Trump didn’t care about fraud, he didn’t care about the truth; he just cared about wining. For Trump it is always about wining. This is the essence of Trump wining at all costs.


As Rangappa said, “He is trying to craft a narrative and get it out there, not because he is interested in actual fraud, but he wants to paint the perception of fraud. We have seen this before with Trump. It is very much like his conversation with Ukrainian president Zelensky” that led to the first impeachment trial. He wanted the president to announce that he was investigating Joe Biden or his son to create the perception that there was fraud.

He realized that all he needed was the perception of fraud. Millions of Americans, like Trump himself, did not care about reality either. That is what is really disturbing about the events surrounding January 6th.


Fascists want to preserve ‘traditional values’


According to philosopher Jason Stanley, who wrote the book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them,  Russian fascism,  is different from German fascism which wanted to install Germans as dominating the world. Putin is about traditional ethno-nationalists dominating each of their countries  with a strong powerful masculine leader. The leader might be a woman of course, like Marine Le Pen  had she won the French national election in 2022. Usually the strong leader though is a man—like Putin—i.e. a traditional male bully.

Stanley says  the job of the fascist leader  is always about “protecting traditional values against democracy.” The fascist parties therefor must show that they are not corrupt decadent and weak like western democracies. That is what Putin believes and fosters. The strength of the bully. This is what Putin has claimed to be doing in both the 2014 and 2022 wars in Ukraine.


Putin is not alone either. For example, the United States has had such anti-democratic leader too—I.e. Donald Trump. To resist, the democracies must show that they are strong. They can be strong, but they must show it now that they are under attack from anti-democratic forces. We will see if they are strong enough.

So far Ukraine has showed it is strong–perhaps stronger than Russia expected. That is what Ukraine is facing.

 Putin is demonstrating Russian  fascism Putin style.


Fake Sex Kills Truth in Ukraine


To deflect people from the truth, the Russians in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014 used the same tactics they had done in their own country in 2011. They lied. Just as they did in Russia they convinced the people that the  Ukrainian protesters were homosexuals. The Christians are the good guys, even though they are fascists,  and their opponents are all perverts. This is part of what Timothy Snyder referred to as Christian fascism in his book The Road to Unfreedom. He described what happened in Ukraine this way:

“After two years of anti-gay propaganda in the Russian Federation, the ideologues and entertainers were sure of themselves. Their starting point was that the European Union was homosexual, and so  the Ukrainian movement towards Europe must be as well…[they] claimed the EU “groans under the weight of the LGBT lobby’s domination.”

It didn’t matter that none of this was true.  When the fascists are Christians or not,  truth does not matter. What matters is that they are fascists. Starting in November of 2013 and continuing after that the Russian media that covered the Maidan protesters in Ukraine were constantly described as engaging in gay sex. As if that was all they did. As Snyder said,

“the Russian media sought to fascinate its readers by conflating Ukrainian politics with handsome men and gay sex. A social media page of Vitali Klitschko, a heavyweight boxer who led a Ukrainian political party, was hacked and gay material introduced. Then this was presented as a news story for millions of Russians on a major television station, NTV. Before Russians could apprehend that pro-European protests were underway in a neighbouring country, they were invited to contemplate taboo sex.

Right after students began their protests on the Maidan, the Russian television channel NTV warned of “homodictatorship” in Ukraine.”

Again, truth was irrelevant. Dmitry Kiselev was a leading figure in Russian television and he quickly latched on to the sex stories. He was appointed a director of a new media conglomerate in Russia that wanted to dissolve the Russian media pursuit of news in favour of what he called “useful fiction.” To fascists, useful fiction is always more effective than truth at getting out the message. Kiselev told his new staff that “objectivity is a myth.” It certainly is when you want to obfuscate the truth. As Hitler and Donald Trump both learned, if you want to dissolve the truth, all you have to do is spread enough lies that no one knows where the truth lies and then you can get the people to believe anything. When Ukrainian riot police beat Ukrainian student protesters, his media company said it was all “sexual geopolitics” and they were all “warriors of sexual perversion.”

Russian propaganda tried to convince Russians that they were innocents surrounded by perversions from Europe.  They were quite successful in persuading the people. Timothy Snyder described the results this way:

“One eternal verity of Russian civilization turned out to be sexual anxiety. If Russia were indeed a virginal organism threatened by the world’s uncomprehending malice, as Ilyin had suggested, then Russian violence was righteous defense against penetration.”


Of course, Russia was hardly innocent. When the leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, reneged on his promise to have Ukraine join Europe he claimed that both Europe and Russia wanted to pay him off. Europe refused, and Putin was happy to oblige. According to Snyder, “On December 17, 2013 Putin offered Yanukovych a package of $15 billion in bond purchases and reduced prices for natural gas.”

Putin made it a condition of paying that Yanukovych cleared the protesters from the streets of Kyiv. He tried to do that, but could not do it without help from Russian experts in suppression of protests. But the Russians miscalculated the will power of Ukrainian protesters, just as later they miscalculated the ferocity of Ukrainian defense to the Russian invasion of 2022. Yanukovych was ousted in 2010. After he refused to sign the agreement to join the European Union, which he had said he wanted to do. Many suspected that Putin had bought him off or pressured him not to permit Ukraine to join the Union.

The politics of Ukraine and Russia, like its sex, are never simple or transparent.