Friday, May 12, 2017

Jefferson Trump

From the moment I actually started to listen to Trump or as I call him Il Douchebag he reminded me of Mussolini, a blowhard who made a simple promise to run trains on time who cozied up to bigger crazier people and like them ended up dead.  Then I began to think he is like Nixon down to the brain trusts of crazy wingnuts who fueled his paranoia and their own infighting that led to his downfall.   I also saw touches of Reagan with the bizarre brain confusion over information and the willingness to lie and let others take responsibility for his inability and that fell largely to family - Nancy Reagan - who was better Secret Service than the Secret Service. And had she been there the day he was shot she would have thrown herself in front of the bullet. His daughter Maureen was the Kellyanne Conway of his administration defending him along with another Regan who was the Bannon of his court.

There are clear signs and signals that Trump is not sane, not one to listen unless the voices in his heads count.  But this editorial does support some of the similarities between the current Administration and their philosophies with those of the past.
American Fascism, in 1944 and Today



Seventy-three years ago, The New York Times asked the sitting vice president to write an article about whether there are fascists in America, and what they’re up to.

It was an alarming question. And the vice president took it quite seriously. His article, “The Danger of American Fascism,” described a breed of super-nationalist who pursues political power by deceiving Americans and playing to their fears, but is really interested only in protecting his own wealth and privilege.

That vice president was my grandfather, Henry A. Wallace. And in my view, he predicted President Trump.

To be clear, I don’t think the precise term “fascism” — as in Mussolini and Hitler — is fairly applied to Mr. Trump. Mussolini was a proponent of “corporatism,” defined by some as “a merger of state and corporate power.” And through that lens, using that term, my grandfather’s warning looks prescient.

My grandfather warned about hucksters spouting populist themes but manipulating people and institutions to achieve the opposite. They pretend to be on the side of ordinary working people — “paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare,” he wrote. But at the same time, they “distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity.”

They invariably put “money and power ahead of human beings,” he continued. “They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest.” They also “claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.”

They bloviate about putting America first, but it’s just a cover. “They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism.”

They need scapegoats and harbor “an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations.”

The 19th century saw the political rise of wealthy Prussian nobility, called Junkers, who were driven by “hatred for other races” and “allegiance to a military clique,” with a goal to place their “culture and race astride the world.”

My grandfather acknowledged the great difference between American fascists and other countries’ murderous authoritarians. The American breed doesn’t need violence. Lying to the people is so much easier.

They “poison the channels of public information,” he wrote. Their “problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public” into giving them more money or power.

In fact, they use lies strategically, to promote civic division, which then justifies authoritarian crackdowns. Through “deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” he said, “their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity.”

Thus might lying about unprecedented high crime rates legitimize a police state. Lying about immigrants being rapists and terrorists might justify a huge border wall, mass expulsions and religion-based immigration bans. Lying about millions of illegal votes might excuse suppression of voting by disfavored groups.

Here’s one of my favorites: Autocrats “give currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.” That sounds like birtherism. There are other examples. “Largest” inaugural crowd ever. “I won the popular vote” and “Obama had my ‘wires tapped.’ ” Climate change is “nonexistent” and “mythical.” “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax” and the F.B.I.’s investigation into it — now jeopardized by the firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, this week — was a “taxpayer funded charade.”

And what is the ultimate goal? “Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

That sounds like Mussolini and his embrace of “corporatism” — the marriage of government and corporate power. And it also sounds like President Trump.

The antidote? For my grandfather, it lay in that phrase the “common man.” In 1942, he famously rebutted conservatives calling for an “American Century” after the war — America, the greatest country on earth, dominating the world.

Nonsense, my grandfather said in that speech: We Americans “are no more a master race than the Nazis.” He called for a “century of the common man” — ordinary people, standing up and fighting for their rights, with decent jobs, organized (into unions), demanding accountable government committed to the “general welfare” rather than the privilege of the few, and decent schools for their kids (teaching “truths of the real world”). Democracy, he said in his 1944 essay, must “put human beings first and dollars second.”

If there’s any comfort in his essay 73 years ago, it is that this struggle is not new. It wasn’t even new then. The main question today is how our democracy and our brash new generation of citizen activists deals with it.

 But as time has evolved and Trump's brain trust has eroded and those he has employed to do the heavy lifting are now hiding behind bushes rather than continue to explain, obfuscate and deny his ramblings you realize this is much like the South in the latent days of the Civil War. Which in turn has led me to  realize the only one who has his back is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the real Vice President and loyalist, who is truly the kind of man respects - Southern.  Trump is much like a Southern President and no that is not Andrew Jackson but in fact Jefferson Davis.

Jefferson Davis: The Confederacy’s first, worst and only President.

By Avi Selk
The Washington Post
May 11 2017 

When the city of New Orleans had a century-old memorial to Jefferson Davis torn down before daybreak Thursday, a crowd of the Confederate leader’s sympathizers stood by, chanting: “President Davis! President Davis!”

A man adorned with rebel flags buried his face in his hand as the statue of Davis, the man who stands for the South’s lost cause, was hauled away by crane and truck.

Presumably, empathizers will also stand vigil if New Orleans carries out its threat to remove the city’s other rebel monuments — one of them a statue of one of his generals, P.G.T. Beauregard.

But do those who honor Davis know that this general despised him? “If he were to die to-day, the whole country would rejoice at it,” Beauregard once wrote, when the Confederate States existed.

Authorities removed a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in New Orleans on May 11, as protesters held rallies nearby. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

In fact, Davis was loathed by much of his military, Congress and public — even before the Confederacy died on his watch.

Since then, several historians have made a case that, regardless of whether Davis was a hero or a traitor, he was a lousy president.

“You will see many errors to forgive, many deficiencies to tolerate, but you shall not find in me either a want of zeal or fidelity to the cause,” Davis told the Confederate Congress in his inaugural speech in 1861 — a rush job, apparently.

He had resigned from the U.S. Senate a few weeks earlier with a rousing defense of slavery, and was selected to lead the new Confederacy. But Davis had waited until the day before his inauguration to start writing his address — “like a feckless college student with a term paper deadline looming,” as author Adam Goodheart noted in the New York Times.

Davis’s “many deficiencies” had in fact been apparent long before his political rise, William C. Davis writes in his book, “Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour.”

The author calls Davis’s early career “a classic portrait of insecurity, of a man almost wandering through life allowing others to make his decisions for him.”

He had, for example, “categorically rejected the notion of running for governor, got a Senate seat, then four years later resigned it to run for the governorship,” William C. Davis writes. “And through all of his political career, down to his swearing in as president of the Confederacy, he maintained that he took office against his wishes.”

Expecting a war that would, in fact, break out within weeks of his inauguration, Davis began the job with bold ambitions, according to the author.

He tried to make alliances with England and France, who he hoped would send money, ships and troops to fight the Union army.

In fact, no European country would recognize the Confederacy, and Davis would have trouble enough rallying his own people behind him.

“A man who would not relax into informality with his own wife at the table could hardly be the ‘man of the people’ that nineteenth-century Southerners needed to inspire their loyalty and enthusiasm,” William C. Davis writes.

Take, for example, Beauregard, the Louisiana general whose monument in New Orleans is slated to be torn down after Davis’s.

He was one of several generals who wanted to launch a massive assault on the North, according to a New York Times review of “The Man and His Hour” — advice rejected by the president, who concentrated on defending the Confederacy’s long frontier.

After much conflict between the two men, Davis eventually relieved Beauregard of command and replaced him with a friendly general, James M. McPherson writes in “Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief.” But Davis eventually had to reinstate his rival “because of the general’s popularity among segments of the press and public.”

“He did not practice the skillful politician’s art of telling others what they wanted to hear,” McPherson writes of Davis. “He did not hesitate to criticize others but was often thin-skinned about their criticisms of him.”

Beauregard’s criticism of the president was expressed in private, as quoted in the book: Davis was a “living specimen of gall & hatred,” the general once said. “… either demented or a traitor to his high trust.”

Davis also feuded with Confederate Gen. Joe Johnston, whom he publicly blamed for the fall of Vicksburg, a key Confederate stronghold, in 1863.

But Johnston was popular with the troops. An aide to Davis once returned from a military inspection, McPherson writes, and told the president “that every honest man he saw out west thought well of Joe Johnston … [whose] hatred of Jeff Davis amounts to a religion.”

This criticism was not universal throughout the Confederacy, McPherson notes in his book — which argues that Davis was more competent and gracious than other historians have portrayed him.

Davis maintained a close partnership with Gen. Robert E. Lee, for example, and could count on at least one newspaper in the rebel capital of Richmond to publish leaks against his enemies.

But other Southern journalists were openly hostile to Davis, McPherson writes. The editor of the Richmond Examiner, for example, once wrote that the president “has alienated the hearts of the people by his stubborn follies” and “chronic hallucinations that he is a great military genius.”

As military defeats mounted and inflation spiraled, the end of Davis’s presidency became a cascade of humiliations and traumas.

In 1864, Davis buried his young son, who had fallen off a balcony at the Confederate White House.

A day later, the president had to deliver a speech to Congress on the state of the Confederacy.

“Every avenue of negotiation is closed against us,” Davis told the rebel members. “… Our enemy is making renewed and strenuous efforts for our destruction.”

It was a very brief speech — and not a pleasant one.

Authorities removed a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in New Orleans on May 11, as protesters held rallies nearby. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

About a year later, Davis would give his wife nearly all his gold — keeping just $5 for himself — and tell her to pay or bribe her way to safety with their children, James L. Swanson writes in “Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis.”

The Union Army was about to march on Richmond.

“Many who saw me walking toward my residence left their houses to inquire whether the report was true,” Davis later recalled of his last day as president.

“They all, the ladies especially, with generous sympathy and patriotic impulse responded, ‘If the success of the cause requires you to give up Richmond, we are content.’ ”

Davis escaped by train with the remnants of his government in April 1865 — hours before Richmond fell.

The Confederate capital had already been ravaged by hunger riots, Swanson writes. The president’s troops accidentally set fire to it after he had fled.

With a bounty on his head, the president-in-exile was pursued across the collapsing South for more than a month and was finally captured by Union troops in Georgia.

His reputation had been shaky when he had a rebellion behind him. Now that he did not, it went into free fall.

A false rumor that Davis had been captured in his wife’s clothing inspired gross caricatures across the once-again-United States. “Ingenious photographers doctored images of Davis by adding a skirt and bonnet,” Swanson writes.

“The men had better not provoke the President as he might hurt some of ’em,” reads the caption beneath one of the captured rebel’s many caricatures.

He was thrown in prison for two years, where his jailers refused to call him president — preferring “Jeffy” or “the rebel chieftain,” according to Swanson’s book.

He was shackled, insulted and deprived of sleep, Swanson writes. “Hate mail poured in to the Confederate president, taunting him about the terrible doom that must await him.”

That doom did not turn out to be execution, as had been threatened, but rather his release into what Swanson calls “a shocking predicament for a member of the elite, planter class.”

Jefferson Davis had to find a job.

It took years, Swanson writes, but he finally became president again — of a life insurance company that soon went bankrupt.

And yet, before his death in 1889, Davis would partially repair his reputation by discovering what Swanson calls “the true purpose of his remaining days — remembering and honoring the dead.”

In other words, Confederate memorials.

After the war, Swanson writes, “the idea of a vast army of the departed who haunted the Southern landscape and memory swept the popular imagination.”

Confederate empathizers “labored to recover the dead from anonymous wartime graves, to build cemeteries for them and to mark the land where they shed their blood with monuments of stone, marble, and bronze.”

Davis latched onto this movement with a eulogy for Robert E. Lee in 1870, Swanson writes — but later became “the titular head of a shadow government, no longer leading a country, but leading a patriotic cause devoted to preserving the past.”

And that’s how Davis got his own memorial in New Orleans in 1911 — and a sympathetic vigil when it fell before dawn Thursday, a century and a half after his presidency failed.

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