Without going into too much detail, on March 19 protesters attempted to stop drivers from attending a Donald Trump rally in Arizona by blocking a road leading to the venue, stopping traffic for 90 minutes. On March 12, professional protester Thomas DiMassimo rushed the stage at a Trump event forcing Mr Trump’s protective security detail to defend the candidate. On March 11, a violent protest broke out at a rally in Chicago and after Mr Trump cancelled the rally citing safety concerns the protesters called him a coward. A large group of anti-Trump demonstrators started fights which were caught on video.
When I saw this, I assumed nothing out of the ordinary: given the highly charged political atmosphere in the world’s largest economy, something like this was inevitable. After all, every US presidential race is considered to be the “worst” in its history. Come on, news won't sell with passive headlines saying the race is “nasty, but not as bad as last time”. That’s just not sexy.
What got my attention wasn't the media's coverage, it was something much more sinister.
Before I get into that, I need to explain the model I use when assessing US politics. The first thing I need to make clear is that Washington is not controlled by the President of the United States. Despite what many people think, including the vast majority of US citizens, their votes have no effect on the true power base in the Beltway. Every time I start to think the President, or even the Prime Minister in New Zealand, has real power I remember the old saying: if voting changed anything, they wouldn’t let us do it. Whoever sits in the Oval Office throne room is essentially the public face of Washington so citizens have someone to blame or praise (depending on the day/hour) and little more than a pen pusher who signs policy proposals given to him (or her).
Where does the President get these proposals from? A strange groups of creatures from across the avenue called “civil servants” create policies using their superior knowledge and data-gathering abilities. Working groups are set up in the State, Energy, Agriculture, Defence and all the other massive government departments structures in the city. Sometimes the President may ask one of the magical departments to work on a policy, but this is rare, and if the President proposes their own policy the civil service will nod politely while backing slowly out of the room. All policies are thought, written and delivered by the permanent civil service alone. No help from the White House needed, thank you very much.
Where the proposals come from isn’t the most important question, however. What we really need to ask is who these people in the civil service are? Why are they “permanent”? And to whom do they answer?
The answers are: they are citizens with perhaps some experience in administration or the relevant field (but generally only have experience in government, so it’s kind of a downwardly-spiralling feedback loop); they are permanent because although they can be hired using a procedure similar to that found in business, they cannot be fired by the President directly; and they answer to no one - least of all the President. They are working “on behalf of the American people”, a job which can always be renewed regardless of “results”. And they do have power, oh yes, all of the power.
Before I go on, be aware that this structure happens in other Western countries too. Any government with a permanent civil service has the same formula. You can thank the British for that.
This was precisely the way the Founding Fathers designed government. At the time, these people had just escaped what they characterised in England as a repressive and undemocratic monarchist regime. They didn’t like the king, but they ironically believed the permanent civil service was fantastic. As a result, they wrote into the US Constitution a separation of powers between three branches of government: the judicial, legislative and executive. They didn’t want domestic decision-making powers to be in the hands of a single branch, such as the executive. Such a consolidation might lead to exactly the same problems experienced in the Old World. It might not happen in the first few decades, but given time, the probability of a political system producing an individual with an insatiable appetite for power drops to 1. It always does. Creating a heterarchy - rather than a hierarchy - where a series of institutions each have some power, but not all the power, was going to be a prophylactic.
All this worked more or less swimmingly until Franklin Delano Roosevelt took control of the executive office in the early 20th century. As part of his two “New Deal” proposals, he greatly expanded the power and size of the permanent civil service. The powers of the branches of government were diluted, including the office of the executive. In effect, FDR had weakened his own and the other branch’s power in favour of a faceless edifice with thousands of employees.
He did this because he was a firm believer in a political ideology known as “progressivism”. The idea had gained traction in the American political system since before the First World War, but it hadn’t quite cracked the establishment. People in academia, for instance, who expounded the concept were considered a little loony at best and agitators at worst. They were watched closely. This was known as the “Progressive Era”. Wikipedia can explain:
“Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century and is generally considered to be middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernisation, such as the growth of large corporations and railroads, and fears of corruption in American politics. In the 21st century, progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice. Social progressivism, the view that governmental practices ought to be adjusted as society evolves, forms the ideological basis for many American progressives.
“Historians debate the exact contours, but generally date the "Progressive Era" from the 1890s to either World War I or the onset of the Great Depression, in response to the perceived excesses of the Gilded Age.”
There is a lot packed into those two paragraphs. I only need to bring your attention to the sentences: “It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernisation” and “progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice”. Do these ideas remind you of anything? Anything at all? Perhaps another ideology floating around Europe at the time which “embraced” similar goals. If you can’t think of it now, don’t worry because it goes by another name. We’ll get to that in due course, read on.
The actions of FDR certainly sound strange to anyone educated at one of the Western world’s many august universities. Diluting one’s own power would surely be the worst thing for someone already in power, wouldn’t it? And yet, FDR did exactly this. His decision was a direct consequence of his political beliefs. Progressives, remember, are the antithesis of conservatives. Where conservatives believe government should be structured towards a handful of institutions from which decisions are made without recourse to a higher authority, progressives want to break down such structures to spread power over a wide area of society. Conservatives desire order while progressives desire anarchy.
In progressivism, breaking down order gives more people and institutions a piece of that power, albeit diminishing in size as each person gets a slice. To them, the more government, the better. Nothing could be more divine than setting up a new working group to create more policies. And since all of that requires money, taxes rise and government hiring is prioritised.
The size of a standard Western government in 2016 is magnitudes larger than the decade before, or the decade before that - all the way back to FDR. All Western countries act similarly because of a small skirmish in Europe commonly called World War II. You might have heard of it. As we all know (because they won’t shut up about it) the US won that facas and secured the privilege of writing the new world rules and agenda. The League of Nations became the United Nations, and was given a clear mandate for encouraging spread of the victorious of the three versions of democracy - parliamentarianism - to every corner of the globe until everyone was “free”, in the required direction, of course.
Meanwhile in the US, FDR’s legacy continued and progressives doubled-down, spurred on by the knowledge that parliamentarianism was now effectively unquenchable. The US and its allies had just defeated one of the other versions of democracy - fascism - in a decisive victory. No more Brown Shirts, hooray! And seeing their way was clear, the progressive movement turned its attention to the domestic culture of the US to begin a cleansing programme that continues today. So began the culture wars and rights movements organising equality for previously marginalised groups such as African-Americans and women.
Today the progressive movement controls the US political system, and by extension it is the dominant ideology of all major nation-states and many minor ones as well. One of the central tenets of the movement, not included in the Wikipedia write-up, is the concept of “permanent revolution”, whereby there is always order to be deconstructed. The low-hanging fruit of Black Rights and Women’s Rights were achieved quickly. But according to the ideology there is still much work to be done, as anyone with an internet connection would have noticed with the arrival of LGBT rights and the current fight to control the internet speech/behaviour.
All decisions in Washington are informed by the tenets of progressivism, including free speech, human rights, labour laws, environmentalism and many others. Perhaps it’s worth another article, but the movement shares a frightening amount with Christianity. Scholars such as John Gray say progressivism - and its philosophical sibling “humanism” - is essentially Christianity without the supernatural. This makes sense because the early Americans were Puritan Christians from England. They brought those ideas with them and soon separated out the political from the spiritual, both of which were intertwined within Christianity from the religion’s birth. This is why progressivism and its adherents appear to act religiously and with almost messianic ambition - they are Christians without a god, which is why they are called “secular”.
Earlier I hinted that progressivism goes by another name. I’m not trying to give everything away, but it starts with ‘C’, or sometimes ‘S’, depending on the country. It’s the third version of democracy along with parliamentarianism and fascism. The Russians called it “communism”. However at polite dinner parties it’s called “socialism”. Progressivism shares many details with those ideals, what saves it from subsuming the nasty connotations is only the name. Without that the jig, as they say, would be up. If you doubt this, consider the anger and disgust poured onto the version known as fascism. There’s nothing more destructive for a political career than to be called a fascist. And Adolf Hitler is pretty much a universal yardstick for evil. This is no accident, it is precisely the post-WWII propaganda goal under the direction of the progressive movement.
Anyone reading 20th century history knows Hitler wasn’t the only person who killed large numbers of people, nor was fascism the bloodiest version of democracy. Both parliamentarianism and communism slaughtered millions, and yet neither version is interrogated with anything like the scrutiny leveraged against fascism. Isn’t that curious? It’s almost as though communism was export of US progressivism, which emerged from the English Puritans, which itself is a version of Christianity, which in turn adopted the idea of democracy from the Greeks. One big happy family. After all, you can’t have the Russian revolution without the French, and the French revolution needed the American experiment to get started, and before the American’s kicked off the British revolution was the instigator. It all starts in Europe: Karl Marx was a Prussian who wrote in London. You can draw a direct line through them all, and today that line is called progressivism - the core of the left. Ladies and gentlemen, the system.
This is my model for analysing the US government. And it told me to pay attention to the violent protests. So with the background out of the way, the rest of this article will (hopefully) make more sense. Fingers crossed.
What protects progressivism from association with communism or socialism is a mix of sheer self-denial and a century of propaganda. Since the three share tenets, progressives must avoid at all costs being boxed in with the other two. In the US, it is perfectly acceptable to hate socialist and communist regimes, especially if they are violent and repressive. The fewer American values a horrible leftist regime displays, the easier this narrative is to sell. Progressives are liberals too, certainly, but they would never do anything like that. No no, theirs is a wholesome and righteous process of government, not corrupted and genocidal.
This is all bullshit, of course. And no one is counting how many people have died as a result of its policies to make the world after its own image. Think, for instance, about how many people have died in North Korea simply because the progressive international community want it to be a democracy, not a monarchy. Or consider the overthrow of repressive regimes, or the sanctions enacted forcing sovereign nations to adopt “human rights” and other “freedoms” against their will. In progressivism this is all good and proper, and although no one will say so, eggs must be broken to make an omelette. The world would be much better, say progressives, if all nations believed.
Ideally the movement tries to avoid violence when shaping the world. Hypothesising that using violence makes them look alarmingly similar to communist regimes or socialist revolutionaries. No, it is better to spread the good word via government apparatus’ with finance and “advisors”. And should one day the need arise to use force, the Defence Department can always be trusted to get things done and take the blame. Far better to let that recalcitrant department believe it’s gaining some power for a few months than reveal the progressive movement’s true colours. Bonus: the Pentagon can be blamed for all the violence and Foggy Bottom can work to chip off a few Defence Department institutions such as CIA or NSA when it smells blood (CIA has already been nabbed, while NSA has withstood the latest attacks but is in no way safe).
Anyway, back to Trump.
The entire progressive civil service (redundant) has thrown all its tricks at Mr Trump’s campaign. From impugning his family to inventing lies that he is racist, xenophobic and misogynist. And still he doesn’t budge. Mr Trump doesn’t represent a breakdown of the civil service, nor does he represent the truth - whatever that is. Rather, Mr Trump represents a more effective lie for an alternative ideology. It goes far beyond the Republican/Democrat divide, which is largely theatre anyway.
At the cancelled rallies, progressives were unlocking a dusty old box they thought they’d never need again. Inside lies the instructions for direct action. Shutting down rallies using violence is the definition of terrorism, most people didn’t recognise it as such without the exploding cars. But terrorism it was. And the only end of the political spectrum that can effectively use violence to achieve its goals is the left. In fact, any group effectively using violence to alter politics is left by definition (al Qaeda is a leftist movement). This explains why the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik was unsuccessful in his direct action - you can’t use violence to bring about order, it is only effective in creating anarchy.
Let me spell this out in case it isn't yet clear: progressivism are so concerned about Mr Trump’s popularity that they briefly sidelined their long-term strategy to masking its connections to communism and socialist movements when its members used violence to affect political results - in America. That is a big deal.
Now, I’m sure this was all a misstep that progressives will try to avoid making again, but I sense desperation and more violence could be coming. Not from Trump supporters, mind you. From progressives supporting Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Again, political violence is only effective if undertaken by the left. If conservative groups organise violence it is disgusting and maligned by everybody equally. It doesn’t work anymore.
This is why the media, which is an arm of the government captured by the progressive ideology, had no idea what to do with the footage of the violent leftist agitators. News companies have filing cabinets full of condemnations for rightist violence, but draw a blank for leftist violence. Do you see? Leftist political violence hasn’t happened in the US for decades, and back then it was among minority groups not mainstream progressives.
So perhaps this election race will be worse than previous campaigns. That will depend on a few things. If Mr Trump continues to befuddle the standard bag of progressive political tricks, then that dusty old box might be wiped off and exposed to bright sunlight. The progressive movement doesn’t think it is doomed - enough elites still believe for it to persist for at least another two or three generations, and fresh refugees receiving benefits will keep them in power for at least that time. Rather, the fear arises because the most serious societal group likely to organise revolution - the white middle class - is rallying behind Mr Trump because they feel marginalised and abused. They have felt thus for generations now, with each decade introducing more things to hate about the group. They feel assaulted from all sides.
They are sick of being called evil, useless and inferior while other groups are coddled and protected by progressives. The white middle class has watched the promised American dream of ever-rising living standards dissolve as jobs are offshored or simply disappear. They are now reacting to this worsening economic and cultural environment afflicting the country and people they love, and may found a Presidential candidate that just might change things. To the progressives, this represents the worst possible scenario: a wholesale failure to maintain the psychological capture of the core of America.
The progressive movement will have none of this. They have worked too long and too hard to break down the old structure of the white middle class for some irreverent construction mogul with hilarious hair capture the minds of exactly the societal group which, if it gets angry, could actually affect serious change. There aren’t enough minorities in the world to coalesce together to defeat a mobilised white middle class. That is the fear for the ruling elites in the Western world - it has always been the fear.
At those rallies we saw what progressives were prepared to do to stop Mr Trump. Direct action appears to have spooked many of them, but as soon as they shake off their squeamishness and notice Mr Trump polling, more violence will be planned. It is all they have remaining. And because of this, a dilemma occurs: let the mask slip and reveal the true leftist colours of the progressive movement, or watch Mr Trump mobilise the white middle class. That is not a nice choice to face, and many elites will now be wondering when they screwed up to let this happen.
Up until 2016, the movement didn’t need to use violence because psychological capture was sufficient. But that box of direct action tricks was always sitting in the basement. Now that it's out, will they be able to maintain the fiction, or is this the beginning of the end? It is certainly the end of the beginning.