I actually think we entered truly worrying tmes the moment Trump won the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency, and once again I'm afraid I must draw some very uncomfortable, and alarmingly precise, parallels with the not-so-distant past - yes, that one in particular.
I'm nearing the end of A Warning, by Anonymous, which is stuffed full of horrors. There are also many quite erudite passages that leave no room for doubt as to some of the historical situations where we've seen all of this kind of thing before, and here's one such passage that I recently came to in the book. (I have a feeling that I may be breaking copyright laws in quoting too long a passge - isn't it supposed to be 300 words max, or something? - but I like to think that Anonymous and his/her publishers would approve.)
Doesn't the following all sound horribly familiar, all through the Trump presidency and even way back into the campaign?
Why the Worst Get on Top
In the midst of the Second World War, Austrian intellectual Friedrich Hayek published The Road to Serfdom, describing how free societies descend into totalitarianism. Hayek’s tenth chapter, “Why the Worst Get on Top,” offered a description for how “the unscrupulous are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism.”
It’s not accurate to say Donald Trump is a dictator. Commentators who make such claims shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, it’s fair to say the president possesses clear authoritarian tendencies like very few presidents before him. Trump’s attempt to mimic the strongmen he admires has certainly led us to take steps down the road Hayek mentions.
The Austrian thinker listed three main reasons why, over time, an authoritarian personality is likely to be surrounded not by the best “but rather by the worst elements of any society.” President Trump’s inner circle has increasingly checked each of those boxes.
First, Hayek explained, an autocrat needs a group with questionable morals. The cohort will also tend to be undereducated. “If we wish to find a high degree of uniformity in outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive instincts prevail.” Check.
Second, the autocrat must expand the size of the subservient group. He “must gain the support of the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are ready to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.” Check.
Finally, Hayek said, authoritarian types need to weld the group together by appealing to their basic human weaknesses. “It seems to be easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of the better off—than on any positive task. The contrast between the ‘we’ and the ‘they’ is consequently always employed by those who seek the allegiance of huge masses.” Check.
The end result is the core team will be faithful in implementing the leader’s policies. “To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state,” Hayek wrote, “it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds.” He must be prepared to carry them out. “Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own. They must, above all, be unreservedly committed to the person of the leader.” Ultimately, their willingness to act in ways they know are wrong becomes their route to a promotion.