In 2014 I read Philip Roth’s ‘The plot against America’. My memories of its political backdrop are of Charles Lindbergh – the famous aviator (and populist ‘hero’ of his day) becoming an unlikely Republican presidential candidate. He beats Roosevelt in the 1940 election on an America-First, anti-war, anti-semitism ticket. As President he signs non-aggression pacts with Germany and Japan. He begins programmes to deconstruct and disperse Jewish communities, colluding in KKK racist violence. [WARNING SPOILERS] Whilst flying himself back from a speech, his plane disappears, and his Vice President, based on German news releases, suggests a Jewish-UK conspiracy. US forces mobilise, threatening Canada. Eventually, though, the Lindbergh presidency is exposed as a Nazi plot. Roosevelt returns to restore US values and global position.
The uncanny prescience of Roth’s book to the 2016 presidential election has been remarked elsewhere (although I was not aware of this until commencing this blog). My piece – of which this is Part One – seeks to build on the Roth narrative. It argues that we have seen a fascist coup in USA; there is considerable read-across to the BREXIT tyranny we are experiencing in UK; and the implications of both for a civilised, tolerant Europe in the future are high risk and negative. It concludes with considerations of what might be done to mitigate and turnaround these risks.
Firstly, please read the Roth book. If anyone doubts the US as a country with strong progressive, self-critical strands, Roth’s writing (amongst, it must be said, many others) provides a welcome antidote.
One can see some evidence of this in the disastrous presidential election. Clinton won the popular vote by around 1/4m votes, but lost on the electoral college state-based system that determines the Presidency. Trump got less votes as victor than the discredited Republican campaigns of McCain (2008 – 59.9m) and Romney (2012 – 60.9m) but still won.
As ‘called’ in this blog in May, the ascent of Trump to the White House is primarily a further signifier of the terminal decline of representative democracy. Under 130m Americans voted out of a voting age population of a 241m, of whom over 200m were registered to vote. In the most bitterly fought divisive election in recent years, the two main candidates together attracted the votes of under half citizens of voting age.
The effectively illegal strategies of the Republican party to gerrymander and discourage non-Republican registration may be one reason for Clinton’s defeat. The mobilisation called for by Trump and heeded by some white extremists to intimidate voters under the guise of electoral observers may be another. Add to this the extraordinary late intervention of the FBI over Clinton’s emails that they then retracted on the eve of the election.
In the round, and especially if one believes ‘it was the FBI that won it’, it is plausible to characterise this result as more of a coup d’etat than an exercise in representative democracy. And to be honest, many Americans prefer to think of their evil, racist, misogynist, sociopathic, liar of a President-elect as having gained the world’s highest political office in these terms, rather than as an honest, responsible electoral choice of American voters.
But why would the FBI, supported by the extreme right, wish to mount a coup in favour of this deeply flawed populist/fascist?
As things stand we can only speculate – but in Roth-ian terms, supported by another great piece of American literature, one can begin to speculate.
First – Trump is so overtly monstrous, one can only presume the FBI has so many ‘goods’ on him, they believe they can ‘pull his strings’. This is much easier for far-right agendas than managing a Clinton presidency, supported and in some senses in debt to Sanders and his democratic socialist policies.
On this scenario, the ongoing criminal cases against Trump’s failed businesses and for sexual harassment are only the tip of the iceberg. This ultimate model of arrogant self-indulgence will have done much, much worse which he knows the FBI can expose if he doesn’t do their and their backers bidding.
A second scenario is that Trump is never intended to be president at all! Or certainly he is not intended to serve a whole term.
This scenario might play out in a number of ways.
The most intuitive hunch for the follower of great US literature is Trump as the ‘Manchurian candidate’ of the 2016 campaign.
Adapting the original 1959 Condon classic, and the Frankenheimer film starring Sinatra, the intention of the conspirators in 2016 is to get ‘their man’ into the White House by route of the Vice Presidency and the removal (in the book and film through assassination) of the President/President-elect.
If the FBI have read Condon and taken on this scenario – the man to watch is Pence – who following taking out Trump would be able to enact a repressive authoritarian agenda in response to the fate that has befallen the populist President-elect.
This scenario works just as well if, as has been bubbling below Trump’s whole campaign, Trump is in fact a Putin agent – with Comey as the rogue Russian plant in the US security apparatus.
Nor does it need Trump’s assassination, he might equally be taken out as his various illegal and depraved activities are exposed.
This Pence scenario brings us back to Roth. When Lindbergh disappears, his Vice President – Wheeler – declares a State of Emergency and begins arresting Jewish and progressive activists. He also mobilises against Canada (who had joined WW2 in support of Britain).
The read-across of ‘Plot against America’ to Trump’s election is uncanny. Whether this plays out as a variant of ‘Manchurian Candidate’ remains speculative.
What is certain, however, is that populist, extreme right-wing US developments resonate strongly with the BREXIT virus infecting the UK, and its championing by the even less elected May government. At least Trump appears to have received around 60m votes. May became PM on the basis of receiving 199 MP votes in the second ballot of the Tory leadership election. She didn’t even face Conservative party members after her remaining opponent withdrew on 11th July 2016.
The US/UK ‘Plot against Europe’ began in the UK. The virus infected the US through Trump’s electoral coup.
Part Two of this short series will examine how the virus has been incubated and spread through the UK by May, Farage, and their media allies (or ‘masters’, as the case may be). It will then explore the existential risks facing Europe in the face of this infection. The series is intended to conclude with strategies for fighting and defeating the virus in the UK, and turning back its tide in the US.
The intention is to complete the series in the next week – unless, of course, I suffer the clichéd fate of most conspiracy theorists in the US political thriller tradition… 🙂 😀 !