I strongly recommend Slaughter on Eighth Avenue: a St Patrick’s Day Commemoration by John Dolan for Pando Daily.
I strongly recommend Slaughter on Eighth Avenue: a St Patrick’s Day Commemoration by John Dolan for Pando Daily.
One hundred years ago, the British Empire and Commonwealth comprised one-fourth of humanity. There were British colonies on every continent, and nations on every continent with whom Britain was their greatest trading partner.
Yet this power was largely an illusion. Britain no longer had the industrial and financial power to maintain a global empire and, 50 years later, it was no longer a world power.
Today the United States is seemingly as supreme as Great Britain was then. The USA has more than 800 military bases in 160 countries; it can project its military power to places as far from home as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yet this, too, is largely an illusion. Our American industrial and economic power is as hollow now as Britain’s was back then. I don’t think it will take as long as 50 years for this to become apparent.
A few weeks ago, I happened to pick up Paul M. Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (1976, 1983) in a second-hand bookstore. Kennedy has a deep understanding of the relationship between military power, economic power, technology and geopolitics, and the ability to explain complex matters clearly.
His book is fascinating for itself, and for its implications for American power. His story begins in the 16th century, when England depended on sea power, diplomacy and a balance of power to preserve its independence from the powerful Spanish Empire and French Kingdom. The English Navy was under-financed and under-paid; it used privateers and buccaneers as a kind of guerrilla navy.
In the 17th century, Britain was torn by internal conflict, including a full-scale Civil War. The British avoided conflict with France and Spain, the great European powers, but built up their merchant marine and fought three wars with the Dutch for rule of the seas.
The British established naval bases worldwide and founded colonies in North America. Maritime commerce became a source of national wealth and power. By the end of the century, Britain had subdued Scotland and Ireland, and overcome its internal religious divisions.
From 1689 to 1815, Britain fought a succession of wars against France, all of which (except the French-backed U.S. War of Independence) left Britain richer and more powerful and at the point of becoming the world’s only global power.
The growing British merchant marine added not only to Britain’s wealth, but her number of seamen and access to naval stores. Wars on French commerce enriched British merchants and shipowners. Victories added to her colonies and naval bases. Britain’s new wealth, plus its commercial spirit and resources of coal and iron, gave rise to industrial revolution.
In the 19th century, British supremacy at sea was unchallenged. There was a kind of naval-industrial complex. The British Navy created a market for the shipbuilding industry, iron industry (for cannon) and other products, and spurred industrial innovation.
As the first industrial nation, Britain was for a time the workshop of the world. Industrial power reinforced sea power, and sea power helped open markets for the products of British industry.
During all this time, as Kennedy noted, Britain never tried to dominate the continent of Europe, and could not have done so if it tried. Instead it tried to maintain a balance of power among the great European countries. The British could not avoid fighting in Europe, but were unable to win without the support of allies, often financially subsidized allies.
The 19th century British tried to make their world empire acceptable to other European nations. The British Navy suppressed piracy and the African slave trade (which had been a big source of British wealth in previous centuries). It financed scientific expeditions, laid oceanic telegraph cables and public navigational charts–all to public benefit.
But in the middle of the 19th century, technological developments shifted the advantage from sea power to land power.
What is democracy? Does democracy consist of free elections? Is democracy based on inalienable human rights? Is a democracy a government of laws and not of men? Does democracy require political parties, checks and balances and separation of church and state?
The classicist Paul Cartledge pointed out in his new book, DEMOCRACY: A Life (2016), that ancient Athens and the other Greek city-states lacked all these things. Yet, he argued, it was they who best represented the ideal of democracy and we Americans and British who have fallen away from it.
Democracy in ancient Greece had a complicated history. Cartledge derived from the fragmentary historical record how the common people over time wrested power from kings, aristocrats and the rich.
At the high tide of democracy, the main governing bodies were Assemblies were chosen at random, by lot, as juries are today.
The Athenian Assembly had a membership of up to 5,000 to 6,000, chosen from a citizenry of about 30,000, and they all met for important decisions.
The Assembly met almost continuously; it passed laws, set policy, tried important legal cases and decided on whether to exile (ostracize) troublesome citizens and politicians.
The Assembly did elect an administrative Council of 500 as well as generals and treasurers. Other governmental positions, including juries for minor cases, were chosen by lot.
There was no bright line dividing the legislative, executive and judicial function. An Athenian citizen might propose a military action in the Assembly one day and be named to command the troops to carry out that action.
There was virtually no limit to the power of the Assembly. You could call it a tyranny of the majority. You could even call it a dictatorship of the proletariat.
But you couldn’t deny that the people of Athens and the other democratic Greek cities ruled themselves in a way that contemporary Americans and Britishers don’t come close to doing.
Aristotle defined democracy as the rule of the poor (meaning workers) and oligarchy as the rule of the rich (meaning property-owners who don’t do manual labor). Any Athenian in the time of Pericles would call the modern USA and UK oligarchies, based on the influence of the rich on public policy and the lack of participation by the mass of the citizenry.
There is a playbook from the 1930s that some people in the presidential administration are following. This includes picking a minority in your country, associate it with a global threat and use the notion of a global struggle as a way to create national solidarity while neglecting the nation’s actual problems.
Steve Bannon is President Trump’s most trusted adviser. He is the second most powerful person in the Trump administration.
He is guided by a dangerously wrong philosophy.
He thinks that Judeo-Christian civilization is at war with the Moslem world abroad, and with secularists and Muslims at home.
He expects a shooting war with China and as well as a shooting war in the Middle East.
He sees himself as part of a global nationalist movement that includes the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and similar movements across Europe.
Trump owes him. He and Jared Kushner, through their skilled use of data mining and social media, are responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 Election.
His idea that Americans are engaged in both a civil war and a global war could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Steve Bannon, born in 1953, has had a varied career as U.S. Naval officer, mergers and acquisitions specialist for Goldman Sachs, and executive producer in Hollywood. He has degrees from Virginia Tech, Georgetown University and Harvard University.
He was a little-known but influential figure even before he joined the Trump campaign. Among his films are documentaries on Ronald Reagan, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin and an expose of Occupy Wall Street. He was on the board of directors of Breitbart News and became executive chair when founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012. Another Bannon organization sponsored opposition research on Hillary Clinton which resulted in the book, Clinton Cash, and many articles in mainstream newspapers about the Clintons’ conflicts of interest.
Steve Bannon, the chief adviser to President Donald Trump, is probably the most influential person in the Trump administration besides Trump himself.
But I find it hard to get a handle on Bannon’s thinking, since he shuns the limelight, and hasn’t written any books or magazine articles I could get hold of,
His 2010 documentary film, Generation Zero, is probably as good a guide to his thinking as anything else.
It is well done and, despite being 90 minutes long, held my interest—at least until the last 10 minutes of so, which consists of restatements of the main points.
Generation Zero is an analysis of the roots and consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, which Bannon rightly blames on crony capitalism, the unholy alliance of Wall Street and Washington that began in the 1990s.
But if you look at the film’s action items, what he really does—knowingly or unknowingly—is to protect Wall Street by diverting the public’s attention from what’s really needed, which is criminal prosecution of financial fraud and the break-up of “too big to fail” institutions.
Bannon presents himself as an enemy of corrupt politicians and financiers. But there is nothing he advocates in the film or otherwise that threatens the power of either.
Generation Zero draws on a book, The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe, who claim there is a cycle in American politics based on the succession of generations. Each cycle consists of four turnings—(1) a heroic response to a crisis, (2) a new cultural or religious awakening, (3) an unraveling and (4) a crisis.
QUO VADIS by Henryk Sienkiewicz (1896) tells a story of the coming of Christianity to Rome in the time of Nero. It depicts the discontinuity between Christianity and the Greco-Roman pagan world, and what happens when people actually live by the Sermon on the Mount.
This would be a revolutionary moral change today. It was an even more revolutionary change then.
Unlike in Christianity, worship of the Greco-Roman gods had nothing to do with morality nor with hope and heaven. The pagan gods were regarded as powerful supernatural beings who had to be appeased with worship and animal sacrifice for the sake of one’s family or one’s city or nation, but who otherwise did not care about you.
Many of the Roman upper classes had come to believe that religion was a useful superstition for keeping the common people contented.
This had nothing to do with leading a virtuous life, which was the province of philosophy, and only a select few were followers of philosophy.
Christianity represented a moral revolution. St. Paul, St. Peter and the Christians depicted in this novel practiced universal love, unconditional forgiveness and the sharing of all wealth and property—something unprecedented in any mass movement.
The Christian missionaries taught that in the Kingdom of God, there was no distinction between rich and poor, free and slave, man and woman or Roman, Greek or Jew. They created communities whereby poor people could band together and provide for their own needs, independently of the oppressive and indifferent Roman state. The collision of the pagan and Christian view of life is the subject of this novel.
During the past six or eight months, it seems as though every conversation on a general topic that I’ve engaged in has come around to the topic of Donald Trump.
Yesterday morning I led a discussion at First Universalist Church on the topic of spirituality. It was a good discussion overall, but the conversation soon drifted to the lack of spirituality of Donald Trump and how people’s spirits were lifted by taking part in protest demonstrations against Trump.
Yesterday evening I took part in a group that is reading and discussing Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis. Sure enough, we soon started talking about the resemblances between Donald Trump and the Emperor Nero.
I don’t hang out with pro-Trump voters on a day-to-day basis, but my guess is that they also are talking about Trump and his opponents.
It is amazing to me how President Trump has managed to dominate public discourse, and on his own terms.
The Washington press yesterday was talking about estimates of crowd sizes. It wasn’t talking about what Trump’s policies will be concerning the economy, the environment or foreign wars. Still less was it talking about what we Americans ought to be doing concerning these issues.
No, the national press—as well as all my friends who get their information from network television—were reacting to Trump’s tweets and sound bites—that is, to an agenda set by Trump. And so is most of the national press, even though in their own minds they are opposed to Trump.
I feel as if I am the target of psychological warfare, intended to induce despair and fear.
Anarchists advocate a society based on voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. They reject government and corporate bureaucracy and the profit motive. They champion personal and political freedom. I find this highly appealing.
I’d like to believe such a philosophy is feasible. The problem is the scarcity of examples of anarchists in power.
That’s why I recently read three books about the Spanish revolution of 1936. The three books were Murray Bookchin’s The Spanish Anarchists: the Heroic Years, 1868-1936 and To Remember Spain: The Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936, and Frank Mintz’s Anarchists and Workers Self-Management in Revolutionary Spain.
In the Spanish revolution, ordinary workers and farmers took over factories, businesses and landed estates and operated them on anarchist principles. By one estimate, some 1.8 million Spaniards (workers and their families) participated in rural and industrial collectives.
I learned from reading these three books that anarchism can work well—provided there is a hard core of capable and strong-willed people dedicated to making it work.
Philip K. Dick is not my favorite science fiction writer, but many of my favorite science fiction movies—Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, Next and The Adjustment Bureau—were based on his ideas.
I did greatly admire and enjoy his novel, The Man in the High Castle, which gives the Dickian imagination free rein but has a more coherent plot than many of his other stories and novels.
The setting of The Man in the High Castle is a 1962 USA which has lost World War Two and been partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire, with the Rocky Mountains serving as an unoccupied neutral zone.
There are two plots. One involves high-level Japanese and German officials conspiring to avoid a nuclear war between the two superpowers. The other involves ordinary Americans trying to survive in Japanese-occupied San Francisco and one of them traveling to the neutral zone in search of “the man in the high castle,” author of a novel in which the Allies won the war.
Amazon Prime has started a series based on the novel, which incorporates most of the material in the novel, but which branches out to include Nazi-occupied New York and the Reich itself.
I subscribed to Amazon Prime mainly to watch this series, and Seasons One and Two have been well worth it.
The original idea of the Electoral College (Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution) was that Americans would not choose a President ourselves, but instead choose the leading citizens from our communities, and delegate the decision to them.
This idea lasted through precisely one administration, that of George Washington. From then on we had political parties and electors pledged to particular candidates—precisely what the Founders hoped to avoid. This reality was reflected in the Twelfth Amendment.
Now certain opponents of Donald Trump, who claim to be followers of Alexander Hamilton, say that electors should ignore their pledges and exercise independent judgment. This is a terrible idea.
I would be perfectly happy to delegate decision-making to someone I considered to be wise and good, but that is not what I did when I voted in the recent presidential election. Most American voters don’t know the names of the electors they voted for. I don’t. If you do, you’re a rare exception.
I don’t think most Americans who voted for Donald Trump (or, for that matter, for Hillary Clinton) would be willing to see their decisions over-ridden by people they’d never heard of. This is very different from the original idea of the Electoral College. I think that Alexander Hamilton and the other Founders would think so, too.
Fidel Castro died yesterday at the age of 90. He ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2006 and was widely admired as a brave patriot and revolutionary who defied the power of the United States.
He was indeed a patriot and a brave man, but I never believed in him or what he stood for.
Human beings cannot flourish under any system based on giving absolute power for life to a single person or small group of people can work. Human life is too varied and complex to be subject to the will of a tiny elite of self-selected masterminds.
A number of people asked me at different times whether giving people bread was more important than freedom of the press or voting in contested elections. I answered that I didn’t see the connection between giving people bread and denying them the right to ask for bread.
They asked me whether a nation has a right to change its political and economic system. I answered that they do, and they have a right to change their minds if the first change doesn’t work out.
The Communist dictatorship was established supposedly to safeguard the ideals of socialism. That was the purpose of all the suppression and regimentation.
Now the government of Cuba, like the governments of China and Vietnam before it, is renouncing socialism and opening itself to the capitalist world market, but the dictatorship remains.
The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving feast is more complicated, less sweetly sentimental and much more interesting than many might think.
Native Intelligence: The Indians who first feasted with the English colonists were far more sophisticated than you were taught in school | But that wasn’t enough to save them by Charles C. Mann for Smithsonian magazine.
Ditch the Lovefest and Learn the Real Story of the First Thanksgiving by Glenn Garvin for Reason.
The Silver Lining of Thanksgiving Past by Ian Welsh.
The votes are still being counted, but it now seems almost certain that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump.
The same thing happened in the 2000 election. Al Gore received more votes nationwide than George W. Bush. Two out of the last three Republican victories were with a minority of the votes!
Until and unless the Electoral College is abolished, this is likely to happen again, and always in favor of the Republicans.
The reason is that Americans do not vote directly for President, but for members of the Electoral College, who then choose a President, and that the Electoral College is tilted in favor of small states—most of them rural states with Republican majorities.
Each state gets a number of electoral votes equal to its representation in the House of Representatives, which is apportioned according to population, plus its representation in the Senate, which is two per state.
Democrats are concentrated in cities and in large states with large cities. Republicans are more spread out across the country, and are more over-represented in the Senate and in the Electoral College (and also in the House of Representatives, due to gerrymandering).
One of the things I’ve come to realize is the central importance of African slavery not only in the history of the United States, but of the whole New World and the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires.
My understanding has been greatly helped by the historian David Brion Davis. He wrote about slavery as a moral issue—how it was justified in the first place, and how the Western world came to turn against it.
I’ve read his principal books—The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966), The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (1975), Slavery and Human Progress (1984), Inhuman Bondage: the Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (2006) and his latest book, which I finished reading last week, The Problem of Slavery in The Age of Emancipation (2014).
Slavery is a problem because in Western culture because of the heritage of the Greeks and Romans, who regarded freedom as necessary to human dignity, and because of the Christian religion, which taught that all human beings are equally children of God.
In the ancient Mediterranean world, there were two kinds of slaves—debt slaves and war captives. Selling yourself or your children into slavery was the ultimate form of bankruptcy, and it exists in the world today. I read somewhere that the world’s largest concentration of slaves are debt slaves in India.
Ancient armies did not have facilities for keeping prisoners of war. Their choices for dealing with defeated enemies were to kill them (or at least kill all the adult males) or to enslave them.
When the Atlantic slave trade began, the rationalization was that the African slaves had been defeated in war in their own homelands and already forfeited their lives.
The first white opponents of Western slavery were the Quakers and other peace churches. Since war was anti-Christian, the Quakers believed, then slavery, as the fruit of war, also was wrong.
Quakers were leaders of the anti-slavery movement in both Great Britain and the United States; many and maybe most white members of the Underground Railroad were Quakers.
Another strain of opposition to slavery came from the rationalistic thinkers of the 18th century, who opposed hereditary privilege and believed that government should should be based on recognition of human rights.
They were not as wholehearted as the Quakers. Slaveowners such as Thomas Jefferson admitted that slavery was in theory a great evil, but insisted that the times and conditions for emancipation weren’t right.
The invention of so-called scientific racism was in part a response to qualms of people like Jefferson. If black Africans are not as human as white Europeans, then slavery does not have to be justified. There is no reason not to treat enslaved people as if they were livestock.
This argument did not touch the Quakers and other religious opponents of slavery because they opposed slavery on moral grounds, not scientific grounds.
Black people, both free and enslaved, meanwhile fought for their own liberation, in slave uprisings and in appeals to white people for the abolition of slavery. Without their struggle, the majority of white people might have been able to ignore the moral issue indefinitely.
Black people in the South were liberated during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. It was followed by a white backlash and the Jim Crow era, in which most of their newly won rights were taken away.
Then came the civil rights era of the 1960s and 1970s, which the Rev. William J. Barber, leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, calls a second Reconstruction. Another white backlash attacked the gains from that era.
Rev. Mr. Barber says it is time for a third Reconstruction. Like the first two, he said, it requires fusion politics—blacks and whites working together for the common good. The backlash succeeds only when they are divided.
To see what he means, take a look at the Constitution of North Carolina, originally drafted in 1868 and retaining much of its original wording. It is a very progressive document, even by today’s standards.
It states that not all persons created equal and have the right not only to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to “the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor.”
It guarantees free public education as a right. It states that beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate and the orphan is among the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state. It guarantees all the rights in the U.S. Constitution and eliminates property qualifications for voting.
All these provisions are the result of Reconstruction. North Carolina’s present Constitution was drafted at a constitutional convention immediately following the Civil War. The 133 delegates included 15 newly enfranchised African-Americans and 18 Northern white men (so called carpetbaggers).
It was ratified by a popular vote in which 55 percent voted “yes”. As a result, more African-Americans were elected to public office in North Carolina in the following period than at any time since.
This 190-foot tall, 1,450-ton [*] statue represents Guan Yu, a heroic general and warrior who lived during China’s Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). His famous Green Crescent Dragon Blade weighs 150 tons [*]. For comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 111 feet tall and weighs 225 tons.
Guan Yu was so fierce and righteous that he is worshiped as a god. This statue, one of many in China, was erected last summer in the Chinese city of Jingzhou in Hubei province. There is an even larger statue, 292 feet high, in his home town of Changping in Shanxi province.
He was a character in the famous Chinese historical novel, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which became the basis of many a Chinese movie and video game and is said to be one of the favorite reading of Mao Zedong.
Source: xkcd: Earth Temperature Timeline
In the “Free State of Jones” movie, Newton Knight, a white Mississippi farmer who rebelled against the Confederacy, takes refuge in an inaccessible swamp and is helped by fugitive slaves.
Such things happened in real life. Many fugitive slaves fled, not to the North, which many of them couldn’t reach, but to places such as the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia where their pursuers couldn’t follow.
The Seminole Indians were never defeated because they retreated deep into the Everglades where the U.S. military couldn’t follow, where they were joined by fleeing slaves.
And, yes, some of them did shelter white fugitives (fugitives for good and bad reasons).
Jones County wasn’t unique as an example of white Southern unionism. Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones, on which the movie was based, has written another book (which I haven’t read), The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies about white uprisings against the Confederacy in North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.
I did know about Winston County, Alabama, and there were others. The whole state of West Virginia was created out of a pro-Union section of Virginia.
Movies such as Glory remind us of the contribution of black troops to Union victory. Loyal white Southerners also were important to Union victory, Many of the Union’s best generals, such as George Thomas, were Southerners.
I read THE FREE STATE OF JONES: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War by Victoria Bynum after seeing the movie, “The Free State of Jones,” which I liked, in order to see how much of the movie is based on fact.
The movie dramatized the true story of Newton Knight, a white Mississippi farmer led a guerrilla revolt against the Confederacy during the Civil War, and was never captured or defeated.
He took his grandfather’s slave as a lover and became the patriarch of an interracial community which continued to exist down tinto the middle of the 20th century.
Victoria Bynum’s book begins with the origins of the families who fought in the Knight Company. In colonial times, they lived in the backwoods of the Carolinas, and opposed rich plantation owners in the political struggles of those times.
Racial lines were not drawn so strictly in those days as later, and some sons of poor white indentured servants felt they had more in common with black slaves than with slave owners..
During the American Revolution, many wealthy planters such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were rebels, and many poor backwoodsmen were Tories.
After the Revolution, many backwoodsmen migrated into the lawless frontier region that later became the states of Alabama and Mississippi. They endured great danger, hardship and isolation, particularly the women, but rejoiced in being their own masters.
Slaveowners adopted, taught and enforced a rigid ideology of racism. to a degree previously unknown, Bynum wrote.
Anybody with “one drop” of Negro “blood” was considered black. White men had a duty to preserve the chastity of white women, lest white “blood” be contaminated. This was supported by a religious practice that condemned dancing, alcohol and sensuality.
No doubt the slaveowners sincerely believed in these things, but they served a function of keeping the black slaves isolated and preventing them from joining forces with whites.
But, according to Bynum, not all white people followed the accepted code. Some enjoyed feasting, dancing and drinking, sometimes among black companions. Some preferred charismatic, revival meetings, sometimes led by women, to the stricter and more authoritarian religion. There were those who became lovers across the color line.
This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005). I’m interested in Bookchin’s work because he provides a way a deeper, broader and longer-range perspective than the false alternatives in current politics.
chapter ten – the social matrix of technology
In this chapter, Murray Bookchin debunked the idea that the level of technology determines the level of social organization. Rather social organization itself is the most important technology.
Human beings do not have to adapt to the requirements of technology. The machine was made for man, not man for the machine.
The Pyramids of Egypt and the great temples of Assyria and Babylonia did not depend on a high level of technology, he wrote; they were built with primitive tools.
What the great empires of ancient Egypt and the Fertile Crescent discovered was how to organize and mobilize huge numbers of people against their will, and to squeeze the maximum amount of labor out of them. So long as they had slaves, they had no need to invent labor-saving machinery.
The same was true of the New World, Bookchin wrote. The democratic Iroquois and the totalitarian Inca used the same types of tools. It was their social organization that was different.
Neither did geography determine social organization. The Inca empire and Greek democracy both arose in mountainous regions.
Rather hierarchy arose, as Bookchin noted in previous chapters, when non-productive old people reinvented themselves as priests and the young men gave their loyalty to warrior bands rather than the village clans. This happened in many different times and settings. It set in motion an evolution ending with supposedly sacred despots supported by priests, warriors and tax collectors.
When despotic societies arose, Bookchin wrote, organic matricentric societies had to militarize themselves or else either be conquered or driven from their lands. What’s remarkable, he wrote, is not the spread of despotism, but how much of the world’s people remained free.
One of the main things I’ve learned from reading American history is that political alignments in the past were very different from what they are now, and that, prior to the New Deal, “populists” and “liberals” were rarely found in the same party.
By “populist,” I mean someone who defends the interests of the majority of the population against a ruling elite. By “liberal,” I mean someone who takes up for downtrodden and unpopular minorities.
Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party, was a populist. He gained fame as the leader of a well-regulated militia, composed of citizens with the right to keep and bear arms, who defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans and who fought for white settlers against Indians in what later became the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
He was regarded as a champion of poor workers, farmers and frontier settlers. In an epic struggle, he broke the stranglehold of the financial elite, as represented by the Second Bank of the United States, on the U.S. economy. Jacksonians fought for the enfranchisement of property-less white people.
In standing up for the common people, Jackson denied any claims to superiority by reason of education and training. He defended the spoils system—rewarding his political supporters with government jobs—on the grounds that any American citizen was capable of performing any public function.
Jackson was a slave-owner and a breaker of Indian treaties. He killed enemies in duels. He was responsible for the expulsion of Indians in the southeast U.S. in the Trail of Tears. He was not a respecter of individual rights. He was not a liberal.
This was opposed by almost all the great New England humanitarian reformers of Jackson’s time and later. They were educated white people who tried to help African Americans, American Indians, the deaf, the blind, prison inmates and inmates of insane asylums. Almost of all them were Whigs, and almost all their successors were Republicans.
They were liberals, but not populists. Like Theodore Parker, the great abolitionist and opponent of the Fugitive Slave Law, they despised illiterate Irish Catholic immigrants in his midst. Poor Irish people had to look for help to the Jacksonian Democratic political machines.
If you go further back in history, the other notable alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans were the Populist (or People’s) Party in 1892, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in 1912 and Robert (Fighting Bob) LaFollette’s Progressive Party in 1924 and Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party in 1948.
All of these parties except Henry Wallace’s actually carried states. TR’s Progressives actually received more popular votes and electoral votes than incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft.
The most successful third-party and independent candidates—Theodore Roosevelt, George Wallace and Ross Perot—were celebrities before they ran.
The Populists definitely influenced the major parties. Democrats in 1896, 1900 and 1908 nominated William Jennings Bryan, who advocated most of their reform platform.
Theodore Roosevelt was not a spoiler. Public opinion in 1912 favored progressive reform, and Woodrow Wilson, the victor, probably would have received much of the vote that went to TR.
Henry A. Wallace, interestingly, received almost as many popular votes as Strom Thurmond. They each got about 2.5 percent (as did Ralph Nader in 2000). But, because Henry Wallace’s votes weren’t concentrated geographically, he didn’t receive any electoral votes (nor did Nader).
It’s noteworthy how few votes Thurmond needed to carry four states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. I wonder how much was due to apathy and how much to voter suppression. I read somewhere that in the 1928 election, the total votes cast in the former Confederate states were less than the voter turnout just in New York state.
Thurmond’s and George Wallace’s candidacies, along with Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, were part of the transition of the South from predominantly Democratic to predominantly Republican.
Ross Perot may have been a spoiler. Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory was narrow, and I think Perot took away more votes from George H.W. Bush than from Clinton. Perot’s emphasis on balancing the budget may have influenced Clinton, but his opposition to NAFTA most certainly did not.
Like Hitler and Mussolini, he is contemptuous of laws, human rights or restrictions on mob violence.
But I don’t think he has a conscious goal of creating a fascist dictatorship, and, even if he did, he is not backed up by the kind of fascist movement that would make it possible.
A full-blown American fascist movement would have these characteristics:
Here’s why Donald Trump and his followers don’t fit that profile..