NPJ Book Review: Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted by Jeremy Peters

A few thoughts: Weary of books on politicians. Still periodically drawn to the provocative story told with skill and effectiveness.  Insurgency is political theater where the metabolism of populism swamps slow moving traditionally conservative ideas. This is a  requiem for the traditional Republican Party…a thoughtful and lucid glimpse behind the scenes takeover by Trump who relishes  his cult like status among his followers. But this transcends that man. This is a deeper and more provocative about the Autumn of democracy. 

Peters investigative work is distinguished – savvy and chronicled in such a way that it delineates the process of Trump’s rise to power and simultaneously how the trust in reason is lost. As noted, it’s a behind the scenes tale.

Eisenhower perhaps was the last clear eyed traditional Republican in that he held its conversation philosophical leanings. Lessons of WWII and the causes of the war seem lost or misplaced which he warned about were lost. After Eisenhower the insecurity of Nixon and his arrogance and paranoia (Watergate) got in the way of his presidency. Ford was symbolic and Reagan was an actor president, and the Bushes created their own peculiar theocracy (see Kevin Phillips American Theocracy and Bushes crony capitalism) … the rise of Trump to power becomes symptomatic of a provocative authoritarian and, dictatorial personality.

The lessons learned by any autocrats rise to power is found in confrontational politics and the dark money. Populism, and autocracy found it’s spokesperson in Donald Trump. Steve Bannon through Breitbart, and Fox News understood that what they were witnessing was a neo-Hitler. Bannon and his ilk were excited. Bannon was looking for an antidote to democracy. The populism under Trump was forged against the Bushes among others. Trump served and continues to serve as a cult leader.

The backdrop to the rise in power included, though not limited to, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and so forth, while Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are markers in Trump’s rise and complimented by the likes of Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, Sarah Palin, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Fox News became the “state voice” and Roger Ailes, a significant power broker.  

Reagan said government was the problem but instead of repairing it the signal was to replace it with a strong leaning to the right. The 1980s was the “me” decade as avenues to wealth were unrestrained. Privatization received a boost. Even Clinton moved the democratic party to the right. Trump became as noted, symptom of something deeper and more disruptive as distrust of government rose steadily.

Trump is shown to possesses the mentality of a mobster and autocrat. He admirew dictators. And the public in search of a black and white answers took up the cause.  What was the role of the media in Trump’s rise and how much did the network possess see an opportunity to reap financial rewards. Trump understood and played the media. The irony is that so many political actors and media curmudgeons knew exactly what was taking place but did not step forward to ask more in depth questions. The measuring stick was lowered for Trump. Again, the money was an arbiter in the power struggle. That power grab meant dismantling the Republic.

Life itself had and has become like an advertisement…for Trump, presidential power was the ultimate aphrodisiac.  Make America great again was a fraudulent motto. It assumed there was a period in which it wasn’t great. A perception can serve as the foundation to make greater amounts of money. Being President could make the office holder a fortune. 

The lie became the truth for his supporters. Trump understood the role of the true believer and played it for all its worth. Belief was stronger than facts and even with evidence to the contrary he was able to set in motion a denial of facts – ultimately misdirection and deflection help veil what took place behind the scenes.

George Orwell’s 1984 struck a chord. Autocrats and oligarchies have a difficult time redirecting themselves toward a democracy once the road to money and power is taken. Historically such changes in direction require a citizen revolt.

My question alludes to a different time frame. Simon Schama in his massive tomb, Citizens, A Chronicle of the French Revolution, queries and suggests something that might be asked today…will there be a rift within the elite leading to a revolt? Or to paraphrase some thoughts being bandied about by the likes of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, diplomat and clergyman among others of the French Revolution…Can capital be held captive, whether for or against liberty and for how long?

Trump will die someday along with the others of the authoritarian cult. What will be the legacy…the remnants of the Republic or has the American version of democracy already been replaced by an oligarchy, decades in the making?