Totalitarianism in the US: An Accident Waiting to Happen
01 September 2012
Listening to Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention, I couldn’t place where I had come across something quite like this before. Then it struck me – Pravda! I used to subscribe to Pravda in high school and college, first to learn Russian, and second, to pursue a college program in Soviet studies. Pravda was a newspaper that specialized in the Big Lie – the Five Year Plan was always ahead of schedule, Soviet industrial capabilities exceeded that of any other country, people were starving on streets all across America. The newspaper was a non-stop stream of lies, just as Paul Ryan’s speech was studded with Big Lies – lies that were easily disprovable, such as Barack Obama did nothing about the Simpson-Bowles recommendations to reduce the budget deficit (Paul Ryan didn’t mention he voted against these recommendations when the House killed any chance of enacting them); or that Obama made it easier for people to live off welfare (the President altered the enrollment rules of welfare at the request of Republican governors); or the Romney favorite – Obama cut over $700 billion of Medicare benefits for individuals (the cuts were imposed on hospitals and insurance companies, not beneficiaries, and Romney has the same cuts in his economic plan).
The Big Lie always has an audacity that dares anyone to challenge it, because even when it is disproved, the liar will keep on repeating the lie, knowing that it will eventually appear as truth to enough people, and that more and more everyone will conclude that no one knows anymore what is truth and what is fiction. A lot of what Ryan said in his speech he has said before, as has Romney, so it is clear this is a deliberate strategy of motivating their base who hate Obama to such a degree they will believe anything about him. But since the Big Lie is just one feature of a totalitarian regime such as the Soviet Union, I began to wonder what other aspects of the Republican Party are Soviet-inspired. The Republicans, after all, have spent nearly seventy years after WWII winning elections by promising America only they could protect the country against its enemies. Most of that time the enemy was godless Communism, and along the way, it is quite possible the Republican Party took on some of the very characteristics of the enemy it had spent so much time demonizing.
I concluded many years ago that a degree in the Soviet political system was relatively useless, but it appears I was mistaken. So out came the classic books by Hannah Arendt, Robert Conquest, and Isaac Deutscher, as well as studies written by a varied group of Kremlinologists and Russian experts. There was reasonable agreement among these writers as to what characterized the totalitarian state that was the Soviet Union, so I used this list to compare the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the Republican Party of the United States. While the Republican Party is by no means operating in the oppressive mode of the CPSU, it is on its way to becoming a totalitarian and authoritarian organization. That implies it will use these methods as tools of governance once it obtains full political power in the US, and since the Democratic Party has proven itself unable to effectively stymie the Republican Party (in some cases it has moved down that same totalitarian path as well), America is in danger of losing its Constitutional safeguards and its traditional form of republican democracy.
Let’s look at some of the key features of a totalitarian governing structure.
Party over polity