Summary: The sands on the hourglass slowly run out for America’s Second Republic. Anyone who cares to look can see this in a thousand ways, large and small. Today we review an especially ominous indicator: Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions Poll. The laughter that greets it each year shows the decayed state of the Republic. We don’t need a Nostradamus to see how this trend might end. It’s time for DEFCON 2.
And therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee — and thy nation.
— Meditation XVII of John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624), slightly tweaked.
- Confidence in Institutions
- Look at the trends
- The news media, the new and the old
- The bad news: we love the military
- For More Information
(1) Confidence in Institutions
Each year we look at Gallup’s Confidence in Institutions Poll (which they’ve run since 1973). Each year things deteriorate at little more.
Our confidence declines in the Republic’s democratic institutions and in the non-governmental institutions that are the ribs of America’s social fabric. But confidence increases in the authoritarian institutions of society, the police and military. We’re a people at risk for fascism or some other regime in which the few use force and guile to rule the many who lack the confidence to stand together.
One graph shows the problem. Every year Gallup posts this chart; laughter is a common reaction. Or disgust that we don’t have a Congress worthy of our awesomeness. We vote for Congress like we choose which TV show to watch: as consumers, assuming no responsibility for the show. This is how we get such a Congress. This is how the Republic dies a little each year.
Here’s the big picture
Note that “small business” and “big business” are not institutions or systems in the same sense as your church, or local school and criminal justice systems.
(2) The bad news: look at the trends
These show a slow-motion collapse in our confidence in the institutions of the Republic.
Average percent of people saying they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in each institution:
|Years||Military||Supreme Court||Congress||President||Police||Medical||Criminal Justice System|
|2000 – 2009||74%||43%||22%||43%||59%||39%||26%|
|1990 – 1999||68%||46%||23%||46%||57%||39%||20%|
|1980 – 1989||58%||50%||33%|
|1973 – 1979||56%||46%||39%|
Of course these trends did not fall like rain from Heaven. Many are the result of wealth applied intelligently over decades to remold society. Or rather, erode of confidence in the Republic’s institutions, in ourselves, in order to break our society so that it can be rebuilt to their wishes.
Let’s look at trends for two institutions.
(3) The news media, the new and the old
There were those with great hopes for the new news media, delivered via the internet. So far there is no visible improvement.
(4) The worst news: we love the military above all other institutions
During a period of great stress people turn to the institution they trust the most. The following graph gives a peak into a likely future for America.
(5) For More Information
For updates see the Twitter Feed FabiusMaximus01 (see the follow button on the top of the right side menu). Post your sightings of the New America with the hashtag #NewAmerica.
(a) Reference pages listing all posts about America:
- How can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
- Reforming America: steps to political change
- Politics in America
(b) Some posts about New America:
- America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2011
- What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism., 29 March 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, 14 May 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2), 15 May 2012
- Undercutting people’s trust in the Republic: another step to destroying the Republic, 27 August 2012
- Under the cloak of liberalism America slides to Fascism, 20 October 2012
- A third try at describing The First Step to reforming America, 28 May 2013
- Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation), 12 June 2013
- Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
- The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013
29 thoughts on “Gallup warns us to prepare for fascism!”
It would prove interesting to break down that Gallup poll result to see how many of the people who enthusiastically support the U.S. military have actually come into contact with the institution.
In my experience, the more contact someone has with the U.S. military, the less respect they have for it. Once someone sees the amount of craven careerism, dishonest scamming, mindless bureaucracy and slavish devotion to bizarre rituals of military procedure and regulation with total disregard for the human or military or financial consequences of those military procedures and regulations, that person rapidly loses all admiration for the American military. Anyone with even fleeting experience in dealing with America’s military knows that it has turned into a monstrous amalgam of the Soviet GOSPLAN and the worst kind of Fortune 500 crony capitalist bottom-line bean-counter organization, where concern for the customer or the end product takes last place and obsession with climbing the career ladder and grabbing more funding and pumping out more glitzy advertising to convince people that the crappy product is really marvelous becomes a veritable monomania. No dull gray Fortune 500 organization man who sedulously sacrifices his marriage and his children for a corporate bonus compares in sheer cravenness and serflike obsequiousness to the mid-level Pentagon officer zealously climbing up the ranks.
If the mid-level Pentagon officer has to throw injured vets under the bus to advance his career, no problem. If the mid-level Pentagon officer has to lie to congress or the American people or his own subordinates about the latest failed procurement disaster, he’ll do it in a heartbeat. If the mid-level Pentagon officer has to look soldiers in deployment in the eye and tell them a pack of lies about their pointless mission, he’s up for it. If a mid-level Pentagon officer has to choose between saving the lives of active duty soldiers and polishing his general’s Powerpoint slide presentation for the Joint Chiefs meeting tomorrow, the Powerpoint presentation wins every time.
My guess? The American people enthusiastically support the American military because of the amazing level of propaganda we see about the U.S. military in the movies and on TV. In the movies, the U.S. military are always the good guys — these are the people who save the day. They save earth from an alien invasion (ndependence Day, 1996), from outer space monsters (Aliens, 1986), from North Korea (the remake of Red Dawn, 2013), from giant bugs (Them!, 1954), from Godzilla, from everyone and anyone.
Not once do we see the U.S. military presented as the problem rather than the solution. Not once in our blockbuster big-tent movies do we see America’s military depicted as what it really is — a gray dull bureaucracy that eats trillions of dollars and creates chaos around the world while chewing up the poorest and least-well-educated Americans and spitting them back out onto the streets to become drug-addicted, homeless, psychotic, or blinded by PTSD.
No, the American military is always depicted as a fabulous force for wonderful good around the world in big-budget U.S. movies. Independent films like Restrepo hardly get any audience.
In the end, Americans remain a silly people, a frivolous people, a gullible people, effortlessly duped, easily misled, impatient of wisdom, enraged by inconvenient truths, angry with reality. We have gotten the military we deserve, and we’re now getting the form of government we deserve: kleptokakistostratocracy, rule by the worst and most thieving militarists.
I would say the same about the rating for the police. Anyone who has had extensive contact with them as on duty officers (rather than people in the community) would rate them significantly lower I suspect. Having worked in public safety I can attest there are a lot of significant similarities between police forces as an institution and how you’ve described the military.
Perhaps the worst part, and the part a lot of people don’t realize, is that a police officer has an ‘us vs them’ mentality – either you’re a fellow police officer, you’re part of the family, or you’re a ‘them’ and thus a potential enemy.
The TinFoil Hat,
All sad but true. I don’t have data on this, but I suspect that their “us vs them” mentality is growing worse.
You aren’t alone in thinking Fascism could be in America’s future. Both Kunstler and Greer do as well. Both have invoked the meme of “Weimar America.” At the very worst, they’re correct in the sense that even a stuck clock is right twice at day.
Greer had a three-part series on the possibility of Fascism arising and I have responses to all three parts. For the middle one, in which he actually titled “Weimar America,” I noted that “Weimar America” is a phrase that is becoming more and more popular, with more than 4000 hits for links that use that exact phrase and millions of hits for links that use both in the same text. Some results are fromsuch reputable sources as Salon, The New Republic, and The American Conservative–oh, and you, too. All of them seem to be from the current decade. His response was that he found himself perversely reassured; if a phrase like that has become part of the standard rap of the chattering classes, we probably don’t have to worry about it as much.
Thanks for this info!
“if a phrase like that has become part of the standard rap of the chattering classes, we probably don’t have to worry about it as much.”
I don’t believe that kind of reasoning is accurate.
Actually, “Weimar America” was the third installment; it just happened to be the one I responded to second. The first one was about the misuse of Fascism as a “snarl word”–one intended to convey and elicit disapproval. That prompted me and others to respond with attempts at defining Fascism. After all, if one is on the lookout for something, one has to know what it looks like. Here’s the link to my entry collecting those definitions.
Greer’s response was that all of us were a week ahead of him, and that we were too focused on Fascism as creature of the Right, when it should be better understood as a totalitarianism arising from the disenfranchised and neglected Center. When you wish for a “Radical Center,” be careful what you wish for. You might get it in ways you don’t want. After all, the Montagnards, who instituted the Reign of Terror, came from neither the left nor right in the French Assembly, but sat high in the center.
Greer followed through the next week in the parable of “Fred Halliot,” where he wrote out a scenario in support of his thesis. He also derided the idea of political views being understood as being distributed along a line. He didn’t make explicit how many dimensions would map out American politics, so I responded with a series of two-dimensional schemes. Greer pointed out that I didn’t take into account class interests. He’s right about that, but the common plots of politics in two dimensions don’t take class interests explicitly into account either. The best I could find was the attempt by Michael Lind in “Up from Conservatism: Why the Right is Wrong for America.” That one really needs to be shown in three dimensions, but Lind portrayed it badly in two. I put together that conversation and added charts and a video just this week.
“I don’t believe that kind of reasoning is accurate.”
That’s why I described it as “perversely reassuring.” Greer merely found it reassuring. I found his reaction perverse.
Thanks for the explanation! I didn’t read it carefully.
As I’ve commented on this site once before, my maternal grandfather flew bombing missions over Germany in WWII with the Army Air Corps (later to become the United States Air Force) and was stationed in Germany some ten years later. I never knew him very well — he died before I was ten years old and lived too far away for me to be able to see him often — but according to my mother, he always believed that what happened in Nazi Germany could potentially happen here one day if we are not careful. As soon as I was old enough to understand, my mother began teaching me about the dangers inherent in putting too much faith in government. I can’t imagine that there are many people with a parent who taught them about things such as the Milgram Experiment (which studied American willingness to obey authority over the objections of conscience back in the early 60’s) and Pastor Martin Niemoller (author of the poem which begins “first they came for the Jews”) when they were in junior high.
Fast forward some twenty years to post-911 America. Over the past decade, I have found myself frequently dismayed by my mother’s great reluctance (if not outright refusal) to be aware of and acknowledge the parallels which seem to be forming between our country — particularly in the shape of our politicians and our popular culture — and the Weimar Republic in which the Nazis gained power. I can understand some of the reasons why my mother doesn’t want to see what’s happening — she’s much older than she once was, she doesn’t want to risk losing the comfort and security she has, she doesn’t want to believe that the people she’s chosen to trust might not have deserved it and might have succeeded in deceiving her. However, in all honesty, I think her father if he were alive today would be deeply disappointed in what the country he fought to defend has become.
The gloss of our self-obsessed, celebrity-saturated, technology-rich culture seems to keep a lot of Americans from being aware of something quite a bit darker growing underneath the surface of our society…it’s no wonder that some people suspect all the distraction might be deliberate. The lack of critical thinking, the nationalism (my country right or wrong), the propaganda, the paranoia, the cronyism and corruption, the protection of corporate interests above all else, the attempts to suppress dissent, the use of dishonest and unethical means to keep certain people from voting (accusations of voter fraud and examples of private voter coercion), the consolidation of the media, the contempt shown toward organized labor, the use of excessive force by law enforcement, the contempt shown toward intellectuals and higher education (“liberal elitism”), the search for scapegoats, the willingness to overlook and justify torture of others, the disregard for individual civil or human rights such as the right to privacy…the list goes on and on. One of these factors by itself might not be a cause for alarm…but when viewed collectively, they paint a rather gruesome and threatening picture (which is probably one of the reasons why so many people in this country decide to remain not-quite-blissfully unaware of the big picture and choose to focus on and complain about just one piece of it.
On this most excellent site I’ve commented before on the fast and loose use of “fascism”, it is a unhelpfull label that muddies the water.
IMHO those posts by Mr. Greer are really rather good, and very readable, comments too. Thanks to Neon Vincent for the pointer, because otherwise I’d never have got past the upfront fringe weirdness….(Apologies dude, but “Archdruid”? Really?)
“it is a unhelpfull label that muddies the water.”
But you don’t explain why it is “unhelpful” or “muddies the water”. It’s an ancient political system, and like all such reoccurs throughout history. Pretending we’re immune is absurd.
For details see What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism.
My guess is that you conflate fascism with one specific instance of it — NAZI Germany. If so, that is a logical fallacy — confusing the general phenomenon with one manifestation of it.
FP, quite welcome. Glad you enjoyed Greer’s posts on the subject. As for “Apologies dude, but “Archdruid”? Really?” The answer is yes, really, and so is his wife.
Let me start by saying its a fine post, that gallup poll is surely pointing nowhere good. Leads one to wonder how that pattern compares with other countries, particularly historically just as they went astray.
Fascist. The term is horribly overused, and has too often been ripped from its roots*. I know that you have referred and linked to a definition from the Britannica, but I honestly believe that this will sail over the heads of most readers who will subconsciously replace “fascist” with (insert whatever movie/graphic novel/polemic version last featured in pop culture), or simply tune out.
You do mention that “It’s an ancient political system, and like all such reoccurs throughout history” …. Does it? The britannica article you link itself talks about 1919-45. Again, IMHO the brush becomes too broad.
As both Mr Greer and the britannica note, that label “fascist” refers to a rather wide variety of different political movements.
Was the Pinochet regime, the Argentine Junta of 76, or Indonesia’s Suharto fascist? I submit that any leftist worth his party card would describe them as virulent fascists, but they do not really meet the academic criteria. They do all represent a combination of predatory plutocracy and repressive military. They do *not* represent the culmination of ideological movements that can be described as fascist. In contrast, the definitive Fascist regimes of Mussolini and Hitler were certainly not mere tools of the 1%, instead being rather populist and boasting “class collaboration” among other oddities.
Yet, one of your dominant themes is the growing wealth and influence of the 1%, and this gallup poll appears to show a growing trust in power structures but disdain for ordinary government and democracy. To me the combination of unrestrained 1%, military prestige and democratic failure is strongly reminiscent of those 3rd world dictatorships, but *not* the classic fascist movements.
So, is the threat plutocrats with repressive power structures, or an revolutionary populist movement pouncing into a empty political center (as Mr Greer describes), or both? Your mileage may vary, but I see them as being rather different and even opposing beasts. Giving both the same label is like having a generic word for “predator” without specifying crocodile or leopard, one is alarmed but unsure to swim or climb.
That is why I believe the term is not helpfull.
* Just for an example or three, search for #fascist on twitter.
Perhaps there is some pure accurate political language that is both clear to the public and has not been misused. I await the dictionary. Meanwhile I’ll use terms clear to the general public and more or less get the meaning across.
As for the ancient history of fascism, the Roman Empire fits the description quite well. It was a primitive form, as expected for a social system that lacked a word equivalent to “politics”.
As for the 1%’s political plan, it is imo the opposite of “revolutionary”. They seek to return the US to its “base state”, before the New Deal. They’re quite clear about that, and have been since the 1930s.
FM, your theory that groups such as the military leadership and the one percent are pushing these changes in perception seems sound but my question is about the “after” period.
As we’ve seen in the Middle East, it is easy to tear down the local population’s willingness to support an institution. It is considerably harder to build support (especially permanent, do-or-die support) for an institution.
Is it possible that the people currently undermining the constitution may find themselves the victims of undermining if they succeed?
That’s a brilliant comment. My guess is that you see the 1% as building something new. I too describe it that way — as a “New America”. But I see that’s wrong.
Building new things is difficult and prone to failure. Plus people generally look to the past, not the future — describing change as a return to ancient principles. The priest Hilkiah finds the lost “Book of the Law” in the temple during its renovation. Almost forgotten after 3 centuries, Edward Coke calls for political reform in England according to the principles of Magna Carta.
The 1% are not experimenting. They’re returning us to the American that once was — between the Civil War and the New Deal. It was a stable model. Modern tech might make it even more stable than it was then.
I agree that the new leaders are restarting the Gilded Age and while I understand why made the statement about stability, FM, the Gilded Age was NOT a stable model. You are quite right that it stood for almost 50 years but the 1% kept taking more and more of the country’s working capital which led to the serial financial collapses of the 1890’s and the rise of progressive politics.
You could forecast that our new Gilded Age will also last at least 50 years, especially because of the diversions of the modern entertainment industry and the semi-police state that has been evolving but I do not agree.
The Gilded Age lasted so long in large part because the US economy was growing so fast that the general standard of living increased in spite of the rapaciousness of the robber barons. Now we’ve got the opposite situation where the only part of the US economy that is growing faster than the inflation rate is the part that caters to the robber barons. The middle class is shrinking and Wal-Mart is becoming too expensive for the poor.
The current Gilded Age is based on two factors:
1. The US economy is not great but it is still better than the rest of the developed world because we made far fewer catastrophic errors than the Europeans and the Japanese
2. The absolute confidence of investors that the US Federal Reserve will fully reimburse them for ANY losses suffered in a stock market downturn
I can’t say how long the first will continue to be true but the second is ebbing fairly quickly. It could still take another 2-3 years for a major downturn to reveal the that the second factor is false, after which all bets are off.
You can fool all of the people all of the time for a surprisingly long time but basic economic truths are waiting in ambush and giggling to themselves in anticipation.
As usual, this time is not different.
All valid points!
The Gilded Age was stable, as you said, in that it lasted for 70 years — but internally saw repeated violence to oppress workers immigrants, and Native Americans. It started and ended with decade-long depressions (the Long Depression and Great Depression).
The current period is unstable, normal for transitional years. The 1%, I believe, hope to herd us to a more stable system, the outlines of which are already visible in both our past and present.
The third graph about the “confidence in the military” is revealing. The measured index spikes with much-touted military successes (first Gulf war, Iraq invasion, death of Ben Laden), but falls dramatically just afterwards. Overall, there is an undeniable trend upwards since 1982.
However, the figures right at the beginning of the curve are most interesting.
After a momentous defeat in Indochina, after all it revealed about the slaughter committed by the US military, after bungled operations like the Mayaguez incident, the confidence index stood at 58%. Even with further bumbling like operation Eagle Claw, confidence did not drop below 50%. This is way above what the Congress or news institutions achieved during the entire period.
If exaggerated confidence in the military is a sign of susceptibility for fascism, then the seeds for it were sown at least two generations ago; it is not at all a recent phenomenon.
I agree with this important point. We are sliding faster now, but as a result of 40 years of careful planning and work. This did not “just happen”.
Of course, the consummate paradox of this is that the Gallup poll clearly indicates the American people trust the military much more than they trust the President…and yet the vast majority of them are also aware of the fact that the President holds the official position of Commander-In-Chief of our military forces. This implies that the military cannot act without the authorization of the President and that any actions which the military takes must have been authorized by the CIC — and yet the military has a much higher trust rating than the CIC even though they are not free to act without his approval and authorization.
I very much doubt I’m the only one who finds this profoundly ironic. At least on the surface, this does not seem to make much sense and suggests an increasing dearth of critical and/or logical reasoning skills among Americans (which is troubling in itself since people who cannot think critically and logically cannot be relied upon to make wise and beneficial decisions). Common sense would seem to indicate that if Americans place a high degree of trust in the military, they ought to be placing a fairly high degree of trust in the CIC who authorizes their actions — but based on the poll results, that is clearly not what’s happening.
“At least on the surface, this does not seem to make much sense and suggests an increasing dearth of critical and/or logical reasoning skills among Americans”
Not at all. We’re just preparing for the great day when we resolve this conflict — probably during a time of turmoil — by having a military leader as our Supreme Leader. It’s happened before.
The trust the American public holds for American military does seem disproportionately higher than its trust for other institutions.
What is the trust level that publics of other countries hold for their militaries ( eg. The French for the French military, the Brazilians for the Brazilian military, the Russians for the Russian military, etc. )
Is the American trust level typical, or is it abnormally high – just as the level of military spending in the United States is abnormally high?
Results for France (go to page 9 of the document):
Brazil (go to page 21):
Italy (last page):
Summa summarum: in most cases, confidence in armed forces is extremely high and in political parties and parliament extremely low, but there are very obvious national differences.
Thus, Germans have a very high regard for their president, physicians and environmental organizations, French and Mexicans for their school system — but Mexicans and Brazilians have very limited trust in their police (understandably), and Brazilians do not trust their neighbors.
All in all, to be useful an analysis should not look just at absolute values, but also at differences (in rankings between institutions in different countries, and in time within the same country).
Thank you for posting this information. It’s one of the most informative comments among the 33 thousand posted on the FM website.
I would agree with Pluto’s comment about the instability of the Gilded Age America. It was socially unstable, with ever-increasing violence and riots by workers, and it was also highly unstable financially. The Gilded Age America largely came to and end when the Great Panic of 1907 nearly destroyed the American financial system. J. P. Morgan had to step in and save the U.S. financial system by ponying up his personal cash – that was why the U.S. Federal Reserve system and the personal income tax were instituted. Chaos like the 1894 Pullman Strike, where state militia troops gunned down women and children who were striking for a living wage, helped kick-start the labor movements that led to the New Deal.
What worries me about the collapse of our current institutions is that while you usually get something more livable than the heavily militarized oligarchy after the decadent social-political system falls apart and the chaos subsides, the society typically doesn’t return to full democracy nor a prosperous middle class. The collapse of Russia offers a monitory example here. It’s certainly better politically and socially for the average person in Russia now than under Soviet rule, but arguably the average citizen of the Russian Federal is less well off financially today than during Soviet rule. Also, the infrastructure has gone to pot and isn’t being rebuilt.
So people who enthuse about the collapse of our current oligarchy should be aware that they might get what they’re asking for, and they won’t like it. The overthrow of the top 0.1% in America probably won’t lead to a rebuilding of our disintegrating infrastructure or a return to the glory days of low-cost education as in the early 1960s, when first-rate universities like U of Berkeley allowed average Americans to get a superb education for essentially the cost of a student union fee once per semester.
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