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Weak and Feckless:

The True Believer in American Society 

Their impact on Democratic Institutions

“It is above all in the present democratic age that the true friends of liberty and human grandeur must remain constantly vigilant and ready to prevent the social power from lightly sacrificing the particular rights of a few individuals to the general execution of its designs. In such times there is no citizen so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed, and there are no individual rights so unimportant that they can be sacrificed to arbitrariness with impunity.”

― Alexis de Tocqueville (Author, Democracy in America)

    

Introduction

One of the most important sociological facts in the study of society is the existence of “The True Believer.” Who is the true believer? According to the late Eric Hoffer, “He’s a guilt-ridden hitchhiker who thumbs a ride on every cause from Christianity to Communism. He’s a fanatic needing a Stalin (or a Christ) to worship or die for. He’s the mortal enemy of things-as-they-are, and he insists on sacrificing himself for a dream impossible to attain. He is today everywhere on the march.”

Although Eric Hoffer’s seminal sociological work was published in 1951, his book made a crucial impact on sociology and our understanding of fanaticism and deviant behavior. And that understanding applies historically to the most ancient of times as it does in the present day.

Fanaticism as the most ideological deviant of human behaviors continues to plague all of us in democratic societies worldwide. And what do we see today as we look out at the world?

We see ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the malevolent murderous dictators in Saudi Arabia. In addition to this, we have long witnessed entire countries run by dictators who violate human rights every day. This includes such dictators as Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Xi Jinping serving as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un who is a dictator of one of the ugliest regimes of all time.

     Unfortunately, America, a democratic country with democratic institutions, is not immune to fanaticism. And this fanaticism has come from both the left and the right.        

A Short History Lesson

Throughout history in our country the True Believer has existed. In the modern era two prime examples come to mind in the political arena where the True Believer is concerned:  The Era of Eugene Victor Debs and the era of Donald Trump, the former a Socialist and the later a White Nationalist. Let’s begin by exploring these two people.

The Father of American Socialism

One of the most influential people during the early years of the 20th Century was Eugene Victor Debs.  He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1855 to a family of French Alsatian immigrants. Making his way in the railroad industry, Debs formed the American Railway Union in 1892.

Two years later he found himself leading one of the largest strikes in American history — the great Pullman strike. When its workers refused to accept a pay cut, The Pullman Car Company fired 5000 employees.

To show support, Debs called for the members of the American Railway Union to refrain from operating any trains that used Pullman cars. When the strike was declared illegal by a court injunction, chaos erupted.

President Cleveland ordered federal troops to quell the strikers and Debs was arrested. Soon order was restored and the strike failed. Eugene Debs was also one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States.

Debs was not originally a socialist, but his experience with the Pullman Strike and his subsequent six-month jail term led him to believe that drastic action was necessary. Debs chose to confine his activity to the political arena. In 1900 he ran for President of the United States as a socialist and garnered some 87,000 votes.

The following year, leading sympathizers joined with him to form the Socialist Party. At its height, the party numbered over 100,000 active members.

In the election of 1912 he received over 900,000 votes. After being arrested for antiwar activities during World War I, he ran for President from his jail cell and polled 919,000 votes. Debs died in 1926 having never won an election, but over one thousand Socialist Party members were elected to state and city governments.

Eugene Victor Debs left an indelible mark among candidates for President of the United States. Eugene Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.6% of the popular vote), 1904 (3.0%), 1908 (2.8%), 1912 (6.0%), and 1920 (3.4%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state of Indiana in 1916.

Why Were Socialists beliefs popular?

Despite the success of the American Federation of Labor, American radicalism was not dead. The number of those who felt the American capitalist system was fundamentally flawed was in fact growing fast.

American socialists based their beliefs on the writings of Karl Marx, the German philosopher. Many asked why so many working Americans should have so little while a few owners grew incredibly wealthy. No wealth could exist without the sweat and blood of its workforce. They suggested that the government should own all industries and divide the profits among those who actually created the products. While the current management class would stand to lose, many more people would gain. These radicals grew in number as industries spread. But their enemies were legion.

While most Americans today would feel sympathy for Eugene Debs and his cause for fairness between management and labor in an era of crass capitalism gone amuck, it is still a fact that there were fanatics among many of his supporters.

There is an uncanny resemblance I can see between Eugene Deb’s fanatical supporters and Donald Trump’s core base of Republicans where violence several times has made its way to attacking reporters. In addition, his white racist lunatic supporters have even attacked Trump’s own African American supporters who show up at Donald Trump rallies. Oops! I digress for a moment. Back to Eugene Debs and the saga of the Wobblies.

The Wobblies

Even more radical than the Socialists were the members of the Industrial Workers of the World. This union believed that compromise with owners was no solution. Founded in 1905 and led by William “Big Bill” Haywood, the “Wobblies,” as they were called, encouraged their members to fight for justice directly against their employers.

Although small in number, they led hundreds of strikes across America, calling for the overthrow of the capitalist system. The I.W.W. won few battles, but their efforts sent a strong message across America that workers were being mistreated.

When the United States entered World War I, the “Wobblies” launched an active antiwar movement. Many were arrested or beaten. One unlucky member in Oregon was tied to the front end of an automobile with his knees touching the ground and driven until his flesh was torn to the bone.

Membership declined after the war, but for two decades the I.W.W. was the anchor of radical American activism. This minority of Wobblers were indeed “true believers” in their cause.

This leads to my example of fanaticism from the right in politics. What makes this relevant is that this new era of political fanaticism is occurring in the here and now.

The Trump Administration and the High Priest of Hate

Donald Trump was elected to the presidency of the United States in 2016. Based on a philosophy of white nationalism, similar in tone to the promoters of Aryan beliefs fostered during the reign of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Brown Shirts (Sturmabteilung a.k.a., Storm Troopers), Donald Trump is be-loved by the Aryans of today as reflected in the violent confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 as well as at his political rallies.

After the 2016 presidential election, it became crystal clear that the American voter had made an egregious mistake in judgment when picking a person to be the Commander in Chief and President of the United States. Immediately, women and independent voters who had got him elected pulled away their support when their error in judgment came home to roost.

Now following the 2016 election, research has shown that Trump voters were lacking education, lacking intelligent insight, devoid of basic humanitarian values, overly naïve in their beliefs, and simply lacked adroitness to the maximum degree. In my opinion all of these things may have been present in the Trump voter in 2016.

Russian collusion and interference, un-democratic gerrymandering, voter suppression and the unnecessary (and undemocratic) Electoral College system conspired to give the presidency to Donald Trump. Scandal after scandal has plagued his presidency both before and after his becoming president.

He has committed both impeachable offenses (including treason) as well as engaged in criminal behavior. Donald is an infantile mental case and has delusions of grandeur about his self-worth. He is a wanna-be mafia don. I can understand Donald Trump’s infatuation with the concept of “fake news.” After all, since January 20, 2017 the United States of America has had a fake president.

At no previous time in the history of the United States has a president or his administration brought such dishonor and disrespect. As a result the United States has lost status as a protector of human rights in the eyes of the world.

Given the bomb threats that have been made against liberal democratic politicians including the attempted murder of two prior American presidents, the FBI need to investigate these incredibly serious criminal acts leaving no stone unturned.

And, the racist connections to Donald Trump continue to shed a light and give direction to such an investigation. The motivation of the bomber(s) is very clear. Just how deep racism runs rampant through Donald Trump and his supporters is reflected in an article written back in 2016.

In May, 2016 Robert L. Tsai wrote an article for Slate Magazine, titled: “What Aryans See in Donald Trump—He is the Aryan warrior, come to save whiteness itself.

By Robert L. Tsai

May 26, 2016•3:49 PM

“In recent years, white supremacists have tended to avoid taking part in national politics in the belief that both parties have been conquered by nonwhites who pursue their own racial interests over others. This year represents a sea change. Rarely have so many open racists flocked to a presidential candidate’s banner as they have done for Donald Trump. They have shown up at rallies to do gleeful battle with Black Lives Matter protesters and jumped at the opportunity to serve as Trump delegates to the Republican National Convention.

The reasons for white nationalists’ renewed hope in mainstream politics are more complicated than the caricature of jackbooted youths saluting one of their own. Trump has disavowed the endorsement of overt racists such as David Duke, but somehow white nationalists have “never been more optimistic.” Despite Trump’s profession, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” his brand of race-fueled populism promises to reforge broken psychological ties among large swaths of demoralized white voters, whether or not they self-identify as white nationalists or belong to extremist organizations. Trump seeks to recreate a coalition that includes dislocated rural workers and dissatisfied denizens of urban democracy, the relatively prosperous and the hardly working, weary defenders of the Old South and armed isolationists in the Pacific Northwest. Through a mix of policy and symbolism, Trump unites them all with a sneering form of nationalism that, more than ever, helps rekindle the racial consciousness of mainstream white voters.

A key to Trump’s appeal is that his agenda to “Make America Great Again” revolves around an iron-fisted leadership style for which many disaffected white voters have been searching. The fractured elements of white nationalist America, meanwhile, perceive Trump to be the embodiment of the Aryan warrior, a mythic figure who will liberate white people from their current state of malaise, infighting, and almost certain extinction. White nationalists trace their lineage through Northern Europe (some claim to descend from the Lost Tribes of Israel) and find their role models in the various soldiers and statesmen who supposedly defended the purity of the white civilization. Today, any person of Western European stock can theoretically become an Aryan warrior by swearing to preserve the white race, but some white supremacist groups believe a single figure will be called from among the people to fulfill a more unifying role. Trump, who is of German and Scottish ancestry, fits the ethnic profile of this savior to a T. But it’s Trump’s political self-presentation that is truly arousing.

Unhappy white Americans are not monolithic; Trump’s appeal goes beyond his potential Aryan saviorhood. In a Republican Party that has tilted decidedly rightward, he outflanked Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz—figures who are more faithful conservatives than Trump—by shrewdly appealing to a complex belief system shared by many disgruntled white voters.

But for the most extreme of these resentment-oriented citizens, Trump’s appeal is manifold. These citizens believe that the founding generation established the United States as a republic for the pursuit of liberty and happiness as white people alone define those ideals. Members of this alt-community despise pluralism, bristling at any emphasis of race, sex, or gender differences.

Many distrust liberal education, which is blamed for fostering white guilt and destroying a sense of racial identity among whites. A number of them fear the global economy. Sensing their influence greatly diminished, such individuals have opted out of electoral politics. They have felt abandoned by the old Democratic Party after it became the party of black civil rights and betrayed by the modern Republican Party, which has cynically used dog-whistle politics to gain their votes without, in their view, doing enough to safeguard their interests. Some of the discontented have become radicalized, joining patriot groups, separatist strongholds, or white supremacist organizations.

Anxiety about biological and cultural extinction is pervasive among these disaffected whites. Before his downfall and death, Richard Girnt Butler gathered self-identified Aryans to his compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. On social media today, racially conscious whites assemble around the hashtag #WhiteGenocide or lodge their grievances at Stormfront.org. (Trump once actually retweeted a user named “White Genocide.”) The late David Lane, an influential Aryan thinker and member of a violent organization called the Order, helped popularize the view that the white race was “now a small minority in the world,” beset by forced integration, intermarriage, and “inter-species compassion.” According to this worldview, only those who aspire to the ideal of the Aryan warrior can restore the civic republicanism of America’s forefathers and save the white race. Enter Trump.

The cultural image of the Aryan warrior combines romantic masculinity, chest-beating race pride, and a relish for legal violence. Lane’s writings put the Aryan warrior in explicitly political terms. His tract 88 Precepts prophesies the coming of the “strongman,” who will emerge in the late stages of a dying democracy. That figure will display a keen ability to see that “political, economic, and religious systems may be destroyed and resurrected” in ways to prevent the eternal destruction of the white race. Some will call the strongman “a dictator,” but Lane insists that a ruthless leadership style “is the only way to restore order out of the chaos caused by a democracy.”

Trump’s style of governance seems to fulfill this prophesy: His entire self-presentation is a rebuke to liberalism and gradual legal change. Instead, he promises political revolution through charismatic leadership. Trump’s vulgar, unvarnished manner of speaking and his penchant for favoring extreme measures—the very characteristics deemed un-presidential and dangerous by his critics—are seen as not only refreshing but also as essential for the rebirth of the Aryan nation-state.

When Trump calls Hispanic immigrants “criminals, drug dealers, rapists,” and vows to “take our country back” from those “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” white nationalists hear Trump telling the same uncomfortable truths about the sorry state of white society they have voiced for decades. Every time he eggs followers on to forcefully confront detractors or swears to “take out the families” of terrorists, he projects a muscular approach to protecting the white republic.

His calling card is a plan to build a massive wall between the United States and Mexico to stem illegal immigration and somehow force Mexico to pay for it. Policy analysts have scoffed at this proposal, but its real power lies not in policy but in metaphor, one that taps into a hardened, survivalist mindset. It is an image that resonates with a community that already believes it is losing the war against nonwhite civilizations. When Trump ritually invokes the wall or recommends the creation of a national deportation force, he signals to this constituency that he agrees the future of the white race is at stake.

To Aryans, a resurgence of public masculinity is central to sovereignty. They believe that the power to command others, and then to spark a revolution, emanates from one’s power to control the traditional family. This is why Trump’s crude comments about female appearances and the proper role of women excite rather than repulse these core supporters. It is also why, in trading on fears of white male helplessness, his claims that “Mexico sends its people” to rape and pillage and that China is “raping our country” through unfair trade practices appeal so powerfully to the racist mind. For Trump, as for the white nationalist community, sovereignty and maleness are forever interlinked.

Additionally, the scorn heaped upon Trump simply confirms for these racially motivated white voters that they have discovered the right leader, one who might defeat the forces of liberalism and multiculturalism that have corrupted American law. Lane urged white people to select a strongman “wisely.” “Choose one who has sacrificed all in the face of tyranny; choose one who has endured and persevered,” he writes. “This is the only reliable evidence of his worthiness and motives.” On this front, Trump has more than proved his mettle by drawing the arrows of his enemies in the Republican primary and emerging more powerful for it, while the battlefield is littered with opponents who underestimated him.

How far can he go? Trump has actively courted fringe parts of the electorate by assenting to their racially inflected diagnosis of what ails America and has thrown his support behind whites-first prescriptions. From this point on, Trump’s ceiling as a vehicle for white nationalism will depend on the willingness of mainstream voters to take responsibility for his promise to restore white self-governance and his systematic scapegoating of nonwhites.

By casting himself as a virtuous guardian of white people’s welfare and claiming a “mandate” to be provocative, Trump has gotten further than any similar politician in recent years. Win or lose, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, he is already more successful than Pat Buchanan or David Duke, which makes him the most prominent Aryan warrior of the modern age.”

The Commonality of Unifying Agents among Differing Fanatical Groups

According to Eric Hoffer true believers for any cause have certain things in common. They include: Hatred, Imitation, Persuasion and Coercion, Leadership, Action, Suspicion, and The Effects of Unification. Given the limitations of this Blog I will only discuss the unifying factor of hatred.

 Hatred

According to Eric Hoffer, “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents…Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” He also reported that, “The theoreticians of the Kremlin hardly waited for the guns of Second World War to cool before they picked the democratic West, and particularly America, as the chosen enemy.”

For Donald Trump the devil is liberals, democrats, the free press and anyone else who criticizes him. By his stoking the fires of hatred, it has led to the discovery of several bombs reported on Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 whereby democrats, liberals and the free press were targeted for murder and assassination.

Donald Trump, as an advocate of violence at his rallies, no matter how surreptitiously displayed, bears great similarity to Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin. These latter historical figures of World War II along with Eugene Debs and the Wobblies share an important characteristic with the fatuous oaf in the White House—They were all ‘True Believers.’”

Final Comments

The evidence shows that fanaticism and the “true believer” has been around for thousands of years. As long as mankind exists and, in the absence of a world-wide nuclear catastrophe, people of extreme views and mindsets will likely continue to exist in the future.

Groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the American mafia, including different ethnic versions of it, were filled with members who might have manifested the characteristics of a “True Believer.” And, there may have been some who had additional motives like avarice and greed.

The real test of the degree of being a “True Believer” is whether or not (as Eric Hoffer pointed out) one is willing to sacrifice oneself for a dream impossible to attain. We know that some people cave-in to pressure while others do not. This applies to anyone in any group. Measuring this attribute of people in fanatical groups of “True Believers” is probably impossible to do.

I could have chosen to write about other groups as evidence of the “True Believer,” but I chose instead to write about Eugene Debs of the 20th Century and Donald Trump in the 21st Century. I think I have shown that “True Believers” runs the full political landscape or gamut from left to right, However, I want to zero-in now on Donald Trump.

I do this because the effects, and soon-to-be after effects, are happening now in this day and age. Critical to all of this is motivation of people, particularly those who supported and those who continue to support Donald Trump. And it pertains to comments made by author, Robert L Tsai.  I may too have some insight to contribute in this regard.

      In 1900 there was no television, cell phones or the Internet. In today’s world we get pummeled every day with a barrage of “breaking news” on a nearly 24 hour basis. In a few prior blogs I pointed out the sociological concept of “White Fright—White Flight.” This concept has generated intense psychological fear among a sizeable portion of white voters.

The underlying reason many whites are terrified is not economic; rather, it is an irrational fear of losing one’s social status in society. This is sad, but true. The insecurity of losing one’s status seems to reinforce the idea that constitutional principles of freedom and justice for all people under the United States Constitution, must somehow take a back seat to one’s loss of social status.

No one knows what American will be like in 30 years when there is no majority, only minorities of different population sizes. As a social scientist there is one question that begs to be answered. As a result of population changes favoring no one and favoring everyone at the time, will there be less stress and strife among groups in society as a result of this?

Intuitively, I think the United States Constitution will still be the law of the land. Hopefully people will strive for the good life as individuals no longer burdened by some arbitrarily defined social group label or status. If we see everyone as individuals, not members of some group, I think this would be a very good thing. However, I don’t know definitively if this will be the case. I can only speculate and say I am a very optimistic person and hope for the best all the time.

On the negative side today, I make this pronouncement:

If these attempted assassinations are connected to Trump himself or his voters and core supporters, drastic steps may need to be taken when the House and the Senate are changed by the mid-term elections.

It may very well be that such individuals responsible will need to be incarcerated for life if they are proven guilty of attempted murder and assassination.  Given the more civilized nature of the Democratic Party, I doubt children of the Trump supporter will be locked in cages, permanently separated from their parents or forcibly sent to Mexico or Guatemala.

If Donald Trump is behind the plot to assassinate two prior American presidents he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. In spirit his cell mate just might be Eugene Victor Debs or “Big Bill Haywood.” A more likely scenario is that Donald Trump will die in prison then spend eternity being guided by Virgil through Dante’s 9 circles of hell for Trump’s deadly sins of Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.

Coming back to today’s reality Donald Trump is simply a racist, weak, feckless, and immoral human being. He is also the worst politician in American History.

 

 

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