Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Review - When America Stopped Being Great

 


Outsiders are often in a better position than resident nationals to understand trends in a nation's political culture. In the case of Nick Bryant, a Bristol-born Brit writing about the US political scene, this is clear to the reader. This is a revealing, frightening, and thought-provoking work. 

His 2020 account of the rise of Donald Trump explains and rationalises the most recent developments in the USA and plots the rise of a new kind of politics, a phenomenon that he claims originated in the Reagan era.

He ought to know what he is talking about. He has studied politics at both Cambridge and Oxford and has a doctorate in American politics from the latter.

His view of recent events in the USA is negative - almost dystopian. He sees the widening gap between rich and poor, the festering racial divide, and government incompetence at all levels as drivers of Trump's election, and recent violence.

He writes (convincingly in my book) that the beginning of this decline can be traced back to the way in which Ronald Reagan fundamentally changed American understanding of the office of President. He posits that Reagan dumbed the office down and transformed it into a celebrity performance rather than a leadership and governance role.

He writes that Reagan was very much a part-time president who relied on speechwriters and assistants to do the actual work of administration and made up memes that were usually based on a scripted narrative often separated a great distance from reality. Reagan then played his starring role.

One example of this was his use of the story of Martin Treptow, a soldier of Cherokee heritage who was killed in World War One on the Western Front. The whole point of Reagan's address, delivered at Arlington National Cemetery, was that it was delivered over Treptow's tomb. The fact that Treptow was actually buried in Wisconsin was not allowed to detract from the narrative. The script was what mattered, not the history. Pat Buchanan, White House Communications Director under Reagan, summed him up pretty well -

For Ronald Reagan, the world of legend and myth is the real world. He visits it regularly, and he's a happy man there.

In that, Trump resembles Reagan, in that he invented a narrative all of his own, anchored in reality TV, which he proceeded to sell to his audience. The problem in this, of course, is that the myth requires little encouragement to develop a life of its own, and we saw the culmination of this on January 6th, 2021 at the Capitol.

It is possible to fool some of the people some of the time using a fictional narrative, especially in the USA. Orson Welles' famous broadcast is historical evidence of this, as is the contemporary QAnon phenomenon.

Bryant walks the reader through the Bush Senior and Clinton eras, using his thesis about the underlying and developing malaise in American culture as the thread that ties the history of their administrations together. His explanation of Bush senior's one-term presidency is convincing. The reader begins to understand how a dignified and competent President loses out to a narrative spun by individuals like Buchanan, ultimately delivering a slick Southerner with a penchant for interns to the White House. The story becomes so strong that it crosses partisan lines. An important aspect of this progression is the separation between the scripted meme and the performance in office of the President, a trend that continued through the Obama era, and which made the election of a snake-oil merchant like Trump to the White House almost inevitable.

Bryant's writing style is journalistic, personal, anecdotal, and punchy, and this adds weight to his conclusions. He writes that if America was ever great, it was fleeting greatness. It has been hampered by confrontation, nihilism, and corroded by racial tension and inequality.

The last sentence of his last chapter is not encouraging -

Alas, I fear more American carnage, regardless of who occupies the White House.

I hope he's wrong.

Comments closed.


29 comments:

Anonymous said...

What an ineffective attempt to re-write history by Bryant and championed by Bob.
There is no mention by Bob, and I assume the author, of President Regan's wonderful success in fixing America's economic ills.
Regan's foreign policy is undoubtedly one of the world's best examples of bringing peace to the world.
Bob, tear down this post!
John Grey

1735099 said...

Without reading the book you are commenting out of spite and malice.

Anonymous said...

"Without reading the book you are commenting out of spite and malice."
What a lot of garbage Bob.
I am simply reading your words and responding to then - i.e. calling out your bullshit.
Take just one example: you write that "His view of recent events in the USA is negative - almost dystopian. He sees the widening gap between rich and poor, the festering racial divide, and government incompetence at all levels as drivers of Trump's election, and recent violence.
He writes (convincingly in my book) that the beginning of this decline can be traced back to the way in which Ronald Reagan fundamentally changed American understanding of the office of President."
So you say Bryant's dystopian view of America is rooted in the decline of the USA under Regan.
I responded with an example of the great President Regan's successes.
No need to read that irrelevant book when you describe it so well.
Bryant's opinion of the USA simply confirms your well documented anti-American bias. Neither are grounded in fact.
John Grey

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful when Bob agrees with Trump.
He wanted to "Make America Great Again" too.
John Grey

1735099 said...

He sees the widening gap between rich and poor, the festering racial divide, and government incompetence at all levels as drivers of Trump's election, and recent violence.
These problems are all measurable and documented if you care to read some history.
The only issue you could dispute is the success or otherwise of Reagan's econimic policies. They were a sugar hit and cost Bush senior a second term when the chickens in the economy came home to roost.
Bush's cooperation with Gorbachev had much more to do with the dissolution of Soviet Russia than Reagan's foreign policy -https://history.state.gov/milestones/1989-1992/collapse-soviet-union#:~:text=NOTE%20TO%20READERS-,The%20Collapse%20of%20the%20Soviet%20Union,Gorbachev%20and%20the%20Soviet%20Union.
The USSR would have collapsed no matter who was POTUS. Reagan was coincidentally President before the break up, and Bush - not Reagan - was in office when it came about.

1735099 said...

He wanted to "Make America Great Again" too.
And he stuffed that up thoroughly, almost as thoroughly as he stuffed up the handling of the pandemic.

Anonymous said...

Bob you lie so easily that it seems to be a decades-long practiced art.
Trump's achievements place him at the forefront of all American Presidents.
It's just laughable that you attribute Regan's achievements to "coincidence".
John Grey.

1735099 said...

Trump's achievements place him at the forefront of all American Presidents.
"Achievements" is a strange word to use when you look at what his four years created - a dangerously divided country, 594000 Covid deaths, the desecration of the Capitol, and an uncompleted expensive white elephant on the Southern border paid for American taxpayers, not Mexicans, as he promised.

Anonymous said...

Bob, your pro communist bullshit is so easily destroyed.

"a dangerously divided country" No, Trump didn't divide America. The far left did so. The rioting and the fake Russian controversy are excellent examples of the tactics of those totalitarian friends of yours.

"594000 Covid deaths" No President Trump didn't create those deaths. China and Fauci created the virus and Democratic governors made the situation worse. Trump was world class in banning travel from China, bringing hospital ships to major cities, and masterminding operation Warp Speed to bring you a vaccine. Yes, you personally Bob are a recipient of the great man's Presidency.

"the desecration of the Capitol" The Capitol is not sacred or holy so it can't be desecrated. The riot was fermented and inflamed by Antifa. President Trump called for peaceful demonstrations.

"uncompleted (SIC) expensive white elephant on the Southern border" which as you know led to higher wages for working Americans and less crime. Under Biden the problems have resurfaced. He's even put kids in cages, like Obama.

However I don't expect logic and facts to change your obsessional anti-Trump mindset.
John Grey

Anonymous said...

https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/trump-administration-accomplishments/

1735099 said...

The far left did so.
The "Far Left" (which is almost non-existent in the USA) has never attacked specific sections of the community (Mexicans/rapists, remember) in order to dog-whistle bigots.
He used racial vilification ("China" virus, remember) at every opportunity. The first time Trump appeared in the pages of the New York Times, back in the 1970s, was when the US Department of Justice sued him for racial discrimination. Nothing has changed since.
The riot was fermented and inflamed by Antifa.
That meme was discredited months ago - https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-capitol-mob-antifa-undercov-idUSKBN29E0QO
One of the reasons that the Republicans voted the Commission into the insurrection down is that they are petrified that it might reveal the truth that the riot was instigated by Trump's rhetoric.
I don't expect logic and facts to change your obsessional anti-Trump mindset.
You would do yourself a favour by not falling for the rubbish published by the lunatic wing of the US MSM.

Anonymous said...

Who killed Ashli Babbitt?
One shot only fired at the "desecration" of the capitol and it wasn't fired by protestors. One person shot dead and not a weapon in sight amongst the rioters.
Having a BLM activist (John Sullivan) leading the charge and selling his video to CNN tells the world that the far left were totally responsible for the aggression and riot on Jan 6.
John Grey

1735099 said...

Having a BLM activist (John Sullivan) leading the charge
That meme was debunked back in January - https://www.upworthy.com/john-sullivan-capitol-riot-not-blm
One person shot dead and not a weapon in sight amongst the rioters.
Given the trigger-happy tendencies of American security personnel, it's amazing more weren't shot.

Anonymous said...

Of course your totalitarian overlords tried to downplay Sullivan's actions.
However, Sullivan is on tape saying, "If we don't get in, we're going to burn this s--- down"
His brother said "there were 226 members of Antifa involved in the attack on the Capitol".
There is plenty of evidence that the far left were the primary movers of violence that day.
John Grey

1735099 said...

Of course your totalitarian overlords tried to downplay Sullivan's actions.
My totalitarian overlords are busy making tinfoil hats. You should probably do the same.
However, Sullivan is on tape saying, "If we don't get in, we're going to burn this s--- down"
Well there you go - every arsonist is suddenly a member of Antifa. Convincing stuff...
There is plenty of evidence that the far left were the primary movers of violence that day.
Post it.

1735099 said...

Of course your totalitarian overlords tried to downplay Sullivan's actions.
My totalitarian overlords are busy making tinfoil hats. You should probably do the same.
However, Sullivan is on tape saying, "If we don't get in, we're going to burn this s--- down"
Well there you go - every arsonist is suddenly a member of Antifa. Convincing stuff...
There is plenty of evidence that the far left were the primary movers of violence that day.
Post it.

Anonymous said...

The individuals are names and highlighted in an excellent report from "gateway pundit" at https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2021/02/breaking-exclusive-list-20-individuals-interest-capitol-january-6th-appear-connected-antifa/
Proving conclusively that "The individuals who entered the US Capitol and caused damage on January 6th were not all Trump supporters."
John Sullivan and Jade Sacker knew of and were part of a plan to breach the Capitol building.

John Grey

1735099 said...

Go back and read your link.
It contains no proof that any of the individuals listed were members of Antifa.
The closest it gets is to note - Dressed in black w/ combat style gear / protective vest – similar to the attire of known Antifa agitators.
And It is well-known that Antifa is highly organized and commonly appoints a “medic” role during their planned black bloc street violence. The “medic” typically has no medical training and is often seen assaulting their opposition whether it’s police or Trump supporters. During the US Capitol protests, a “medic” is seen walking the halls before Ashli Babbit was shot dead by Capitol Hill police.
That material was posted on February 6th.
Since then, the bulk of the agitators who assaulted the Capitol have been identified and charged. There is a 63 page searchable database here -https://www.insider.com/all-the-us-capitol-pro-trump-riot-arrests-charges-names-2021-1
See how many Antfa members you can find.

Anonymous said...

As you well know, Antifa are being protected by law enforcement agencies.
For example, the FBI under Wray have launched an intensive investigation into Trump supporters and have left Antifa untouched.
It's a stitch up.
John Grey

1735099 said...

As you well know, Antifa are being protected by law enforcement agencies.
I'm still waiting for you to post the evidence.
Allegations, especially when they originate in the Gateway Pundit, a far-right fake news website well known for publishing falsehoods, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen.

Anonymous said...

"It contains no proof"
Of course proof exists. Your attempted denigration of one of the sources doesn't remove the facts that Antifa stirred up the peaceful protestors and led the way into the building.
It's up to you Bob to prove that John Sullivan and Jade Sacker were not ringleaders of the Jan 6 riot.
John Grey

Anonymous said...

I'll simplify it for you Bob with just one easy question.
Why was Antifa organiser John Sullivan wearing a disguise (a MAGA hat) as he led protestors into the inner depths of the Capitol building?
John Grey

1735099 said...

John Sullivan wearing a disguise (a MAGA hat)
According to you, wearing a MAGA hat is proof of Antifa membership. So people wearing MAGA hats who used to attend Trump rallies before he got booted were Antifa?
Weird...

1735099 said...

It's up to you Bob to prove that John Sullivan and Jade Sacker were not ringleaders of the Jan 6 riot.
You're the one (taking your information from a fake news website) who has to prove they were.
You posted the allegation - not me.
You prove it.

Anonymous said...

What is weird is your inability to mount a coherent argument to support your opinions.
Your only expertise is ducking and weaving away from harsh facts.
Sullivan is Antifa through and through.
Sullivan wore a MAGA hat to disguise his intentions.
You can't explain that away so you look for spurious arguments.
I hope your PhD shows more commonsense. Will you be publishing it here?

John Grey

Anonymous said...

Bob writes "The website is known for publishing falsehoods, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories"
Wikipedia writes "The website is known for publishing falsehoods, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories"

Even your opinions are plagiarised Bob.
John Grey

1735099 said...

So if I wear a MAGA hat I'm an Antifa supporter.
Amazing logic...

1735099 said...

Even your opinions are plagiarised Bob.
That's not an opinion - that's a fact.
The truth can't be plagiarised.
Sullivan was booted from Antifa long ago, and has ties with the Proud Boys -
"John has been kicked from the #SaltLakeCity and #Portland protest scenes due to alarming behaviors including grifting/profiteering, self-promotion/clout chasing, sabotage of community actions, threats of violence, and — maybe most disturbingly — ties to the far-right," Rebellion Baby wrote. "In short — John's brother, James, is the co-founder of a pro-Trump org called 'Civilized Awakening,' and has strong ties to Proud Boys — even having spoken at a Proud Boy rally. The brothers' polarized political stances conveniently bolster the other's public personas. Activists in these cities recommend that he be barred from community actions and totally avoided*."
*Rebellion baby Twitter feed - November 2020.

Anonymous said...

Hey, John Grey, you're looking silly.
Ex-Digger

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