We are witnessing a stunning decline of liberal democracy around the globe—the hollowing out of the center, the rise of the radical fringes, of populism of authoritarian Trump-like leaders who feed on know-nothing views. We’re talking not just across Europe, but on every continent, from Turkey, to Russia, to India, Venezuela and Brazil.
Why is this phenomenon happening now? Some say it’s because of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the market collapse of 2008, a universal disgust with traditional politics and politicians.
All those factors are at play. But I would argue that the principle cause for the collapse of traditional politics is the astonishing rise of the Internet and social media.
It was Winston Churchill who observed “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” With the defeat of Fascism in World War II, and the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1990, Churchill’s famous dictum seemed born out.
The media has been filled today with tributes to the late President George H.W. Bush. He is portrayed as a smart, pragmatic leader, who chose wise counsellors like James Baker—very different from his wilful son, George W. Bush, who led the U.S. into a disastrous attack on Iraq in 2013, the most fateful foreign policy blunder ever made by an American leader.
The fact, however, is that it was the blundering of George H. W. Bush and Baker in 1990 that set the stage for George W. Bush’s calamitous move thirteen years later.
We went to a very moving commemoration in London this week marking the 80th anniversary of Krystallnacht-- when thousands of German Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. The opening salvo, as it were, of the Holocaust. But what I found most appalling–because of its relevance to today’s headlines --was not the description of those horrific events, but the motivation of a top Nazi official responsible for carrying out Hitler’s genocidal commands.
Reading the horrified reactions to the bloody attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, one has the impression that the assault was carried out by a crazed individual operating from the most deranged fringe of America’s alt-right: a product of the brutal politics of Donald Trump and social media run amok. The fact is that, though America would dearly love to forget it, anti-Semitism has long been deeply embedded in the U.S.
Donald Trump stands accused of “treason” after his outrageous summit with Vladimir Putin. Those startling charges are no longer coming from the political fringes, but from mainstream politicians, officials, and the press. Despite the gravity of the situation, craven Republican leaders still refuse to act. Is the only option to hope for the best in the November congressional elections, while leaving a treasonous leader in charge of the world’s most powerful nation?
There is another path, a harrowing one, but one that might ultimately be the only way out for America. I describe it in my novel “Deep Strike” –the tale of a corrupt, dysfunctional American president, Walter Stokes, elected with the help of Russian hacking. The book was published a year ago, but it could never be more relevant.
Watching CNN’s “Inside Africa” this morning, as they cut away from normal programming about Africa to bring us live coverage of a fatal railroad accident—two dead and at least 70 injured after a major passenger train collided with a freight train.
Donald Trump’s obscene attacks against immigrants from certain benighted parts of the globe prompted me to reread some of the research I did a few years back about the origins of my own grandparents.
A deranged American president wins election with the aid of Russian hacking. Over the following months, he becomes increasingly brutish. His wild, rabid Tweets and tempestuous acts dismay even his closest supporters. He flirts with nuclear disaster. America’s basic democratic foundations are challenged. Yet Congressional leaders refuse to act. Difficult to believe this is real life.
Some top Russian generals were outraged by the decision to hack the U.S. elections. Their anger against the Russian president may ultimately have huge consequences. That's the situation in my novel, "Deep Strike", about Russian hacking, rogue CIA agents, and a new, deranged American president.