By Paul Malvern |
Being a longtime practitioner in the areas of social marketing and strategic communications, I spend more time thinking about politics and government than is good for any normal human being.
One of my current areas of interest is the ongoing societal train wreck in the U.S. flowing from the hotly contested 2016 Presidential Election. One day, being more than a little baffled by the hysterical reaction of Democrats to their Election loss, I found myself recalling a song made popular in the 1960s by singer Eydie Gormé called “Blame it on the Bossa Nova”. In this catchy ditty, a young woman relates how she fell madly in love with a stranger after just one dance. Pondering this mystery, she considers a number of possibilities – including the stars above and the tune the band played. After much consideration, she lays the blame squarely on the Bossa Nova, that much-loved Brazilian style of music, which for her is now the dance of love.
After struggling unsuccessfully to get that tune out of my head, it occurred to me that this particular song has a lot to say about the growing dysfunction now seen in the United States and the tendency of many U.S. voters, politicians, and media figures to blame everyone but themselves for the mess their country is in. For it nicely describes the confusion, immaturity and denial of reality currently rampant in America that can only be outdone by a 1960s heartthrob song.
The Election from HellLet’s be honest. The 2016 Presidential Election campaign was nothing short of toxic – drawing on vast reserves of flapdoodle, slander, vitriol and false news (to use the current euphemism). In short, it was a mess and no one came away smelling good.
To begin with, Trump is no saint – a fact he frankly admitted during the campaign when he said he had been an immature 59-year-old way back when. Fair enough. Unfortunately, he also had (and continues to have) an incredibly thin skin – a flaw frequently demonstrated during the campaign when he said and did things that showed he was almost pathologically incapable of sloughing off criticism. Finally, there were his policy flip-flops and his recourse to what would later become known as ‘alternate facts’.
But flawed as Trump might have been, Hillary’s faults were, if possible, even worse. All of which made her opponent seem like a choir boy by comparison – at least to those voters who did not have permanent residency in Boston, New York, Washington or California. One such fault involved her personality and presentation – which made her seem cold and uncaring. Nor did her policies ring any bells – promising as they did yet more Obama-style foreign policy fiascoes, a ramped up war on the unborn, and continued attacks on American workers via illegal immigration, the outsourcing of jobs offshore, and the loss of industries and projects that might otherwise provide good jobs (such as pipelines, drilling and coal mining).
My own ‘favorites’ were her rock-solid support for unrestricted abortion, the likelihood of a continued assault on the working class and her seeming desire to make the already bad relationship with Russia even worse. But, hey, that’s just me.
The First Stage – DenialSadly for the Democrats, Trump won and Hillary lost. And, as crazy as the election had been, the real fun began minutes after the votes were tabulated. For it was then that American ‘progressives’ plunged into paroxysms of anguish, despair, and grief. From all appearances, a significant portion of them had concluded that civilization as they knew it had now come to an end. Reacting much as a young child might upon learning that Santa Claus did not exist, these sorely vexed individuals acted out their angst on T.V. screens around the world – displaying behavior that was embarrassing to everyone except them.
But this was just the beginning. For what followed was a form of political psychodrama which saw many Hillary fans follow a course of adaptation that closely resembled Swiss-American psychiatrist Kübler-Ross’ vision of how people deal with grief. They engaged in denial. And the Bossa Nova effect kicked in with a vengeance – with one explanation after another being put forward to fix blame on someone or something else in hopes of avoiding responsibility for the stunning electoral loss. Possible scapegoats included: the hacking of voting machines, voting irregularities, Russian interference, the FBI director, flaws in the Electoral College, racist and sexist voters, false consciousness on the part of working class voters and women, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on. The only explanations that didn’t get much air time were the obvious ones – namely, that Clinton had been a bad candidate, the Democratic Party had lost touch with the people, and Americans had grown tired of being insulted by snooty elites.
The Next Stage – Anger and ViolenceBut demanding recounts, launching lawsuits and bullying members of the Electoral College can only take you so far, right? Which no doubt explains why American ‘leftists’ have now chosen to enter Kübler-Ross’ second stage of grief – the anger phase. And what a display of anger it has been – with sit-ins, boycotts, celebrity hissy fits, tirades, biased reporting and ‘false news’ from the mainstream media.
Some of this anger has taken the form of verbal violence by a myriad of celebrities, politicians, media analysts and the odd dress designer seeking to establish her street creds by publicly declaring that she would not ‘dress’ Trump’s wife.
More troubling has been the recourse to actual physical violence – an unhappy phenomenon that continues today. My ‘favorite’ outrage to date is the recent riot at the university campus in Berkeley California – an institution which by an ironic twist of fate was the home of the free speech movement in the 1960s. Apparently, free speech is no longer as hallowed a virtue as it once was – as seen by the cancelling of the February 1, 2017 speaking engagement by Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, due to the actions of some less than peaceful activists. Venting their rage, some in the crowd took out their frustrations on a number of ATMs, whose connection to Milo I still find difficult to see.
Fears of a Possible ‘Soft Coup’Of course, such actions by overheated academics, students, media types and celebrities cannot hope to overthrow the Government by themselves. Rather it would require concerted action by what political scientists refer to as, “the Deep State’, that network of business, political, bureaucratic, legal and media elites who according to some are the real sources of power and influence in society.
While it is by no means clear that such an event is likely in the future, there nevertheless are some worrisome indications that something unpleasant may be going on behind the scenes – as seen by rumors that the push back to Trump may be more organized and well-funded than was previously thought to be the case. One sign of this is the opposition seen among Washington bureaucrats – which involves leaking documents, working more slowly than usual to gum up the wheels of government and coordinating their resistance with some opposition figures in the political sphere. One particularly striking case of bureaucratic resistance involved the recent refusal of the former Acting Attorney General to obey a lawful order, which not surprisingly led to her dismissal.
Sadly, this may be just the beginning - as seen by a suggestion in RT News, the media organization owned by the Russian Government, that a ‘soft coup’ may well be in the cards.
At first glance, such a claim seems ridiculous. However, there are already some in the U.S. who are talking about impeachment or even a military coup. All of which suggests that even more extreme action may not be far off – especially if some of America’s elites decide that anything is better than Trump.
Summing UpSo what does it all mean? Is the situation really all that serious? And if it is, how did it come about and how can Americans fix it?
To my mind part of the answer comes from William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, in which he states:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Written in 1919, following the carnage of the First World War, Yeats’ somber vision of the world seems particularly apt in our own age as daily news reports and our own personal experience reinforce the sense that something has gone terribly wrong with Western civilization.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” 
This is particularly true of the United States of America which every day seems to more closely resemble the Weimer Republic of the 1930s – which proved so woefully inept at restoring Germany’s national pride, addressing the nation’s economic woes and quelling the incessant street fighting which raged between Communists and Nazis.
Happily, this is not a perfect analogy. For, contrary to what anarchists, Democratic Party surrogates, and some media personalities might claim, Trump is no Hitler. The U.S. economy is not a basket case as was the case with Germany prior to Hitler’s rise to power. Nor do anti-Trump activists (violent and otherwise) pose a threat even close to that of the German Communist Party in the 1920s and 1930s.
Even so, this is a time of real danger in American history which presents challenges of a magnitude not seen since the time of Lincoln. Handled badly, the result could be a grim one for the American people – and for the rest of us, given the rather frightening future prospect of a nation gone mad, which possesses an arsenal of some 6800 nuclear warheads.
As to the roots of this crisis, Yeats’ contention that the West’s problems were of a spiritual nature remains as true today as it was in 1919. For the collective madness currently playing out in America’s streets, universities, governmental institutions, media, and, yes, abortion clinics did not occur overnight. Nor is it the fault of any one person – not Trump, not Clinton and not any other person you might care to cite. Rather, this is a crisis that has been a long time in coming – dating back at least to the 1960s and almost certainly even further back. And there is more than enough blame to go around for all of the players and institutions (including churches that no longer believe their own foundational truths and parents who fail to live the faith and pass it on to their children).
Given how long it has taken Americans to get to this point, it is reasonable to assume that it will probably take an equally long time to repair the nation’s institutions and culture. But to fix things Americans will need to turn away from the “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” denial of reality that currently seems to be such a popular theme in American politics and culture.
For it’s not the stars up above. It’s not the tune the band played. It’s not the ‘evil Republicans’ – that increasingly shop-warn centerpiece of the ‘progressive’ narrative. And it’s not the supposedly racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic Christians the Left and its media allies want us to hate and fear. Rather, to quote the immortal words of the comic strip, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.
American power – while not always positive – nevertheless has been a source of stability. And at times it has been a force for great good. It would be a huge tragedy if America were to continue tearing itself apart. But stranger things have happened – the history of the Roman Empire providing an excellent example. Unfortunately, the world that follows such a collapse is always soaked in blood – an event whose consequences I would not wish on anyone.
In the meantime, those of us living outside the United States are left watching a drama over which we have no control. All we can do is love our families, trust in God and pray fervently that good sense will ultimately prevail among our friends to the South.
And if common sense does not prevail, well, as Abraham said to Isaac, “God will provide” – which is more than enough for anyone.
 Catherine Shakdam. “The soft coup – US Establishment goes to war with President Trump”. RT News. January 31, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.rt.com/op-edge/375785-muslim-politics-trump-us/
 Rosa Brooks. “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020”. Foreign Policy. January 30, 2017. Retrieved from: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/30/3-ways-to-get-rid-of-president-trump-before-2020-impeach-25th-amendment-coup/
 William Butler Yeats. “The Second Coming”. Retrieved from: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43290
 Arms Control Association. Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance. Retrieved from: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat
photo credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons