It’s not just the clown, it’s the rest of the parade

The leader is just the clown at the head of a parade that has gotten a lot longer and its mood a lot uglier.


Donald Trump’s performance as president this past week has been grotesque, as befits the man. The evidence is that he and his cohorts intend an assault against the moral fabric of society, a dismantling of every aspect of government that attends to the well-being of its citizens. The dire impact of the election rests with the present historical moment. We are in a global crisis that presents a severe threat to the future of human civilization and the lives of a good portion of the people now living.

That is an extreme statement, of course, liable to charges of “apocalyptic” thinking and emotionality. After all, throughout human history people have read – and carried – signs that the world was about to end. Unfortunately, this does not obviate present-day evidence. Flooding of major cities; catastrophic superstorms; extinctions all along the food chain; toxification of air, water, and land; and pandemic are no longer threats hurled from the pulpit but warnings based on millions of data points, strong indications from the natural world, and the calculations of thousands of scientists from a host of fields. The global situation vis `a vis violence – war, terrorism, criminal cartels mainstreaming into the global economy – and the economy, are equally severe.

In such circumstances, the world can ill afford the military and economic behemoth of the global system being run by an ignorant buffoon with minimal impulse control. As the mainstream media finally realizes that something awful is happening, such clubby institutions as The New York Times and CNN have been roused to challenge the Orwellian pronouncements of the new government. Paul Krugman openly opines that Trump is crazy, while columnist Gail Collins frames Mike Pence, another awful specimen, as the eminence gris on limiting access to health care on a global scale and defunding Planned Parenthood. Anderson Cooper and other CNN commentators are openly disdainful of the twisted language and outright lies that Kelly Anne Conway and Sean Spicer dispense with every movement of their jaws.

Meanwhile, Trump has pretty much proven the CIA’s case for his special relationship with Vladimir Putin. It is becoming obvious that Russia is a significant source of the Trump business cash-flow. This might explain Trump’s putative plans to disassemble NATO, an achievement surely worth a few billion dollars to Russia. Props to Putin for putting his patsy in place. Trump has also wasted no time indulging his fantasy that America’s most pressing need is a Great Wall along the Rio Grande and on to the Pacific, costing tens of billions of tax dollars while funds earmarked for social security, health care, schools, and infrastructure are privatized, cannibalized, and larcenized.

Anyone who watched Senator Elizabeth Warren eviscerate Betsy de Vos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, or Senator Claire McCaskill call Tom Price, nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, to task for his shifty explanation of how cutting trillions from health care will result in better insurance coverage than Obamacare offers, should recognize the low quality and ideological daffiness of Trump’s supposed advisors. Yet nothing beats Trump’s own performance in front of the CIA. Standing before the CIA’s wall honoring the 117 operatives who died in the course of their jobs, he treated then-nominee for head of the CIA like a straight man in a vaudeville routine by asking him whether Trump’s alleged record 15 Time Magazine covers this past year will ever be broken. He rambled on about the size of the crowds, the media’s conspiracy against him, and other nonsense while his own people cued the attendees to laugh when he cracked a joke. Former CIA Director John Brennan wasn’t amused nor alone in calling Trump’s performance “despicable”.

We’re faced with three choices here: either Trump is a subtle political tactician; the frauduent persona Trump has always struggled to repress is being flushed out by the pressures of the presidency; or some weird combination of the two. Let’s opt for Door Number 3.

Trump is only the most obvious danger we’re faced with. He is a risky but bold means for advancing the agendas of the 21st century fascists who now control the U.S. government. A corporate elite that looks to extract profit from every human activity and resource available. A toxic political ideology that combines theocratic and authoritarian impulses with a terrifying ignorance of the world and the purposes and processes of government. Private mercenaries, rogue intel operations, corrupt Pentagon officials, massively funded lobbyists, and secret budget allocations represent an entire secret government arguably more powerful than our elected representatives. This is the context that can turn political fiasco into global catastrophe.

As clownish as Trump’s antics as President, they provide cover for the button-down managers of a particularly savage hybrid of theocracy and capitalism: greed without responsibility, acquisition without compassion, politics without toleration, ownership without stewardship. They want to take apart the federal government because it imposes mild restraints on their attempts to plunder the middle class, marginalize the poor until they disappear, and manipulate the global economy. To do so they need to take over the very government they pretend to despise. Anyone who thinks this crew will give up their hold over the federal government’s vast resources and authority is deluded. It will be a government contemptuous of its citizens’ well-being, but it will be fiercely protective of corporate privilege, military and domestic police actions, and religiously driven social regulations. Same size government, utterly vile aims.

So while the new Republican Guard may have been aghast at Trump’s primary victories, they also found a political treasure under all the b.s. Instead of the button-down lunacies of a Cruz, Walker, or Rubio, they have a reality show host who believes in his own presidential act, a strutting figure out of an operatic farce. And he’s doing exactly what he said he would: shake things up. When you shake things up, you create gaps in the fabric of the system, vacuums that the most efficient energy components rush to fill. The American fascist movement was poised and ready. After all, it has had a long time to sharpen its game.

Which brings us to those who elected Trump. So many pundits spoke of this group as feeling ignored, marginalized, mocked by liberal elites. Trump made them feel valued, heard, represented. That this narrative gained currency is part of the dysfunction that led to Trump’s election. These people have not been under-represented! Their demographic is the same one that voted Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes into office. They voted for their numbskull state legislatures and their wing-nut tea party senators, representatives, and governors. They’re so clueless they have no idea that the people screwing them over are the very ones they’ve elected, the ones who funded Trump, the ones who turn the wall with Mexico into one of their most pressing concerns.

And let’s forget the 80,000 swing votes that gave Trump the election in the north Central states. They swung the election because 27% of the electorate, and 46% of the voters, actually voted for this guy and what he represents. They are not very different from the 37% of the voters who voted for Hitler in the January, 1933 German elections. Ignorant, reactive, their political impulses woven out of lies, catchwords, their own inability to make sense of their lives and yes, real economic distress. But at some point one might expect the U.S. citizens to look beyond the propaganda and America First rhetoric to examine what or who best represents their own interests. Because when they don’t, the jackals who rig the system rise to the top. And guess what, America, jackal time is here. It has happened here. The coup is nearly complete. The leader is just the clown at the head of the parade that has just gotten a lot longer and its mood a lot uglier. And to those marching behind him, the new president is no more than the distraction in the spotlights. They’re the real show.


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Barton Kunstler, Ph.D., writes about creativity, social justice, education, technology, and leadership. His book, The Hothouse Effect, describes the dynamics behind history's most creative communities. Other published work includes poetry, numerous academic articles, and fiction. His monograph for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence addresses leadership's future in light of the human singularity. He writes for and his writings, including a column on communication strategy, appear at He can be reached at