The election of Donald Trump was just a symptom of a major shift of civilization. In this essay, Mike Krauss (http://thekrausscommentary.com/) compares it to the Reformation of the sixteenth century. It seems an apt analogy.
From Martin Luther to Donald Trump: Reading the Signs of the Times
Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Thesis in 1517. Some histories record that he nailed them to the door of the chapel of the Wittenberg Castle. His challenge to the monolithic authority of the Catholic Church in Western Europe set off an upheaval among the governing class and peoples of the European continent that was not only religious, but was also political, cultural and intellectual.
That upheaval did not follow immediately on Luther’s bold action, but erupted about four years later as the Church banned citizens of all the nations from espousing, defending or disseminating Luther’s ideas, and hardened the division into what would become the Reformation and Counter Reformation, decades of strife and bloody conflict within and between the peoples and nations of the continent. Lives were unspeakably brutalized. Property was confiscated and families destroyed. Mobs desecrated or destroyed churches and pulled down or defaced their statues and relics. Justice was whatever princes and popes said it was.
In the end, Europe was changed and the course of western civilization altered, as more democratic norms of government gradually displaced centralized royal and ecclesiastical power and the rule of law grew stronger.
It is tempting at this remove to compare Donald Trump’s 2015 ride down the escalator in his cathedral to capitalism, Trump Tower, to Luther’s arrival on the scene. But with Trump, the reaction of the monolithic governing class was immediate, as they recognized the power of Trump’s challenge to their authority and mounted a fierce counter attack. It has become as brutal as that of the 16th century, as the Counter Reformers now seek to politically, socially and economically excommunicate, exorcise, punish and destroy utterly Trump and any vestige of his American Reformation.
Now as then, the opposing sides in the contest use the same language of centuries of a shared “faith” to claim the moral high ground, with this difference: Trump’s reformers just want to be left alone by controlling, centralized authority to live their lives as they think best, while the statist counter reformers demand conformity to their “civic virtues,” and take no prisoners in an all out war to regain and retain power.
Where is this leading? In the short term, to fascism and repression. The counter reformers have seized both the government and the means of communication of an entire nation. This contrasts with the Protestant Reformation; in that, as the printing press came into wider use at that time, the ideas of Luther and other reformers were more widely circulated than had ever before been possible. New technology aided the Reformation. Now in the United States, new means of communication serve the Counter Reformation and the governing class. For the foreseeable future there will be only the “party line” heard in the United States.
But even the dullest of ears will by now have picked up the incessant, preening moralizing of the counter reformers. Completely self sanctified and utterly un-self aware, these elites are likely to drive the Biden administration. Biden is not strong enough to resist. He may not want to.
“Joe Biden, Savior of the Republic” may be the story Biden has going in his head. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to establish a domestic surveillance agency with authority to define any reforming thought, speech or action which challenges the governing class as “domestic terror,” the modern equivalent of heresy.
There is one element to this conflict today that was not present in that of 16th century Europe and is entirely modern and American: race. The resentments of some whites on the right and some blacks on the left are equally poisonous and capable of overcoming any hope of reason and accommodation among the warring parties.
American liberalism, the former church of the secular left is dead, having collapsed under its own failures. The two greatest failures have been the decades long reduction of the mostly white middle class, its wealth redistributed to a permanent governing class of corporate overlords and their political retainers; and the simultaneous creation of a mostly black, permanent underclass, consigned to the apartheid landscape of American cities which liberal policy created, islands of white prosperity in a sea of mostly black poverty.
Until these twin failures of the governing class are remedied a time of conflict and turmoil in America is inevitable,.
Trump simply called out the reality of the decadence of the American governing class, as Luther called out that of the Medieval Church. Leading up to Luther’s challenge, Pope Sixtus IV began the practice of selling Indulgences to wealthy sinners – ecclesiastical get-out-of-purgatory- free cards – the way Congress sells legislation to lobbyists. Pope Alexander VI enforced celibacy on the priesthood but was the father of seven (!) children, operating with the same hubris on display daily in the American governing class today: “rules for thee, but not for me.”
Hubris invites nemesis: then Luther, now Trump.
In the weeks ahead there may be a period of relative calm, as the people wait and watch. But it won’t last long. As the government of the American Counter Reformation becomes steadily more repressive, authoritarian and fascist, it will run up against something Luther did not have to help fuel his Reformation: a people with the experience of centuries of democratic government, the protection of individual liberties and the rule of law.
This conflict will not be resolved any time soon.
And this assessment, That’s All Folks, from former Congressman Ron Paul, provides another take on the matter. And his latest essay, When Fascism Comes, It Will Be Wearing a Mask, spotlights actions by the Biden administration that look a lot like a counter-reformation.
Let’s see if we can find ways to enjoy the ride and take advantage of the opportunities to build a better world.
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