Why are so many Americans enthralled with them?
Thank you so much. It all concerns me. It all seems unreal. It’s all confusing but your attempts to warn and explain it to those who need and appreciate it, like myself, makes me realize that my intuition is on point. I’m not imagining things. I just hope and pray Democracy wins in all future elections. I hope Garland and the courts do their jobs. I hope Democrats vote in massive, unprecedented numbers.
All that you say here is well understood by most of us who have followed, even cursorily, the trajectory of Trump and Musk. I guess it bears repeating for those few who may still be on the fence if such people read or can be brought around to reading your posts, which are informative and interesting to those of us who share your concerns and outlook. Only, I'm tired of the line that "so many Americans feel so helpless and insecure" that they gravitate toward bullies and sociopaths to solve, that is, palliate, their misery and inflame their anger.
If large numbers of American adults seem incapable of responsible thinking and behavior, what does that say about American citizens - people who do not appear to even understand citizenship or to care about anything other than identifying with Super Bullies and wishing that they themselves could be giant Freudian IDS like Trump, Musk and their like. It isn't just "Our Democracy" that is fragile; it's the human character.
The Democrats meanwhile are no joy to behold, even if they are better than the other side of the aisle. They too court that corporate money and grovel for Power at the expense of fighting for what they claim, passively and ineffectually, to support, in thrall to the money, as you wrote in a previous article.
America is at a crossroads. This upcoming election - and, I've said this very same thing for the last two and will likely be saying it for the rest of the elections in my lifetime (I'm 75) - is the most important election in my lifetime. Of course, had democrats not taken control of the House in 2018 I don't even like thinking about the "what ifs." And, had Joe Biden not WON in 2020 I believe it's safe to say America, as we've known it, would have been turned into the authoritarian place progressives are worried about regarding these mid-terms - to me, a valid "worry." And, of course, whether it's Trump or DeSantis 2024 will be HUGE - and, very possibly, an election dominated by "election deniers." The bottom line is - the BATTLE for the "heart and soul" of this nation will be ongoing until voters show up in massive numbers - very possibly this 2022 election being the key. I've never been this concerned ahead of an election in the 45 years I've been voting. (The voting age was 21 when I was younger)
Regarding Musk and Trump - to me, they represent what's wrong with America - along with the other mega-rich geeks who managed to figure out how to monetize their internet skills when the rest of us "weren't looking." I believe, for example, you can see a parallel with much of the division in America being brought to the boiling point with the emergence of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. It seems as if the investors who were there at the beginning have way too much money (gets back to the tax issues post Reagan) Trump, of course, is a master manipulator, pathalogical LIAR, extreme narcissist, racist, etc. etc. who got bailed out of his business incompetence first by his father, then by the Russians, and finally NBC and the Apprentice. He took the "Tea Party" to the extreme - creating a white nationalist "base" engulfing about a third or our country.
Musk, on the otherhand, to me, is just the epitome of the spoiled rich kid who was brilliant enough to create massive wealth - enough to waste over $40 BILLION on his "Twitter toy." His purchase of Twitter is simply exposing who he REALLY is as he ruthlessly "butchers" the company to the public who haven't been paying close attention to his arrogance and ruthlessness on display as the CEO of Tesla and Space X. I believe neither Trump nor Musk give a "rip" about America - although, again, there's two massive differences. Trump is facing EXTREME legal jeopardy. Musk is geeky brilliant - to the point where he almost seems to be on the autism "spectrum" to me. Both believe they're "above the law" - based on their actions - although, I believe Trump maybe pushed his "luck" too far with our legal system - the "walls are closing in." (I can hope, can't I?)
However, it's not just them - or Bezos, or Zuckerberg. Peter Thiel, of PayPal "fame" and an early investor in Facebook - to the tune of BILLIONS throws his money at right wing politicians as if it was candy. Larry Ellison of Oracle fame has a reported net worth approaching $100 BILLION and he threw a few BILLION Musk's way to help him finance his "toy." And, it goes on and on - Charles Koch and his network of MONEYED associates - most born into incredible WEALTH. Some of these families trace back to the "Gilded Age."
This is why, to me, the FIGHT to save our republic from evolving into a complete fascist state is so daunting. We're obviously already at the mercy of the corporate CEO's who survive by constantly increasing their PROFITS - by any means possible - the country be damned. And, a large segment of the population who are clammoring about "inflation" have no idea where it's coming from.
OK, you're correct, I'm rambling. Once I get going.............. (sorry) I'm worried about the next couple of days - I'm hoping and praying that progressives vote in massive numbers. I don't believe many of the people who are planning to vote for republicans have any idea of what the result will look like if they retake control of Congress! Will Trump and Musk be responsible? Well, maybe to a certain extent - However, I believe "we the people" will be mostly responsible - one way or the other - and my fear is progressives "staying home" and then blaming democrats over the next two years for all the things which go "wrong." I'm literally praying my fears are unfounded! Yikes!!!
It is an excellent column, Professor Reich. Using the word "megalomaniac" to describe Musk and Trump is particularly apt. The world of mental illness is the best place to find descriptions for those two. They both seem to be sadistic, cruel, and amoral. They demonstrate the most difficult personalities/personality disorders of the types that mental health professionals find nearly impossible to treat, extremely frustrating, and the word 'maddening' comes to mind.
Wasn't it some 200 mental health professionals (both academics and clinical experts) who signed a letter or op-ed when Trump was running in 2016 offering their professional assessment that he was mentally unfit to be President?
We desperately need for wise, knowledgeable experts to analyze what has happened/is happening in America and tell us why. It seems we are in a national, collective nightmare from which we are unlikely to wake for the foreseeable future.
Human history tells us that socioeconimic pendulums swing and it is possible that this dark era we seem to be entering - or are being swept into and crushed by, like the horrific, tragic crush of the crowd in S. Korea - will eventually swing back to something sane. With inmates running the asylum though, it's hard to see that happening any time soon.
They may be bullies, but what they do very well is to home in on the visceral fears of their heartland. It's the economy, stupid. If you don't feel you can put bread on the table, trans rights don't matter a damn. Democrats also fail to convincingly explain why the home economy depends on foreign policy and why a just transition to a low carbon economy is actually great for innovation and jobs. All the "basket of deplorables" sees is pain and loss.
Weather permitting, and it does most of the time these days, I ride an electric bike on my commute. It is a pleasure to ride. You get invigorated by the wind in your face combined with the ability to see, hear and feel what is around you. Then I come to the windy, uphill, roller coaster of the solderless mile of the ride. Two types of drivers cause the most "terror" and anger, BMWs and pickup trucks without tools in the back. Both types like to pass on curves, accelerate loudly, a few "blowing coal", unaware that the upcoming curve or road hump just might lead to a head on crash. They remind me of the orange cartoon and Elon. The BMW drivers pay for Republican campaigns, the pickup drivers vote for bullies. Why? Likely because they both see those who badly want to change direction in this country as threats to their position. The former want uninhibited accumulation of wealth. The later want to retain what little power they have in the symbolic internal combustion engines that make loud noises and scare pedestrians and bike riders who, in their minds, have no rights to be on the road. The irony is that Musk builds electric cars (though really that is a collective of computer nerds and blue collar workers) and Trump makes his money by stealing blue collar wages. Yes, we would be better off without both of them, but they are a result of a systemic flaw in the democratic process which is the refusal to allow critical thinking within our institutions, especially education. They thrive on attention, and we give it to them all the time, calling it entertainment. Even when they are roundly critiqued, just listen to late night comedians, the verbal blows just build up their egos. The best way to defeat them, impossible in this communication age and likely the reason Musk bought Twitter, is to turn them off. Without attention they wither. Not much chance of that happening. Sadly, the greatest skill of Mussolini and Hitler was the ability to entertain massive crowds. What would they have done with TV and Twitter?
The bullies don't give a damn about us, only themselves. Those who believe Musk/Trump are leaders are interested more in what they do to those they don't like than in what they do for them. Musk and Trump do not put bread on our tables, they put it on their's. Them wanting more means you have to have less - a zero sum game! In reply to Sarah, it is the economy but it is also dignity, honesty and inclusion. Musk/Trump want government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy - they mean to demean, period.
A wonderfully succinct article explaining exactly why we are at this point in history
In hindsight things such as this become absolutely apparent.
The U.S. governance system has a flaw of electing the equivalent of a king (as president) every four years. It was a novel idea in the 18th Century but deeply flawed and well past its time.
This faux royalty culture creates the opportunity for celebrity worship from the top down. With this as the guiding light of the country, being enthralled with strong men leaders is no real surprise. And, let's not forget that democracy never was instituted in the workplace with its royalty CEO culture.
There is now a clear and present imminent threat (see Timothy Synder's Substack video today). If we avert disaster this cycle, it is high time to address these flaws head on and move with a real sense of emergency towards a different model. There are plenty models around the world for a more participatory, egalitarian democracy. It's high time!
I agree! It’s unfortunate that celebrity status in America means more to many in business than being a person of good character, with Integrity, who delights in caring for clients and customers while making a profit.
Seems that honesty, decency & ethics in business isn’t valued much, a rarity.
All that matters is to get as much money and fame as possible, by any means necessary, and trample on others to do so.
Everyday I see entrepreneurs and business owners sing the praises of Musk & Traitor Trump in awe.
I feel sorry for these raving fans because they don’t realize that those men would think nothing of trampling them for sport and profit.
I pray that folks who worship and admire these two sad souls will soon remove the scales from their eyes and recognize that these two are unloved boys in childhood who turned into mean adult bullies who take pleasure in destroying the lives of millions to feed their fragile egos.
Just imagine what sad empty lives they actually lead despite their wealth & influence.
Fortunately, Karma has the final say, so they’ll have the same fate as all the other strongmen throughout history who delighted in chaos and mayhem.
It feels like the country is turning into Wrestlemania 45 !
First, I want to correct something. Most likely, Trump is NOT a billionaire and never was. When (not if) Letitia James gets done with the Trump's properties, it will become clear that the properties Trump has now are not worth a billion dollars. His father and family just wanted everybody to think that. Remember, DT has declared bankruptcy six times. That diminishes Trump worth a great deal. DT has always worked on the premise of "drain everything out of a property then declare bankruptcy."
People like Musk and Trump always wind up going down because they get sold on their own projection of themselves.
Right now, Elon could lose half his fortune by screwing up Twitter. That company only worked when people had some trust in it. That's gone now. It will only take a few months for creative people to find other platforms that advertisers want to use and that reliable advertising will leave Musk's Twitter ASAP. There are already plenty of platforms for lies and hate and most reputable companies are already bailing out.
Here’s the thing, I agree with the assessment you gave for both Musk and Trump and shall give them no pass for their demeaning of this country.
However, it also falls on those people who are so enthralled by them to eventually wake up and see their idols for who they really are and the damage they’ve done.
Those two are just the egotistical 'show' pigs, we should be equally concerned with the political dirty work being done from the wallow.
I'm not particularly religious but I do remember a bit of my Methodist catechism. Seems society keeps repeating the lessons they never learned. In this particular lesson America has made $$ their 'god' and Trump and Musk its Golden Calves. Unfortunately I don't believe America is still learning....the hard way.
How much of their wealth came from the USA? Every time Space-Ex launches to the space station another check from NASA goes into his inbox. Trump's drain on the soul of America is for history to measure. I hope these grown children are more real in person than the botched Hollywood script that we see on the screen. And yet if Joe gets 6 more years will a mandate allow the guy to tip their karmic coffers?