Birds of a feather? President Trump and Lyndon LaRouche
by Dennis King | November 4, 2016.
There is a malignant pattern in U.S. politics dating back generations–that of far-right conspiracism and bigotry injecting itself into the election process by way of populism. Rachel Maddow discussed this pattern on MSNBC last May, showing among other things the parallels between the rise of Trump and the near-rise of (or brief period of substantial support for) Lyndon LaRouche and his followers in the 1980s. In fact, there are some multi-leveled similarities between President-Elect Trump and his predecessor.
Among other things, the sinister support Trump received from both the FBI and Vladimir Putin seems as if it were straight out of one of LaRouche’s fantasies about a vaguely defined coup aimed at elevating an indispensable Great Man who supposedly will save the world (except that a LaRouche fantasy would never portray the FBI in a good light: he despises the G-men for their role in sending him to prison for his scams in the 1980s).
LaRouche, now 94, did not choose sides officially in the Trump-Clinton battle, yet he has focussed most of his fire on Clinton and President Obama, as by calling Clinton “Obama’s stooge for wars and Wall Street.” Over the last weeks of the campaign, LaRouche’s org made statements that were supportive of Trump but stopped short of an endorsement. Trump himself is not known to have been directly influenced by LaRouche (although LaRouche is pleased that Trump has endorsed the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act–one of LaRouche’s own favorite economic nostrums). However, insofar as Trump has come under the influence of the Alt-Right, it would be difficult for him to avoid a certain amount of indirect influence from the LaRouchians, since their tropes and memes have become common currency among many far-right bigots as a result of aggressive courting of the Far Right by LaRouche and his followers dating back to the mid-1970s.
Indeed, two popular conspiracy-oriented talk show hosts who strongly backed Trump (and one of whom, Alex Jones, appears to have been a source for some of Trump’s more outlandish claims–see below) also have supported LaRouche on a number of issues. I would not be surprised if, at some point, it emerges that LaRouche’s internet media network did directly influence Trump’s views on NATO, Vladimir Putin, the illegitimacy of the Obama presidency, and the existence of a conspiratorial global Jewish elite.
Below I comment on a number of close parallels between the political views, tactics, modes of communication with the public, and behavioral traits of Trump and LaRouche. Inevitably, information has to be repeated when it relates to more than one parallel. It should be obvious from my comments that there are many and vast differences between the two men. LaRouche poses as an intellectual; Trump does not. LaRouche sets forth a tightly knit ideological world view. Trump is very loose with his opinions and is not concerned with maintaining a pretense of consistency. LaRouche never succeeded in gaining millions of followers, while Trump over the course of his campaign gained tens of millions of ardent fans who’d never heard of Paolo Sarpi or Nicholas of Cusa or the “Black Guelphs” (oft-mentioned characters in LaRouche’s conspiracy theory of history).
The comparisons are between a 70-year-old man (Trump) who only entered political life circa 2011 with the Birther movement and whose experience as a political candidate dates back less than two years; and a 94-year-old man (LaRouche) who has spend the past 50 years as a figure mostly on the fringes of the far right, although he did enjoy a period of significant public influence in the U.S. and his ideas and initiatives continue to have influence in several countries. In the political comparisons below (apart from those that pertain to personal behavior and foibles), Trump is similar to LaRouche either in policies he has adopted rather recently or in political trajectories that may or may not continue in a LaRouche-style direction. For instance, it is not yet clear if Trump will bring the Alt-Right into his administration. My intent here is to point out Trump’s similarities to and differences from his unsuccessful predecessor in order to help others in (a) evaluating just how dangerous our very unusual and unstable President-Elect is (or isn’t) and (b) predicting his future moves with more accuracy than the mainstream media ever attained during the election cycle just ended.
Supporting (and getting support from) the Putin regime.
Trump has praised Vladimir Putin and is believed to have investments in Russia; we don’t know any details because he won’t release his income tax returns. Trump has described Putin as a strong leader in comparison to Obama, whom Trump has described again and again as stupid, feckless and a weakling (ignoring the fact that the U.S. under Obama took the lead in Western economic sanctions against Putin and his cronies that have placed huge pressure on them and on the Russian economy). Trump has suggested that the U.S. should cut back on aid to NATO on grounds that our allies are not paying their fair share. Putin, who hates Hillary Clinton because of her support for the traditional bipartisan stance against Russian aggression, and who very much wants to weaken NATO, funneled documents to WikiLeaks that Putin flunkies had hacked from computers of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. WikiLeaks was willing to release the results of this cyber-aggression because of its typical ultra-left attitude that there’s no real difference between Trump and Clinton.
LaRouche and his organization staunchly support the Putin regime in its attempts to weaken and eventually destroy NATO, crack down on Ukraine, and help Assad in Syria (the LaRouchians have supported Assad’s regime and the Russian position on Syria’s civil war even since 2011, often using sophisticated propaganda methods that suggested they were being told what to say and do). On the world stage, they see Obama and the “British” elite that supposedly controls him as the enemy and Putin as Good Guy Number One. The LaRouche organization is currently circulating a petition in Europe and the U.S. that focusses on a blunt message: drop out of NATO.
LaRouche’s dealings with the post-Soviet elite date back over 20 years. Only weeks after being released from federal prison on parole in 1994, he went on a trip to Moscow to refurbish his ties with old Stalinist networks and build new ties with post-communist far-right nationalists. Over the subsequent years he became close to very high people in the Kremlin, including Vladimir L. Yakunin, the Minister of Railways, who is one of the founders of Bank Rossiya, a vastly corrupt financial front for Putin’s inner circle. The multimillionaire Yakunin is regarded as being influenced by LaRouche, according to a U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks several years ago. Yakunin was a top aide to Putin until resigning from his Railways post in 2015. He is a founder of the World Public Forum/Dialogue of Civilizations–an instrument of Russian “soft power” that sponsors incessant conferences, seminars and roundtable at which Helga Zepp-LaRouche keeps popping up. For instance, she was a speaker at the 2004 and 2012 conferences, and appeared with Yakunin at a cultural roundtable in China. Furthermore, the LaRouche couple and their org have significant ties with Sergey Glazyev, another Putin advisor; see the articles on this by Matthew N. Lyons and Anton Shekhovtsov. And finally, the news agency Sputnik International and the English language news channel RT, both of them propaganda arms of the Putin regime, treat the LaRouches as important experts, quoting and conducting interviews with them and with their intelligence advisor, Jeffrey Steinberg; the emphasis, of course, is on remarks supportive of Russian policy.
Use of the Jewish star as a visual dog whistle.
Trump personally tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton and a pile of cash, with a Jewish (six-pointed) star superimposed on the cash. Trump had obtained the image from a neo-Nazi/white supremacist infested message board. When he was called out on this, he said the star was merely a sheriff’s badge (in fact, sheriff’s badges have stars with varying numbers of points and some are not stars at all). Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, was quick to deny that his father-in-law is anti-Semitic.
LaRouche once used a Jewish star to illustrate an article of his about the Anglo-American “oligarchy.” The face of Queen Elizabeth was at the top of the star with two prominent Jews on either side of her. While acknowledging that this was a Jewish star, the caption also called it a “pentacle” signifying black magic (in fact the pentacle, which does have occult significance, has five points, unlike the star in the picture). LaRouche obtained his initial obsession with a London-centered Jewish financial conspiracy from Willis Carto, publisher of The Spotlight (see below), co-founder of its successor, the American Free Press, and a major predecessor of the Alt-Right. LaRouche’s fascination with the “British” financial elite with Jewish surnames was deepened by the various Nazi, fascist, neo-fascist and other anti-Semitic tracts of the 1930s-1970s that his followers ferreted out and passed to him. When the use of the Jewish star and other examples of LaRouche’s anti-Semitism were criticized, Jewish members of his cult stepped forward to defend him and claim that neither he nor they were at all anti-Semitic.
Expressions of racism and the use of African-American spokespersons to dilute public criticism of such racism.
Trump called during his campaign for a massive “law and order” crackdown in inner cities in response to Black Lives Matter’s demonstrations against the police. He depicted black Americans as living mostly in impoverished and violent ghettos. At his rallies, he encouraged his virtually all-white audiences to revile or attack protesters, many of them nonwhite, peacefully holding signs, yet he did not speak out against displays of the Confederate flag by his loyal fans. He acquiesced in and even gave signs of approval for (as by re-tweeting their racist messages) the support that white supremacists were giving to his candidacy. Yet he also used African-Americans as spokespersons or surrogates for his campaign on various occasions and singled out the very small number of black supporters at his rallies as proof of the openness of his campaign. He also made grandiose promises about how he would solve the problems of black communities–a posture that almost certainly salved the consciences of some white Republicans who might otherwise have found it difficult to vote for him.
LaRouche used both open and coded racist rhetoric in his propaganda campaign against President Obama, referring to him as the Emperor “Nero” (just add a “g”) in the White House, and joking on his web-TV program that the White House is where the “chimpanzees” (the Obamas) vote. Yet during the years that he reviled Obama so often, he also gave publicity in his publications to African-Americans who were working with his org or who had risen to prominence in his LaRouche Youth Movement. Earlier, he had compared himself to Martin Luther King (even suggesting that he was King’s successor) and had paid a former civil rights leader, Rev. James Bevel, to provide him with political cover.
Thinly coded calls for violence against a president or a presidential candidate.
Trump stated that if he were to lose, Hillary Clinton would abolish the right to bear arms. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said at an August rally in North Carolina, but immediately added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.” The comment was widely interpreted as a call for post-election violence directed at Clinton. Trump rallies also included calls from people in the audience not only that Clinton should be locked up but also that she should be killed. Trump did nothing to stop such hysterical anger; he continued to whip it up with even more extreme claims about the danger that Clinton supposedly posed to the very survival of America.
Just how bad things became is found in numerous media accounts. In Trump rallies in North Carolina last July, shouts were heard of “Hang that bitch!” and “Hang Hillary!” Al Baldasaro, the co-chair of Trump’s controversial veterans group and a New Hampshire legislator, stated in an interview the same month that Clinton “should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” He repeated it in a second interview but added, “maybe it’s the electric chair now.” When Trump asked about Baldasaro’s remarks, he said “Well, I don’t know about that but I will tell you he’s a very fine person.” Pressed, Trump replied in a manner similar to when first asked to distance himself from David Duke: “I don’t know what he said. You’d have to show me what he said.”
In late October, a warm-up speaker for Trump in Las Vegas received cheers when he described a fantasy he’d had about a movie in which Clinton and her top aide Huma Abedin would drive off a cliff to fiery deaths, like Thelma and Louise. At a North Carolina rally shortly before the election, a Trump supporter displayed an effigy of Clinton with a noose around her neck.
LaRouche incessantly called for impeaching Obama on grounds that the President was planning to set up “death panels” (to target senior citizens), launch World War Three, and usher in a New Dark Age. In 2009, in a supposedly friendly warning, he said the president might be “hung” if he didn’t drop his health care proposal. In a January 30, 2010 speech LaRouche crossed the line into open incitement to violence. After suggesting that Americans who were thinking about lynching Obama were moving in the right direction, LaRouche stated that it was time to “take out Obama,” who supposedly was good only for “kindling”–a comment that, in the context of the lynching remark, appeared to refer to how racist mobs burned black men at the stake, or burned their lynched corpses, during the Jim Crow era. In a March 13 speech, “Ides of March 2010,” he suggested violence against the President even more explicitly. He said that impeachment is not a matter of laws but of mass action. He predicted that citizens would take upon themselves the role of the dark avenging angels aka the Erinyes, or Furies, of Greek myth. The coup leaders would walk down “that corridor” of the White House –“silent-faced, grim, determined”–and whisk the president away “screaming, shrieking, so forth, like a banshee.” That he would be killed was implicit in LaRouche’s selection of the Furies as the prototype for White House coup leaders (an image of an ancient Greek frieze, accompanying this passage in the text, showed the Furies acting out their vengeance on malefactors with extreme violence).
To make the assassination idea even more explicit, EIR and Helga Zepp-LaRouche’s Schiller Institute website illustrated the text of “Ides of March 2010” with the image of a gruesome painting of Julius Caesar being stabbed to death by Roman Senators. (Caesar’s murder took place on the Ides of March, and LaRouche publications in 2010 repeatedly depicted Obama as wearing a Roman toga.) The caption under the image stated, “As with Caesar, time is running out for Barack Obama.” The webcast and text versions of LaRouche’s speech were very widely circulated via YouTube and various far-right websites.
Allying with white supremacists and Jew haters.
Trump enjoyed solid support during his campaign from the white supremacist movement as a result of his strong language against undocumented Mexicans and his promise of a crackdown. This support was enhanced by Trump’s practice of tweeting items taken from Alt-Right media that gave the impression he had more in common with their movement than he was letting on. The only white supremacist Trump has distanced himself from is David Duke and he did that only reluctantly and under strong pressure–and in language that suggested he didn’t really mean it. He avoided criticizing his Alt-Right followers’ hate-drenched signs and chants–and the Confederate flags–at his campaign rallies. He turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the signs or shouts urging death to Hillary. Alt-Right activists regarded him as someone who was close to their own views in many respects and recognized that he had to make compromises with the mainstream to get elected.
LaRouche in his heyday in U.S. politics from the late 1970s through the late 1980s formed an alliance with the U.S. neo-Nazi Willis Carto and his Liberty Lobby, with aging Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. under Operation Paperclip, with Michigan Klan leader and racial-identity “pastor” Robert Miles, and (with varying degrees of success) with other figures on what was then still called the “fringe” right. He hired Klansmen as his bodyguards and used them to intimidate his own followers. He tried to leverage all this into support for his presidential campaigns, describing the quarter-million readers of The Spotlight (Carto’s weekly) as the “‘Gideon’s Army’ of American nationalism.” In some cases his use of code language and of Jewish and black spokespersons was seen as a reasonable short-range tactic. As Miles wrote in 1984: “[LaRouche] has jews, blacks and other minorities in his organization. Yet, he is White Racist to the core.”
Tilting to left and right to confuse one’s opponents and maximize support.
Populism has traditionally appealed to the little guy both in his aspirations and his prejudices. It expresses a mixture of economic, social and often racial grievances and is prone to conspiracism and intense forms of nationalism. People can read into it a progressive side but there is also, too often, a fascistic side. Pat Buchanan and the anti-war Rep. Ron Paul represented populism in and around the Republican Party, with Buchanan expressing America First sentiments from the early 1940s and Paul surrounding himself with white supremacists. There were populist elements in the George Wallace movement. Without the racial grievances and nationalism, there were populist elements in the Bernie Sanders campaign. Trump and LaRouche, however, express consciously manipulative forms of populism calculated to maximize their outreach and support.
Trump in his campaign managed to sound almost left-wing at times, with his attacks on the Iraq war, on big business for supporting NAFTA and taking its factories overseas or to Mexico, and with his professed concern for workers (the same one’s he’d stiffed throughout his own business career). By mixing these themes (which are not characteristic Republican ones) with his racism and nationalism, and his professed willingness to do the Christian Right’s bidding, he was able to peel away enough of the Democrats’ remaining white base, especially in small town America, to win a big electoral college victory although not, apparently, the majority of the popular vote. Tilting to the far right and its atmosphere of hate and then to the moderate left, and back again, was an important part of his strategy. This is populism on one level, but it can also turn into fascism, as in the case of Mussolini and Hitler who used populist style themes at times during their rise to power. How President Elect Trump evolves may depend on whether he chooses to keep the Alt-Right types like Stephen K. Bannon around him and continues to regard the Alt-Right as a valued part of his coalition.
LaRouche was known for his chameleon tactics. Unlike the Republicans, he would call for giant public works projects. He supported farmers facing foreclosure, called for tighter regulation of banks and cozied up to unions such as the Teamsters, suggesting they could be the partners of capitalism in a regime to promote industrial development. But he also promoted very extreme views against gays, hippies, feminists, etc., was a rabid law and order man, regarded the main enemy as a Jewish-controlled oligarchy of bankers, and switched back and forth on issues of peace and war depending on how the particular foreign policy crisis fit into his complicated conspiracy theory. This caused some people to accept the view that he was neither left nor right–a rationalization that some people may adopt regarding Trump to make themselves feel better. In LaRouche’s case this idea was and is a delusion–LaRouche had spelled out every jot and tittle of his ideology and it was mostly either taken from fascist and other far-right sources or was an elaboration of such source materials.
A history of dealings with organized crime.
Trump, as a New York entrepreneur involved in major construction projects and in the casino business, inevitably had dealings with organized crime. On some level it may have been unavoidable, but there are reports that Trump eagerly sought a relationship with the mob on vanity grounds as well. Trump was tutored in the art of dubious alliances by Roy Cohn, the McCarthyite lawyer who was one of the most powerful figures in New York in the 1970s and early 1980s and who represented many mob clients.
During the period of Cohn’s greatest influence, under Mayor Ed Koch, LaRouche and his followers formed ties with Local 282 of the Teamsters Union on Long Island, a Gambino crime family linked local that could shut down a Manhattan construction site in the blinking of an eye. They also linked up with Teamster hoodlums in Michigan and paid the business partner of Detroit Teamster leader and Meli crime family associate Rolland McMaster to run LaRouche’s New Hampshire presidential campaign in 1979 with money also going to a member of the Patriarcha crime family in Manchester NH. In addition, the LaRouchians also curried up to Sammy and Nuncio Provenzano, brothers to Genovese crime family capo (and Teamster leader) Tony Provenzano, who was in prison for murder. The Provenzanos were key figures in New Jersey organized crime. The LaRouchians started a petition campaign to stop Resorts International from opening a casino in Atlantic City, then dropped it when LaRouche’s computer company received a contract from Resorts to design software for the leisure conglomerate’s development division.
Using attacks on “symbolic evil” ethnic figures as a dog whistle form of bigotry.
Harry Siegel noted in the New York Daily News (Oct. 16) how Trump “brought up George Soros, Sidney Blumenthal (twice) and Jonathan Gruber” at the [Oct. 10] Presidential debate. Soros has long been portrayed as a symbolic evil Jew by the Alt-Right, by LaRouche (see below) and many Republican conservatives. Some commentators wondered why Trump used valuable debate time on Blumenthal and Gruber, but Siegel noted that although they “aren’t household names…they are distinctively Jewish ones.” And indeed, any close watcher of Fox News would recall Blumenthal as a stock villain.
One could say that Trump was blowing a dog whistle to those among the listening tens of millions who would be alert to his negative references to persons with Jewish names. In the final week of the campaign, he rolled out an ad using this trick that focussed on Jews supporting Clinton, especially Soros, in a clearly anti-Semitic manner. Still, all this was just an extension of his dog-whistle campaign against Obama the Muslim mole born in Kenya entering the U.S. with a fake birth certificate and fraudulently becoming President to destroy America, etc. It must be admitted that Trump’s birtherism was a brilliant example of creating a symbolic ethic hate figure. To this day, the [majority] of Republicans believe that Obama was not born in the U.S. and hence, implicitly, has never been our legitimate president. This has given their flagrant unwillingness to accept a black man as President a veneer of pseudo-respectability.
LaRouche was a master at the art of bigoted name-dropping, especially in conspiracy theories focussing on Jews and Zionism. Far more acceptable to say the “Rothschilds” or the “Montefiores” than to refer to the “Jews” in general. And he was a true pioneer in fabricating Symbolic Evil Blacks and Jews. He started with Amiri Baraka in the 1970s then focussed chiefly on Henry Kissinger and later, on Barack Obama and George Soros. All of these people were regarded as controversial by substantial segments of the public and sometimes for reasons that did not involve anti-Semitism or racism. They were easy to focus on as symbols for all (or most) Jews and all (or most) blacks, thus enabling individuals who used this tactic to avoid the “K” word or the “N” word as well as spreading a sly message of hate without embarrassing themselves too much.
Claiming that one has been or will be a victim of vote fraud and rigged elections.
Trump claimed that the Democrats and international financiers were plotting to “fix” the election, and thus refused to say he would accept the results (if he were to lose) and made statements suggesting that his followers should get read to protest the results.
LaRouche ran for President eight times, first in 1976 on the line of the now defunct U.S. Labor Party and seven times in the Democratic primaries (once, from inside prison). Each time his response to his disappointing vote totals was to claim he’d been victimized by a conspiracy of the international “oligarchy” and its minions to steal his votes and/or personally discredit him. He even filed lawsuits against election officials when he regarded the results as particularly suspicious. Just as Trump could not accept that he was underperforming in certain 2016 polls because of his foolish tweetings and other misbehavior, LaRouche could not accept the low vote totals he was receiving because those totals did not support his self-fantasy about being an adulated world figure.
Blaming the media for one’s failures and threatening libel suits.
Trump loved the media as long as they were giving him free publicity that was boosting his campaign. When they started to focus closely on his business record and his extremism, he started portraying himself as the victim of a giant media/financier conspiracy, thus keeping his followers’ attention away from the contents of what the media was revealing. He threatened but has not initiated libel suits against the media as well as against the women who had alleged sexual harassment against him. Such threats to squelch free criticism of major party Presidential nominees have not been used by any other major party nominee in our time, just as none except Trump has failed to release his or her tax returns.
LaRouche began doing the same thing 40 years ago, threatening to sue and sometimes suing over unfavorable media coverage of his Presidential campaigns, while claiming that the publishers, editors and journalists he sued were part of a giant conspiracy. Even when he did not sue, he claimed that the articles he didn’t like were part of the conspiracy (for instance, extensive criticism of him in the British media several years ago that he blamed on Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth, and the British establishment in general). Democratic primary presidential candidate LaRouche filed a suit against the New York Times in 1979; it was dismissed. He continued the same suit against the Manhattan weekly Our Town, but then dropped it rather than answer questions under oath about Nazi style rhetoric he had used. In 1984, again while running for President, he filed a suit against NBC Broadcasting, the Anti-Defamation League and assorted journalists. The case went to trial and he suffered a humiliating defeat.
Cultivating and/or obtaining support from conspiracist talk show hosts.
Trump was strongly backed by conspiracist talk show hosts Alex Jones and Jeff Rense. The latter joined forces with David Duke to portray Trump as the victim of a Jewish plot. See Duke and Rense’s joint effort, “Why the Jewish Elite Hates Donald Trump,” which demonizes George Soros (a favorite LaRouche target and the target of a Trump ad in the last week of the campaign; see above). Rense and Duke accused Jews who opposed Trump of committing “treason.”
Alex Jones also supported Trump, and Trump used Jones’ InfoWars website as the source of some of his own conspiracy-laced claims. Rachel Maddow wrote last December in the Washington Post about Jones hosting Trump for a lengthy live interview: “After about 30 minutes of mutual compliments, and Jones telling Trump that ‘about 90 percent’ of his listeners support him, the presidential candidate wrapped things up by telling Jones: ‘Your reputation is amazing.'”
LaRouche and his followers have appeared often on the Jones and Rense talk shows over the years, as has Webster Tarpley, a former top LaRouche aide who still adheres to the LaRouche line on most key points (and almost certainly still has ties inside the org). The Jones and Rense websites have often reposted or cited LaRouchian propaganda. In their own presentations, Jones and Rense appear at times to be giving the LaRouche line, but not consistently.
Caveat: There are some conspiracist talk shows and websites that may support Trump but have never supported LaRouche, who is a controversial figures in the eyes of the majority of the Alt-Right. But even here you have to look closely. Rush Limbaugh defends Trump and has never promoted LaRouche–yet he picked up on LaRouche’s trope about Obama being a new “Hitler” and expressed delight over it without mentioning LaRouche’s name.
Inability to apologize.
Trump‘s tactic in politics is to never apologize for anything hateful or deranged he has said, just as he has never apologized to any of the victims hurt by his multiple bankruptcies and by his Trump University scam. (Such obstinance is distinct from a willingness to adjust policy proposals, which he has done, albeit reluctantly, on several occasions.) He sometimes concocts excuses for his behavior that are clever in a childlike way, as when he said his ability to avoid paying taxes was proof of what a smart businessman he is and (by implication) what a smart president he could be. When a tape was revealed in which be bragged about his mistreatment of women, and as women started to come forward corroborating that this was not just empty boasting on his part, he was forced to give a pretense of an apology–a vague statement that he was sorry if he’d offended anyone. He and his campaign then set about attacking the women who’d come forward, saying they had been too ugly for him to ever be interested in, and claiming they were lying or that one of the women, a former Miss Universe, had been bribed by the Clinton team. Essentially, Trump’s campaign rallies functioned as a giant memory hole–Trump denounced those who’d criticized his latest outrageous statement, and his rally attendees (acting as if they were members of a cult) then simply forgot the accusations and focussed on Trump’s reply issued in a tone of righteous indignation.
LaRouche is a bit worse; he never apologizes for anything or admits an error. A poorly educated man, he has made vast numbers of egregious errors of fact in his published writings and speeches, but if has ever corrected an error he has done it surreptitiously and without reference to his initial mistake. Members of his group do not dare to criticize him–or express ideas that differ with his own–knowing they will be demoted or otherwise punished (e.g., by emotionally harrowing “ego stripping” sessions).
In 2007 he sent a memo to all his members publicly labelling a longtime Jewish follower a worthless person and suggesting that the man might as well commit suicide. The man did so within hours. When the man’s wife criticized what LaRouche had done, LaRouche denounced her as an enemy, a traitor and a witch–and started telling members that she was the real cause of her husband’s suicide. He expressed no regret, ever, about this tragedy, calling his victim a “Judas.”
LaRouche has never acknowledged any error in his organization’s dealings with Latin American death squads and its attempts to whip up violence against indigenous peoples in Guatemala, Mexico’s state of Chiapas, and elsewhere. Nor has he expressed the slightest regret over his org’s 10-year intensive campaign of hate and vilification in Sweden against Olof Palme, which ended only with Palme’s 1986 assassination. LaRouche has constructed his cult above a giant memory sewer–any outrageous statement or deed is dropped into it and the cover slammed shut.
Blaming one’s electoral setbacks on a giant and implicitly Jewish conspiracy.
To avoid acknowledging mistakes, and to prepare his followers for the ongoing battle if should lose, Trump alleged that an international conspiracy was responsible for his campaign woes. In a mid-October speech in West Palm Beach, FL, he discussed the “global power structure” in which the “Clinton machine” supposedly plays a central role. Giving his personal interpretation of the Wikileaks documents provided to the U.S. media and the Republicans by the Putin machine, he claimed that “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers…” The speech drew an immediate response from the ADL and media commentators, who suggested that Trump was trafficking in anti-Semitic conspiracy memes in a sly way. LaRouche then followed up with his last-week ad on this them, focussing on Jewish names and on the symbolically evil Soros (who had once been his friend, as the Clintons had been).
LaRouche has incessantly used this same tactic over the years. Whenever he has a setback, whenever a President does something he doesn’t like, whenever the media criticizes him, it’s all because of the hidden hand of the global elite, a force that he frequently defines by allusions to Jewish names or to companies he says are controlled by Jewish bankers. The tactic not only absolves him from any responsibility for his own mistakes; it also boosts his sense of self-importance in the eyes of his followers by suggesting that he is so important (or such an existential threat) that the most powerful people in the world are working night and day to foil him. His continued relative obscurity thus is transmuted into proof of his greatness.
It must be admitted that this is a depth of narcissistic nuttiness to which Trump has never descended, and doesn’t need to descend, being right now just about the most powerful narcissist in the world.
“Free association” as a form of political rhetoric.
Trump expressed whatever came into his head at his mass rallies, in early morning tweets and even in media interviews. This was seen in his “why not” moment with Chris Matthews when, asked if he would punish women for having abortions, he thought for a very brief moment and said yes, there should be “some form” of punishment (it had probably not occurred to him until that moment and he backed off it the next day). Like all free associators, he repeated himself over and over, gnawing on memes like a dog on a bone at his rallies. He constantly put his foot in his mouth in ways that wouldn’t have helped his victory process in a normal election cycle.
LaRouche also is a free associator, although he relives his favorite hatreds in the form of conspiratorial charges about various people in today’s world and in past centuries. He often pops up with a bitter remark about someone who did him wrong upwards of 80 years ago. He has written angry and incoherent pieces late at night (his version of Trump’s tweets) about the popularity girls in his high school in the 1930s and the teacher who had the temerity to disagree with his odd views on plane geometry. He’s prone to ranting repeatedly against a fellow college student who treated him in a patronizing manner in the late 1940s, an academic economist who disagreed with him in a debate in the early 1970s, and a former top aide who broke with him in 1980. As to the rest of it, here’s a statement by LaRouche from a morning briefing of his organization circa 2008: “I’m a free spirit! I say what I think needs to be said. I don’t worry about who hears it. The more the merrier! I consider myself accountable for whatever I say. I’m pleased to be accountable for what I say. Not ashamed of anything.” (Quoted by Matthew Feldman.) This statement (apart from the completely insincere remark about always holding himself accountable), pretty much sums up Trump’s rhetoric also.
Preposterous public work schemes.
Trump wants to build a giant wall along the entire Mexican border; he wants Mexico to pay for it. If they refuse, well, he’ll figure something out.
LaRouche wants to build magnetic levitation bullet trains across Siberia to the Bering Strait, then build a tunnel under the strait to Alaska and then a mag-lev extension down to the lower 48. He has no idea how this would be paid for–or why it would be needed, given the massive trade that is already being conducted with relative convenience by way of bulk carrier ships and super-sized container ships.
Attempting a hostile takeover of a major political party from outside.
Trump entered the Republican party very recently, after decades of close connection with Democrats, including the Clintons and George Soros. He ran explicitly as an outsider, expressing constantly his hostility to the party establishment and most of the party’s leaders, sometimes describing them in outrageously abusive language. He rapidly accumulated a base of support among white blue-collar workers and other white men and women who are suffering economically, and he tried to pit them against scapegoats: blacks, Jews, Muslims, Hispanics. He promised to send cops into the inner cities for a massive “Law and Order” crackdown on Black Lives Matter, to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and deport them quickly, to ban Muslims from entering the United States, etc.
LaRouche in the early 1980s, while strongly supporting the Reagan administration, set up the National Democratic Policy Committee (a name chosen to suggest that the org was officially connected with the Democrats). Over the next few years, the NDPC would run many hundreds of candidates in Democratic primaries as well as supporting LaRouche’s Democratic Presidential primary efforts. Like Trump later, LaRouche constantly expressed hostility to the party establishment and most party leaders, often describing them in abusive language. His candidates did best in the farm belt, wracked by foreclosures, and in the rust belt, suffering from unemployment and the decline of certain types of manufacturing. Like Trump, he offered them scapegoats: gays (he called for rounding them up, just as Trump would call for rounding up undocumented immigrants), feminists (he equated feminism with lesbianism), Jewish bankers (he’d send “tanks” down Chicago’s State Street), New Agers and “hippies,” etc. Like Trump, he and his followers proposed over-bloated crackdowns and used outrageous language.
Caveat: Trump succeeded because the time was ripe and he had a skill at audience manipulation honed by years as a reality-TV star. LaRouche, whose rhetorical skills were tailored towards a much narrower audience of people predisposed to elaborate conspiracy theories, was operating in a Democratic party where the right-wing was in a minority (he couldn’t enter the Republican party, because its right-wing was already packed with so many groups that he wouldn’t have had room to maneuver). The people predisposed to a Presidential candidate with a message such as his were already either Republicans or “Reagan Democrats” geared to voting Republican on the presidential level.
Encouraging the spread of nuclear weapons.
Trump has said (and has never rejected the statement) that Japan and South Korea aren’t paying enough to the U.S. to make it worth our while to continue defending them. He suggested they should develop their own nuclear weapons.
LaRouche in 1980 published a book on how to make an H-bomb written by a German-American scientist who was an apologist for accused Nazi war criminals. The book apparently helped to give LaRouche’s followers an easy entre to intelligence and military circles in a number of countries wanting nuclear weapons, e.g., Taiwan, apartheid South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina. LaRouchian publications enthusiastically backed a military nuclear program in the Argentina of the military dictatorship in the late 1970s-early 1980s.
Holding deceptive and/or highly ambiguous positions on abortion.
Trump was a supporter of a woman’s right to choose for decades and only changed this position very recently. His position is still rather confused; he says he is in favor, like Reagan, of exceptions for rape, for incest and to save the life of the mother. But he has promised to appoint ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices who might not recognize these exceptions. In a debate with Clinton, he gave a lurid and scientifically preposterous description of a late-term abortion, trying to appeal to the Christian Right hardliners. His new-found opposition to abortion succeeded in getting him the support of most of the Christian Right.
LaRouche formed an organization called the “Club of Life” in the early 1980s that pretended to be against abortion but actually was mostly concerned with stopping mass birth control and denouncing proposals for voluntary euthanasia. The Club of Life proved successful for awhile in opening doors to far right-wing Catholics in Spain and Latin America and within or near the Vatican hierarchy. But it was all a deception: the LaRouche organization had a stern policy that women in the org, if they became pregnant, must have abortions so they and their husbands could continue to work full-time for LaRouche in return for minimal pay. LaRouche’s wife, the founder of the Club of Life, told women in the org who wanted children to get a dog instead. Nancy Spannaus, the head of the U.S. Club of Life, was also the leader of an informal “coat hanger brigade” that accompanied women to the abortion clinic to make sure they went through with it. Ex-LaRouche followers say there were hundreds of these forced abortions in the LaRouche org and that the policy has been applied in recent years to women in the LaRouche Youth Movement.
Holding, over the years, ambiguous attitudes towards the Clintons.
Trump was a supporter of the Clintons and of many of their liberal policies, and he supported Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate. He and Bill Clinton were longtime friends. Trump had opposed the impeachment proceedings against Clinton as hypocritical. Hillary had a front-row seat at Trump’s 2005 wedding to Melania Knauss, and Bill came to the wedding reception. Even after disagreements developed, Trump wanted to attend the 2010 wedding of Chelsea Clinton, who is a friend of his daughter Ivanka. Trump agreed with the Obama administration’s decision, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, to join with NATO allies in conducting air strikes in Libya to prevent a bloodbath. For many years Trump made contributions to political campaigns of the Clintons but now says he only did this because, like many other wealthy businessmen, he wanted access if necessary. In 2015-16, Trump waged one of the most ferocious campaigns in the history of U.S. presidential politics against his former friends, including the use of the most unseemly and excessive rhetoric against Hillary Clinton at rallies where the audience chanted “Lock her up!” and things a lot worse.
LaRouche blamed George Herbert Bush for the federal prosecution that sent him to prison, and for years thereafter his organization demonized Bush. When LaRouche was let out on parole in 1994 after serving five years of a 15-year sentence (his early release was not uncommon for a first-time nonviolent offender), he began to intimate, without evincing any evidence, that the Clintons were behind his release because he was such a powerful person. During the Lewinsky scandal he supported the Clintons and his publications suggested that Lewinsky was a Mossad agent who had entrapped the President. In this year’s Presidential contest, LaRouche and his followers were highly critical of Hillary Clinton, but without going all-out for Trump.
Attempting to build a movement based on Obama-hatred as a coded form of bigotry.
In 2011, Trump started pushing the idea that Obama was not an American citizen and thus not qualified to be recognized as President. This was merely a coded version of the openly racist idea that a black man can never be fit to be recognized as president. Trump spun a preposterous conspiracy theory around this theme, and it caught on. Although Obama produced his Hawaii birth certificate and Trump stopped pushing the idea so vigorously, today over half of all white Republicans still believe that Obama was not born in this country and many still do not recognize the legitimacy of his presidency. This made it easier for the Senate Republicans to take the unprecedented step of refusing to even consider Obama’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court. The “birther” movement became a powerful part of a larger racist assault on Obama–the most sustained campaign of hate that a U.S. President has ever endured. It is a major reason, to this day, of Trump’s success–he has given white racists of the shamefaced type (those unwilling to wear a hooded bed-sheet or a swastika armband) a “polite” way to unleash, safe from harsh social disapproval, their Inner Klansman.
LaRouche used a similar dog-whistle tactic two years earlier. He started putting up posters of Obama wearing a Hitler mustache and claimed that Obama represented fascism and/or Nazism and was planning to do things to America worse than anything Hitler had done. LaRouche didn’t dream this up on his own, at least not entirely: Ann Coulter and talk show hosts Michael Savage and Mark Levin were already comparing Obama to Hitler. But LaRouche’s street version appears to have been remarkably effective in helping whites to get around their reluctance to admit their inability to recognize a black man as President, and it also empowered them to go on the offensive against Obama. If opposing Obama down the line on everything and doing so with passion and anger is actually a case of opposing fascism or Nazism, well, you don’t have to worry about your underlying racism. Indeed, you can unleash your Inner Klansman against the “Nero” in the White House (LaRouche’s term) armed with a magic get-out-of-guilt card: opposition to the Symbolic Evil Black Man’s Hitler mustache!
I believe this trick played a significant role in whipping up the 2009-10 wild hatred of Obama in its early stages. Certainly Rush Limbaugh embraced the tactic with glee. But once Obama hatred had reached a certain pitch and become legitimized by the Republican establishment, the ersatz antifascism was no longer necessary. “Birtherism,” of which Trump was the primary but by no means the only champion, became the name of the game. Still, there’s a good reason that the LaRouchians continue to display the Obama-with-a-Hitler mustache posters at their street tables throughout the United States–the poster attracts passersby; they stop and unload their feelings about Obama; they buy LaRouchian literature and make donations. Obama as Hitler is still a useful trope (with Hitler’s name turning subliminally into the “N” word), although it’s not something to build an effective Presidential campaign around.
Acting out hostility to women while also using them in leadership positions and being dependent on them.
Trump‘s backward attitude to women went viral as a campaign issue after the release of a tape in which he had bragged about his abusive behavior. Thereafter almost a dozen women came forwards with allegations about his demeaning and/or sexually abusive treatment of them. Trump fanned the flames through tweets in which he further disrespected them, calling them liars and suggesting they were paid by Clinton, or saying they were so ugly he would never have been sexually interested in them. Earlier, he had expressed his one-dimensional view of women by saying, about Republican primary candidate Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” He also revealed a strange revulsion regarding women’s bodily fluids. After Fox News’ Megyn Kelly questioned him sharply about his attitude towards women, he complained: “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whatever.” When he learned that Hillary Clinton had been late returning to the stage during a Democratic debate, he suggested that she’d been doing “disgusting” things in the bathroom.
LaRouche had a theory about women turning into “witch mothers” and destroying both their children and their husbands. The worst of the witch mothers, he suggested, were the Jewish mothers and the “black welfare” mothers. Even stranger than the witch mother theory was LaRouche’s opinion that because women do not have external sex organs they are inherently unclean given the proximity of the vagina and the anus. At one point, he urged the men in his org to go home and beat their wives in order to prove their masculinity; he also initiated a policy of forced abortion–probably the cruelest thing he did to his women followers, many of whom were so brainwashed that they could not free themselves from the LaRouche cult until they were well past child-bearing age.
Also part of LaRouche’s misogyny was a theory of the evilness of feminine influences that LaRouche traced back thousands of years. His publications expressed an intense hatred of ancient goddess religions, regarded as setting in motion an evil influence that persists to the present day; today’s New Age women, alleged to be witches in the Satanic sense; and the feminist movement, depicted as a lesbian cabal. The LaRouche org engaged in vile smear campaigns against women running for public office, such as Maryland’s Barbara A. Mikulski, who, in spite of lesbian baiting by both the LaRouchians (openly) and the Republicans (in code language), went on to become one of the most distinguished and effective U.S. Senators of our time.
LaRouche, unlike Trump, was not a rampant womanizer and would have found the job of running beauty pageants incomprehensible. His own backward views on women took a cultic and ideological form. But both LaRouche and Trump displayed at time an almost childlike connection to the women closest to them and gave them much authority (in Trump’s case in his businesses, and in LaRouche’s case in his cult and its various publications and political entities). Trump was deeply dependent on his first wife, Ivana, and is now grooming their daughter Ivanka to run his business empire. LaRouche, even before his recent decline, was heavily reliant on Helga, his wife of the past four decades, who is in the process of replacing him as the central figure in his organization.
No concern for facts and for critical thinking.
Trump makes things up as he goes along. Sometimes he will make dozens of egregious errors of fact in a single speech. If he is refuted on a point, he doesn’t care. He continues to repeat the false or unproven statement and rarely backs down. He has made ridiculous connections; e.g., China is the main rival of the U.S. and wishes to weaken it; therefore, scientists who push for action against global warming must be part of a Chinese plot to use this “hoax” to prevent America from becoming great again.
LaRouche concocted an elaborate conspiracy theory of history in which secret elites have been fighting each other for thousands of years. He asserted that the struggle goes back to the lost continent of Atlantis and has involved various secret world-transforming crimes; for instance, he claimed to have knowledge that the philosopher Aristotle poisoned Alexander the Great to deliberately prevent humanistic progress in the ancient world. LaRouche scrambles historical names and even historical epochs. He confuses the Anglo-Saxons with the Celtic Britons. He says that plane geometry is a hoax put forth to stop the emergence of scientific thinking. He claims that the Rothschilds and other “British” bankers put Hitler into power and thus are responsible for whatever bad things happened to their fellow Jews.
His entire theoretical system is based upon certain premises (unproven by LaRouche and unquestioned by his followers) regarding the origin, existence and characteristics of the two elites. The “oligarchical” elite is utterly evil, usurious, infatuated with Aristotle, and having the traits of an alien biological species; it’s the folks who also cooked up the “hoax” called the Old Testament (wink, wink). The leaders of the “humanist” elite are the good guys, embracing science and engineering, and infatuated with Plato. LaRouche has not offered any proof for his basic assumptions, he just spins fantasies in which, in ancient and medieval times, each of the two elites communicated and conspired within its own ranks across vast distances and periods of time–which would not have been possible without telephone, radio, rapid forms of transportation, and printing presses. Here we see a fundamental difference between LaRouche and Trump: LaRouche has a compulsive need to fit together all his unproven and preposterous assertions into a vast system rather than simply moving on to the next absurdity, as Trump does, with the previous one stuffed into a memory hole.
Sociopathy regarding money matters.
Trump managed to wiggle out of paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. He still refuses to release any of his tax returns. The only relevant document he’s released is a 2015 campaign financial disclosure form in which the self-styled billionaire claimed only $14,000 in salary (which, if that were his only income, would put him below the poverty threshold). Over the years he has stiffed thousands of small contractors and investors, as well as the IRS, by declaring multiple bankruptcies. He has used his private foundation for personal gain and to donate a campaign contribution to the Florida secretary of state, who then dropped an investigation of “Trump University”–a scam that raked in millions of dollars from people who thought they would be learning the real estate business.
LaRouche went to federal prison in 1989 after a jury conviction on charges of conspiring to commit mail fraud, 11 counts of actual mail fraud, and one count of conspiring to commit federal income tax fraud. It is believed that he and his followers raised as much as a half billion dollars over a ten-year period, although only $30 million was included in the conspiracy charge re mail fraud. Much of the money came via the solicitation of loans from senior citizens in states from Alaska to Florida; in some cases, the victims were promised 20 percent interest–when they asked for repayment they were told that their loans were actually donations. Several of the victims had dementia. One elderly woman gave over her stocks after being promised a trip on LaRouche’s first rocket ship to Mars.
LaRouche also looted businesses run by his followers, eventually driving them into bankruptcy. LaRouche lived in fancy homes throughout the 1980s, first in a town house on Sutton Place in Manhattan, then in country mansions in Virginia. He claimed in a 1984 deposition that he had no income and that he relied for his clothing and food on the charity of his philosophical associates.
Global warming a hoax.
Trump has declared global warming to be “bullshit” and says he will repudiate the Paris climate agreement as well as rolling back Obama’s executive actions on climate change. Last September, Trump chose a notorious climate skeptic, Myron Ebell, to head the EPA working group of his transition team. Ebell has said, “There has been a little bit of warming…but it’s very modest…it’s nothing to worry about.”
LaRouche has denounced all environmental concerns and initiatives ever since the early 1980s. He and his followers revile environmentalists and have heaped abuse on them, linking them to satanism, homosexuality and a giant plot by British-Jewish bankers to take us back to the Dark Ages and reduce the world’s population to a few million people through nuclear war, famine, etc. (The new Tom Hanks movie, Inferno, is almost certainly based in part on this well-known LaRouchian scenario, although without the ideological baggage.) In 1994, the LaRouche org, working with the right-wing “Wise Use” movement, played a key role in stopping the U.S. Senate from ratifying the multilateral Convention on Biodiversity, and the Senate has not revisited the issue since then. At present, the U.S. is the only UN member not to have ratified the convention.
Since paranoid type accusations can be so useful when one is dealing with people influenced already by conspiracy theories, it is unclear the degree to which real paranoia motivates either LaRouche (who has used his concerns about being assassinated to get his acolytes to conduct frantic campaigns to raise money to save his life) or Trump (who used accusations of a dark plot to get his followers to ignore the many mistakes he’d made and to be prepared for robust protest if he lost the election). I suspect from years of studying LaRouche that he has real paranoid tendencies but has learned to use his affliction to manipulate people and achieve non-paranoid goals. In the case of Trump, however, the expressions of paranoia regarding a rigged election may just be an opportunistic part of his politicized reality-TV act. (Caveat: I am not a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist.)
Readers can decide for themselves which items above shed any light on the dangers of the coming Trump presidency. Personally I’m experiencing deja vu, for I had written 27 years ago in the final paragraph of Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism:
The lessons of LaRouche’s rise and apparent fall are important. If we study them seriously and act on them, it may turn out that the LaRouche phenomenon was a blessing in disguise—a dry run, under relatively safe conditions, that revealed our hitherto unsuspected weaknesses without our having to pay a heavy price for this knowledge. One thing seems certain: America is too violent and diverse—and too vulnerable to economic crisis—to avoid forever a major internal challenge from some form of totalitarian demagoguery. When that test comes, the story of Lyndon LaRouche may provide the key to an effective and timely response.
Whether or not the word “totalitarian” (as opposed to authoritarian) in the above passage applies to Trump, it would appear that we Americans are now going to pay a very, very heavy price for not addressing in a timely fashion our vulnerability to extremist demagogues.