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Why the world is turning to Hannah Arendt to explain Trump

George Orwell’s “1984” is not the only classic that’s celebrating a comeback. Hannah Arendt’s philosophical essay “The Origins of Totalitarianism” has also spiked in interest recently. Here’s why it’s so relevant.

Born in Germany to a Jewish family, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) fled when Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933. She spent time as a stateless refugee in France and was deported to an internment camp under the Vichy regime. She emigrated to the United States in 1941, later becoming a US citizen.

Having experienced first-hand the near collapse of an advanced civilization, she also became one of the first political theorists to analyze how totalitarian political movements could rise in the early 20th century.

The roots of Nazism and Stalinism are described in her first major book, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” originally published in English in 1951.

It has been compulsory reading for many college students ever since, but the dense political work of over 500 pages isn’t typically a bestseller. It has been flying off bookshelves in the US since Trump’s inauguration; Amazon even briefly ran out of stock this week.

These new Arendt fans are presumably trying to understand what Trump’s presidency could lead to. As it might take a while for readers to get through her heavy essays, here are a few spoilers: “Trump is not a totalitarian in her understanding; he incorporates what she calls ‘elements’ of totalitarianism,” Roger Berkowitz, professor and head of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanity at Bard College in New York, explained in a recent DW interview.

However, strong warning signs shouldn’t be ignored, added Berkowitz: Arendt believed that “one of the core elements of totalitarianism is that it’s based in a movement… and Trump has explicitly called himself the mouthpiece of a movement. That’s a very dangerous position for a politician.”

DW News Hannah Arendt Zitate ENG

Populism: easy fixes in times of global anxiety

Arendt’s analysis focuses on the events of that period. Although her observations obviously couldn’t explain everything about today’s complex political developments, many are still revealing even now, as the right-wing populism that’s spreading throughout Europe and the US is reminiscent in different ways of the situation in the 1920s and 30s that allowed the Nazis and Communists to rise.

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GasLit Nation podcast 1/22/20 : The Republican Party is on Trial

GASLIT NATION WITH ANDREA CHALUPA AND SARAH KENDZIOR

This week Gaslit Nation gives in-depth context to the ongoing shitshow of the Senate impeachment hearings. We discuss what’s behind the media blitz of Giuliani goon Lev Parnas and the incriminating texts indicating the Trump crew was planning an attack on former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. We then analyze the GOP for what it is – an appendage of a transnational crime syndicate – and detail the institutional failures that allowed it to get there.

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This F#$%ing Decade

Trump with the Romneys

For years, media and political elites refused to acknowledge the growing racism and radicalism of the Republican party. Their “both-sidesism” led to Trump’s GOP takeover.

By Joan Walsh for THE NATION

I’ve always resisted the notion that new decades are news events, bestowed on us in pre-measured pallets of history to be analyzed later as self-contained units of meaning. But as we ring in 2020, it’s hard not to feel like we’ve been through an epoch we should pause to acknowledge. Being ornery, I’ll date it to 2009, and the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. However we count them off, we have to admit: These last 10 (or 11) years saw the rise of a sometimes violent right-wing American extremism, fueled by racism, and an even bigger story — the utter failure of political elites and mainstream media to figure out how to handle it.

I finally became convinced I had to write about this decade—or as I like to call it, “this f&$%ing decade”—when I read the Rolling Stone interview with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd that burned down the Internet just before Christmas. The decent person in me, who is withering to nothing given the lack of nutritive decency around us, wants to give Todd credit, however belated, for realizing the obvious: that the Trump administration, but more important, Republicans generally, have used his show to spread lies and then double down on them when caught, for a long time.

From Trump toady Kellyanne Conway’s mind-fracturing “alternative facts” defense in the first week of the administration, to alleged anti-Russia hawk Senator Ted Cruz inviting himself on Todd’s show to spout pro-Russia Continue reading

George Conway: Republican senators run the risk of being shamed by Trump himself 

They should think twice before short-circuiting his removal trial.

Dec. 19, 2019 at 7:00 a.m. EST

George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York and an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC.

In his unhinged letter Tuesday, President Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” A few days earlier, he accused Democrats of “trivializing impeachment.”

If anything has cheapened or trivialized the process by which Trump was impeached, it was House Republicans’ refusal to treat the proceedings with the seriousness the Constitution demands. Unable to defend the president’s conduct on the merits, GOP members of the House resorted to deception, distortion and deflection: pretending that Trump didn’t ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival; claiming that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election; and throwing up all manner of silly assertions of procedural unfairness.

Now, as the process moves to the Senate, Republican senators threaten the ultimate cheapening and trivialization of Congress’s constitutional obligations: holding a “trial” that would be nothing but a sham.

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