Wednesday , April 21 2021
Home / Project Syndicate / The Long March of “General” William Barr

The Long March of “General” William Barr

Summary:
US Attorney General William Barr is frequently criticized for corrupting his office to protect President Donald Trump. But something more sinister than personal fealty is at work, because Barr is a true believer in a theory of presidential power that, if implemented, would destroy America's constitutional order. NEW YORK – The death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man, at the hands – or, more accurately, the knee – of a police officer in Minneapolis ignited massive protests across the United States against systemic racism and police brutality. It also spurred a growing number of people outside the US to confront the legacies of racism and inequality in their own countries. Donald Trump’s

Topics:
Nina L. Khrushcheva considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Laura Tyson writes Productivity After the Pandemic

Mark Cliffe writes The Case for Green Consumer Taxes

Jeffrey D. Sachs writes The Xinjiang Genocide Allegations Are Unjustified

Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti writes Investing in Climate Action: Elizabeth Wanjiru-Wathuti

US Attorney General William Barr is frequently criticized for corrupting his office to protect President Donald Trump. But something more sinister than personal fealty is at work, because Barr is a true believer in a theory of presidential power that, if implemented, would destroy America's constitutional order.

NEW YORK – The death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man, at the hands – or, more accurately, the knee – of a police officer in Minneapolis ignited massive protests across the United States against systemic racism and police brutality. It also spurred a growing number of people outside the US to confront the legacies of racism and inequality in their own countries. Donald Trump’s administration, however, is doing no such thing.

Instead, the Trump administration has continued – even accelerated – its effort to hollow out America’s institutions in favor of a nihilistic populism. Its ultimate goal remains unchanged: to create a full-fledged illiberal regime in the US.

No one is more committed to this dream than William Barr, Trump’s attorney general. Barr may not have the foggiest idea who Antonio Gramsci was; Trump almost certainly doesn’t. But Barr’s lust for power and Trump’s feral cunning seem to have led the two men to intuit the Italian Marxist philosopher’s theory of cultural hegemony: the idea that the ruling class gains society’s consent to the status quo by ensuring that a country’s institutions embody and promote a legitimating ideology.

Schools, courts, religious institutions, and the media, for example, can play a powerful role in in the internalization of norms, values, and beliefs. Trump, Barr, and US Republicans more generally have used all of these institutions. But, in response to the ongoing protests, the Trump administration has gone a step further, deploying law enforcement and even the military to advance their ideological ends.

On June 1, Barr – who, it is said, relishes the “general” in his job title – ordered the expansion of the protective perimeter that had been set up around the White House. Officers fulfilled that mission – which involved clearing peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park, the site of many important protests in America’s history – using tear gas, smoke bombs, pepper spray, police batons, horses, and riot shields.

Trump then waddled across the emptied park in order to be photographed awkwardly holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. Barr stood proudly nearby, alongside a real general, Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who, after a tidal wave of criticism, subsequently expressed regret for having participated. “My presence in that moment and in that environment,” Milley acknowledged, “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” In fact, it was worse than that: the stunt called into question the US military’s 240-year-old tradition of remaining strictly apolitical.

Nina L. Khrushcheva
Nina L. Khrushcheva is a Professor of International Affairs and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at The New School and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. Khrushcheva received a degree from Moscow State University with a major in Russian in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University in 1998.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *