Matt O’Brien, an economics reporter for the Washington Post (a “WonkBlogger”), cut his teeth three years ago at The Atlantic writing liberal opinion pieces making fun of the markets, greedy businesses, and the upper quartile of American society. Now O’Brien is at Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post making fun of Bitcoin and Republicans, leaving out all that irrelevant business stuff. But, perhaps missing all that pithiness in his Atlantic articles, O’Brien decided to dive into the reason that Venezuela and Zimbabwe have fallen into the toilet. And what was his conclusion? Polarization.
That’s right, the reason that the Chavistas and the ZANU-PF former Rhodesian guerrillas have run their countries off the end of the cliff is because of a big misunderstanding. Blacks battle whites and bourgeois battle revolutionaries. Why can’t they just get along? Heck, if we in the United States don’t watch ourselves, all this nasty Trump-era polarization is going to sink us too! Bezos’ editors thought this was such a worthy line of reasoning that they reprinted O’Brien’s online article a week later in the paper Post–taking up an entire page in the business section.
Now while you are wondering why such an political opinion article (and stealth book review) is showing up in the Washington Post business section, let us consider O’Brien’s logic, and by extension, that of his main source Steven Levitsky, a “Harvard government professor and co-author of the new book How Democracies Die“. Maduro and his cronies are afraid to give up power in Venezuela not because they run a kleptocracy and are starving and murdering their own citizens, but because his Chavistas consider the opposition the enemy. Mugabe and his cronies were afraid to give up power in Zimbabwe not because they run a kleptocracy and are starving and murdering their own citizens, but because his ZANU-PF supporters consider the opposition (and also whites–which are not necessarily the same thing) to be the enemy.
That totalitarian and revolutionary socialist regimes have a spotty economic track record is not mentioned. Or that Venezuela is gripped by rampant crime while government officials dabble in drug running. Or that Zimbabwe and Venezuela’s governments build constituencies through wealth redistribution. Or that Zimbabwe’s government, who came to power because Rhodesia’s whites murdered and oppressed blacks, turned around and murdered and oppressed white and black citizens indiscriminately.
And then there are the leftist and Marxist ideologies of the Venezuelan and Zimbabwean governments. These sort of fervent political experiments know no equal in the United States political scene. So why would O’Brien draw comparisons between the two failed states and the US?
That’s right–Donald Trump. The president’s right-leaning tone-deaf eccentric political egalitarianism that caters to libertarians, conservatives, and inexecrable white supremacists alike has inflamed the left-leaning politirati like no other preceding president of the last seventy years. Trump has managed to be more polarizing than Barak Obama, the second George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and John Kennedy. One has to go back to FDR to find as polarizing and populist a president as Trump. It is fortunate that Trump cannot serve as many terms in office as FDR did.
O’Brien and Levitsky can’t wait two terms to get rid of Trump. Surely, they opine, the end of the United States as we know it will rush in if we can’t overcome Trump-masterminded polarization. Think of Zimbabwe, of Venezuela!
I’m thinking why, just why, we can’t get a decent paper published in Washington DC? And now that Bezos and Amazon run the Post, we’ll never get one. Now that’s a tragedy worth writing about.