The Long March of “General” William Barr
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.