More than 30 years after he vacated the presidency of Chile, few Americans remember the name of Augusto Pinochet. But Augusto Pinochet used to be in the news all the time.
Pinochet was, in many ways, the anti-Hugo Chavez. Whereas Hugo Chavez plunged a prosperous Latin American nation (Venezuela) into Marxist misery, Augusto Pinochet did the opposite: He saved the ailing nation of Chile from a similar Marxist fate. But he didn’t do it democratically, or without bloodshed.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Pinochet came to power in a 1973 coup d’état. He established a military government. He persecuted, imprisoned, and sometimes executed his political opponents.
Seventeen years later, in 1990, he oversaw the restoration of democratic governance in a restored Chile. Augusto Pinochet’s rule was filled with contradictions.
The Chilean general election of 1970
It all started with the Chilean general election of 1970. A Marxist politician named Salvador Allende, running under the banners of the Chilean Socialist Party and the Popular Unity Coalition, won the presidential race. Salvador Allende thereby became the first openly Marxist politician to be elected head of state in a liberal Latin American democracy.
This was during the Cold War, which framed everything in those days. It is quite likely that the Soviet Union and Cuba provided Allende’s presidential campaign with several hundred thousand dollars of aid, and additional logistical support. But for the most part, Allende won the election of 1970 by getting the most votes.
Allende took office in 1970 and implemented Marxist economic policies. The results were as expected: economic and social chaos in Chile. Before long, Chile was a complete basket case.
Enter Augusto Pinochet, and a group of military officers. In September 1973, Pinochet and his fellow officers carried out a coup d’état, which culminated in the shelling of the presidential palace, La Moneda.
Salvador Allende took his life with a handgun.
Oh, and given that this was during the Cold War, the CIA almost certainly assisted the coup plotters, though the extent of the CIA’s involvement is still disputed.
Once in power, Pinochet lowered the hammer on the socialists who had mucked things up. He restricted leftwing, Marxist political activity, and banished far-left politicians from all levels of government. He dissolved the Chilean parliament.
An undemocratic economic success
Pinochet was, in many ways, the archetypical Latin American strongman. Pinochet’s stated objective was to “save the country from communism.” To do this, he was more than willing to resort to undemocratic methods.
Economically, though, Pinochet’s time in office was an unbridled success. He dismantled Allende’s system of state Marxism, liberalized trade, and stabilized the Chilean currency. At a time when left-leaning Latin American countries were suffering from poverty and hyperinflation, Chile was set on an upward trajectory of economic prosperity.
According to an assessment from the Hoover Institution, “What Pinochet Did for Chile”:
“The first country in the world to make that momentous break with the past—away from socialism and extreme state capitalism toward more market-oriented structures and policies—was not Deng Xiaoping’s China or Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan’s United States in 1981, or any other country in Latin America or elsewhere. It was Pinochet’s Chile in 1975.”
Using undemocratic—often brutal—methods, Pinochet accomplished his aim of “saving the country [Chile] from communism”.
Then Pinochet gave the country back to the people. At the end of 1988, Pinochet agreed to a referendum on whether he would serve yet another term in office. He lost the referendum, 56 to 44.
Pinochet left office the following year, per the agreement he had made. He died peacefully in Santiago in 2006, at the age of 91.
America’s moment of crisis
America is at a disastrous crossroads today, as Chile was in the early 1970s. Millions of Americans believe that the 2020 US presidential election was rigged, stolen. But that is not the primary crisis before us. America has weathered election skullduggery before, after all.
But we have never weathered anything like the Democratic Party majority that will assume power on January 20, 2021. Despite the historic deficits we already face, Joe Biden and the Democrats plan to spend at least $11 trillion more. The Manhattan Institute has called the plans “breathtakingly irresponsible”.
The Manhattan Institute is right. At the very least, we will have high inflation and an economic contraction. In a worst-case scenario, the Democrats will bring about a partial or complete collapse of the American economy. The current Democratic Congress, filled with Marxists or quasi-Marxists like Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Warnock, will be the most left-leaning legislators to ever pass federal laws in America.
The January 6th siege of Capitol Hill was provoked not just by anger over the election, but by a frantic desire to ward off the economic disaster described above.
The Capitol Hill siege was an unmitigated disaster, though. Doomed from the outset, it had absolutely no chance of success. The only outcomes—aside from the destruction of public property—were to bring about a handful of unnecessary deaths.
Oh, and the brief occupation of Capitol Hill also gave the Democrats and the progressive left a new narrative: that they are heroes fighting a “white supremacist” insurgency. Since the Capitol Hill siege, Big Tech has lost all sense of restraint, banning anyone with a substantial conservative platform from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Leftwing journalists and activists are calling for even stricter speech codes, yet more deplatforming drives, and the implementation of an unforgiving “cancel culture”.
Amid this seemingly hopeless situation, there are many Americans who would like to see Donald Trump play the role of Augusto Pinochet, even if they’ve never heard of the Chilean strongman.
This would require not a motley band of civilian Capitol Hill occupiers, but the collusion of substantial elements of the US military. This doesn’t seem to be in the cards. But there are many Americans who would like to see it happen—even if they won’t say so explicitly.
Ideologically left-leaning, economically illiterate Americans
Most of this sentiment is predicated on the supposition that the November election was stolen. I won’t take that possibility off the table. But I’d like to present you with another possibility: the historically left-leaning Democratic government we now face represents the will of a slender majority of Americans.
Is it really so hard to believe? America has spent 50 years stewing in a toxic mixture of cultural nihilism, creeping socialism, and divisive identity politics. The educational emphasis on cultural and racial guilt began in the early 1970s, when I started school. By the mid-1990s, it dominated the teaching of American history. There is not an American who has graduated high school in the last two generations who has not been taught America’s crimes—both real and imagined—ad nauseam.
By contrast, how many American students graduate high school with a knowledge of the economic consequences of Marxist policies in China, Russia, and Eastern Europe? How many Americans even learn the basics of economic theory?
Given this deficit of knowledge and ideological skew, is it really hard to believe that millions of Americans were willing to vote for Joe Biden, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossof, as atonement for the politically incorrect tweets of Donald Trump?
I don’t find it hard to believe. Almost no one in my social sphere could properly be termed a “radical”. I don’t know a single Antifa bomb-thrower. I do, however, know plenty of Americans whose primary takeaway from the election is that Kamala Harris will be “our first woman of color to be vice president”. I know otherwise sensible people who haven’t taken the time to learn the details of the Democratic Party’s spending plans, but who are quite giddy over the fact that Raphael Warnock will be “the first African-American to represent Georgia in the Senate.”
Let’s face it: Identity politics has become the opium of the American people. At the same time, most Americans are economically illiterate.
But what about the Trump-as-Pinochet scenario?
Let’s get back to the Pinochet scenario: Donald Trump colludes with a handful of generals, and establishes a military government. He rids our educational system, government, and national media of radical leftwing elements.
Oh, and he shuts down Twitter and CNN. Facebook, too, while he’s at it.
There are, no doubt, plenty of Trump supporters who fantasize about such an outcome (even if they dare not say so out loud).
There are also plenty of you on the left who are waiting for me to advocate this. You’re salivating, in fact.
Yet another gotcha! moment. Yet another Twitter mob, yet another deplatforming. Off with his head!
But here’s the punchline: I don’t want that to happen. I think the best thing for us, the harsh medicine we really need, is not a Donald Trump-as-Pinochet scenario, but the inauguration of Joe Biden and his radical Congress on January 20th. As so many Americans seem to want.
The punishment we asked for…
As Oscar Wilde observed: “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” But you don’t recognize the punishment until it lands on your head. There are too many Americans who simply won’t understand the disaster before us until it actually happens…to them and their loved ones.
This is especially true of the suburban-dwelling “latte liberal” faction. Right now, they are busy patting themselves on the back, because they’ve just elected “the first woman of color vice president,” and “the first African-American to represent Georgia in the Senate.” Whoopdeedoo. As if both Harris and Warnock weren’t going to be just fine, anyway.
Wait until runaway inflation hits. Wait until their husband, or wife, or young adult child, is thrown out of work because the Democrats have crashed the economy. Wait until their son or daughter becomes the victim of urban violence in another “woke” city that has defunded the police.
In short, there are many “woke” suburbanites who are going to have to suffer, at a very personal level, before they “get it”.
Ideas—like elections—have consequences
It isn’t necessarily their fault. In the late 1960s, America decided to accept anti-American, anti-western guilt as our primary cultural and educational leitmotif.
This was always based on ideology and wishful thinking, not reality.
Ideas—just like elections—have consequences. The bill is going to come due, one way or another. The question is: which ordeal do you prefer: violent revolution? Or economic collapse, followed by the inevitable reappraisal of our national priorities and assumptions?
The very best thing for America may be to allow the leftwing radicals of the Democratic Party free rein.
“The Green New Deal?”
“Medicare for all?”
“$2K stimulus checks?”
“Why stop there? Why not send out $5K stimulus checks? We can always print more money…until we can’t.”
Let them spend us into oblivion. Let the economy collapse. Let the woke suburbanites discover the meaning of reality. In 2024, we can gently remind them that this was what they asked for.
Yes, the rest of us will have to suffer along with them. But that’s the way it works in a democracy. When 81 million of us exercise poor judgment at the ballot box, all of us have to suffer.
The way out of this mess will not be pleasant. But does anyone really believe that a Pinochet option would be easier for America, or any less traumatic?