A Kleptocratic Sadistic Federal Government’ — Sarah Kendzior On Trump’s Power, Coronavirus Response

By ALEX HEUER APR 6, 2020

St. Louis-based writer Sarah Kendzior garnered national attention for her reporting and commentary during events in Ferguson in 2014.

Kendzior’s earlier book, “The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from a Forgotten America,” explored labor issues, racism, gentrification, media bias and other subjects connected to the election of President Donald Trump.

Her new book is “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America.” It debuts tomorrow and expands upon Trump’s rise to power since the 1980s.

“I do feel like my book sheds some light on the kind of social and economic and political conditions that have made it as bad as it is,” explained Kendzior, in reference to the current coronavirus pandemic. “This is a public health catastrophe. It’s a human tragedy.”

St. Louis-based writer Sarah Kendzior is the author of the new book, ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America.’

CREDIT FLATIRON BOOKS

While some people view Trump’s lack of timely action as incompetence, Kendzior says it’s actually malice.

“He covers up crimes with scandal, and he’s been doing that for 40 years and it’s not just Trump,” Kendzior told St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske. “It’s not like Trump is some geopolitical mastermind. He’s backed by a large cohort of people who are using him as a vehicle for their own interests and that ranges from organized crime and kleptocrats to theocrats to ideological extremists to white supremacists — they have all seen Trump as a means to their own ends.”

Kendzior has an academic background to back up her claims about Trump’s autocratic tendencies. She has a Ph.D. in anthropology and wrote her dissertation about Uzbekistan’s authoritarian dictatorship.

Kendzior frequently points to similarities between Trump and other autocratic leaders throughout the world.

“We have a kleptocratic sadistic federal government that wants to exploit this [coronavirus] crisis for their own gain — for financial gain — to entrench their power and to consolidate their autocracy,” she said, citing examples of leaders in Hungary, Israel and Russia.

“No autocrat wastes a crisis, and that’s what the Trump administration is doing and they’re doing it in a twofold way. They’re exploiting it for short-term financial gain through the medical industry through buying up supplies and refusing to give them to the states and citizens who need them.

“But I think they have a longer-term game, which is basically ‘disaster capitalism.’ It’s allowing the country and the system to collapse so that they can profit off of it and rebuild it so that they can rebuild it in their own narrow image of what an American is, and that will entail a great suppression of American freedom,” Kendzior said.

This isn’t the first time that Trump, according to Kendzior, has wished ill on the American way of doing things.

“I have firsthand quotes from [Trump] going back to the 1980s about his intent to destroy the American economy, about his connection to the Kremlin but more specifically to transnational organized crime, of which the Kremlin is just a part. This is a long, ongoing story,” she said.

CONTINUE READING AND TO PODCAST…

Related Event

What: STLPR reporter Jason Rosenbaum book-launch conversation with Sarah Kendzior
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Where: Twitter Live

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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