Thesis on the Great Trumpian Victory (OAG #6)

Thesis: The great victory of the Trumpists would be in the destruction of faith in the American system, now approaching the consensus position.

…to which responds net-friend and former colleague “OG Jaybird“: “Where you see destruction, I see manifestation of evidence of it already having been destroyed years prior.”

Far be it from me to refuse the resort to context and history: For me it goes without saying that any particular event, to be understood, must be understood concretely: as realization of a process or development, as conditioned rather than random incident. So, we can say that the Soviet Union did not defeat Nazi Germany in Berlin, but over the course of titanic battles fought to and from Moscow and Stalingrad all across Central and Eastern Europe, and, furthermore, we can say that the Red Army would almost certainly have failed without allies. We can go a step further and say that the hopelessness of the Nazi position was itself pre-figured in the hopelessness of the German position in the general European and global conditions of the era, as already understood by German strategists at what seemed the last possible moment to alter them by intervention, on the eve of what became the First World War.

Rather than give up, the Germans under Hitler sought to defy the verdict of history one last time, and, according to historical justice, received an even harsher punishment for the second great offense. In retrospect, Germany had already defeated itself long before Hitler took power, and geography had already defeated Germany long before Bismarck, long before Frederick the Great, long before Otto, long before the deceptive victory in the Teutoburger Wald, if not before the triumph, no doubt fleeting by geological standards, of the Cro-Magnons over Neanderthals… and so on. All the same, something was different in Germany and for the Germans in May of 1945 as compared to April of 1945, or May of 1939 or 1933… and so on. Something was confirmed for Hitler and his movement in April 1945 that had previously existed only in principle, and therefore remained susceptible to doubt or hope.

Likewise, if we say that with or without Trump and his movement, the destruction of faith in the American system was well under way, or in some sense must already have occurred, for Trump and his movement even to arise, we can still also say that the remnant defenders of the remnant faith have witnessed last and vaunted bastions fall. In sum, before 11/9 they still believed or could believe, as many said, that in the end the Trump appeal would fail for many reasons but most of all because it had to; that by a respectable margin Americans would reject it because they simply could not do anything else, and not merely or mainly or even significantly because “elite opinion” told them Trump was unacceptable as President of the United States of America, but because Trump himself, in his behavior and his own words, in the sheer reality of Trump himself as conveyed in every-any medium, told them Trump himself was unacceptable. Some portion of the electorate might choose to misuse its sacred vote for protest or partisan self-defense, but, surely, sufficient majorities of voters producing a safe majority of electors would draw the line, on this side civic duty and duty even to a planet full of people whose welfare often greatly depends on ours or on our wisdom, on the other side Trump or anyone like Trump, with associates, allies, and even hostile foreign sponsors like his, and conducting himself as he conducted and conducts himself.

Now, where previously we may have suspected or believed, we can conclude and state that political things in this nation and the world, perhaps by sheer weight of odds and history, must have been bound to reach this faith-forbidden outcome, sooner or later. That a full mobilization of spiritual resources may allow us to conceive of this moment as one of those where “also grows the saving power”; in other words by dialectic that America may have had to reach this nadir, or even greater depths to come, if ever actually to become “great again” or truly “great,” does not alter the fact that something now is no longer as it was, that it is May not even April for us on this matter of the worthiness of the regime, and that perhaps millions or perhaps even billions of people whom we may now conclude should have known better, now think they know, because now proven, something very other than what they thought or believed or preferred to think and believe.

Certainly not everyone agrees that the result is a bad result; soon somewhere if not already a Trump supporter will be found shouting up an unexpected restoration of belief; and, if we possessed unanimity of opinion regarding a better system, we would already have implemented it, but something happened here that even if it could happen here we thought would not happen here, or certainly not yet, not so soon, not on “our watch.” Trump and Trumpists told us over and over again that the system was rigged and rotten, and it turns out they were right. The American system, meaning the institutions we inherited but also, as a tolerably democratic system, encompassing our very selves as fostered by those institutions – or We the People – are poised to place Donald J. Trump in the highest office in the land, the most powerful single position for a single person to occupy on Earth, and ever on Earth: Minority President Degenerate Alt-Right Russian Troll, brought to you by the American system and no other system (if with, apparently, some possibly significant outside assistance).

At this moment, which may yet last a while, uniting Trumpists who still believe as they believed before 11/9, and anti-Trumpists newly informed, from after 11/9, we must, if we are honest, concede that that system appears no longer worthy of our or anyone’s faith, in quite crucial – one might fear, the most crucial – respects.


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2 comments on “Thesis on the Great Trumpian Victory (OAG #6)

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

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  1. I think that it has to do with the whole trust/collaboration thing that I keep yelling about. Trump is an example of somewhere around half the country saying “I don’t trust you anymore” to somewhere around the other half.

    I mean, look at the media. Should you have trusted the mainstream media this last election cycle?

    How’s about the polling experts? Nate Silver did better than Sam Wang, of course, but Sam Wang got *EVERYTHING* wrong. Go back and look at Sam Wang’s predictions: he wasn’t calling a coinflip. He looked and he said “yeah, this is in the bag… 98%.”

    Sam Wang ate a bug on national television.

    Trust is one of those things that we’re going to have a rough time re-establishing.

    Because I’m not sure that either side knows how to bribe the other into collaborating anyway.

    • Trusting pollsters on their predictions and trusting the “mainstream media” to attempt to report on events somewhat objectively strike me as different if not, in people’s political imaginations, wholly unrelated things.

      The question of high trust vs low trust societies is something similar: I’m on friendly terms with a Trump-supporting neighbor – he had a big MAGA flag, no mere banner, waving from above his garage. He seems like a genuinely good guy. I’d be inclined to trust him on any number of things important to me, to make good on his promises, and so on, up to and including mutual defense in case of Red Dawn or War of the Worlds…

      Except there is no external enemy to unite us, and for that matter we have no personal/private dealings in common. I just see Pete and his wife Sandra and his dogs Dallas and Rosie on my walks. (Come to think of it, I even have a picture of his MAGA flag, and will have to post it some time.) I’ve declined to inform Pete of my views on Minority President Degenerate Alt-Right Russian Troll.

      From the Founding and forward, our oxymoronical state of states has had difficulty with how and to what degree to unite, and, if the problem decreases as we reach nearer the ground truth of neighborhoods, it still remains part of the human condition in general, and all the more so in a society that depends on trust for commerce, but depends on epistemological individualism for everything else.

      I’ll just cut to the chase: If we don’t have or perceive a reason to stick together, then we will tend to divide at least until the costs of division accumulate sufficiently to motivate another reversal, but this pendulum swinging affair entails friction and loss as well as a sense of general paralysis that must sooner or later give way to something else.

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Noted & Quoted


Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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As they war with the right, though, Trump and Kushner would gain no quarter from Democrats—unless Democrats were allowed to set the all the terms. This is Bannon’s central point. Democrats have no incentive to prop up Trump’s presidency for half-loaf compromises that many will suspect are contaminated with seeds of Trumpism. Trump can adopt or co-opt the Democrats’ infrastructure platform outright if he likes, but he can’t easily entice them to compromise with him, and he can’t entice House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to advance a trillion dollar direct-spending bill filled with environmental and labor protections that the GOP exists to oppose.

Which is just to say, Kushner wants Trump to chart a new course that leads to a substantive dead end for at least another 19 months. Bannon’s path, at least, preserves the hope of keeping his base consolidated through the legislative ebb. He can deregulate, scapegoat, and unburden law enforcement to turn his Herrenvolk fantasy into reality—all while keeping congressional investigators at bay.

There’s no real logical rebuttal to this, except to point to three months of chaos and humiliation as indicative of the futility of continuing to do things Bannon’s way. That is really an argument that Trump should get rid of both of his top advisers, but Trump is unlikely to grasp that in a contest between loyalists, both might deserve to lose. Family loyalty, and the beating his ego will take when the stories of his first 100 days are written, will pull him toward his son-in-law. And that’s when the real fun will begin.

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State of the Discussion

Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
CK MacLeod
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic