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

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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.

  2. A few different trends feed into the Trump phenomenon.

    One of the primary characteristics of digital media (1994 – ? ) is that the “official” position is no longer the official position.
    The Law of Large Numbers and Second Law of Thermodynamics both make the unlikely more likely.
    There is also a general trend toward greater rights for an ever-greater share of persons, dating from approx. the Elizabethan era. This led to greater autonomy of the merchant class, the English colonists to the New World, to suffrage for unlanded males, etc. Perhaps the seeds were in place before E.’s defiance of the papal bull; but the general trend is undeniable.

    I see a realignment of the parties.
    As far as I can tell, the realignment favors the Right, generally.

    • Thanks, Will H, for the thoughtful comment (which, in addition to being correspondingly thought-provoking, also happened to reveal a coding error making comments on this type of post unreadable on my phone).

      Not sure how the process you describe lands us on the Right, however, since the process itself is Whig history, classically on the Left or, as later, “progressive.” So, even if the process itself somehow favors the Right, the presumption is of an under- and overlying Left/progressive tendency. Specifically in regard to voting rights, extension of the franchise has been a demand against whichever powers that were, even if the King and the People may have been from other perspectives or in other epochs allies vs. the lesser nobility and the church, and even if the further-Left has critiqued the vote itself.

      A realignment based on the general trend is still resisted by the American Right for different, possibly complementary reasons. The Democrats consistently support extending the vote or ease of voting, and tend to support the popular voting and proportional representation. You might say that friction over the general trend favors the Right in a certain sense, in that it leads to greater intensity of feeling on the part of those who perceive a threat to their positions of relative privilege, but the victories of shrinking minorities over increasing majorities are unlikely to last forever, and defending for too long or too fiercely may make the eventual winners less forgiving.

      But I’m not really sure what this all has to do with Trump specifically.

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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