The End of Authority

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”  ~  Anonymous

When does authority end? Well, authority ends when people believe that it no longer exists. That is because authority is not a thing one possesses; authority is a relationship in which the members of a system acknowledge the holder of power as legitimate. Power can be held without authority but is inherently weaker and unstable when illegitimate. Power without legitimacy can be exercised only by force.

For example, in a formally democratic constitutional political system, such as that in the U.S.A., the very election of a president is the agreed upon process for installing a president in office. It is the only legitimate means by which the man (or someday woman) can assume the office. The inauguration is the ritual that legitimizes the turning over of the executive authority of incumbency to the person who won the election.

Chaos Central

Of course, we have experienced growing concerns over the legitimacy of the electoral process itself, but most people view the process as legitimate even though flawed. Yet, the flaws seem to have grown significantly in recent years, with the more extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression. Still, most people accept the results, if grudgingly.

Once in office, a president has a wide range of options as to his behavior in executing the duties of the office. The three-branch system of government allows a lot of interpretation in the administration of laws. Administrative policies may even twist the meaning in how a president implements a law, with little consequence beyond complaints.

In the present instance, the president appointed the “principal officers of the executive departments” (Section 4, Amendment XXV, U.S. Constitution) that is, the members of his cabinet, with the sole purpose of having those officers dismantle the administration of existing laws that do not favor the corporations and the rich.

Naturally, many people have challenged the legitimacy of such actions. Many current lawsuits challenge the actions of Trump’s cabinet members on the basis that they have violated rather than administered the laws passed by Congress. That is because such actions are the equivalent of re-writing or nullifying such laws, which, of course, is the sole prerogative of the Congress.

When a president routinely takes such illegitimate actions, the government may experience a constitutional crisis. That is because presidential actions meant to avoid or roll back the implementation of laws passed by Congress violate the constitutional principle of separation of powers. As we all know, such practices have become extremely commonplace in the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.

Our current president evidently views the office he holds as equivalent to that of a CEO of a private family business, a patriarch, or a mob boss. But, of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, too many citizens also have little knowledge or respect for these constitutional principles.

Decay of Authority

This president has taken so many illegitimate actions that I will not list them here. Putting aside the perverse peculiarities of personality, a strong sense has grown that the man is incapable of exercising the powers of the office without putting the nation in great danger, especially in international relations, domestic security, and in denying climate science.

Bob WoodwardBob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House,” (already widely quoted before reaching the bookstores) has already caused great consternation by revealing numerous instances that indicate several grounds for considering the president to be unfit for office. Of course, Trump proclaimed it a work of fiction, despite Woodward’s long-standing solid reputation for basing his books on strong evidence and multiple reliable sources.

Far more damning, however, is the anonymously authored op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Written by one or more high-level members of the administration, the author(s) claim that “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.’ It describes a White House in full disarray as members of the administration try to cover, block, or undo many “dangerous impulses” and erratic actions of a man who is out of control in too many ways to enumerate. We can safely assume that The Times would not have taken such an unprecedented step without fully vetting the source.

Whatever one’s political viewpoint, the question of whether the man is unfit, recklessly dangerous, just too mentally unstable, or otherwise “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” (Amendment XXV, Section 4, U.S. Constitution) then some means of removing him from power is necessary. When the inner circle of the White House finds it necessary to remove papers from his desk, diffuse his attempts to lash out at the world in various ways, or when a top general just does not follow orders given on a dangerous whim, a genuine constitutional crisis is already in play.

So far, the Republican right in Congress has gotten its legislative way because the president consistently and with mean spirit unwinds many laws an regulations meant to protect citizens and environments while affording the super-rich and giant corporations obscene tax cuts. But at some point, the present trend of increasing chaos will force their hand.

The End of the Line

Whether before or after the mid-term elections, the outrage of ordinary Republicans, independents and Democrats alike will force the hand of self-absorbed politicians in Congress. They will by then see the end of their free ride on the horizon as voters protest their continued inaction. The talk of annulling Trump’s election is building as Mueller indicts more of Trump’s associates. “Anonymous” even mentions invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove him from office. Impeachment would be the weaker approach since it would replace him with Pence, the corrupt henchman elected along with him, and leave cabinet members and all the insane executive orders and dangerous actions in place.

Annulment of the election would be the more difficult path, but the best way to reverse much of the damage already done. The growing evidence of illegal tampering with the election, not only by the Russians but by Republican campaign officials, cries out for annulment. After all, the authority of this president has ended.

Now it is time to rise to the occasion of this unprecedented constitutional crisis and clean up the president’s mess. Many politicians will have to break out of their established habits and act like statesmen. Taking the right path will not be easy, but it may save the republic.

Patsy Trollop Trumpery

The GOP Pimps are playing Trollop Trump, like no other patsy in history. In that sense, you could say that they are colluding with the Russians. They still despise him but hide it since he has become their cash cow. But Trump is a double patsy, after all. The Russians have played him ever since his disastrous casino failures of the 1970s left him on the brink of bankruptcy when no legitimate bank would touch his toxic financial mess. That left the Kremlin-linked Russian Mafia and their front banks a great opportunity to “rescue” and indebt him to them simultaneously. David Kay Johnson has documented Trump’s brash blunders and blatant corruption for decades including his more recent escapades in The Making of Donald Trump (2016). Johnson describes his ‘presidential’ destruction of American Democracy in It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (2018).

A Hustler’s Trail

Trump.Putin Press Conference-BBCNow, Craig Unger compiles diverse historical sources documenting Trump’s corrupt history with his own current research on Trump’s subservience to Putin in his new book, House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018). U.S. Trumpists, who have fallen for his demagoguery and seem more like reality-show fans than political actors, dismiss the overwhelming historical record of corruption as mere liberal bias as they revel in the brash violation of political norms by the Fake Outsider.

Trollop Trump and his Republican pimps and enablers have one thing in common and it is not patriotism, it is plunder. They are collecting the booty from his prostitution of the presidency. It is true that Trump was a political outsider. Multiple independent sources confirm that he was (and is) despised by the financial and real-estate elites of New York, who find his narcissistic mob-boss pretensions to status among its elite distasteful. But that does not diminish his impulse to act in the interests of the American plutocracy (to which he so fervently aspires) against the American people.

Both Trollop Trump and the Republican Party elite, as well as his Russian Mafia handlers, brazenly engage in high-stakes Trumpery. (“Trumpery,” if you had not heard, derives from the Middle English “trumpery” and ultimately from the Middle French “tromper,” meaning “to deceive.” See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trumpery.)

Trump is a patsy for the Russians. We do not know all the details yet, but his behavior is a clear giveaway. Helsinki is but the most obvious of a consistent pattern of defensive subservience to Putin and his regime. Just because the Hillary Democrats are obsessed with blaming the Russians for her failure, does not make the Russians any less guilty of manipulating the American electorate through hacking, trolls, bots, and conspiring with the Trump campaign. Russian coordination with Manifort, Gates, and now revealed with Republican operative and lobbyist W. Samuel Patten who just plead guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, is undeniable. Of course, claims of “witch hunt” will continue as the evidence accumulates.

The Republican House and Senate pimp out Trump’, who cons the status-anxious men of the downwardly Mobil white working and former middle classes, while he plays them all in service to the oligarchs and mobsters of Wall Street and Moscow he admires so.

Triangle of Trumpery

Never mind the narcissism. Never mind the psychopathy/sociopathy. Never mind the sexual predation. Never mind the traitorous personality disorders of the man who demands absolute loyalty from associates whom he routinely throws under the bus. Never mind even his pandering to Putin and his Kremlin-connected oligarch benefactors — neither Manifort nor Cohen can cover for him now. After all, they are really just like him, though without as much brash bluster, bumbling, and lack of impulse control. And, after all, it is he who is doing the bidding of both GOP plutocrats and Russian Oligarchs. Never mind the Republican and Kremlin pimps who own this puppet of power. They are the smooth talking pimps and he is their garish Trollop. Instead, think of the global human consequences of this political tragic comedy.

So, who wins in this insane high-stakes international-casino puppet show?

So far. the American plutocrats, the Russian dictatorship and affiliated oligarch-mob, and the international criminal corporate conspiracy to plunder the planet’s remaining resources before climate chaos, political pandemonium, and societal collapse put an end to it all. That’s who.

But, never mind all that. Just sip your Starbucks mega-latte, read the sports page, and drive off in your SUV, pretending you live in a democracy because you still have all those consumer choices.

TREASON ! Or, Blatant Business as Usual?

Donald Trump’s Helsinki behavior – his grotesque pandering to Vladimir Putin — drew international outrage from across the political spectrum, including U.S. Republicans and even “Fox and Friends.” He had already repeatedly demonstrated his admiration for “strong-man” dictators, including North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Putin himself. Trump dodged the detailed briefings of U.S. intelligence professionals documenting Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. He made the feeble claim that Putin had strongly assured him that Russia did not meddle.

Donald Trump,Vladimir Putin

Putin and Trump in Helsinki ~ AP photo

Trump seemed hell-bent to ingratiate himself publicly before the ruthless former KGB officer, in front of the international media. Then, the New York Times exposed the fact that key U.S. intelligence officials had briefed Trump even before his inauguration, on the details of how Russian military intelligence officers attempted to interfere with the elections. Who could argue with Brennan’s assessment?

Political Peculiarities

Democrats had already complained of Trump’s failures to carry on the U.S. aggressive foreign policies that have centered on traditional alliances with the Europeans. The U.S. routinely led the NATO nations in putting military pressure on the Soviet Union, and after its demise, on Russia. Trump’s rude and dismissive behavior toward allies at the NATO summit exemplified his frequent abusiveness to traditional allies. Suddenly, the Democrats seemed to stand to the right of Republicans on foreign policy.

Republicans, on the other hand, the traditional enablers of aggression around the world with U.S. leadership of NATO as a key element in the actions of empire, found themselves cornered. They were desperate to retain their positions on foreign policy. Yet they felt compelled to support their increasingly unstable president, even as he violated all the norms of taking a tough stand against “The Russian Threat.”

The political heat generated by Trump’s public dissembling, with Putin standing beside him, became unbearable. He wound back his statement that he “did not see why Russia would have interfered with U.S. elections, claiming he had misspoke the word “wouldn’t” by saying “would.” Yet, the tone of his remarks said otherwise; and he could not resist adding the diversionary claim that “others” may have been involved.

Personal Perversity of a President

Trump contradicted himself on Russian interference at least four times since Helsinki. Something drives Trump to hold to his avoidance of saying or doing anything that might upset Vladimir Putin –directly contradicting the hard evidence that CIA, et al, showed him. What makes Trump so afraid to cross Putin? Is it the mystery “golden showers” video? Why did he try to take back his statements while still affirming them? Is it that Trump’s Helsinki behavior — pandering to Vladimir Putin — drew such international outrage from across the political spectrum? Did he have to respond to that pressure while bowing to Russian pressure as well? It would seem so.

Trump had repeatedly demonstrated his perverse personal admiration for “strong-man” dictators, including North Korea’s ruthless Kim Jong-un and Putin himself. Dismissing the fact-filled briefings of U.S. intelligence professionals in favor of accepting Putin’s “strong assurance” that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. 2016 presidential election would be laughable if not so serious. Trump seemed hell-bent to ingratiate himself before the callous former KGB officer, no matter what. Was it merely his narcissistic sociopathy at work? Or, does Putin really have something on him? Most likely, both.

Treasonous Business as Usual

Former CIA Director John Brennan characterized Trump’s acquiescence to Putin’s claims as treasonous. Who could argue with that assessment? But what drives it? Is Trump’s financial indebtedness to Russian oligarchs close to Putin at play? Nobody knows, except perhaps Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators. I expect that it will all come out in further indictments. Meanwhile Trump’s enterprises profit immensely from his presidency.

Trump delights in fomenting confusion among those around him. His outlandish behavior violates all patriotic protocols of civil international diplomacy, national pride, and the basic precepts of national security. Yet, when the diatribes and dissembling are set aside, what is left? I would argue that in the foreign policy arena anyway, his actual policies as exercised follow conventional practices rather closely. Clearly, he operates closer to the edge and without understanding or caring about the real issues between nations, except where they affect his financial interests and personal pride. Therein lies the danger.

Yes, Trump blusters, dissembles, lies, and consistently contradicts himself. His domestic and climate policies grossly circumvent federal law to allow polluters free reign while the planet burns. But we sometimes focus too much on words and not enough on deeds. As Glen Greenwald of The Intercept has argued, Trump’s foreign policies, disastrous as they are, do not veer very far from those of Obama. More clandestine troops, more killer drones, are just more and more of the same. Certainly, Obama would not have committed his callous abuse of the children of people legitimately seeking asylum from the violence that U.S. foreign policy has enabled in Central America. Racist sociopaths, on the other hand, have no capacity for empathy or compassion, even for children, especially brown ones.

Fake President_image, Northern SunDonald J. Trump exercises business as usual with an ugly face. In doing so, he is looking out for number one without regard to the national interest, nor the interests of humanity itself. But, then, neither have the smooth talkers of the political establishment that he claims to decry while playing their very own game with the added barbarity of being Mister Nasty.

Education: Societal Asset or Personal Debt

Americans have a strange attitude toward education. On the one hand, we all know that a college degree can significantly increase one’s life chances for achieving, until recently, a middleclass income and a comfortable “lifestyle.” On the other hand, college has become very expensive, as well as intimidating for anyone who has experienced a typical rag-tag urban or rural school-district high school education. Therein lies the personal dilemma.

A societal dilemma may be equally important. But pretense and illusion prevent its discussion in polite company. Education in the U.S.A. has gradually become a second-class institution. Politicians are unwilling to foot the bill for maintaining public higher education at the world-class level that characterized our colleges and universities in the 1950s. Growing costs and dwindling public support forced universities to raise tuition and seek research contracts from corporations and government. The nation’s seats of knowledge and discovery became businesses purveying information to whatever special interest paid the price.

Halcyon Days of Higher Education

Construction.Worker

In the 1950s, we didn’t have hard hats.

In the early 1960s, I was able to gain a degree from the University of California because I had worked each high-school summer as a construction laborer (at union scale of $3.50 per hour at the time when my friends got 90₵ at the local gas station). I felt pretty flush. In those days, simple manual labor at a union wage allowed a worker to rent an apartment or very small house in Los Angeles and live comfortably without most non-essential “consumer products.”

In the 1950s in Southern California, a (white) high-school graduate could get an entry-level job at an aerospace company, rent a small apartment, buy a car, and party. As a high-school student living at home in 1955, I was able to save enough to buy a scruffy ’51 Ford in my sophomore year, and transform it into a respectable “hot rod” by my senior year. At the same time, I saved money for college. Well, those were the “good old days.”

Rather than accepting the middle management job my father encouraged me to apply for on graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, I went off to graduate school, following my curiosity. I worked as a research assistant, then received a National Science Foundation fellowship, partly because the U.S. realized that the Soviets were moving into space full speed ahead with their “Sputnik” satellite while we had failed to support science education.

In 1970, PhD in hand, I began a  career as a professor, then for 35-years I watched from the inide as the California higher education system slide from globally top tier to mid-level mediocrity. Politicians excused the decline in the name of anti-pubic-sector cost cutting and resentment over the moral rebellion of university students of the 1960s.

Conversion of a Societal Asset into Personal Debt

Today, elites and their media mouthpieces treat education as no more than a means to an end. Little or no interest remains in developing the individual and her/his intellectual and moral capacities as a citizen. Higher education became so costly because of the privatization of its finance. Politicians promote the twisted view that its only value was to “train” skilled workers as functionaries in the industrial-consumer economy, even as jobs were automated and outsourced.

Students are “sold” degrees on credit. Privatized student debt has become, just like the private prison business, a huge profit-center for the nation’s financial elite. What should have become an asset for the educated citizen is an extended burden of personal debt constraining civic participation. The neoliberal economy of growth has fully subsumed society and human values beneath its quest for profit.

In that context, it is hardly surprising that the elites who control most institutions along with the economy no longer see the education of the person as an asset to society. Frankly, they don’t give a hoot about the society or its people. Rather, they much prefer to treat education as a commodity for sale and encouraging debt as another profit center. The result is a massive collective student debt that now burdens what might have been our future middleclass. As broad citizen education falters, the backbone of democracy is lost.

Suffer the Children for the Politics of Evil

On a flight home from Los Angeles, I sat next to a young woman, a millennial apparently, who busied herself the whole flight reading a very slick fashion magazine. I notice a book in the back-of-the-seat pouch in front of her. The title was Buddha’s Brain.

I had seen that title somewhere, but could not remember. I asked the millennial to describe the subject of the book. She replied with clear conviction that it was the answer to, well, everything.. Naturally, I had to find out what this and perhaps other millennials might think is “the answer to, well, everything.” As we disembarked, I vowed to myself to look up this book.

Meanwhile, like everyone, I continued feeling bombarded with additional revelations about “the Feds” arbitrary separation of young children from their parents. These folks’ only “crime” was openly to cross our border at official crossings to request asylum from violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, or some other dictatorship where we support any totalitarian despot willing to go along with U.S. foreign policy.

When Evil Goes Around, Suffering Comes Around

The U.S. trained many Central American officials in the use of secret police, assassination squads, etc., at an institution once called “The School of the Americas,” located in the U.S. Some earlier refugees from political violence ended up on our urban poverty zones. Some of their children fell into local street gangs. MS-13, which originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s, was one of them. Then we deported them to their home nation where those same gangs took hold.

Now, threatened by street gangs or government kill squads, some parents flee from those countries with their children under threat of torture or death. The new federal response is to ignore all legal procedure for assessing and adjudicating requests for asylum. They throw parents in jail after taking their children, some infants and toddlers, from their parents under false pretenses, such as claims they are taking them to give them a shower.

This political ploy may be the worst Trumpery of all (the word trumpery derives from the Middle English trompery and ultimately from the Middle French tromper, meaning “to deceive“). The current administration variously claims to use this family torture as a deterrent to others intending to seek asylum (true, and evil), that they are only following some law the Democrats passed (lie, there is no such law), or that it is complying with a biblical admonition from God (lie, in the form of selective biblical misquotation).

In fact, Trump administration practices violate both international and U.S. law and custom in their gross and violent actions resulting entirely from the administration’s own choice. These people are committing gross abuses of the human rights of the families involved. Sessions has the unmitigated gall to claim that if the parents did not want that to happen, they should not come to our borders seeking asylum. We have laws and procedures for asylum seekers, which the administration routinely and cavalierly violates, just like so many others. The Attorney General of the U.S. refuses to carry out our laws, in order to achieve a frankly racist and definitely evil political purpose.

Cultural Consensus and Compassion in America

Ralph Nader has argued that if Americans could just get past their partisan debates about abstract political ideology and discuss only the dangers or benefits to their communities by a given action or policy, they could easily come to agreement in their mutual interests. That might not be true in all cases, especially where special economic interests in the outcome are at stake.

However, when the lives and sanity of innocent children are at stake, almost every American would stand up and object to the cruel and unusual, and entirely illegitimate abuse of children that our government is currently conducting in the name of “law and order.” Most Americans are compassionate when they see suffering. Wake up!

Learning from Buddha’s Brain

The book, Buddha’s Brain, is a compilation of principles for living well that result from the integration of the recent findings of neuro-science with 2000 years of Buddhist meditation practice. This remarkable convergence demonstrates the value of practicing mindfulness (clarity and focus of attention on what is important in any moment) and the compassion that results when we are able to widen our circle of “us” to include all of humanity, and even the world. That is when violence, abuse, and torture wane. Do not dismiss all millennials because some were raised with too much sense of entitlement. Some millennials are clearly paying attention.

Call your Senator and your Representative today and demand that they pass a law immediately, explicitly forbidding the separation of children from their parents by any government agency, unless and until the parent is convicted of a crime, sentenced, and imprisoned.

On this matter, a national consensus without compromise is the only way to redeem the moral standing of the American people by our mindfulness of the evil that confronts us so that we can exercise human compassion by demanding that caring for children must overcome petty politics. If we do not act to demand compassion, we are complicit in the torture of children.

Ethics, Law and Bulimic Bombast as Con

The Empty Clown Suit who became a Fake President, short of a majority by 2.8+ million votes because of the elitist Electoral College, is amazingly transparent in his routinely bombastic behavior. Narcissistic sociopaths seek both power and adulation, yet are indifferent to the effects of their behavior on others. Thus, for him the idea of self-pardon is not outside his realm of Fake Reason.

The Fake President’s current gambit is classic Trumpery. Yes, it is a sad comment on the fragile American political culture to see his displays of ignorant arrogance unrestrained by propriety or circumstance. Yet it is also a teachable moment in the American political process as well as the source of a high-risk trajectory that could bring on a constitutional crisis. The response of the Congress to blatant assertion of monarch-like power over established processes of the justice system could lead to tyranny or to liberty. That, of course, depends on the tolerance level of the Republicans, and of the rest of us.

Seeking Totalitarian Rule

Can a sitting president “pardon” himself? The absurdity of such a recursive idea would be hilarious if it were not a tragic travesty by a would-be totalitarian dictator modeled on the behavior of his political idols, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. He truly aspires to be “above the law.” The only legal principle on which such an act could “justify” itself is the long dead illusion of the “Devine Right of Kings,” in opposition to which the American republic was founded.

Ultimately, only a “Manchurian President” could assert the “right” to pardon himself. Do you remember the movie, “The Manchurian Candidate”? The characters and their power sources may be different, but the metaphor is appropriate. In the present instance, the “Manchurians” are the American, Russian, and international oligarchs who, like the Fake President, have already reaped great financial gain from his corrupt actions in office. The immoral and criminal behavior goes back as far as his early personal corruption in business and his life-long ethical void.

The Fake President acts in the interests of the international criminal power structure – consider, for example, the Panama papers – to the detriment of the people of the U.S. and the world. The exercise of such power can continue only if left unchecked by the institutions the U.S. founding fathers established in order to maintain a balance of power among executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government. Left unchecked, it will surely lead to outright tyranny. (See Timothy Snyder’s book, On Tyranny, 2017, which offers twenty lessions on how citizens can counter such tendencies.)

Democracy Under Siege

The framers of the Constitution were acutely aware of the danger of excessive power in the hands of the executive; they had had it with the tyranny of King George. The American Revolution began in opposition to tyranny, but it was never quite completed. Tyranny is a constant threat and the people can only thwart it by constant vigilance and the continual assertion of democracy over money ruling politics. To the extent that the financial and corporate elites that benefit from presidential corruption have bought and paid for “our” representatives and senators, the reality of a plutocratic coup looms very large. Rebecca Solnit and others argue with lots of evidence that the coup has already happened.

Of course, we must remember that most of what we see and hear in relation to politics on TV and on social media takes on the melodramatic aura of “reality TV.” All historical context is lost to the machinations and rationalizations of pure power and violence. We must also recognize that the Fake President aims his tweeting mostly at generating a smokescreen sufficient to distract most of the public from the reality denied. That is also the role of Empty Clown Suit #2 – Giuliani, whose babbling he spews forth intending primarily to distract and confuse the public.

Trump uses the pardoning of a bizarre assortment of criminals to claim widespread injustice in an effort to de-legitimize the Department of Justice and therefore Robert Mueller, the special council it appointed to investigate the international criminal interference with U.S. elections with which the Fake President increasingly appears involved. That he even mentions a right to pardon himself speaks to that involvment.

We do indeed live in interesting (and dangerous) times…..

The New Normal and the Boisterously Silent Coup

Is the rise of Trumplandia the reflection of a “new normal” in American politics? Or, does it rise, as Rebecca Solnit suggests in a remarkable new piece on the Literary Hub website, to the level of a de facto coup that has already occurred? Has the Trump gang already, if not so skillfully, moved to clandestinely transform our constitutionally framed effort at representative democracy into a de facto authoritarian regime? After all, this sitting president is now directly interfering with the independent investigations of the nation’s highest law enforcement institutions that may well lead to his own downfall.

The Coup

Solnit asserts that, “Sabotage of national institutions, laws, standards, and the greater good has been accepted as part of the new normal, which is staggeringly far from normal.” She summarizes the vast array of diverse forms and sources of evidence that have surfaced since Trump began his initial Fake-Run [i] for the presidency. In addition to the myriad personal scandals, an international complex of illicit deal making adds up to a partnership of plunder between the Putin bossed Russian mob of oligarchs, the American pretender to Mob-Boss status and his gang of thugs and fixers of questionable competence and unbounded hutzpah, and just about any unscrupulous politician, here or abroad, who will pay to play.

As Solnit puts it:

Acts that would have been shocking if committed by previous administrations are overshadowed and crowded by equally transgressive acts that pile up into something that would like us to forget that this is not normal.

Solnit argues persuasively that the coup has already happened and that the only question now is what we are going to do about it. Given the damage already done to institutions, climate action, public health and safety, international relations, and above all the already precarious U.S. political culture, it seems that little time and a narrowing range of options remain.

Decades in the Making

One commenter argued that the coup began decades ago, listing a series of political actions by every administration and congress since, supporting the position that the coup was a long slow process of destroying democracy while elevating an increasingly open kleptocratic authoritarian corporate state. He argued that with Johnson’s resounding defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 the authoritarian right realized that electoral politics must be undermined to achieve their autocratic goals. Another asserted that the coup began with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In any case, several scholars have documented the efforts of powerful business interests to suppress democratic control of government and the economy since the imposition of controls on the financial elite under the New Deal.

Unfortunately, as is so common in such venues, much of the commentary devolved into typical political bickering over which politician held more guilt, bad faith and evil. The usual dose of ad hominem admonitions and rigid either/or ill-logic circulated around the claimed offenses of Bernie versus Hillary, entirely missing the point of the article in service to internal partisan anger among Democrats.

The Republican Party has devolved into a state where its only principle is to win elections by pandering the alt-right base so effectively exploited by Trumpery. Genuine conservatives have nowhere to turn. The Democratic Party national apparatus, the DNC, remains unwilling to free itself from the corporate and financial elites it serves while hypocritically mouthing old liberal rhetoric. Its disingenuous cultural liberalism and avoidance of the deep issues of rising global and national crises have turned main street Democrats and independents away from the party. Electoral politics seems a long shot, in both substance and time. The convergence of catastrophic crises of ecosystem destruction and climate chaos, as well as global economic and political instability, is well underway. The crisis of American democracy is now. What is a citizen to do?

Precarious Prospects

Solnit finds herself distraught with the prospects, as well anyone who looks at the facts should. However, her recommendations offer little hope:

We still have an enormous capacity to resist the administration, not least by mass civil disobedience and other forms of noncooperation. Sweeping the November elections wouldn’t hurt either, if that results in candidates we hold accountable afterward. Or both.

Solnit seems to believe that we can rescue American democracy and respond effectively to the converging crises of climate chaos, ecological destruction, impending global financial failure, and imminent societal collapse by protests in the streets or by the so-called “centrist” democrats capturing the mid-term elections. Making such assumptions shows little sense of timing or even a deep understanding of the nature of the coup that has suppressed democratic institutions for decades.

The answer is nearly as difficult, but at least possible. Mass mobilization at the local level for resistance in place by turning away from the “inverted totalitarian” regime and its new “strong man” is extremely difficult to achieve. It would require forming new democratic institutions where we live that would become diffused forms of resistance by their very existence. Widespread resistance by withdrawal and replacement could not be stopped by troops in the streets or by bluster from the man who is “the empty clown suit.”

________________

[i] Mark Danner, “The Magic of Donald Trump,” New York Review of Books 63:4(May 26, 2016) quotes Stephanie Cegielski, Trump’s “Top Strategist-Turned-Defector,” to the effect that initially there had been “no thought of actually winning.” Rather, the goal was to bolster Trump’s celebrity prominence. That, of course, is consistent with Trump’s history of seeking celebrity attention and adulation above all else, aside from money of course. Winning the actual election bolstered his celebrity and profits beyond even the narcissist’s unbounded imagination.