Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Come See The Violence Inherent In The System

Jon Chait lays out the flavors of Trump's authoritarianism.  I do think that - faced with, as Chait describes him, a pseudoauthoritarian - the institutions that will best protect liberal democracy are ones that liberals and leftists especially are suspicious of: federalism and markets.

Chait focuses on the markets, as  he notes that Matt Yglesias has a plausible scenario whereby Trump uses the regulatory machinery of the federal government to co-opt and punish firms that please or displease him.  The problem, as Chait notes, is that Trump is losing that battle.

Corporate America is largely educated, urban and interested in the younger markets.  Trumpistan is largely under-educated, rural and old.  There isn't a lot of overlap there.  The Trumpenproletariat is a distinct minority of the population, and they grow smaller each year as the actuarial table exerts its inexorable force on older Americans. The idea that Trump could co-opt large swaths of industry seems excessively alarmist.  First of all, these companies do business elsewhere. Sucking up to Trump won't only make their stock fall (Hey, Uber) but it will shut off markets in Europe.

The problem, as I was trying to convince someone on Facebook, is not that there aren't more left of center voters than right of center.  The problem is that these voters are poorly distributed for our electoral system.  Trump's margin for re-election is razor thin, if not impossible without some force majeur.  But the real power of "the Resistance" is that they possess the wealth and numbers.

I've been wondering what a slide into true Putinism would look like in America, and inevitably it comes down to violence.  It would take an act of violence on a 9/11 scale to allow Trump to suspend civil liberties, and even then, I don't think it would work.  Trump is simply illegitimate in ways that Dubya wasn't.  Remember, Bush was falling below 50% right before 9/11, because of his poor handling of stem cell research and some other issues.  Trump is there already, and those that disapprove of him REALLY disapprove of him.

I'm somewhat more worried about civil violence.  On both sides.  Political violence is a symptom of broken politics.  If a democratic polity is functioning, there is no need for violence.  The truly disenfranchised and silenced might resort to rioting, if only because they are truly disenfranchised and silenced.  Or anarchists, but fuck those guys.  As the left and right pull further apart and the rhetoric gets hotter and hotter, I can see a landscape where violence enters our politics.  That's genuinely scary.

Remember, Hitler needed the Reichstag fire to seize power.  We can't allow our anger over Trump to lead to a new Reichstag fire.

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