I must admit that I have been somewhat of a “Trump optimist” these last few months. I believed in his obvious, demonstrable incompetence at just about everything he does – except branding and self-promotion, obviously. (He’s been abetted in this incompetence by untold numbers of people if you’re wondering why someone who is generally incompetent can be rich; con-men are only good at convincing you they’re good at something.) When others told me he was dangerous, I told them that I would believe it when I saw it but, for the time being, I preferred to believe that he would just be a joke, not a threat, and that his popularity would dip so far so fast as he tried to blame everyone else for his incompetence, that he would be lame duck rather shortly. Well, whether or not that last part is true – he way well be a lame duck already, I can’t see into their minds – I wanted to say I was wrong. The events of the last week have made me rethink how I view this regime.
One of the weirdest historical developments of the last few decades in the United States has been the utilization of radical – one might say “revolutionary” – political tactics by the neo-conservatives and other groups on the US “right.” At one time, conservatives prioritized gradual, minor reform and status quo-ism. Not any more. Our modern “conservatives” have become victim to their own tactics and have become revolutionaries. They may think they’re trying to bring about the past, but they are really trying to create a utopian future. (A distopian future for everyone who isn’t like them.)
The neo-conservatives have taken the propaganda and mass-organization tactics of the radical left (neo marxists, maoists, etc) of the 1960s and translated them into tactics to recruit and brainwash “conservative” Americans. This isn’t just a guess. Irving Kristol, one of the fathers of neo conservatism, was a “Trotskyist” before he was a conservative. The radical left had taken these tactics not just from Stalin and Mao, but from the fascists and the Nazis.
These tactics have long made neo-conservatives incomprehensible to outsiders. (The other thing that makes them incomprehensible is their combination of believing in government intervention in morality while despising it in economics, as if the two were unrelated.) But they were tactics used by the movement and the Republican party to organize voters and get elected. Until George Bush Jr, I don’t think we could say that they were tactics employed in governing.
But with Bush Jr, there was an alarming forthrightness in the idea (stolen from post modernism) that we create our own reality. That idea was always under the surface and occasionally bubbled up, but it only seemed to animate some of the ideas of the Bush administration. It felt to me like there were political realists within the Bush administration competing with the ideologues. I might have disagreed with their policies but I can at least understand the realists more than I could understand the weird “conservatives” who believed that only through action could they mold the world in their image. (That has to be the least conservative idea ever.)
Still, with Bush this weird flip of reality wasn’t a complete rejection of reality. It was more: we want to change reality and we are going to deny certain realities so that our new reality can be created. But this new administration seems to not only reject reality as a tactic, they seem actually incapable of seeing reality as it is as they try to create their new reality.
For the last few months, it has been pretty inconceivable to me that the wannabe fascists and wannabe Nazis and wannabe Reagans and Bushs that Trump has surrounded himself with have actually read anything, have actually studied anything. But the events of the past week, and some analyses of those events I have read and discussed, have led me to believe I was hopelessly naive. Maybe it was the last grasp of political idealism, which I had left for dead. I do still want to think the least bad of all people and want to believe that most people want to do good.
But is it so inconceivable that the people Trump surrounds himself with have studied the tactics of the successful revolutions of the past, even if they can’t seem to get a single idea straight? Is it so inconceivable that the tactical rejection of certain realities by the Republicans for the last few decades has resulted in the inability of the Republicans to actually see reality as it is, to see fascist/communist political maneuvering for what it really is?
I have no idea what is going to happen next. But I’m worried.
- A history professor on the fascist tactics in use this past week
- A business executive on the fascist tactics in use this past week
- A physicist on the fascist tactics in use this past week
On the other hand, we should probably think about this perspective.