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[Wartime Thoughts] Posts coming under this tag
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jducoeur
I'm starting a new tag here, for posts relating to the disaster. Some meta-notes before I start.

First, if you think the tag is hyperbolic, feel free to consider it metaphorical. Suffice it to say that I do *not* consider it that way -- to me, this is a war in exactly the way the Cold War was. This isn't a "hot" war, and I'm praying it doesn't become one, but I think that thinking in wartime terms provides some bracing clarity.

Second, some definitions. "Them", for purposes of this discussion, means the Fascist movement, as embodied by Trump and his cronies. It specifically does *not* mean "the Republicans", at least not yet. I expect that some of the Republicans will whole-heartedly buy into the fascist mindset, but I'm also reasonably sure that some of them are currently on the fence. Trump will be trying to buy them off with goodies, and I'm certain that will work for some, but I hold out an honest hope that *some* of them will prove to be helpfully obstructionist.

That being the case, understand that the war I'm talking about here is specifically *structural*. Trump is fundamentally dangerous to the US as we understand it, not least for his complete disregard of rule of law. He's going to do a lot of horrible things from a policy perspective, and he's going to hurt a lot of people, but I'm planning on looking at them through the lens of the fascist mindset, rather than considering those issues in isolation. For example, I expect demonization of Islam and immigrants to get bad, mainly because fascists always need "others" to blame for their ills, rather than because of actual racism on the part of the people at the top. They're using racism as a *weapon*, and it's important to understand that: we need to understand the enemy if we're going to oppose him.

And yes, I am asserting that Trump is a fascist. Some people are going around saying, "Oh, that was just campaigning; he doesn't really *mean* all of it". You're welcome to that belief; I don't share it. The fact that he has already proposed a Cabinet stuffed with cronies and yes-men, and is still leaving the door open to locking up his political rivals, suggests a fully-fledged fascist mindset.

As for "us", I loosely mean "those who are opposing the rise of American fascism". That specifically does not mean "Democrats". A fair number of Republicans held their noses and voted Democratic, because they understood what Trump is. I do not expect "us" to agree on every issue, just on general opposition to that mindset.

(Note that I believe most people to be neither "us" nor "them". That'll be the topic of my next post.)

I hope we'll have good discussions on these topics, but please note that I'll be moderating these pretty hard, and will mostly (unusually for me) screen these posts. That doesn't mean I don't want to hear from you -- I expect to approve nearly all comments -- but this is *not* an invitation to get into flamewars here. Trolling from either side won't be tolerated.

The point here is to think seriously and productively about what's going on, what's likely to happen, and what we can and should do about it. I encourage y'all to join in, and help plan. If nothing else, I find that grappling with this stuff properly helps reduce the sense of panic and helplessness.

Finally, note that posts here are going to tend to be the in-depth stuff, and won't be every day. Quick comments and links are mostly happening over on Facebook, which is better-suited to quick and shallow.

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Mark, I think you'd really like the following linked article.

It focuses on the technical importance of political legitimacy, rules of law, and Donald Trump.

I'm not clear that Trump et al are "Fascist". I can't rule it out, but it doesn't seem likely to me at this point. Even if he (and his) are Fascist in leanings, there's a lot of mechanism that will resist his ability to exercise it.

Mark, I think you'd really like the following linked article.

Thanks; I'll give it a read.

I'm not clear that Trump et al are "Fascist". I can't rule it out, but it doesn't seem likely to me at this point. Even if he (and his) are Fascist in leanings, there's a lot of mechanism that will resist his ability to exercise it.

I agree that the mechanisms are designed to resist it, but everything says to me that his instincts are essentially fascist. (I don't think he *thinks* of himself that way, but I have little evidence that he indulges in that sort of high-level thinking.) I'm not especially wedded to the label, though, and don't care to get into semantic arguments; if somebody comes up with a more precise and accurate term for his particular flavor of political crazy, I'm open to it.

How well the institutions *do* resist it will depend a lot on the people *in* those institutions. Indeed, I believe that much of the war here is going to be about stiffening their spines. But I have to say I'm concerned, in large part because of the lessons of the W administration -- they got away with a lot of badness, and fundamentally shifted some assumptions about America, in large part because the country *let* him do so. (Indeed, cheered him on.)

Hence, one of the topic to examine and discuss will be what the key mechanisms are, and how to make sure they are resilient in the face of a charismatic would-be dictator. Damage control is going to be key, especially for the first couple of years...

He's certainly very authoritarian -- an aspect many people seem to like.

I can almost understand it. Gridlock and the partisanship that fuels it has made it very hard for the government to move. Voters have been told time and time again to vote for one candidate or another who will go to Washington and get things done, only to have every campaign promise broken because getting things done is hard. The idea of a strong authoritarian leader who can go in and throw weight around and won't take no for an answer can be appealing, especially if you're from an ideological branch that has seen what changes have happened in the past decade driven by movements that run counter to your ideology. Bailouts for major corporations, minimal repercussions for the housing collapse, inversions that send corporate profits and jobs overseas, dark money making it hard to feel like you have a valid voice, progressive rights movements that challenge the comfortable status quo and sow discord into inherited notions of morality and identity. Someone who convincingly says that he will go in and through sheer force of will make change happen and restore the former sense of 'normalcy' seems a persuasive force.

Oh, sure. The problem is, there are always plausible arguments for authoritarianism -- that's why it's been so seductive throughout history. Everyone wants to believe they're going to get the hypothetical *good* tyrant...

Yes... there are quite a few lessons to be learned from classical Rome in this regard. (tongue in cheek) Shame no one seems to study the classics any more.

what I am wondering about is just how effective all that authoritarianism is going to be when put up against Washington bureaucracy. I think Trump is going to be in for a rude awakening, when he realizes being president is not like being CEO of a company. When it comes to changing laws, saying "make it so" won't go all that far.

There are some areas where he will have more authority, which is why most of my fears concerning his presidency are about foreign affairs.

To some degree I agree, but keep in mind that this is a man who is *all* about wheeling and dealing. I strongly suspect that the reasons he is making so many noises about hardcore conservative policies (and Supreme Court appointments) has little to do with anything he really cares about -- my guess is that he's making deals with the hard Right in Congress to support him. And when the President and Congress are on the same side, the bureaucracy tends to make way for them.

(The fact that some of what he's promising is essentially *impossible* is another matter, of course...)

You might also like some rules learned dealing with Putin.

"Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable."

You may point out, but Trump routinely says things that make no sense and will never happen, so how can you follow this rule? I'd say: don't take what he says as a commitment, take it as a wish. The things he says, they are a straightforward description of what he desires, or what his base desires and he mirrors emotionally.

Register all Muslim citizens? Sue the New York Times for libel? They're real desires. There are traditions that won't let these happen easily, but the risks are more real than I've ever seen in my lifetime.

More than anything, we need to look out for "foot in the door" techniques and other classics of creeping normality.

Yep. One of the things I hope for us to discuss in the coming months are what those are likely to be (so we're on the watch for them), and calling them out when we see them...

What i've heard described that I'm reminded of: sometimes with someone who's abusive, like in his relationships with women, you'll see him make quasi-jokes that about violence or horrible behavior. These act like sonar pings, showing where to push boundaries and where not, and they later act as a smokescreen of uncertainty and give him added time to take an actions while people are still shocked and not quite believing.

Puts me in mind of Ha, ha, only serious.

I saw a great article earlier this year (I can't remember where) on how jokes are a way of identifying people who share your opinion - because only people who feel as you do find the joke to be funny. It's a sophisticated form of dog whistling.

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