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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 06, 2017

 
Count me among the hyperventilators

by digby



I was hyperventilating about Donald Trump before hyperventilating about Donald Trump was cool. I knew he could win. And I knew he was incredibly dangerous. He scared the living hell out of me from the moment he descended that elevator.

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker on Trump's radical un-Americanism:
Within two weeks of the Inauguration, the hysterical hyperventilators have come to seem more prescient in their fear of incipient autocratic fanaticism than the reassuring pooh-poohers. There’s a simple reason for this: the hyperventilators often read history. Regimes with an authoritarian ideology and a boss man on top always bend toward the extreme edge, because their only organizational principle is loyalty to the capo. Since the capo can be placated only by uncritical praise, the most fanatic of his lieutenants end up calling the shots. Loyalty to the boss is demonstrated by hatred directed against his enemies.

Yet what perhaps no one could have entirely predicted was the special cocktail of oafish incompetence and radical anti-Americanism that President Trump’s Administration has brought. This combination has produced a new note in our public life: chaotic cruelty. The immigration crisis may abate, but it has already shown the power of government to act arbitrarily overnight—sundering families, upending long-set expectations, until all those born as outsiders must imagine themselves here only on sufferance of a senior White House counsellor.

Some choose to find comfort in the belief that the incompetence will undermine the anti-Americanism. Don’t bet on it. Autocratic regimes with a demagogic bent are nearly always inefficient, because they cannot create and extend the network of delegated trust that is essential to making any organization work smoothly. The chaos is characteristic. Whether by instinct or by intention, it benefits the regime, whose goal is to create an overwhelming feeling of shared helplessness in the population at large: we will detain you and take away your green card—or, no, now we won’t take away your green card, but we will hold you here, and we may let you go, or we may not.

This is radical anti-Americanism—not simply illiberalism or anti-cosmopolitanism—because America is not only a nation but also an idea, cleanly if not tightly defined. Pluralism is not a secondary or a decorative aspect of that idea. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, the guarantee of religious liberty lies in having many kinds of faiths, and the guarantee of civil liberty lies in having many kinds of people—in establishing a “multiplicity of interests” to go along with a “multiplicity of sects.” The idea doesn’t reflect a “weak” desire for niceness. It is, instead, intended to counter the brutal logic of the playground. When there are many kinds of bullied kids, they can unite against the bully: “Even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves.”

I have found at this late stage in my life that when someone acts like an asshole the smart thing is to assume that's exactly what they are.

Gopnik is right that Trump rejects the fundamental American worldview of a "multiplicity of interests." He doesn't see America as having --- or needing --- ideals, even if we have often failed to live up to them. He doesn't even know what ideals are.  In his view the world works solely on brute strength and even talking about anything else is weak.

He rejects alliances, he reject pluralism, he rejects everything but the application of force. That's winning to him. Being on top. Making others grovel. Domination.
All you have to do is watch him to know that.

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