Legitimacy

May 20, 2017

A couple of articles I read this evening go along with something I’ve been thinking.

We Are Watching a Slow-Motion Coup D’etat

It’s nearly incontrovertible that a slow-motion coup d’etat is now taking place. Since November 9, 2016, forces within the U.S. government, media, and partisan opposition have aligned to overthrow the Electoral College winner, Donald Trump.

To achieve this they have undermined the institutions of the Fourth Estate, the bureaucratic apparatus of the U.S. government, and the very nature of a contentious yet affable two-party political system. Unlike the coup d’etat that sees a military or popular figure lead a minority resistance or majority force into power over the legitimate government, this coup d’etat is leaderless and exposes some of the deepest fissures in our system of government. This coup d’etat represents not the rule of one man or even many, but by the multitude of our elites.

This article outlines the mechanisms, institutions, and nature of this coup d’etat; not in defense of President Donald Trump — who has proven himself bereft of the temperament of a successful president — but in defense of the institutions of our republic that are now not just threatened, but may very well be on the verge of collapse.

Removing Trump Won’t Solve America’s Crisis

America is in crisis. It is a crisis of greater magnitude than any the country has faced in its history, with the exception of the Civil War. It is a crisis long in the making—and likely to be with us long into the future. It is a crisis so thoroughly rooted in the American polity that it’s difficult to see how it can be resolved in any kind of smooth or even peaceful way. Looking to the future from this particular point in time, just about every possible course of action appears certain to deepen the crisis.

What is it? Some believe it stems specifically from the election of Donald Trump, a man supremely unfit for the presidency, and will abate when he can be removed from office. These people are right about one thing: Trump is supremely unfit for his White House job. But that isn’t the central crisis; it is merely a symptom of it, though it seems increasingly to be reaching crisis proportions of its own.

When a man as uncouth and reckless as Trump becomes president by running against the nation’s elites, it’s a strong signal that the elites are the problem. We’re talking here about the elites of both parties. Think of those who gave the country Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee—a woman who sought to avoid accountability as secretary of state by employing a private email server, contrary to propriety and good sense; who attached herself to a vast nonprofit “good works” institution that actually was a corrupt political machine designed to get the Clintons back into the White House while making them rich; who ran for president, and almost won, without addressing the fundamental problems of the nation and while denigrating large numbers of frustrated and beleaguered Americans as “deplorables.” The unseemliness in all this was out in plain sight for everyone to see, and yet Democratic elites blithely went about the task of awarding her the nomination, even to the point of employing underhanded techniques to thwart an upstart challenger who was connecting more effectively with Democratic voters.

Both articles are worth reading in their entirety.

A lot of people seem to think that if we could just get rid of Trump, everything could go back to “normal”. Many of these people, though, helped create the environment that made Trump’s election possible; they’re the ones the Trump supporters were voting against. If they succeed in getting rid of him, the aftermath won’t be normalcy. His supporters will feel, with cause, that the political system really is rigged against them and that there is no longer any point in working through the democratic institutions to achieve their goals, since those institutions have been thoroughly corrupted. I honestly believe it could lead to civil war.

Of course Trump hasn’t done himself any favors; he seems incapable of avoiding doing and saying things that provide his enemies pretexts for opposing him. What his critics don’t seem to realize is that they can’t attack his legitimacy without also attacking the legitimacy of the system that justifies our entire government.

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Balance

May 13, 2017

While I never supported Trump, I thought that at least one good thing about his presidency would be that anything bad he did wouldn’t be just swept under the rug by the media. (That would have been a real danger with Clinton.) However, it seems we have just the opposite problem: every time he scratches his nose it’s treated as a sign of looming apocalypse.

Seriously, why would anyone (even Trump) think that firing the director of the F.B.I. would derail a serious investigation? The director doesn’t do any investigating himself; at most he set priorities and allocates resources. As it turns out the new acting director is married to a woman who ran for office as a Democrat with support from people close to the Clintons, and the day after Comey was fired the F.B.I. issued several subpoenas in the investigation of Gen. Flynn, so that investigation seems to be going strong. Given all the people, both Democrats and Republicans, who were calling for Comey to leave, right up to the point that Trump fired him, all the hysteria over this makes no sense.

My worry now is that if Trump ever does do something that really threatens democracy many of us will just assume people are overreacting again and he’ll get away with it.