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.

Not actually Hitler

February 15, 2017

Nathaniel Givens: Still Crying Wolf

Maybe Trump is the next Hitler, but I doubt it. He’s probably not the next Stalin or Mao or Mussolini either. He doesn’t have the commitment, the talent, the opportunity, or the ideology to pull it off. But if we keep pushing the pendulum further on every swing with escalating hyper-partisanship and if we sabotage our own institutions–from the civil services to the mainstream media to expectations of basic decency–we will find that on the day when an American Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Mussolini steps up onto the stage, we will have ripped all of our institutional safeguards to shreds already.

Read the whole thing.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks, but kept forgetting.

The Death Star and the Final Trench Run

For the record, I never thought it was the equatorial trench.

Patriotism again

January 26, 2017

Earlier this week I posted about patriotism. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks patriotism is good:

Whatever else Red America is wrong about, they are right about this. Patriotism doesn’t imply reverencing any leader or any particular political program, but it does require reverence for your nation, and your fellow citizens. You can celebrate a day of patriotic devotion and then go to the Women’s March to protest the man who proclaimed it. For one of the things most worth loving about this magnificent, flawed country of ours is a heritage that says there’s no contradiction between those two things.

Read the whole thing.

What he said

January 21, 2017

I’ve been thinking what I could say about Trump’s inauguration, but Charlie Martin already said pretty much what I think: Stop making me defend Trump.

… I didn’t like Trump, the candidate—I didn’t vote for him. I’ve been reasonably pleased with his cabinet nominations—oh, I’d rather see John Bolton as secretary of State, and his repeated humiliation of Mitt Romney was petty and childish, but on the whole I’ve been pleased. But he still strikes me as a buffoon who every day is in danger of stepping on his own small … gains in popularity with some boneheaded tweet. Someone whose recent program proposals—a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, paid maternal leave, “fair” trade, massive tariffs, and Trump, the Man on the White Horse, coming in to meddle individually—have been proposed and used by Democrats going back at least as far as FDR. Someone who actual conservatives and libertarians are going to have to keep a careful eye on, because he really does seem to share with Obama the Progressive conviction that the Great Man is above normal bounds on behavior.

But seriously people, the degree of utter nincompoopery in the last days has just gotten completely out of control.

Patriotism

January 10, 2017

Today Sarah Hoyt wrote on her blog:

The twentieth century international socialists diagnosed “nationalism” as the cause of Nazi atrocities because they couldn’t face that SOCIALISM was the actual problem  (it can kill you fast, it can kill you slow, it can kill you hard or it can kill you softly, but in the end socialism, like its communist cousin, will kill you. It’s just it’s slow in most places, and people don’t notice.)  So patriotism was treated as a bad thing.

The left is always calling the right Nazis, but Fascism and Communism are both socialist; the only difference is one is nationalist and the other internationalist. They’re only opposites if your spectrum only includes flavors of socialism. The traditional American values that are now labelled “conservative” don’t fit on either side; they oppose all flavors of socialism.

Today we seem to have an internationalist class—made up of highly credentialed academics, bureaucrats, and others—that denigrates patriotism and esteems members of this class in other countries over fellow citizens that don’t belong to this class. This is very similar to the conditions in the Middle Ages, when the nobles saw themselves as having more in common with nobles of other countries than with the serfs that toiled in their own lands. When nationalism first started to develop it had a democratizing influence.

While patriotism can be used to promote evil ends, it is not evil in itself. Patriotism is necessary; if you’re not patriotic, you lack an important connection to your community. It’s similar to what John said about loving God:

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

(1 John 4:20)

It’s easy to say you love something or someone on the other side of the world, but can you really mean it if you don’t love the people in your own neighborhood? If you don’t love in particular, you don’t really love in general or in abstract.

Patriotism does not necessarily mean chauvinism. You can love your own country and still appreciate other nations. But you have to appreciate the community that you live in first, or it isn’t real love.