Saturday, September 2, 2017

Trump's army

I’ve been posting from a vary dark place this past week. Let’s work backwards in time.

Robert Reich’s agenda for correcting our “unprecedented economic imbalance”. Reich does have a progressive agenda for a more equitable economic America. However, it’s not clear that we have the political capital that it takes to implement, for example, tax increases on the uber wealthy.

Similarly, one of the richest men in America, Nick Hanauer, advises his fellow 1%ers to cough up the cash and influence to establish a national minimum wage. They haven’t listened to him before so why would they start now? So, what he fears, might well come to pass - the coming of the pitchforks. Why America must fix income inequality - and do it fast.

Fueled in part by our obscene economic imbalance, America has degenerated into (almost warring) tribes. Where that leads is the subject of a dystopian novel about the second American civil war A review of the review of “American War”.

In past posts I’ve pondered the outcome of President Donald Trump being removed from office. One possibility is that he would fracture the Republican party and we would be faced with a third-party bid in 2020. But another possibility is that he would be the tinderbox for an armed insurrection such as that described in American War. How likely is that? It would take some organized effort to create a military structure - a militia or even an army. It’s happening according to Charles Blow writing in the NY Times: Trump Raises an Army. (h/t Sherry Moreau) Snippets follow.

The final assessment on how this administration handles [Hurricane Harvey] can’t be made while it still rages, but what Trump says and does now is open to analysis. In that vein, a line from Trump’s joint press conference with the president of Finland stood out. When asked about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey was making landfall, Trump responded:

“Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.”

Consider what this man is saying: He used the horror and anxious anticipation of a monster storm menacing millions of Americans — particularly in Houston whose population is 44 percent Hispanic — in a political calculation to get more ratings and more eyeballs on the fact that he was using the power of the presidency to forgive, and thereby condone, Arpaio’s racism.

Why does Trump continue to do things that are so divisive and alienating to the majority of Americans? Why does he keep fueling the white-hot fire of his base to the exclusion of the other segments of the country?

A ball of snakes

I have a theory: Trump and the people who either shield or support him are locked in a relationship of reciprocation, like a ball of snakes. Everyone is using everyone else.

Oligarchs, establishment Republicans, Bannonists, conservative Christians, and blue collar Trump voters all see Trump as a means to their own ends. But here’s the thing: “Trump sees all these people who want to use him, and he’s using them right back.”

Trump’s army

But in addition, and perhaps more sinisterly, I think that Trump is raising an army, whether or not he would describe it as such, and whether or not those being involved recognize their own conscription. This is not a traditional army, but it is an army no less.

And, when I say army, I’m not speaking solely of armed militia, although there is a staggering number of guns continuously being put into circulation. As the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action wrote in June: “Each month of Trump’s presidency has seen over two million firearm-related background checks. Only in 2016, when Americans faced losing their Second Amendment rights forever, did the F.B.I. run more checks during a January to April period.” I’m also talking about the unarmed, but unwavering: the army of zombie zealots.

How do you raise an army?

You do that by dividing America into tribes and, as “president,” aligning yourself with the most extreme tribe, all the while promoting militarization among people who support you.

You do it by worshiping military figures and talking in militaristic terms.

You reverse Barack Obama’s executive order on gun control. As PolitiFact put it: “Obama’s order made it mandatory for the Social Security Administration to release information about mentally ill recipients of Social Security benefits. This information would then be included in background checks, essentially prohibiting people with mental illnesses to buy guns.”

You cozy up to police unions and encourage police brutality.

You do this by rescinding Obama-era limits on the militarization of police departments; a move that, according to The New York Times, allows these departments “access to military surplus equipment typically used in warfare, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles and bayonets.”

You do this by defending armed white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville.

You do this by defending monuments of Confederates who fought to preserve the noxious institution of slavery, and you do it by tweeting the coded language of white supremacists: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”

You do this by pardoning Arpaio, a man who joked about an Arizona jail being a “concentration camp,” signaling to people that racist brutality is permissible.

You also do this by attempting to reduce or marginalize populations of people opposed to you: Build a wall, return to failed drug policies that helped fuel mass incarceration, ban Muslims, curb even legal immigration, increase immigration arrests.

Why?

And why raise this army? Again, I have a theory.

Should something emerge from the Robert Mueller investigation — an investigation that is continuing unabated even as Harvey rages — that should implicate Trump and pose a threat to the continuation of his tenure, Trump wants to position any attempt to remove him as a political coup. His efforts to delegitimize the press are all part of this because one day the press may have to deliver ruinous news.

In that scenario, Trump knows that the oligarchs and establishment Republicans would be quick to abandon him. Their support isn’t intrinsic; it’s transactional. But the base — the market — the ones with guns as well as those who are simply excited, the die-hards, the ones he keeps appealing to and applauding, will not forsake him. They see attacks on Trump as attacks on themselves.

Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates.

If these people should come to believe — as Trump would have them believe — that establishment systems have unfairly and conspiratorially acted to remove from office their last and only champion — another thing Trump would have them believe — what will they do?

What would Trump’s army do if he were compelled to leave but refused to graciously comply?

My posts reflect the very dark place America is in right now.

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