Born like this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
Born like this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Charles Bukowski, “Dinosauria, We” (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)
Content-warning: physical abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse.
This is not a fun piece. It includes meandering of conscious thoughts and threads. I have attempted to give as much evidence basis to a central argument as possible. It is also very long.
I. MOIL AND MISERY
It is ultimately a foolish act. Writing this. It does not suit me. Because ultimately I do not have any solution. I do not even have a real stake in these matters. I’m a resident of the British isles, far removed from North America, and so everything I am talking about has little direct effect on my life, uh, sort of. I have written before about President Wario and how my brain deflated on November 9th 2016. In 2016 I wanted to write a direct line between myself and the audience. In an attempt to communicate the exact volume of pain and pleasure I experienced in those 365 days which drastically changed me. And my personal attachment to American history and politics which made my brain implode.
What is this ‘foolish act’? There is a central lie to these pieces. That I am standing in the middle of an amphitheatre and regaling my opinions. That I’m important enough to begin with. That my opinion matters enough to become 12,000 words. That, apparently, with puncture and power in every syllable I am attempting to convince you of a perspective I believe in. In this sense it’s not different to my previous pieces. This one is foolish and different for the simple reason that I have no idea what I am talking about. There is no doctorate prefacing my name. There is no outlet or publication I belong to. I am not an expert in anything. At best I’m an amateur Presidential historian and a connoisseur of Mario lore.
The only camp I belong to is that of ‘writer’. I write things. And with this I’m trying to parse my emotions and ideas into language. Usually with a long, arduous prologue of thinking about writing things, and then thinking about which things go with which other things.
So what is this piece? If it is foolish because I don’t know what I am talking about then what value do you have, the reader, in actually reading it?
For the past 221 days, 4hours, 55 minutes, and 4 seconds, as of publishing this, there has been a great torrent of anxiety and terror swirling in my system. It’s not unique to me. I don’t need to call out the elephant in the room, we all know exactly whom I’m talking about. Suffice to say that my mental health suffering as a result of his tiny hands pales in comparison to the real pain he delivers every day to Americans.
My favourite author Robert Caro wrote in one of his first mammoth volumes on the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson that whilst absolute power corrupts absolutely, power also reveals. Power, political power to be more specific, is the agent that amplifies the person occupying that space. It simply bares out what was always there. Whether it’s ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ or having a book of Hitler speeches by your bedside. Whatever predicates your life before taking an oath of office, however small an oath it may be, determines exactly how you will behave upon entering that office.
President Donald John Trump was a Cthulhian eldritch nightmare that was seldom thought of sensibly by much of the liberal punditry last year. Many, myself included, stapled political logic to his firestorm of a trajectory. He broke that logic. He continues to break that logic. His qualities before he took office are what he displays in fuller force whilst in office.
It is important, crucially important, not to view your life as a series of events that bob and weave with joy or sadness. Life is random and there is cruelty in randomness, yes, but framing your life like a narrative event is not useful for processing the full complexity of it. For enjoying it, rather. I don’t want to stretch this personal note out completely but, despite what I literally just said, I still believe there are those rare, very very rare, moments that you can comfortably say changed you dramatically. The time you fell in love. When you cried at that film. When you finished writing that thing. When your football team won that big trophy. I do not know what that last one is. The one that changed me was November 9th 2016.
For the past few years I have witnessed myself becoming more personally intertwined with politics. I come from a working class background and have witnessed enough poverty and pain. I know the full painful consequences that government policy and negligence can have on communities. I know it because I’ve felt it. It’s why those who aren’t politically invested, or choose to ignore politics, or feign ignorance, can usually actively practice their apolitical stance from a position of privilege. If you’re alienated by politics that’s another story, but if you choose to ignore politics then that’s directly ignoring events which harm your fellow man. What I have seen over the course of the last seven years is an all-out assault on communities like the one I hail from, from a Conservative government which, thankfully now, seems to be on the exit. Yet my attention hasn’t been on my homefront, despite my door knocking and campaigning. It’s been mostly across the pond.
This piece is about that attention. It is about the raw and unabated rage that I have felt in the last eight months. Genuine physical anger.
This is therapy for me. I want to be completely transparent about that. It is an attempt to make some kind of sense and cohesion out of such emotions which have been alien to me for most of my adult life. More importantly, it is an attempt to analyse the present administration and its trajectory. In this I am attempting to get across a central point. I will be analysing the first two weeks of the Trump administration, Trump’s conflict of interests, and, closely, his pardoning of the white supremacist criminal Joe Arpaio, alongside his ban on transgender individuals from entering the military. The pardon in particular will deal with much deeper argument about the central point I want to get across, which will include the fact Arpaio once forced a woman to give birth whilst in iron shackles. He is an abomination against humanity. That is the type of content this longform will be about.
My central point is pretty clear. The fascism that we feared from Donald Trump for the years he waged his xenophobic campaign is now here. It is here. Not in rhetoric, in action. It is here. The United States is ruled by a fascist President. He is a fascist.
This is not a tweetstorm warning. This is not some points scoring pundit on television arguing a thing. Fascism isn’t about sides. It’s about totality. You could probably place this as rudimentary historical analysis, or at least an attempt at such a thing. I am placing the Presidency of Trump in historical context. He is a fascist terror and threat to Western democracy. A secondary point is that I believe he is a threat to the survival of the human race. Not in the nuclear sense but in climate policy. Although the former worries me greatly obviously.
I will delve into that secondary point long after I get across my first point. After many thousands of words, obviously. Afterwards I will try and untangle why exactly I went about this argument. For what betterment is it to write a depressing, emotionally deflating piece?
For now, though.
Donald Trump is a fascist President.
And I do not think he will lose.
That is the totality.
II. HEAVEN’S HIGH HUMAN SCHEME
I do not want to go into a great listicle about the trials and tribulations of the first few months of the Trump administration. There are greater compilations out there, and news just seems to zoom past us at lightning speed these days. It hits the emotional gut without much logical digestion.
The first spring of Trump’s fascist impulses as President came days after his inauguration. When he began the lie about the audience numbers at his inauguration. Most of the media put this down to Trump’s bareface insecurities. His constant and consistent need for attention. He is, at the end of everything, an utter man-child. I have speculated privately that I don’t think he has ever known happiness in his life. And now I’ve put that speculation publicly. Making these jolts and personal jabs may sound like some meanness but I write those things for two reasons.
Firstly because he is a fascist and any vulnerability in the fascist must be scrutinised and incised by any kind of resistance. Reminding ourselves he’s a 71-year old emotional geezer makes sure we don’t see him as a teflon invincible monolith. Secondly because I think once you get a hold of that insecurity, you can start to place political impulses irradiating from that. As said, what you are before you take office is always amplified once you hold that title.
There was a drive, immediately, from the Trump administration to lie about something so obvious. Much commentary has been written about the immigration ban that happened in Trump’s first week, but it is important to look at the very first noteworthy ‘moment’ of the Trump administration. That it began with the most obvious lie that could be disproved by photographic evidence. Of course, facts and feelings have been interchangeable for years now. But I think you can get a bearing for the first feelers of the Trump administration with this moment. Whether they were conscious efforts or not, like I do think the immigration ban was, there was a certain amount of agency in the administration. Some prying hands exploring the terrain. Getting a sense for this great apparatus that oversaw the American life. What they could get away with.
The immigration ban was more obviously an egregious exploration of how the administration could strengthen its direct control over elements of American life, society, and economy. Parts of that ban are still legal today, until the Supreme Court hears arguments come this October.
This immigration ban was what set the alarm bells ringing for a lot of those paying attention. This and the other changes that the Trump administration quickly dolled out were seized by commentators. One of the great pieces of this year was written in the wake of the first Trump fortnight, by Yonatan Zunger, detailing exactly how and why those two weeks could be characterised as a trial balloon for a coup. Steve Bannon’s appointment to basically head the National Security Council was taken as another sign of this trial. But his subsequent dismissal was seen as a complete victory.
Trump allegedly had no idea he had even put Bannon on the NSC. That a President would put a white supremacist on the NSC unknowingly is quite a stretch. It being Trump makes it less of a stretch I suppose. But more disturbingly, and this is going to be a common theme, is how quickly it was taken as a victory. Much like most of the recent resignations have been taken as victories.
Whilst I am always over-joyed to see Nazis fucking off from the machinery of power, Bannon now included, there was an element of analysis missing. A moment of review. Much like the fast pace of the news, it was clearly too quick for us to really digest. We can argue that public pressure pushed these men out of their positions of power, or we can look more in depth in speculating why they were removed in the first place.
Returning to Bannon’s dismissal from the NSC reveals something. Whilst it was a response to public pressures, such a dismissal was not a complete and total defeat for the aims of the fascists in the administration. Quite the contrary. These first two weeks of the administration was a ‘trial balloon’ in essence. It wasn’t a full scale attempt or success. Not for Bannon himself or any singular individual, but the fascistic culture. This culture is embodied by much of the Trump personnel still working today, including Miller. Sometimes bobbing its head. I have no idea if Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly, subscribes to the same fascistic culture. What I’ve read makes me think he certainly adheres to some of its tenets.
To also clear up some vagueness. These men do not adhere to a blanket wholesale ideology. I don’t think much of them are ideologues. But most of Trump’s circle shares the common anti-democratic aims and authoritarian aspirations which characterise fascism. Mussolini never completed his fascistic government, and I think we’re going to see a lot more comparisons with Italy in the 1920s/30s and the Trump administration.
I want to get into specifics about why it is not a defeat for the fascists in the Trump administration, and why such defeats that have peppered the last eight months cannot be chalked up the same way. I believe that these moments were feelers, attempts and experiments. The culture is learned, and has learned. Much like the first fortnight, they were little trials. They were attempts to gauge not just the level of public discourse, but the level of civil resistance. How much could they get away with. How much could they slowly tilt and play.
If you wanted an actual full description of fascism as an loose ideology then I’d probably refer to a few bullet points on a poster in the American National Holocaust Museum. I can put it down to an anti-democratic ideology focused on personal/centralised executive control, nationalism, and the destruction of strata of the population in service to some myth of ethno-nationalist exceptionalism. Obviously not all fascists share those ideals, it’s hard to ultimately pin most people down to this. Except Nazis. But America has always been ripe for this kind of thinking. It was founded on the slave trade. The White House was built by slaves. It had a whole century of toxic psychology — phrenology — about how whites were superior to blacks. Generations upon generations of black Americans were brought up as second-class citizens. I am trying not to be fully anachronistic but to describe the controls and limitations on black Americans as fascistic in nature would probably be a correct call. One might argue that fascism has always been in the bloodstream of the American government, but only for a sect of the population.
One should bear in mind that Trump did not transform the Presidency into a fascist machine, elements of fascist control have always been entwined in the ‘imperial Presidency’. Barack Obama murdered 117 innocent civilians, including American citizens, with drone strikes during his Presidency. Such an act violates paragraphs of the constitution and tenets of the legal system that America is built on and prides itself on. But not too many people batted an eyelid when he was murdering people of colour resident in foreign states, because it was in the name of an effort against terrorism.
What’s new isn’t just the explicit acts of fascism but the ways in which those acts are moving. They are not fascist acts used in the name of some crusade like the war on terror. These fascist acts are for the betterment of the fascists.
When dealing with history you have to deal with levels of morality. On the whole I still believe Barack Obama was an incredibly successful President who deserves much respect for what he did. Yet I cannot deny how problematic of a statement that is. But accepting it is problematic is part of having a much more complex and, in my opinion, well-rounded view of history. It is accepting that totality is not always adequate. In many ways, the Trump administration has defied this moral obligation one takes when analysing history. It is nothing but a totality.
Returning again to the immigration ban and those notes of fascism, I must re-address the issue on the speed of fascism. The tools of the Presidency equip the occupant to act with spread and precision. Twenty-first fascism does seem to be a fast-acting cancer on Western democracy. A Western democracy under peril of gerrymandering and a tsunami of fake information. Yet I still believe that the first fortnight of the Trump administration was part of a trial balloon. Just a few experiments. I believe Bannon’s dismissal from the NSC was a trial too. The ejection of many individuals from the administration, which, again, we see see as defeats, were still in some way tests. This is not baseless paranoia or defeatism. There have been concrete defeats to the Republican agenda, such as the drama that unfolded in the Senate during the debate on Trumpcare. Although Senator John McCain is still a Trump enabler. What I speculate, however, is these last eight months have been fraught with tests and experiments with the government net large. The eviction of staff from key positions, like the NSC, has been part of this. It is important to note how inexperienced and frankly incompetent the Trump administration members are. Fascists aren’t exclusively good at what they do, or competent at anything really.
This culture of fascism, I believe, has been testing the waters. Not for a full-scale coup. Something much more insidious and incremental. This is why these ‘defeats’ cannot be chalked up that way, in my opinion. This is a long-term conflict. One that began before Trump and will carry on after he has slipped off the mortal coil. When we turn to history we often believe in a great mythos that fascists came swiftly to power and enacted their disgusting deeds with equivalent swiftness. It is true that Adolf Hitler came to power at the end of January 1933 and the first concentration camp was erected two months later. It is also worth noting the slow-burning escalation of anti-Semitic laws and anti-democratic action throughout the years following. It was not until August 1934 that the ‘Hitler oath’, in which the Germany military swore allegiance to Hitler, was made. Much anti-Semitic action was even relaxed during the 1936 Olympics hosted by Germany. These things ebb and flow. A crisis of fascism is a long-term affliction, and, by historical standards, a terminal one.
This is what I want to put into the clearest possible terms. I am more comfortable calling Trump a fascist thanks to the last two weeks of his administration. But that comfort in calling this is owed in large part due to the last eight months. It is seeing the fascistic culture within the administration, this cancer, just slowly grow and morph to fit the apparatus. The hand fitting itself in the glove. Whichever metaphor you want to pick.
Keep in mind this does not end with a binary victory or defeat for fascism. The culture of it in the White House is largely held by incompetents, and the ideologues have been evicted. But over the last eight months we have watched this octopus slowly slither its way into its governmental wreathes. A few lost tentacles do not change that fact. I do not expect a total outright victory of martial law and a declared dictatorship. But whatever failure is produced by this administration allows the fascist culture to learn how to adapt and change. To maybe do things differently next time. Fascists are pretty patient, or at least the serious ones.
Fascism works slowly than we might think. Or at least the American strain seems especially slow. Some of the violent outbursts are part of this slow strain. They are growing pains. I do not think they will strike a total win, such as postponing elections that many Trump voters hunger for, but wounding democracy beyond repair is part of their bargain. To put it bluntly: the GOP was already ridiculously good at doing just that before Trump, with their gerrymandering politics. Let’s talk about what Trump changed though.
III. HEMMED WITHIN THE COASTS
It’s important in these times to put in the clearest possible terms that Donald Trump should be removed from office. I do not mean in light of his recent actions. The single second he removed his hand from his Bible 221 days ago he should have been subsequently impeached.
What we’re experiencing in the last eight months is a Kafkaesque absurdist nightmare world filled with surreal art-house like events. We have politicos yelling at each other about self-fellatio in public, and a President who may or may not be blackmailed by the Russian government wielding a VHS tape showing the American President engaging in urine-based sexual activity. What we’re experiencing more than anything, however, is a world removed of consequence. Despite the mountain of evidence pointing towards collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, not even a slap on the wrist has been delivered. Earlier this week there have been several revelations in this regard. If you have not forgotten, as it’s so easy to do these days, Trump fired James Comey after a failure to drop an investigation in Michael Flynn. That’s obstruction of justice. Plain and simple. Trump should have been impeached eighteen-thousand times over by now. That’s including a thanks to the mess of the President leaking classified information to Russian diplomats.
The Nobility Clause, or Emolument Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8) of the United States Constitution makes it clear, however, that Trump should have been impeached the moment he took office. Not in light of his actions, including the Presidential pardon (for which there may be an impeachable offence). The clause reads:
and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Trump has not divested himself from his businesses as President. He did this publicly. He continues to receive payments internationally. It has become a tactic by foreign governments to use his hotels to funnel gifts and treats as lobbying efforts. Saudi Arabia has done it en masse with Trump’s D.C hotel. Trump is also having his Supreme Court justice headline an event at his hotel. A Supreme Court justice that he stole from Barack Obama will now be used as a prop of ceremony which will enrich him further. It is not a brave or original thought to believe that the only coherent mission of the Trump administration is to delegitimise the Presidency of the first black man to hold that office.
There are massive volumes of conflicts of interest not disclosed or seemingly just hand-waved anyway. This flow of cash directly violates the Nobility Clause. It should be the basis for impeachment. The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over fellatio. They have no political courage.
To be fair, however, they will win the next elections regardless. So they’ve got nothing to worry about. More on that later.
For context, Jimmy Carter divested himself immediately upon becoming President. He sold a small peanut farm.
Trump is also quite clearly funneling a chunk of federal money into his back-pocket. He has bankrupted the Secret Service with weekend trips to his estates. His use of office to enrich himself further is explicit and utterly reprehensible. Right now millions of Americans are suffering under the effects of Hurricane Harvey, whilst the President gluttons and indulges himself on taxpayer money.
For clarity: the Republicans are quite okay with this. They are more than happy to ride this wave as long as they get their tax cuts for the top 1% of Americans.
To return to the consequences point. Ben Carson violated the Hatch Act by appearing at a partisan rally (a Trump rally). There have been no consequences floated about this. Nothing. A brief reminder too that Trump’s son literally tweeted out emails showing him colluding with Russian emissaries.
A world without consequence is part of the front that fascism fights. A confused, divided world is much more ripe for the plucking. Vladimir Putin and his regime has been dabbling in this dark art for many years. It’s called non-linear warfare. In which your opponents do not know who to fight, and in which direction they should be fighting. You fund several fronts, or you play as many fronts as you can. You whittle the resistance down by sheer quantity of violations and egregious acts. You repeat it, over and over. You taunt them, and let them know you have power. Like mentioning the American Nazi party in your inauguration speech (likely written by the Bannon machine, including Stephen Miller). You do this to mock and invite hopelessness into any corner of resistance. You make it so that “let’s not talk about politics” isn’t just the talk of the privileged, who know that such politics do not affect them, but you also make it the talk of those who front-line the resistance. You make them tired with endless marches. You show them their actions hold no consequences. That is authoritarianism.
It’s not explicit, coherent or controlled. Most of it is is Trump being a complete idiot. But those events are then mobilised by the fascistic culture in the White House. The whirlpool of events that have engulfed the news cycle every single week are just litanies of mistake after mistake from the Trump administration. Most of them are not deliberate acts to confuse the opposition.
Trump should have been impeached the second he took office, and the absolute waterfall of news we have borne witness to only amplifies that fact. America is under the throes of an authoritarian crisis. I fear, however, it is only just beginning.
IV. SUCH THE STELLAR GAUGE OF EARTHLY SHOW
I’ve written a lot about the last eight months. About the vague search that the fascistic culture has made in figuring out how to fit the executive branch of the US government. About the type of warfare that it is waging, and how such an illusory front plays into the hands of autocratic goals. I will now write more specifically about why I believe these last two weeks are why I define the Trump administration as a fascist administration.
No juggling semantics, or simple test of rhetoric, and no ‘tests’. The clearest demonstration of a change in governance by the Trump admin came two-fold. The banning of transgender individuals from serving in the American military, and the pardoning of the white supremacist Joe Arpaio.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio was recently found guilty of criminal contempt. What he is responsible for is utterly and completely reprehensible. Arpaio was a county Sheriff, elected no less, in Southern Arizona. He specifically violated a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. For the past two decades, during his time as Sheriff, Arpaio illegally detained large amounts of illegal immigrants and Latinos into a ‘tent city’. Some of them who committed minor misdemeanors. There are widespread accounts of serial abuse from Arpaio’s deputies. All ‘tent city’ residents wore the same outfit and he forced marched some of them around the camp each day, over 171 by some counts. Arpaio dubbed this ‘tent city’ as a ‘concentration camp’ himself. The level of mistreatment and torture, physical and psychological, was widespread. There were a mass amount of undocumented suicides. A child died during childbirth near the camp. Over 1,578 pregnant women entered the camp and some were forced to give birth inside it. They were all given the same tight, brutal conditions. Arpaio had people vote on the ugliest mugshot of processed inmates. Arpaio ignored child molestation crimes and pursued political or xenophobic causes instead, using the money given to pursue sexual abuse and instead putting it towards his venomous prejudicial crusade. Arpaio spent money sending a private investigator to try and discover the truth behind Barack Obama’s birth certificate, which is exactly where he and Donald Trump collided. A woman was forced to give birth in ‘tent city’ whilst shackled. His crimes are utterly and completely reprehensible, and make me sick in the stomach to read the full litany of them. Especially one, which I will discuss soon.
Earlier this year he was finally found guilty of criminal contempt. Before his sentencing was given, President Donald John Trump delivered a presidential pardon. Trump now argues he gave it in the thick of Hurricane Harvey in order to get the highest TV ratings.
He also tweeted:
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!
As explored, Arpaio did everything to systematically torture and destroy thousands of illegal immigrants, without due process. He bankrupted his County and ignored Department of Justice investigations. Arpaio empowered the people around him, his Deputies, his ‘posse’, to the point at which one of them almost managed to escape being caught with child pornography. Trump’s twisted idea of ‘safe’ is whatever punishes and tortures illegal immigrants, to not benefit for the wider community. No justice, only cruelty.
I have not even reached the most despicable crime yet. I already consider Arpaio a complete and total monster. When I read about the tease of the pardon, I had a flashback again to ‘America First’ in the inauguration speech. It was a taunting gesture.
I knew about Arpaio’s complete inhumanity before the news of the pardon hit me, but a few hours before Hurricane Harvey hit the Texan shore, I found a small story that displays the full venom of this piece of shit.
The full details of it can be read here.
The most emotionally devastating part has been quoted below.
• The armored personnel carrier careened down the street and smashed into a parked car after its brakes failed.
• And in the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.
Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog’s owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.
“I was crying hysterically,” Andrea Barker, one of the dog’s owners, tells me. “I was so upset. They [deputies] were laughing at me.”
Making fun of the 10-month-old pit bull puppy’s death wasn’t enough.
Arpaio’s goons then left the dog’s body to rot in the ashes for the next five days of 105-degree temperatures. A pall of death hung over the neighborhood.
In one of the many sting missions sanctioned by Arpaio, without actually informing any other parts of the police force, a puppy burnt to death. They were Arpaio’s deputies, of course. They weren’t him. But they were his force. His men. The culture he built. The Deputies he promoted. Those men were never punished, by the way. Further reading displays that not even a slap on the wrist was administered.
It was not Joe Arpaio who burnt that puppy alive. It wasn’t him who oversaw the birth given by the woman in shackles. Nor was it him directly who mistreated every single inmate of ‘tent city’. But in his small portion of Arizona, he was able to carve out a little fiefdom of cruelty and pain for people of colour.
If you know me, you know that I love dogs. All of them. I have a little one myself who is now five years of age. He is the stupidest, happiest little boy. He whines like a baby every time I come home from even a small trip. I love him, so dearly. And I understand plainly and completely how anyone can love their pup. It’s a strange emotional bond that has been between mankind and dog…kind for millennia upon millennia. Dogs are good.
It’s a small thing but I think you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat animals, and in particular dogs or puppies. If they’re afraid then that’s perfectly natural and okay, I was petrified once. If they just don’t ‘like’ them themselves, they can usually understand why others will. That’s okay. If they’re neutral or prefer cats, that’s okay too — and they at least understand. And if they love them or have a dog companion, then that’s okay too. It’s all okay. Because it’s positive. It’s a mutual understanding that 99% of society has. That dogs are good.
Dogs are good. They may not be good for you, but they’re good for the people who own them. I treasure mine every day. I hope to be acquired by a dog friend in my own homestead one day. It’s the millennial dream.
When I read about any mistreatment of animals it really does stir my emotional batter. It gets right under my fingernails and skin. Any time I read about it. I’m a student of history, and know full well we’ve been murdering each other for centuries. Vegetarians/vegans will probably remind us we’ve been murdering animals forever too.
But to kill a dog. A puppy, no less. To enter into someone’s home and ‘neutralise’ it with a fire extinguisher. To push it back into a house on fire, and let it burn to death. To let the owner hear their puppy’s whines before it dies. And then to laugh. To laugh in the face of grief. Cruelty with no other intention than cruelty. As an agent empowered by the law, to go into someone’s home and murder their companion. To kill a dog. The cruelty shown to the Latinos and illegal immigrants boils my completely completely red raw, of course it does. But I can untangle a poisonous rational of prejudice there. However much it sickens me. What I cannot untangle is the motive behind killing a dog. For clarity: I’m not placing the dog’s life about any human’s. But the reasoning behind destroying that life is what needs analysing.
Reading this story there’s nothing but Arpaio’s guiding hand in it. A cruel act towards people with small misdemeanours, who happened to be people of colour. What’s new is that it bears out the monstrosity, the black heart, in Arpaio. The lack of punishment or any word, not even a single bit of acknowledging the tragedy, of letting a puppy burn to death at the hand of his SWAT team. It makes me sick and angry and utterly completely filled with a rage I’ve felt only briefly in my life.
When you’re young and you watch those cartoons showing the villains get redeemed, or that there’s goodness in everyone, you kind of take it to heart. You expect the best out of people, or at very least the potential of goodness. It takes a while for you to realise how much bullshit that is.
I think I’ve put in the clearest possible terms, then, as to why Trump’s pardon of a (second hand) puppy killer and serial abuser of people of colour is so deeply and thoroughly cowardly and destructive. It makes me sick to the bone. A lot of commentators argue it’s grounds for impeachment. Which would be cool and all if anything actually had consequences in this world. Trump’s twisted sense of ‘patriot[ism]’ led him to pardon Arpaio. He saw him as a hero. A like-minded crusader of the same cause of prejudice and white supremacist government.
There’s a few points I want to make before discussing how this is the most egregious show of fascism by the administration thus far. The moral cowardice of it does not deserve more words and analysis. That’s blindingly obvious. The Presidential pardon is a tool under the will of the President to correct parts of the ugly American justice system. You don’t need to watch Making a Murderer or read a study on the incarceration of young black Americans to notice how rotten it is. But as failing as it is, once in a blue moon there is a ruling like Arpaio’s. A deliverance of justice.
The pardon, to put it in abstract terms, is a tool for the President to correct injustice wherever he sees it. He is gifted with the capability to shift or shape society how he decides.
Who actually deserves a pardon is a question left to the President. In Proclamation 4311, President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor, Richard Milhous Nixon. Accepting a pardon is tantamount to admitting guilt, by the way, and so civil court cases can be made. Arpaio can be sued for damages by the victims. He himself will never see jail time.
The full question of who deserves a pardon, in a society, deserves some analysis. There has been a complete racial bias in the pardon system for centuries now. It has recently intensified. You can take a guess at which race is favoured in being pardoned. There’s been many thinkpieces recently about individuals who deserve pardoning over Joe Arpaio. Most of them have some good thoughts. They miss, however, the crux at which the reasoning behind which a pardon is made. It is based not so much on the individual, but on the President’s own judgement of that individual. Not just on that individual’s crimes but also their suffering and atonement. Sometimes a full pardon is not necessary. President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence, not a full pardon as President Donald Trump actually believes. Trump also won’t stop referring to Chelsea Manning as a ‘he’. With every instance I am stunned by my capacity to hate a single being. He has managed to show me that I have quite an wider array of emotions that I thought myself capable of, I’ll give him that.
When I talk about ‘suffering and atonement’ I want to get more specific. With the mountains of injustices rendered by the American justice system, with so many lists of individuals who, unequivocally, need a pardon. With so many people of colour depending upon a presidential pardon to deliver that necessary justice, Donald Trump looked at their suffering and pain, and then he looked at Joe Arpaio’s suffering. He looked at a white supremacist with like minded ideology, which makes sense. But he also looked at the rendered judgement against Arpaio. Arpaio was found guilty. Trump found him innocent. To Donald Trump, the suffering of Arpaio outweighed that of countless others. This is his first pardon, for context. To Trump, the suffering and pain of countless people was not as valid as Joe Arpaio’s. It was motivated purely by a kinship; seeing in him the same venom that he gives in rhetoric every single week it seems. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump validated his own views. He defended them with full Presidential power. He effectively inaugurated a state of justice in which mass mistreatment and torture of illegal immigrants is rewarded with the full pomp and ceremony of a Presidential pardon. Further more, it was used before a sentencing trial. That’s never been done before quite like this. He has shown a willingness to use Presidential power to protect his allies; to protect white supremacist authoritarians. It’s not just that it overrides the courts’ judgement, every pardon does that, but that it is such a blatant deliverance of injustice. The pardon is, usually, a tool for the President to morally intervene, not advance a repugnant ideology and give it credibility and security.
Trump is signalling too, pretty clearly, that any attempts to chink away at his regime will be met with similar force. Would he pardon his son? Flynn? Kushner? Why wouldn’t he? Honestly. Why wouldn’t he?
It was also an invitation to like-minded agents in the justice system, and there are an uncomfortable amount, and their white supremacist agenda. It was a defense of them. Trump gave a pardon to a monster who created a ‘concentration camp’. Remember that.
That’s what is markedly different from this pardon. It is a judgement of the suffering of Arpaio. It is a judgement of what he represents. It was injustice to Trump, that Arpaio’s crimes be punished. That they be crimes at all. ‘He kept Arizona safe!’ He was being a patriot in torturing people of colour. He was being a patriot in protecting puppy killers. I word this in the strongest possible tone because there is a raw rage. I’m not denying that. Moreso, Arpaio’s patriotism is the exact type that Trump does not just want to discuss but to legally embolden. To give it protection. The small suffering of white supremacists is more valid to Trump than countless other causes.
The fascism comes in the implications of this pardon. They are two-fold: (1) a signal to law officials of Arpaio’s ilk that they will be protected by the President, (2) the courts will not be a check on this Presidency. The first is especially worrying. I don’t need to write lengths and lengths about Charlottesville, everything has been said about that, but Trump’s whataboutism, ‘many sides’, has been taken as a signal of neutrality or wholesale endorsement by white supremacists. They have been obstensibly emboldened by those events. I really, really don’t want to plunge into the historical depths and argue exactly why punching Nazis in the face and scaring them away is absolutely imperative (this piece argues everything I hold on this subject). Boston was a triumph for anti-fascism, correct, but the circumstances of Charlottesville show a deeper sickness. Trump argued the Boston counter-protesters were ‘anti-police agitators’ anyway. It’s one of the few times I think Trump has been deliberate in his wording. Particularly the framing of ‘anti-police’. And he is on the side of the police, or specifically, his warped view of patriotism embodied by Arpaio.
Trump’s pardon of Arpaio delivers the promise of Presidential power to such rhetoric. That he will defend the white supremacist elements of the police state which, by all accounts, is a dominant culture in policing. This signal is deeply and completely disturbing. Especially at a time at which he is rearming the police with military equipment. Putting military equipment in the hands of officers like Arpaio is fascism. That is fascism. It’s fascism.
The second point is the one that really puts this stuff into perspective, and it concerns the courts. What we have witnessed over the last eight months is the incremental efforts of the fascist culture in the White House be routed by court action. At several turns, and more to come, the authoritarian agenda of the administration has been disrupted or wholesale destroyed. What Trump’s pardon does is equip the white supremacist police officers, Sheriffs, and, to put it bluntly, the fascist police state, with a get-out-of-jail free card. It gives them carte blanche to expand Arpaio-like patriotism. Quite literally in fact. Federal district courts have ruled against Trump’s agenda time and time again. Many speculated following his election victory that the courts and the justice system would act as a check on his power. Trump is determined, however, to destroy what he sees as an obstacle to his agenda. An obstacle to his true patriotism. Trump has nothing but plain disdain for the courts’ insistence upon correct justice, they are saboteurs of patriotism.
The pardon is not the first time he has tried to tear his teeth into the Courts system, he is already shaping much of the federal court system in his image. The pardon is different in that it delivers a clear and direct ‘fuck you’ to the courts’ efforts to check on his power and ideas. It should be the last resort in a President’s arsenal to push their view of society forward. Trump used it fairly early for a President. It shows a willingness on his part to defend and develop the authoritarian ‘strong man’ agenda against the courts. It overrules justice and puts it squarely in his hands. That’s what a pardon has always done, of course. But doing it so early, before a sentencing trial. That’s new. And in the circumstances of Arpaio, someone who unequivocally committed the crime and did not suffer in the least bit.
Trump’s pardon inaugurates a world of justice where torturers can get away with torture. He is using power in a manner to strip the courts of their own power to control his agenda. He is removing an obstacle to reshaping American patriotism. There is no other word for it but fascism.
I am reminded of another time a disgraced President showed his disdain for the justice system. Although in this instance he had finished his Presidency in disgrace.
Richard Milhous Nixon and Andrew Jackson are probably the only Presidents who come close to comparison with Donald Trump, maybe Warren Harding too. Nixon’s comments reveal to us a viewpoint at which the President is above the law. In which, in some sense, there can exist individuals and actions ‘above the law’ in the first place. I think Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is not a typical pardon in light of this reason. A pardon is usually a tool of morality, used by Presidents to aid those who they view have been under gross injustice. It’s not because Arpaio suffered great injustice that he was pardoned. He was gifted this. He was rewarded. His crimes cannot be punished. You cannot punish him. He did nothing wrong. It was a fascist action.
And now we finally come full circle from Trump’s announcement of President, and his xenophobic white supremacist rhetoric, and finally him pouring Presidential power into action.
I started this piece arguing that what a person is before they take office is only amplified further when they enter such an office. Donald Trump has always been reprehensible. He didn’t want black people counting his money — “Black guys counting my money! I hate it, the only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” — and he bragged about sexual assault on camera. I could list all his disgusting, reprehensible actions. How he took cancer charity money into his own business, for example. But such a list would literally exhaust me.
At this point, Donald Trump closely resembles a bit in The Simpsons when Mr. Burns is shown that he is so diseased that all his illnesses are competing simultaneously. They are blocking each other, meaning no single disease has full dominance. He is indestructible because of this. In the same way, there’s no dominant despicable narrative about Trump. He is so problematic it is impossible to pin down a single reason, other than the totality, as to why he is reprehensible.
These qualities, this utter venom, have been enhanced by the Presidential office. Not just in rhetoric but in action. Trump has shown himself to be more than willing to be the vehicle for American fascism. I don’t know if he’s fully aware of it. His ‘strong man’ conception of government is basically fascistic.
This is why I believe the Arpaio pardon to be the beginning. Trump has the whole executive branch at his fingertips. He found a button that enabled him to disable an obstacle to his expansion of patriotism; the court. This is the beginning of his seven years (yes, seven years). Maybe the precursor to Ivanka’s term too (I won’t be discussing that today).
So too has he shown his willingness to further authoritarianism in his action to suspend the entry of transgender individuals into the military.
V. NATION AT WAR WITH NATION
On the same day he signed the pardon Donald Trump signed into action a ban on transgender individuals entering the U.S army. He floated this idea before in a tweet. On Friday he delivered the full policy. There are/were 15,500 transgender individuals serving in the U.S military. Whilst Trump blames the cost of their medical care, it is incredibly obvious this was a bone to throw to his base. Much like the pardon. Except I think this egregious action is all the more sickening for a few reasons.
Firstly because the prejudice it is based in is so revolting. The GOP net large has been pandering to its base with similar policies floated, with the fear of transgender people as public bathroom predators. For a little context, Joe Arpaio had a webcam running in a womens’ bathroom. So, you know, moral hypocrisy and all that y’know.
On a basic human level I do not fully understand the fear and ‘othering’ of transgender folks. I think it might be because they threaten the stability of nuclear gender normality or whatever. Or because twisted evangelicals have perverted God’s word to drive a disgusting social agenda. And the GOP in turn see this as a petri dish for angry white voters. Whatever. It’s disgusting. That’s obvious.
Secondly, because the economic reasoning of it are fundamentally and utterly flawed and, actually, fucking revolting. Medical care for those 15,500 troops costs 0.0014% of defense spending. Defense spending also includes over $84 million for erectile dysfunction medicine. So money is not really an issue for the US military. The most disgusting point is that all the full cost of one of Trump’s weekend trips to his Mar-A-Lago is the exact equivalent of the cost of those 15,500 troop’s healthcare. Some other math says that six months of Mar-A-Lago trips is likely equal. With this, Trump gluttons himself and funnels federal money into his estate. Whatever financial reasoning he has for it is bullshit. If he just watched Fox News all weekend at the White House instead of his Mar-A-Lago mansion then he would save the federal government millions of wasted dollars. This is at the time that the city of Flint, Michigan, still does not have a clean water system, after over 3 years. The cost to provide a clean water system to that city may soon be eclipsed by Trump’s unnecessary trip budget.
The ban itself makes no sense. It strips America of troops, at a time at which it is escalating a war in Afghanistan. For the first time in decades there has been a shift backwards in the social policy of the U.S military.
Senator Tammy Duckworth had heavier words on the ban: “When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk, I didn’t care if the troops saving me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown.”
So why do it? Why? I believe it’s mostly because Trump gets off on his base’s attention. It’s why he keeps doing his rallies. Because he needs that tangible, immediate positive attention. He’s ultimately a very emotional person, I think. Feeding them something like this ban allows him to double down on his base. It served him well in getting elected.
The other reason is because I think it aligns in his ‘strong-man’ thinking about governance. It’s tinged with flecks of fascism. I don’t think it’s as a egregious an assault on the justice system like the Arpaio pardon was. But here we do have Donald Trump who dodged the Vietnam draft and called John McCain ‘not a war hero’. Much like the pardon, we have Donald Trump judging the suffering and pain. The process by which the majority of transgender individuals enter the military. Their day-to-day life. I do not want to make sweeping statements but one can easily say that most of their lives are not easy. Too many hot takes argue that Trump is the end result of ‘too much progress’ but, in my mind, that is bullshit. That there should be a rubber-band attached to the morality and decency of a society’s progress is utter nonsense. There does exist, often, generational shifts, as many see the pendulum swinging endlessly between Left and Right governments. But the ‘too much progress’, the ‘end result of identity politics’, puts the blame on those who fought for the progress to begin with. It does not address the fundamental fissure at the heart of American politics. The dividing generational line.
The majority of Trump’s support comes from, overwhelmingly, old and white voters. A majority of white women voted for him too. It is too simple to say that all his voters are racist/stupid/sexist/Nazis etc. But those who still voted for him knew full well that his racism and sexism would not affect them, and in that they are complicit in this. They were complicit in voting in an aspiring fascist.
And that base of his loves stuff like this ban. Six out of ten Trump voters, even after Charlottesville, can never see themselves abandoning their man. And I think that number is probably higher.
The ban is just part of feeding his base. It’s part of an autocratic effort, supported within the Trump administration, to determine the validity of certain identities. If you are transgender in the United States, you cannot serve in the military. Your life is seen as less valid. You cannot sacrifice yourself for your country. You are worth less. Illegal immigrants, people of colour, and transgender individuals. The persecution of these minorities is part of a wider effort to create instigators out of victims. To make the white majority still feel oppressed or belittled. An incredible tweet-thread following Charlottesville lays it all a bit clearer than I can.
Fascism has its opponents. It has its victims. I think we’re beginning to see that become realised in America. That includes the boosting of the police state. To the point at which immigration officials can invade schools to scurry and search for children. All in some effort to provide ‘safety’. The total amount of violence caused by fleeing refugees still rests at zero, whereas, just this year, by June, there have been over 6,880 gun-related deaths and 150 mass shootings committed overwhelmingly by radicalised white men. Heather Hayer, was killed by a Nazi at Charlottesville. ‘Safety’ is not the end goal of the Trump administration, it’s control.
With all that out of the way, I hope I’ve managed to get across the constitutional crisis engulfing America right now. And convince you concretely that the Trump administration is fascist. I don’t think it’s a fascist dictatorship yet, these things ebb and flow, and I don’t know if such a thing is even possible in the American context. I fear it probably is. But the administration is fascistic. I believe this framing is important not just for the ‘resistance’, but for us as Western society to take note. To calm down and review the surroundings. To fully lay out how and why we got to this place. If anything it’s good for the emotional health to take account. Take inventory. It is good to view what we have left to fight the fascist administration. Trump has signalled with the pardon a willingness to scoop the courts from the resistance’s arsenal. What else do we have to disrupt him?
The last eight months lead me to believe America was undergoing a shift to fascism, and now I think that’s where it is now. I’ve described the logic and reasoning behind the turn to fascism. That’s my central argument. We’ve reviewed the totality.
So how do we stop it?
If you scan your eyes further up you’ll discover I think he ‘will not lose’. That he will serve ‘seven years’. I don’t fetishise my pessimism about this. Actually, nihilism. Let’s be frank. My own country is probably fine, by the way. America, though? Even after the constant loss of staff, even after everything you’ve read here, even after, well, the last eight months, I still think Donald John Trump will be re-elected as President on the 3rd November 2020. This is not just to ‘prepare for the worst’ but to prepare for the worst. I don’t buy the argument that Trump is failing. He’s failing America, of course, but his voters? I don’t think so. It’s part of expanding Nixon’s Southern strategy. Empower and embolden white voters and reinforce their racial fears.
There has been enough of a shift in the demographics that make up American politics to warrant a review of political groupings. There is a very healthy amoeba of demographics that make up the current insurgent ‘white identity politics’. One could see this as the logical outcome of a nation which will be non-white majority by 2050. What’s less logical is why that bloc of white voters keep voting for the same bunch of bastards. The same bastards who asset strip the state in the name of freedom, heritage and protecting America. Who reward the top 1% of people with tax cuts so that millions can be stripped of healthcare. I genuinely believe Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican congress are guided by some weird Ayn Rand warped conservative ideology. An ideology which simply does not work. But it’s not just ideas, it’s venom too.
In a New York times piece in 2009, journalist Paul Krugman was almost prophetic in an op-ed detailing the ‘Politics of Spite’. Before misdiagnosing the ‘weaker position’ in my opinion.
Anyone surprised by the venomous, over-the-top opposition to Mr. Obama must have forgotten the Clinton years. Remember when Rush Limbaugh suggested that Hillary Clinton was a party to murder? When Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those Medicare cuts? And let’s not even talk about the impeachment saga.
The only difference now is that the G.O.P. is in a weaker position, having lost control not just of Congress but, to a large extent, of the terms of debate. The public no longer buys conservative ideology the way it used to; the old attacks on Big Government and paeans to the magic of the marketplace have lost their resonance. Yet conservatives retain their belief that they, and only they, should govern.
So why do they keep voting for bastards? Because I think there’s a good chunk that would rather spite ‘liberals’ than be proven wrong. There’s also millions upon millions of Americans who have been psychologically programmed over the decades by Fox News fear-mongering. Its audience is mostly old folks. There’s small anecdotes that paint a picture of a state of mind that has an older generation hostage. And thereby whole ballots hostage. These older voters are the make-up of the majority of voters in America. Trump did not win the popular vote, remember, but he won it where it counted. This is my first point: Trump will win not just in thanks to the 6/10 loyalists but all the ‘reluctant’ Republicans again. The Trump cult, and it is a cult at this point, are more than happy to tick the box for their man again. Whatever mistakes their man makes is just because of the Democrats or fake news media or whatever reason Trump makes up. He’s created an alternate dimension where their anger can feel comfortable. Their media diet is so warped around ostensibly dishonest outlets. For lack of a better term, they are beholden to fake news sources, with no sign whatsoever that they want to change such information intake. I think 1/3 of the American population is genuinely a lost cause.
I don’t know how you psychologically deprogram an entire generation of people. I don’t know how you teach them that climate change is a thing and they should stop voting for people who want to destroy them. Steve Bannon recently admitted, basically, the Trump campaign was a fraud. A very successful one. Adding on the incumbency effect, I think Donald Trump would capture the same votes again. Probably more. He’d safely win the GOP primary at this point, so you can tell how little buyers’ remorse is present on that half of the camp.
As said before, it is getting incredibly difficult to convince voters of even the most basic of facts and information. This is because of the junction we are at. We are at the cusp of technological innovation that could take us to forage the universe, but instead we’re fighting fascists. We should be having arguments about how to implement automation, mass unemployment, and alleviate the disasters of climate change. Instead we’re fighting fascists. This is because of the old-age biological impulses. Trying to convince someone that their worldview is wrong is, quite literally, attacking them. There is a fight-or-flight response. A person is more likely to believe even harder in what they held prior to you trying to convince them. It’s called the ‘backfire effect’.
I talked about it in my 2016 thing as probably solving the Fermi paradox. We all adhere to it. It’s useful to finally have some scientific analysis of this mechanism, even if it’ll kill us. Like finding out about an asteroid headed here to wipe us out. A weird amount of comfort in knowing that ‘huh, so that’s what it was’, and that’s what killed the world. And that this thing affects us all too! And by ‘all’ I mean myself included. I still won’t be convinced otherwise that most of Spider-Man 3 is actually pretty enjoyable.
Much of this speculation depends on the Democratic candidate too. The Democratic Party is currently at a traffic jam of ideology. The Sanders-Populist ring, e.g the one that could win an election #berniewouldhavewon, is locking horns with the Democratic establishment. The centrist establishment depend on a lot of fundraising from corporate entities. Despite Sanders’ unprecedented raising of small-funds, this centrist establishment is held hostage by corporate interests. It’s why you don’t see them taking the fight for universal healthcare out and about. It’s why I think they will probably nominate Cory Booker in 2020. If they want to commit electoral suicide then they’d bow to the corporatism god of Mark Zuckerberg, who Trump thinks apparently is his greatest opponent. That’s what my analysis depends on. If instead they nominate Sanders or a Sanders-style candidate, and hopefully someone younger, then I think, quite earnestly, all bets are off.
But, even then, I think Trump will squeeze in his seven years. And even then, we have to look to the short-term solutions. Cutting Trump out of the executive branch does not carve out the culture of fascism. It doesn’t get rid of scores of people complicit in Trump’s actions, who would then advise President Pence. A man who supported electrocuting gay people to turn them straight. Of course, in this topsy-turvy world, I would rather a President who has an inkling of understanding foreign policy rather than a dangerous malicious asshole. You have to take what you’re given. Besides, if Trump is impeached then Pence is probably gone in 2020 anyway; too toxic. In the event that Trump is impeached, which I do not think will happen, I fear there will be riots and violence unseen in American history. There’s signals already that the fascists attached to Trump won’t back down without violence and destruction.
The other stronger point I have is that hopes of a short-term solution is probably not going to pan out. The grand plan is to get the Democrats to take the House and begin impeachment efforts. Taking the Senate is a pipe dream, that’s always been assumed of 2018. More importantly, the Democrats will have a handle on many Congressional committees able to stall and prod at the Trump administration for clues on impeachment.
I don’t want to enable neoliberalism, which is what I think the majority of the Democratic establishment adheres to. I think much of that post-industrial policy led us to the crisis of fascism we know face. But they would not be fascistic enablers on the level of the GOP. You have to play whatever hand you’ve got dealt.
But to thread such a needle would require the Democrats to take the House. I’ve discussed previously how Trump is a natural continuation of the authoritarian elements in American politics, and particularly the Republican Party. It was the GOP that constructed an impenetrable wall of gerrymandered state seats. This extends to the national Congress too. That is now the greatest threat to American democracy. More importantly, however, is that even with a health % majority of the vote, even 5+ points, the Democrats would not take the house in 2018. Whichever party holds the House in 2020 also determines redistricting too, because of the census, so the GOP can further delight in gerrymandering democracy. The Republicans would remain in control of all three branches.
Some people talk of the pendulum swing. The Left to Right. It comes in generational tides, really. What I think the GOP wants is to invent a way so that the pendulum swings on the Right side for much longer a period than it does on the Left. By ‘longer a period’ I mean decades.
This is why the GOP is standing so idly by as Trump tweets and rages and does whatever he thinks is necessary. They give so little pushback. The healthcare fiasco was on a complete knife-edge, and relied upon a single Senator having, for one moment, a piece of a spine. They know that Trump’s strategy cannot hurt them electorally. They can asset strip and reward the 1% all they want.
They are beholden, too, to the Trumpublican base that is the majority of the GOP. It’s why Joe Arpaio, who wants to run for Senate, is a credible threat to Republican Senator Jeff Flake. They are held political hostage by Trump, but he won’t damage their chances of election. Maybe incrementally. Maybe the next generation of voters, who utterly hate the Republican Party, will be able to oust them. But for the next seven years? They can’t do a thing.
Trump will probably win re-election in 2020. The House and Senate will stay Republican in 2018. Probably even until 2020 and a little after that.
One important side-note is that fascism always demands consent. There’s already a weird attachment within the Republican party too. This is the party whose subsistence-based sex education belief is causing an epidemic of teen pregnancy. Consent was also mixed into the Trumpcare bill, in which rape and domestic violence would likely become pre-existing conditions, which would cause one’s insurance premiums to skyrocket. Trump’s legacy with consent needs no introduction too.
But fascism requires consent, it’s almost a carnal desire on the part of the fascists. That need for immediacy, for you to say ‘yes’. A desperate yes makes it sweeter for them. One must not forget that Nazi Germany did not become Nazi Germany overnight. Hitler fought several elections before winning, well, actually, not even a majority (37.27%). But within the federal system Hitler was able to seize power from that position. Nazi Germany did become Nazi Germany through consent though, to begin with. Anti-democracy can only really destroy the democracy from the inside, from being elected in the first place. The bitter post-industrial anger in many Rust Belt states turned them to vote for Trump, but the prejudice and xenophobic elements cannot be dismissed either. ‘Economic anxiety’ is an inadequate response. I think a much more emotional, human reasoning underpins their attachment and cult. And that would be a subject for a whole different dissertation really.
This is not just pessimistic ‘aw shucks’ hopeless talk. I didn’t even mention Russia having another stab at a cheeky meddle in the elections. I’m not trying to inspire a revolution or ask you to stop campaigning and shouting and protesting. Civil disobedience is literally what America was built on. Well, that and slavery.
What I’m saying, clear as day, is that I do not think traditional electoral politics is a solution to the crisis of fascism facing America. I don’t actually have a solution. Armed insurrection to redistribute wealth and return justice back to the people is an idea straight out of The Communist Manifesto and I don’t think that America has reached peak crisis. Yet.
So what can you do? What can any of us do? We’ve looked at the Trump administration. We’ve seen why it’s fascist. We’ve seen why it is only the beginning of (probably) seven months. So… what’s the point?
HEROES, AND WOMEN FAIRER THAN THE SKIES?
We’ve been extremely lucky in the United States that we’ve never really had a charismatic leader who was capable or organizing people around power and its use. There were people who came close, but most of them couldn’t make it. Joe McCarthy was too much of a thug and Richard Nixon nobody could trust, and Ronald Reagan people regard as basically as a clown. There has not been a figure who could do that. But it could happen. In a depoliticized society with few mechanisms for people to express their fears and needs and to participate constructively in managing the affairs of life, someone could come along who was interested not in personal gain, but in power. That could be very dangerous.
Noam Chomsky said that in 1989. There’s almost too much prophecy throughout American history for this. Enough debate has been made about the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during a time of utter crisis, and the teases of American fascism. You don’t need me to inform you about the Japanese internment camps. America was built on the back of the slave trade, a fascist system socially and economically, and one could say the poison was in its bloodstream from the very beginning. We have tonnes of precedents for what is unfurling right now.
Does Donald Trump know he’s a fascist? He acts like one. So too do the men around him. I think he has a ‘strong man’ view of governance though. Like I said, the office enhances the occupant.
One might also mistake me for being a petty individual with all my insults at Trump. I do thoroughly hate him. I can’t dodge that. But at the end of it all you can see a tortured soul. A real heartless bastard who has never known happiness. The incredible Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik articulates it in clearer terms. There is a distinction between sympathy and empathy. And I do empathise with Donald Trump. To the point at which I think I do grasp the psychological schema that governs his actually quite simple life. And governs America too now.
Regardless, one might think what I’ve put across is a hopeless piece bereft of whimsy and real ‘solution’. What I do want to say is that this is not a binary world. There isn’t going to be one moment and then suddenly Trump is God Emperor dictator. Fascism works slowly. I don’t think it will complete its project either. But the fear for me as a historian and everything I know is that precedents that show something worked can be used in the future. If Trump’s fascism proves popular and sustainable, even if he is impeached or whatever and the fascistic culture still remains, then I see it rearing its head. That this can be installed as a timeline in the fascist’s arsenal as a dry run.
I don’t have any stakes in America either, I’m just an unwilling observer. American politics has been the prime obsession of my adult life. I cannot turn away. It’s a car crash. A car crash I know too many uncomfortable details of, and which I am so personally invested in now. Probably more than my own country’s politics. Because of how much America matters.
This, and all of this, was personally cathartic for me. To try and write out, coherently, my emotions and thoughts on fascism in America. By the end of writing this I feel better emotionally prepared for what comes next. I hope you do too. It’s painful to process all of this information, I know because I just had to process it all. It’s painful in smaller ways than many under Trump’s crosshair. They have it worse. But pain in any form isn’t any less valid.
I do have a real immediate stake in all this, though, obviously, and I see Trumpism and climate denying fascism (as if there is any other flavour of fascism!) as a pre-eminent existential threat. Trump’s pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement jeopardizes potential decades of progress. In light of this, we are facing catastrophic inevitable climate change which will destroy the majority of Earth’s population. It will literally be too hot to breathe for most people in a few decades time. It’s going to be apocalyptic. Al Gore keeps saying that American businesses and corporations are still footing the carbon bill. The federal government abandoning climate initiatives is basically still enough to make me fully intend to escape my country to the mountains of New Zealand to become a vegan goat farmer. Although North Korea probably has something to say about that.
Despite my political pessimism, actually, no, nihilism, I don’t think it’s hopeless to kick and scream and, yes, campaign. Despite everything. Whatever slim miracle of an electoral rout we can pull off, we should undertake it. I hope to be campaigning in the streets of Michigan in a few years time. I did it this year in my own country. Fighting the good fight. The only fight left, really. I still think if there’s any chance of putting sensible climate change policy back on the menu, and stopping a few millions from dying, then it’s a chance we should take. It’s the only chance we can take.
This piece was about American fascism. It was not written to be sensationalist or clickbaity — “Twelve Reasons Why You Should Despair About the Cancer of American Fascism! :P”- but it was about the totality of crisis facing the Western world. I attempted to put a historical frame on this loose canon of an administration. I hope I’ve convinced you that the problem we are facing is much larger than anyone anticipated.
But more importantly, this piece is about you. Despite everything, seriously, I hope you’re okay. I am okay. I’m more okay now. We’ve been told that this would be hard to deal with. If you’re not campaigning and ‘resisting’, then you’re emotionally dealing with it. Second hand or otherwise. It’s tough, right? And I’ve just displayed why it’s going to get a lot tougher. But that’s the challenge. We have the scale. That’s more important than anything else.
I’ve lost hope and faith in humankind being a good force, but that doesn’t stop the fact that there are still good people. People worth banding together, and seeing how we can make each other okay. And maybe, just maybe, changing the world. Making a brighter place for humans and cute animals to live, laugh and prosper. The challenge ahead is insurmountable, but, well, fuck it. Why not have a pop, eh?
Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.
How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?
And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?
Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?
Thomas Hardy, ‘At a Lunar Eclipse’
Hi! I’m alive! I haven’t been writing publicly because of reasons. The first of which is that I’m completing my second novel for release this year. I’m also going to be starting a two year Screenwriting MA at the National Film & Television School. Hoping to break into the industry and all that. I will be releasing more writing things in the coming months though, and more info about that novel thing.
Follow me on Twitter for more regular ‘me’ and pictures of my dog: twitter.com/writerNATE