Puffinati, lend me your ears;
I come to bury DJT, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with DJT………
When contemplating the last hours of the Trump administration, this quote from Stalin came to mind:
“A cadre must know how to carry out instructions, must understand them, adopt them as his own, attach the greatest importance to them, and make them part of his very existence. Otherwise, politics loses its meaning and consists merely of gesticulating. Hence the decisive importance of the cadres department in the apparatus of the Central Committee. Every functionary must be closely studied, from every angle and in the most minute detail.”
Stalin definitely understood problems with Agencies. He also had direct views on how to deal with them..but the quote highlights the biggest structural weakness of Trump’s presidency: the lack of reliable cadres, at every level.
He was an outsider, and a renegade one at that. That was his message, his appeal, and what made him appealing. He tapped into a deep disgust with the Establishment – a disgust that is likely more intense today, in large part because of the despicable way that the Establishment treated Trump, and by direct extension, his admirers and supporters. But that renegade, insurgent approach to winning office brought huge difficulties in governing. Trump had no loyal cadres to turn to, and the material he had to work with was either similarly lacking in personal connections, or actively hostile.
Specifically, his biggest problem has been in the national security establishment, AKA The Deep State: the Pentagon, State Department, the CIA, and the FBI. It is a problem that Trump has grappled with, but utterly failed to dent. With no network of people to tap for mid-level posts, he certainly did not have the time to study closely “every functionary . . . from every angle and in the most minute detail.” He didn’t even have the people who could do this for him. Moreover, the Democrats fought day in and day out to prevent or at least delay those he did nominate from assuming their positions. This had direct effects – it delayed the filling of posts for months on end – but also indirect ones, as in: what capable person in his or her right mind would want to put up with that bullshit? But perhaps the most distressing thing to contemplate about a Biden-Harris administration is that Trump’s stated policy to bella gerant alii will leave office with him, and the neocon resurgence will keep the US stuck in old conflicts and embroil them in new ones, surely a disastrous strategic miscalculation for the 2020s
Trump’s closest parallel in US political history was of course Andrew Jackson. Jackson, like Trump, was a political insurgent who swept into office on a wave of populist disdain for a corrupt establishment. But Jackson succeeded where Trump has apparently failed. How so? Not so difficult to understand…. Whilst Jackson couldn’t utilize Stalin’s means of “addressing” agency problems, he did have much more effective tools than a modern president. He couldn’t kill the underperforming, or consign them to the Gulag, but he could fire them wholesale, peremptorily. Federal employees did not have civil service protection, and the spoils system allowed him to choose and reward loyal supporters, rather than have to lay down with the civil service serpents. Moreover, government is so much larger now. Even absent a deliberate “resistance” within the bureaucracy, its massive size and control over information flow makes it virtually possible to control. And of course, the urban-centred establishment is far larger and more powerful in the 2020s than in the 1820s. Jackson had to tame the Second Bank of the US – and not much else. Corporate power, so inextricably linked with government power, is vastly greater now. The media and information structures are far different too. In Jackson’s day, the media was truly vicious, but reflected a diversity of viewpoints more in line with the diversity within the population. Now, the media is monolithic, and deeply embedded with the state, part of the same Establishment. Moreover, it is acutely vulnerable to manipulation, especially by the Deep State, via everything ranging from leaks, to more systematic manipulation and disinformation campaigns being waged out of Langley and elsewhere.
In sum, the correlation of forces has been far more adverse for Trump than for Jackson. Indeed, given the daunting odds, it is remarkable that he has achieved as much as he has. Trump has fought an unrelenting struggle against tremendous odds. He survived and at times seemed at the verge of victory, only to succumb in the end to the overwhelming forces arrayed against him. Was victory ever really possible? Probably not. But there were times when it looked in reach. A major difference could be that whereas the South lost the US Civil War fair and square on the battlefield, there is a high likelihood that Trump has lost by foul means at the ballot & mailbox and the counting station. After the US Civil War, even in losing by test of arms, the South seethed in resentment for decades, and waged a relentless political, and at times guerrilla, war against those who had vanquished it. Today the widespread perception is that Trump lost an election due to fraud and corruption – a well-founded perception, as the intense fight against efforts to prove it suggest – and resentment has been given a focus that will poison American politics for decades to come.
As “insurrections” go, the affair at the Capitol on Jan 6th 2021 was rather farcical, with limited instances of real violence the exception, and theatre of the absurd the rule. It was utterly aimless, pointless, and ineffectual as a stand-alone action, but it has brought into clear focus the naked savagery that is due to be unleashed by the Democrats (now the governing class) who have now been gifted an opportunity to crush their adversaries. The campaign to do so ramped into high gear after the Capitol was cleared. It continues to intensify, led by the Praetorian Guard of the governing class: the social media and tech companies. The most revealing feature is the stark contrast between the governing class’s reaction to this spasm of mob violence, even as highly limited in duration and extent as it was, and to the epidemic of mob violence that lasted for months from sea to shining sea. It is extremely illuminating that actually burning things down, which occurred around the country in May and June 2020, did not elicit such a hysterical response.
But that’s because those protestors were advancing the interests of the most ruthless part of the governing class, whereas these protestors are expressing their contempt for the governing class.
The attempted assault on the White House in June 2020, let alone the assault on a Minneapolis police station or the nightly attacks on Federal buildings in Portland, were far more intense and angry and destructive than what happened at the Capitol. But to the governing class, those are legitimate targets. They are not, and since the rampage at the Capitol targeted the governing class, it is beyond the pale. Only when the precious denizens of DC feel personally threatened by the people they ostensibly govern do they go to Defcon 1. This reaction is what one would expect from tyrants, and indeed the entire episode is symptomatic of tyranny. Not the tyranny of Trump, but the tyranny of the governing class. The Trump victory in 2016, and his popularity among a massive number of Americans, stems directly from his opposition to the governing class. Trump cannily recognized the widespread discontent, and tapped into it. His populism reflected the undeniable fact that a large fraction of the people were – and are – mad as hell at those who presume to rule, with very good reason. Populism is almost always a consequence of government failure which is why governing classes hate it so much. Frankly, I am pretty sure that the ruling class is not surprised. They would never acknowledge it, but they know they hate these people, and are hated back in return. Which is precisely why they are using this opportunity to try and crush those that they hate, both out of a self-defence reflex, and for the pure pleasure of vanquishing one’s foes. This is what tyrants do. They believe that their power and legitimacy is non-negotiable and indisputable, and that anyone who challenges the one and questions the other is seditious and deserves to be crushed. Their expectation, like that of all tyrants, is that if they exert enough force, their opponents will be crushed or cowed into abject submission. Sometimes that is correct. But often it has the exact opposite effect, with tension and hostility being exacerbated to such a degree that there is a revolutionary convulsion.
The final straw for many of the tens of millions who voted for Trump in 2020 will be the rabid Establishment blackening of Trump’s reputation. Hysterical threats of “domestic terrorism” will mean, as always, a response: maximum state power, strengthened ideological controls, and the crushing of political opposition to intimidate red-state Americans into acquiescence. Many who attended the DC Rally on Jan 6th 2021 have been fired from their jobs. In “freedom and democracy America,” if you exercise your right to assemble and protest, the exercise of your civil liberties is grounds for being fired. As Biden’s appointments reveal, malevolent attention will be directed at working-class America – the “Trump deplorables.” Long ago abandoned by Democrats and the left, they are Trumpers, not Republicans. They voted for Trump, because he stood for them against the Establishment, and the Establishment is making such an example of Trump in order that no future presidential Democrat or Republican candidate will dare to present as a representative of the people. The Trump Presidency has thus brought the US to pre-revolutionary times, and with the reflex of the governing class when challenged being to double down on coercion, the odds have thus greatly increased that soon the prefix “pre-” will be obsolete. Trumpers are now fully aware that the establishment sees them precisely as Stalin saw the Kulaks, and the Democratic party stands in plain sight as not, after all, being a vehicle for class struggle. Like the Republican party, it is designed to preserve the privileges of an elite. Its biggest donors, like the Republican’s, are drawn from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Big Pharma, the arms industries.
As an example to what is coming down the track, look at the homage to the Baghdad Green Zone currently constructed in DC. Just who are the barbarians whom the governing class is attempting to exclude from the nation’s capital? OK, Whilst this could be a particularly grandiose exercise in security theatre & FBI alarums, meant to convey that the country is under threat from “shadowy right-wing insurrectionists”, and thereby provide a justification for sweeping “domestic terrorism” legislation, I believe this also reveals the governing class’s panicked realization that they are heartily hated by a large portion of the populace (and that they know that they are hated for good reason), due to their abject incompetence, irredeemable corruption, and sneering disdain for vast swathes of Americans.
Perhaps the lasting legacy of DJT will be that by upsetting the previously accepted balance of US politics, he will be seen to have been responsible for pulling back the curtain & revealing the true extent of complicity within the Establishment. The same Establishment that never acknowledged or wished to understand the roots of the Trump phenomenon, and as a result, has underestimated it. They underestimate it still. This willful ignorance – alloyed with arrogance & hate-driven ruthlessness – will keep American politics on an irrevocably disunited high boil for years to come.
© DJM 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file