Where We Are Now: Addenda

The biggest oversight in my recent post is its failure to consider any potential role the Supreme Court might play.

The Court may well play a pivotal role, much like it did in 2000 with Bush vs. Gore. As I wrote several years ago:

Nobody much likes to admit it, but the show that Supreme Court justices put on about adhering to higher principles rather than just going for what their gut wants is quite often just a show. Witness how often conservative justices forget about states’ rights the minute they are asked to rule against a state doing something they consider unacceptably too far to the left.

This principle is likely to play to the Democrats’ advantage this time, despite how the Court tilts to the right. The Supreme Court’s conservatism tends to differ from the present-day “conservatism,” which is basically just warmed-over fascism centered around a latter-day Duce. This can be seen by how conservative justices have screwed Trump over in a number of their recent rulings, by siding with the liberal minority.

Fascism really isn’t very conservative in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, fascism holds contempt for very the status quo that conservatism is based around the reverence of. Conservative justices are heavily biased towards the doctrine of stare decisis, even when this hurts Trump and the GOP.

Plus we have the institutional bias of every justice on the Court to consider: they all, with the possible exception of Justice Kavanaugh, consider the courts to be an important institution, whose co-equal status amongst the three branches is to be jealously guarded and preserved. They know that if Trump is allowed to serve a second term, he will probably run roughshod over the Judicial Branch’s independence, much as he has already done over the Legislative Branch’s.

So the incentive is strong for a majority to rule against Trump in any big dispute that comes up. Higher principles will of course be cited, but the ruling will be what it is.

At that point, the military comes into the picture. Many of the generals don’t much like Trump, either, because so much of what he is flies in the face of military culture since Truman desegregated it. At the same time, that military culture considers intervening in politics anathema. A Supreme Court ruling favorable to the Democrats neatly solves the dilemma: the generals can merely state that Joseph R. Biden is the lawful president and commander in chief, and that they are merely executing his lawful orders.

This, in turn, neatly solves the frightening dilemma faced by the anti-Trump side: that we are, by and large, disarmed and helpless, while Trumpers are armed and willing to use force. If it comes down to an armed contest between the might of the US military and random ragtag weekend militias and rogue police unions, the US military wins, handily.

This fact is obvious enough to probably take much of the fight out of the pro-Trump side. Oh, there will still be fight in them, mark my words: we will be in for a period of domestic terrorism the likes of which this country has never seen, and this in and of itself presents risks, but the immediate conflict would highly favor the anti-Trump side prevailing.

It is important to note that action in the streets will play a role here. The unrest will prompt orders from Trump that the generals are queasy about following. It will further prompt conservatives on the Court to issue a ruling against Trump, as a means of quelling the unrest. Any favorable Court ruling will, in effect, constitute the system using its means to concede the demands of a popular rebellion.

Finally, note that none of this is certain. The Republic is already far closer to death than most are willing to acknowledge, and the illness may well prove terminal. While it is possible (and likely even probable) that the Supreme Court and/or the military may save the day, it is far from certain, and in that case the American left’s pathological obsession with pacifism, and its general aversion to arming itself, will prove to have been one of history’s greatest and most tragic follies.

Where We Are Now

Disclaimer: My Vision Is Faulty

Specifically, I have a real blind spot when it comes to telling when, if, or which Republicans are going to push back. There’s no way I could have predicted that Marco Rubio would fall into line behind Trumpism, while Rick Wilson or Charlie Sykes would join the ranks of anti-Trumpers. More recently, Moscow Mitch’s pushback against Trump’s idea of cancelling or postponing the election came as a surprise to me.

This is all very significant, as we soon shall see, because it is of critical importance in guiding the course of likely future events. What I have tried to do here is to hedge my bets by considering the two major types of alternative, and to rely on the judgment of trustworthy others in those areas where my own vision falls short.

The Old Order Is More Dead Than You Realize

Since he has taken office, Trump has:

  • Enacted a Muslim ban via executive order,
  • Started building a wall along the southern border via executive order,
  • Staffed his Cabinet and agencies without the consent of Congress,
  • Successfully rebuffed Congressional subpoenas, and
  • Sought the influence of a foreign power in the electoral process.

Yes, in some of the above, Congress has tried to stop him. Tried, but not tried as hard as they could have tried. Tried, but failed. In other words, he has gotten away with it.

Such is as it has long been with Republican abuses of power, and the imperial presidency in general (i.e., regardless of party). There was very little accountability for the George W. Bush administration’s war crimes (remember, they outright used torture as an official policy). There was a lesson in this to Republicans, and that lesson was: you will get away with it. As such, Trumpism should really come as no surprise.

As it goes with the Republican Party, so it goes with Trump personally. He was a child of privilege, whose inherited privilege has taught him, time and time again, that laws and social norms are for the little people.

Given all that, and given what the polls say about his current popularity with the American public, of course Trump is going to attempt to prevent a free and fair election, one capable of unseating him, in November. Not only is he going to attempt it, it is entirely plausible that he will be successful in this attempt.

This much is virtually axiomatic; anyone who doubts it is a fool spewing nonsense.

But It’s Not Quite That Simple

At this point, my faulty vision gets in the way. To reiterate, I was actually surprised when McConnell and some other prominent Trumpers threw cold water on Trump’s postpone-the-election trial balloon, but throw cold water they did. Was that anomalous behavior, or was it a portent of a future trend? I honestly cannot say, so I must hedge my bet and consider both alternatives.

If There Is Pushback

It will probably happen after Labor Day. I am relying on the knowledge of Washington insider pundit types here; many of them have whispered that Republicans in Congress might become rats deserting a sinking ship if Trump is still polling as badly after Labor Day (now under a month away) as he is today.

The window is short. If it doesn’t start happening within a fortnight of Labor Day, I don’t see it happening. Realistically, if it doesn’t start happening within a week of Labor Day, I don’t see it happening, but I’m going to err on the side of caution by doubling the size of the window.

It will take an impeachment. This is because of how Trump’s entire life has shaped his personality. It will simply not be possible to convince him that it is in his best interests to adopt strategic long-term thinking (something he seems utterly incapable of) and act lawfully (when laws have never before presented serious obstacles to him). It will be necessary to force him from office. Any lesser measure will prove ineffective at ensuring an at least somewhat free election.

If There Is Not

It will still be necessary to force Trump from office. It’s just that, given that both impeachment and the electoral process will have been mooted, extralegal means will be necessary. I’m talking about a mass popular insurrection, the likes of which have swept many governments from power in many other nations throughout the world.

It will be possible. Six months ago, I would have been very glum about the prospects of this, given how shamefully passive most liberals had been up until then. Now, after the waves of Black Lives Matter protests, I am rather more optimistic about the prospects for free and open society continuing to exist.

I don’t think liberals are there quite yet, but I think the destruction of the electoral process will probably serve as a sufficient radicalizing agent to turn most liberals (and many centrists, and a few conservatives) into revolutionaries. Not full-fledged anarchist revolutionaries, mind you, but revolutionaries nonetheless.

The Stakes Are High

In 1940, during the early days of the Second World War, Churchill remarked:

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Make no mistake, what we are fighting is the new fascism, and the stakes this time are every bit as great as they were eighty years ago.

Revolution, Reform and the Way Forward

It’s necessary to process some insights which I think are very difficult for many to process, because they require a conception of how broad the universe of belief systems is.

Human society is a very large and complex thing, and we struggle to understand it. By virtue of its very nature, different people get subjected to different aspects of it. That, plus different individuals’ preconceived biases, all interplay to create a world in which different individuals firmly adhere to vastly different ideologies.

And the thing is, for each adherent’s belief system, said system perfectly explains various things that life experience has demonstrated to the believer are beyond the shadow of a doubt true. These things are often the very same ones that have played a disproportionate role in that individual’s life.

The easiest and most natural conclusion for an individual to draw is that he or she (and his or her ideological comrades) are merely acting logically and rationally, while the entire rest of the world is either lying, evil, naïve, ignorant, or foolish.

And so it is on the issue of reform versus revolution. The reform camp sees the various revolutions that have gone very wrong (and there is no shortage of such examples, alas), the numerous examples of elections having demonstrable consequences, and comes to one conclusion. The revolution camp (disclaimer: this is the one yours truly aligns with) sees how political orders inevitably become ossified, how revolution played an indisputable role in securing the freedoms that do exist in bourgeois society, and comes to quite the opposite conclusion.

And the thing is, there is an iron-clad historical narrative, supported by clearly-demonstrated facts, to back up both Weltanschauungen.

Which brings us to the subject of the coming election. Adherents of Establishment politics, be they liberals or (never-Trump) conservatives, see the coming election as the critical thing, the only practical way of unseating Trump. That is despite all the evidence that history has already for the most part moved on from that old political order, like it or not.

Such is the natural outcome of mankind being for the most part a rationalizing, not a rational, animal: intellectual facilities are engaged, not to replace the emotional world of gut feelings with one of logic, but out of a desire to find a more lofty pretext with which to justify pursuing those gut feelings. The evidence in favor of the (to Establishment types) revered status quo being already mostly dead points to an unpleasant truth, therefore in the name of ignoring the truth, the evidence in favor of it is also overlooked.

The presence of such people is in turn an unpleasant fact that many radicals refuse to face. That is unfortunate, as our numbers are small: we are vastly outnumbered by adherents of Establishment politics. Complaining about how unfair this state of affairs is does nothing to challenge the indisputable fact that it is the current state of affairs.

What it all boils down to is that while it probably will take a popular revolution to unseat Trump, such a revolution cannot happen until electoral politics first fails, or at least shows all signs of failing to, achieve this same outcome. Trump’s successful interference with electoral politics appears to be the most likely motivator for vast masses of liberals and centrists to be radicalized into pursuing change via direct action. Absent that, we will simply lack the numbers needed for a successful insurrection.

Until this happens, it is the duty of radicals to quietly prepare for the opportunity and to wait for it. When the opportunity manifests, it will be our duty to not push people away from the struggle because they’re upset about the bourgeois concern of the election being meddled with. Revolutions must be pursued with the masses that actually exist, not the masses that radicals might wish existed.

There is a chance we won’t get there after all. Mind you, Trump definitely wants to give cancelling or indefinitely postponing the election the old college try. The question is how much support from the rest of the Republican Party there will be. Moscow Mitch definitely did not sound very enthusiastic about that idea when it was floated. Maybe he perceives that there’s limits to how much they can push things, particularly in light of how much unrest there has already been this summer. Maybe he has enough lingering garden-variety conservatism in him to still be repelled to some degree by fascism. Who knows? What matters here is what he does more than why he does it.

I’m following some insider Establishment type pundits, and they all say that the world may start moving after Labor Day; individual Republican politicians may perceive Trump as doomed and their personal chances as being better if they turn on him. If this happens, it will be a tipping point, and tipping points happen suddenly, unexpectedly, and rapidly.

But if Trump’s party does not turn on him (and, please note, the GOP has proven itself to be quite receptive to the idea of being a fascist party in recent years), then he very likely will be able to successfully cancel, postpone, or sufficiently invalidate the election to stake a claim to continuing in office.

If that happens, norms and laws (up to and including the U.S. Constitution) won’t help very much. Widespread popular insurrection will be the only option. It is the duty of those of us capable of seeing this to prepare for it, and to realize the nature and limitations of the sort of insurrection that will be possible.

Oh, Yes He Could Stop the Elections

You had better believe he could.

Yes, yes: I know. The law. The US Constitution.

Wake up. Those have already been demonstrated to be mostly irrelevant.

Trump has spent billions on a border wall despite not having the authorization
from Congress, and has gotten away with it.

He has refused to allow Congress its power to subpoena witnesses, and he has
gotten away with it.

He has received foreign emoluments, and he has gotten away with it.

Assertions that the election must happen on time, as scheduled, just because
some dusty old pieces of paper have words saying they must are Establishment
types whistling past the graveyard. The old order has already died, and they have yet to realize it.

He’s already deploying goons to the major cities. They could easily intimidate people into staying home on Election Day, or even be dispatched to polling stations to disrupt them. Many states are controlled by Trumpists, and would gladly obey their fuhrer’s orders to not hold the elections if so requested.

The rule of law can’t save freedom. Only mass pressure from below can.

Phantom Menace, Part II

Recently, I wrote:

We also have the threat of right-wing terrorism, or should I say the virtual certainty of it. The American Right is an overall fascist political movement. Fascists believe in seizing power ruthlessly, and that nobody but themselves have any business being in power (or even are fully proper members of the nations they reside in). (One only has to consider the trope, long present amongst right-wingers, particularly rural ones, that they are the “real Americans” and theirs is the “real America.”) They also have guns, and lots of them. There is really only one logical takeaway from all this, and that is that they will start using those guns to fight those whom they believe unworthy of ruling the nation.

Right-wing domestic terrorism is already the dominant variety in the USA. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

At that point, we will have a national domestic security crisis. The logical response to that will be to enact new measures aimed at targeting and suppressing the violent subversives.

So as to avoid cluttering up that article with a digression, I left out the point that the menace from those domestic-security measures will not be merely a future one, when a fascist takes power. Far from it: the temptation will be nearly as great for Biden to use them against the radical left as it will be against the far right.

This is the case, even in the absence of any equivalent proclivity towards political violence on the part of the American left. That is merely a fact, and facts and logic often prove little or no obstacle to the exercise of political power. Authoritarianism is, at its core, both illogical and highly destructive, yet this has done little to prevent it from being exercised throughout history.

The Democratic Party has plenty of centrists in it, Biden is himself one of those centrists, and he is likely to appoint many centrists as his advisers. Targeting both ends of the political spectrum is just the sort of thing that a centrist (who believes both sides to be approximately equally off-base as a core part of his or her weltanschauung) would find inherently appealing.

So the centrists, self-professed enemies of authoritarian extremism, might themselves get suckered into becoming precisely the sort of enemies of liberty they believe to be defending against.

They are, in fact, uniquely vulnerable to it.

As a left-wing anarchist, I have had to contend with the unpleasant fact that anti-capitalist revolutions have a sad record of creating, not greater liberty and equality, but greater tyranny. As a person opposed to both capitalism and authoritarianism, I have been compelled by my beliefs and my knowledge of history to explore the pitfalls that led revolutionaries astray. I am hardly unique; such interests are common amongst anarchists.

They are not nearly so common amongst centrists, securely ensconced in their firm and deeply-held emotional attachment to both-sides-ism. Most centrists are well aware of the Terreur (and will eagerly base sermons to radicals around it), yet blissfully ignorant of the Semaine Sanglante (where in a week at least as many were slaughtered in the name of keeping society safe from radicalism as the former did in ten months).

In the application of the security measures, therefore, there is every reason to be concerned that centrists will be smug, cocksure, and ignorant. That is a dangerous combination of characteristics, to say the least.

The Phantom Menace

Let’s be optimistic and assume that Biden wins in November and is allowed to take office in January. If so, we may well be heading into a period of history which will later prove to have been a battle with a mostly phantom menace, one which let a real menace grow and fester.

The phantom menace would be the power of the political right to frustrate Biden’s agenda, and the real menace would be the continued dismantling of checks and balances against autocracy, particularly the continued growth of the imperial presidency.

On that latter point, what simpler and easier way to counter the opposition than for a Democratic president (one with a popular mandate behind him, unlike the opposition) to assert his prerogative to continue the decades-long growth of the power of the presidency at the expense of the other two branches of the Federal government? Obama did it, and in doing so unwittingly helped create the monster that is Trump.

Then there is the Senate and its antimajoritarian traditions to contend with. The Democrats chipped away at those during the Obama Era, too, only to bitterly regret it later. If the Democrats take the Senate (as they might) they almost certainly will not earn a filibuster-proof majority, so the temptation to dismantle the filibuster will then likely prove too great to resist.

We also have the threat of right-wing terrorism, or should I say the virtual certainty of it. The American right is an overall fascist political movement. Fascists believe in seizing power ruthlessly, and that nobody but themselves have any business being in power (or even are fully proper members of the nations they reside in). (One only has to consider the trope, long present amongst right-wingers, particularly rural ones, that they are the “real Americans” and theirs is the “real America.”) They also have guns, and lots of them. There is really only one logical takeaway from all this, and that is that they will start using those guns to fight those whom they believe unworthy of ruling the nation.

Right-wing domestic terrorism is already the dominant variety in the USA. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

At that point, we will have a national domestic security crisis. The logical response to that will be to enact new measures aimed at targeting and suppressing the violent subversives.

Meanwhile, it is highly plausible that the Republican Party will continue to be a fascist party. Fascism of the Trumpist variety is still quite popular within its base, and it while it is possible that a big humiliation at the polls will prompt a recalculation (and the GOP falling into the hands of Never Trumpers), it is hardly certain this will be the case. Moreover, Trump is not an anomaly; the GOP had been trending fascist well before Trump came on the scene; reversing such a trend is going to prove harder than purging the party of one particular corrupt con-man’s influence.

A de-Trumpified GOP would be an improvement, mind you. It’s just that it would still be a danger; it would represent a return to the status quo ante Trump, and that status quo has been demonstrably shown to be vulnerable to a fascist takeover.

As such, another fascist presidency remains highly likely, and once it happens, odds are that president won’t be as incompetent as the current one is. (That incompetence has been the sole saving grace about Trump; Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and so on were much more effective at consolidating power than Trump has ever been.) This gives us the worst of both worlds: a more competent and ruthless fascist taking the helm of a Republic whose guardrails have been further weakened, and with a package of anti-subversion legislation in his toolbox with which to use against the left.

What’s particularly perilous in all this is that there is not necessarily always an easy way out. Consider the Senate filibuster: absent dismantling it, it is likely that Biden will prove to be a failed president, unless he asserts unitary executive power to a degree that makes the dangers of scrapping the filibuster pale in comparison. And if Biden is a failed president, the most likely result is that fascism comes roaring back and liberty dies.

Thus, in the name of not going morally bankrupt today, a loan of political capital, one which makes going morally bankrupt in the future when it becomes due more likely, will be taken out.

All I can say is: Beware the phantom menace.

Who Were the Perpetrators?

So, CHAZ/CHOP is no more. This is very much not a surprise; anyone with so much as half a brain could see it coming as soon as the pattern of shootings and the reportage on them became evident.

Not only were there multiple shootings, many of them fatal, at regular intervals, but they were reported as all being in or associated with the CHAZ/CHOP zone, even though at least half of them were not in fact inside the CHOP zone but merely in the same neighborhood as CHOP.

More significantly, information on the perpetrators of the shootings has, up until recently, been basically non-existent. That’s a huge information deficit. Absent any knowledge as to who the shooters are (and what their motives were), it becomes basically impossible to take away anything in the way of an informed conclusion from the shootings.

To understand why, consider the possibility that the police were involved somehow, either directly (we don’t know who the perpetrators were, so we can’t say that off-duty or plainclothes cops are not involved) or indirectly (i.e. the shooters weren’t cops but were encouraged by them) as part of a plot to discredit CHAZ/CHOP.

I do not think it is possible to rule this scenario out with any great degree of certainty, given all that has become known about the pervasive institutional corruption of policing in the USA. I think it can safely be assumed that neither the mayor nor her chief of police are involved, but it is not necessary for either to be involved; any such conspiracy could easily be lower down. In fact, it’s more plausible for it to be so, because it would make for a smaller conspiracy, and smaller conspiracies are easier to keep secret.

It is important to state at this point that all the above is mere conjecture and I have no hard evidence whatsoever to suggest that it is the case. The rub is, the narrative that the shootings are all directly the fault of the protesters also has no hard evidence in its favor, given the almost total lack of information about perpetrators and motives.

The above is the maximally-damaging plausible scenario for the Establishment. A somewhat less-damaging scenario for it is that the shootings are mostly the work of violent right-wing extremists set on discrediting the movement.

Note that (in contrary to the Establishment narritive that it’s the protesters fault) there is actually some evidence in favor of the right-wing extremist conjecture. (Note also that it is not incompatible with the police-corruption conjecture; it is plausible that corrupt cops could have reached out to right-wing extremists and encouraged them.)

Bottom line here is not to be squarely in favor of any of the scenarios above, as all the puzzles are missing a lot of pieces, only to point out that the Establishment narrative (that the zone was a shit-show that had to be ended) is itself one of those puzzles missing most of its pieces, and that to accept it on face value is to fall for Establishment propaganda.

On Testing, Trump Says the Quiet Part Loud

He’s now all but admitted that his regime deliberately slowed down COVID-19 testing for political purposes.

Of course it did. It’s something that made sense to suppose was happening at the time (i.e. February and March), because they USA was doing such an astoundingly bad job at testing that it was hard to chalk it all up to mere random chance.

Remember, community spread in the USA was first detected in Seattle, for the simple reason that Dr. Helen Chu, a researcher Fred Hutch, decided to ignore the regulations and conduct unapproved testing for COVID-19 anyhow. And then there’s the strange and (otherwise mystifying) decision for the Trump regime to develop its own testing, during a crisis, when time is critical, even though the WHO was distributing a test that was already successfully being used in the rest of the world.

Yes, it’s that bad.

So, the most logical answer to the question “Is Trump really meaning it when he talks about deliberately slowing the pace of testing?” is: “Yes he is and yes he did.” It is the answer that jibes best with observable reality.

So, What Next?

When it comes to social revolution, the ball is at this point pretty much in Trump’s court. He’s backed down, to the point of taking the temporary wall down (and the Smithsonian is saving some of the protest art added to it for its archives, which should give some indication at how significant historians believe this era is likely to prove).

So it goes. As I wrote earlier, politics is war by other means, and in war one is never in complete control of the situation.

The question is: what does Trump do next? He is an idiot, so he could well do something monumentally stupid that once again puts him in an extraordinarily weak position. The only thing to do is wait, see, and be ready to pounce if the opportunity once more arises.

At the very least, Trump is continuing to tank in the polls, making it increasingly likely that another big blue wave is coming and will sweep him out of office.

The above may in fact prompt the next revolutionary opportunity. What happens if Trump refuses to honor the result of that election? It is, in fact, more likely than not that he will so refuse. It is totally in keeping with his character, much more so than conceding defeat would be.

It is also possible that the total overall effects of the uprising that is now winding down have yet to materialize. If Trump’s popularity continues to decline, a tipping point may be reached where his Congressional allies turn on him. At that point, his rule has been so lawless that any number of things could form the basis for a second impeachment, one which this time would succeed.

Who knows? As for now, we are in wait, see, and be prepared mode.