The domestic spying, impeachment, and election irregularities of the Trump presidency matter because of what they tell us about the managerial system. All the public talk of democracy is for show; the whole point of the bureaucracy and the party system is to prevent any popular, democratic movement that would threaten the ruling class’ privileges.
As President Trump put it, “They don’t hate you because they hate me. They hate me because they hate you.”
In this, he was correct. After the lockdowns and election issues of 2020, the MAGA movement is now a full-on “anti-regime” movement rather than a Trump-focused one. And the ruling class and its managerial enforcers are self-consciously hostile to large swaths of the American people.
A Mixed Record
The Trump presidency was a mixture of both good and bad. The economy roared, immigration went down, and he did not start any new foreign wars. He also fought to stop renewed coronavirus lockdowns. He deserves a lot of credit for all of this.
But he was a flawed vessel of populist nationalism. He made a huge mistake by putting standard-issue Republicans, globalists, and wealthy corporate types into positions of power. Predictably, they undermined his administration from within.
And, while his plain talk was refreshing, he was frequently “all talk,” as with his promises to label Antifa a terrorist organization or to put Hillary in jail. He promised a wall, and we do not have a wall. He also spent too much time listening to his daughter and son-in-law, who share neither the concerns nor the economic struggles of the American middle class.
Trump’s weaknesses as a strategist and manager were particularly evident after the election. The Navarro reports are damning, as they document numerous irregularities, rule-changes, and statistical improbabilities that cannot easily be refuted. But instead of organizing and staffing a legal team to address the steal as it began to unfold months before the election, he was caught flat-footed. He preferred to spend much of the last few months on fundraising based on false promises of some eleventh-hour victory or similar magical thinking.
The legal strategy was further marred by the presence of grifters like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who overpromised and under-delivered and then went bonkers.
To those who would label my assessment defeatism, ask yourself this: “Doesn’t a winning strategy actually win?”
The Capitol protest of January 6 was the farcical end of the Trump presidency and election fight. While it was no insurrection or coup, it was more than a mere protest. It was a declaration of no confidence for the elected officials in both parties, whom Trump rightly labeled the Swamp.
But winning takes more than a noble cause or aroused emotions: it takes an effective and realistic strategy. The Capitol protest will continue to do more harm than good, not least because it was tainted by violence. While Trump is not legally responsible for violence done by his supporters, his post-election rhetoric and calls for a march on the Capitol led his supporters into a trap. These people believed that somehow if they were numerous and energetic enough, their efforts and their presence would have to change the results. This is not how things work.
If Trump didn’t mean for there to be violence and confrontation, he should have directed his and his supporters’ energies into a more productive direction when his legal challenges failed. By January 6, there was no real way for him to accomplish anything without far more violence than he or the American people were prepared to accept, such as martial law or its equivalent.
It’s telling that President Trump told his supporters on their way to the Capitol that “he’d march with them” and then just went home.
January 6 was the MAGA Bay of Pigs.
Unleashing the National Security State on the Right
Last summer was a time of massive and widespread violence. Instead of treating it as an insurrection, however, Trump’s proposals to use the military met with considerable resistance from the establishment and the Pentagon. It’s a good reminder that Antifa was always a tool for those in power, in spite of their uncouth appearance.
The attack on the Capitol, however, has made the ruling class enraged and a little scared. They are now acting accordingly. Everyone involved will be prosecuted, and many will be charged with serious offenses that carry long prison sentences. Adjacent people and institutions will also feel the heat. Denying Biden’s electoral legitimacy will be deemed the equivalent of denying the Holocaust.
We have already seen the strength of this effort with the coordinated censorship of social media, the mass arrest of demonstrators, financial harassment of right-leaning organizations and figures, and the suddenly bellicose rhetoric of the Defense Department. The FBI hinted at the coming crackdown with the ludicrous suggestion that right-wing terrorism is a bigger threat than Antifa and BLM.
This is like the Reichstag Fire for the Left.
In other words, the crackdown in response to the Capitol protest will far exceed the event’s magnitude. This is certainly not the worst violence our country has seen, nor is Trump alone in loose talk. Former President Obama bears a lot of responsibility for the BLM murders, including those of five Dallas police officers for his similarly incendiary rhetoric. Moreover, last summer, many prominent Democrats now calling mere trespassing an “insurrection” were encouraging violent action in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Selectively condemning violence because of the offenders’ political affiliation, along with the overwrought talk of a “coup” and pious incantations of how the protests defiled the sacred “House of the People,” is all a little too much to bear. The Capitol has long been a den of thieves, replete with sexual offenders, crooks, and sycophants for the oligarchic class. What happens there on an average week is a greater offense to the Constitution and principles of democracy than the January 6 protest.
Moreover, if the Capitol were so sacred, Jimmy Carter would not have pardoned the Puerto Rican terrorists who attacked the Capitol and shot five congressmen in 1954.
Both sides have their crazies, but only Democrats turn theirs into law professors or feel the overwhelming obligation to pardon them for political violence.
Jumping in front of a speeding train doesn’t make you brave or committed. It does not help the cause. Effective activism encourages our side and discourages the other side. A half-hearted attack that gives an excuse for the security state to ramp up and be deployed against the Right is not a win. Contrast the Capitol protest with the large, peaceful protest by Virginia gun owners last summer; in its wake, even the Democratic governor and legislature failed in most of their outlandish gun control plans.
The Capitol protest will mean that the Democrats and the national security apparatus they control emerges more powerful and more encouraged than they were before, while the MAGA movement will be demoralized, deplatformed, defunded, and possibly disarmed.
The only way forward now is also quite predictable: the ruling class will overplay its hand. Just as the Capitol protest eclipsed discussions of election fraud, the heavy-handed response will soon overshadow the protests themselves. The maudlin propaganda and repression efforts will encourage those on the fence to see themselves more and more as dissidents, without a means of redress within the system and with no incentive to preserve it.
Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. While the Capitol protest was a provocative gesture without any hope of success, the crackdown may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory . . . for the Left.