Page Two: I Am Trump, You Are Trump
The dangerous cancer of a charismatic populist demagogue leader
"Turns out I was a vampire myself
In the devil town"
– Daniel Johnston, "Devil Town"
In these truly hallucinogenic political times, there are so many disconnects giving one pause that the feeling is as though moving forward in a stop-motion animated film where the characters jerkily glide along, every movement unnatural.
The uproar over Uber and Lyft has seemed almost absurdly unreal. Sorry, any way you cut it, in the scheme of things and the history of the City, it's barely a hiccup. But to listen to the post-election caterwauling, one would have thought we had elected a dictator throwing out representative government. The silliest were the assertions of impending gloom and doom for the City that had no basis in reality but were insisted on as absolutely real by citizens and pundits alike.
The root of frustration with some of Bernie Sanders' supporters in their sadly and increasingly hysterical assaults on Hillary Clinton and her supporters is the same as those who voted for Nader. Despite the fiction floated by some, the vast majority of the support for both the candidates comes from those with liberal and progressive leanings. There are real-world consequences to votes. When they are almost comprehensively the complete antithesis of the supposed philosophies of those casting them, their intent is hard to understand. The Naderites brought us Bush. Even now, many of them, pure of conscience and proud of their vote, ignore the result. Certainly Bush wasn't their fault. Except that very specifically he was.
"I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together"
– The Beatles, "I Am the Walrus"
As Pogo said, we have met the enemy and he is us. Read Facebook, your postings, this column, whatever. We are at sea and there is no land in sight. The core problem is always that we sharply criticize others with each of us perhaps not really accepting our own responsibility. If we so accept, this is not to burden anyone with undue blame or misrepresentative guilt. It is to argue that we are a community, not a comic book. This is not Game of Thrones. We are all in this together.
"Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike.
They've all come
To look for America"
– Simon & Garfunkel, "America"
This column's antipathy to conspiracy theories has been long established. Likewise, every latest the sky-is-falling wave of political predictions has always seemed just annoying. FEMA is preparing concentration camps, the president is going to cancel the elections, a phony incident is going to be staged so martial law can be declared, and so on and so on – these claims have not just seemed hysterical but have invariably been proven groundless. Which slows down the next wave of the most dire predictions not at all.
Recently in a thread on Facebook, there was a discussion of the likelihood of a government-led military takeover. One post stated it was far more likely to happen under the Democrats. Can we get over our petty partisan obsessions? It is not really a possibility whether the administration is Republican or Democrat. As often as this has been offered as going to happen very soon, it hasn't.
Usually these assurances of doom are based on lightweight paranoia. Not liking the party in power and finding their political goals abhorrent, instead of accepting the almost constitutionally mandated level of intense political conflicts, the worst is assumed. Those we disagree with must be evil; those whose positions we don't like must boast the worst intentions.
For the most part, I don't buy any of that. But it is clear that there is a dangerous cancer potentially very destructive to a democratically elected legislative body – the election of a charismatic populist demagogue leader.
Such leaders transcend politics as usual, their power and appeal far more personality-based than in party, politics, or ideas. Often their initial election to office is a triumph over a long-ingrained establishment. By definition they are rogues, forces of nature whose relationship to their constituency is remarkably intimate. Offering profound maverick visions, when they encounter the purposefully difficult legislative process they often counter by ignoring accepted democratic governing processes.
In getting elected, their skill set was to go directly to the people, bypassing the traditional established political parties and establishment. In office, when frustrated by legal niceties, they resort to this direct appeal. Ignoring the law, they operate outside it.
Unfortunately, here history provides us at least two rather dramatic examples in just the last one hundred years. In Louisiana, before assassination ended Governor and then Senator Huey Long's control of Louisiana, he ran the state as a personal empire, where graft and corruption predominated.
A generation later in Alabama, George Wallace was equally corrupt, though his addiction was power, not graft. Witness Settin' the Woods on Fire, UT RTF head Paul Stekler's brilliant documentary on the ex-governor. After suffering defeat in his first bid for governor in 1958, Wallace swore that no other politician would ever more effectively use the race card. In his quest for power, Wallace became one of the South's leading and most outspoken racist leaders, promising "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever."
The sky is not going to fall, FEMA is not going to put you in a concentration camp, the sitting presidency is not going to stage false-flag operations to remain in office. But the potential consequences of an administration led by a narcissistic demagogue more interested in personal power than ideology or policy are terrifying.
I have no inordinate fear of Republicans or Democrats. But in a way I never have in my life before, I'm terrified by the potential election of Donald Trump as president. And, that, unfortunately is exactly what excites and mobilizes his followers.