Resident Chumps

Culture, Economy, Education, Justice, Media, Religion, The Life of the Mind, Things that Actually Happen, Uncategorized, War and Politics

What I felt when Donald Trump won the presidential election last night was weirdly akin to what I felt on 9/11—yes, that 9/11: not terror at a catastrophe whose suddenness and magnitude were unprecedented in the history of the world, but rather sad, weary recognition of a smaller, more acute disaster whose antecedents and precedents were all too obvious, an inevitable result—I won’t hesitate to use that word—of a long series of choices that we’d made. I didn’t predict the hour, and I was very, very surprised when it arrived. But I wasn’t shocked.

We are in for a long and unproductive argument about whether or not Trump’s victory represents the revenge of the economically forgotten against the managerial political class or the petit-bourgeois revolt of classic fascism or some stinking eructation of the perpetual sin of American racism. I think it is at once all and none of these things. All of them are symptoms of the deliberate disorder of an unequal society in which the power, wealth, and influence—the real power, wealth, and influence—accrue endlessly to the same tiny sliver of the population, leaving hollow communities in the wake. Even people who are doing well by American standards—I am personally doing very well by American standards—are mostly doing so at greater personal expense to themselves and their families, their friends, and their communities.

This isn’t meant to be a defense of racism and sexism and homophobia and all the other sins against identity, which are evil and wrong. But just as we recognize that terrorism, which is evil and wrong, has roots in the deliberate policies of the American government, so are we obligated to recognize that the persistence of prejudice, even as it tilts into violence, is not the result of some inexplicable defect in the innate character of human beings, but the savage, misdirected lashing out against nearer, vulnerable targets when the real enemy is so impossibly powerful and distant. Wrongs have explanations; they even have reasons.

I didn’t know Trump was coming, but I knew a Trump was coming when I saw the response to the financial crisis. There are plenty of other ills of the American empire, but that was so viciously unjust and so close to home. (I anticipated a Trump as long ago as high school, when I saw what America had done to the old coal town where I grew up, but that was just an inchoate dread that turned me into some kind of political radical.) Sooner or later, I thought, all the useless pablum about everyone getting a bachelor’s and learning to code while the Blankfeins of the world walked free, prospered even more than before, would bring this upon us. It was like a magic spell. It was a misdirected prayer to a trickster god, and here we are living in the accidental fulfillment of our vain rulers’ stupid wish.

Sure Trump was lying—bullshitting is probably a better word, since I don’t suspect he tells untruths instrumentally; he just lives in a collapsed distinction between true and false. But he acknowledged the material circumstances of the country out there, all those people, poor and middle-class alike, who are outside of the communion. Is their rage pathological? Yes. But he had the wherewithal to diagnose it and turn the endemic into a contagion. It got him just enough bodies. Meanwhile, a vaccine existed. The mildest—I mean, the mildest—sort of redistribution would have done it. Instead, we said: go be a programmer, as if everyone could, as if that would do anything for the people who’d still remain in Uniontown, PA.

I happen to believe our civilization will survive this. The Romans managed plenty of crises without collapsing; we focus on the ending only because it appears in retrospect the most spectacular. (In fact, it was slow and almost imperceptible to those who lived it.) Inertia is a powerful thing. I guess I counsel something like a cautious vigilance. I do however think we should stop pretending it’s all malice without cause. It’s shameful; it’s embarrassing; it will be dangerous, and we should be prepared. But no matter who they are, let’s not collapse on the old canard that they simply hate our freedom.

16 thoughts on “Resident Chumps

  1. Of course we will survive this. Trump was inevitable when the progressives started electing a new people. But he won’t stop it; he cannot stop it short of applying measures that would require a full repudiation of the living constitution and the dead Constitution. It won’t happen. Trump is no deep thinker. He can’t imagine such a thing, and even if he could, he can’t make it happen. How many divisions does he have that are personally loyal to him? Zero.

    Trump can’t save America, even half way, or a quarter, or even an eighth. I’d estimate he will go roughly one thousandth of the way. One milli-Hitler, as it were. And even that, progressives will scream bloody murder about. As you are; as they already are. They believe there will literally be pogroms. Relax, good Germans. Fierce Poland is not invading this year.

    Trump will get his 100 days. He’ll do a little bit of good with Supreme Court appointments and executive orders. Perhaps he can help abolish Obamacare, and evict a few illegals. Possibly he can even scale back Obama’s wars. Then he’ll spend the rest of his term on defense, fighting the press, the permanent government, academia, etc.

    1. one milli-hitler. nice. other than that….”scale back Obama’s wars”? but that’s this country’s jobs program! the only one it’s got. and goldman sachs will be running treasury, just how much of a change is this asshole gonna bring?

      this campaign bro’t to you by Michael Bay. move the masses w/massiveness. the curtains have closed, the performers all congratulate each other. for the good of the nation & all that crap, how quickly the hands were unwrung, the brows smoothed, team america embraced, at the 2000 election.

  2. i tend to agree the civilization will survive. after this, it’s in the millennials hands. can’t be too much longer before the numbers swing in favor of the recently 18 crowd and away from the boomers. feels like us gen-xers never had a shot, for better or worse. born too late to actually get sent to fight in the water wars, born too early to see any project venus-type techno utopia.

  3. Yes, Trump was a bullshitter more than a liar. Clinton was just a corrupted liar.
    Clinton, not Trump, stood for that elite “sliver”. Clinton was Blankfein’s candidate.
    Newcastle and Sunderland voted “Leave”; Pennsylvania and Michigan voted Trump.
    Indeed “they” don’t hate our freedom; they hate us because we’ve kicked their asses.
    Folks who work for a living are tired of maudlin, identity politics victimhood porn.

  4. I was not surprised by the election outcome, even though I thought that Trump might have done just enough to himself to allow Hillary to crawl across the finish line as a winner. I do not sing the national anthem or pledge allegiance to the flag and long ago stopped believing in a mythical “exceptional” America. America not a force for good anywhere anymore, if we ever were. We cannot confront, never mind address, injustice and inequality at home, and America continues to be the deadliest nation on earth by far. Nothing to be proud of. Now, much of what could be argued as social progress has been unmasked as a lie and many pages will be turned back.

    While there is plenty of blame to go around, the Democratic Party “leaders” did much to dictate the result by coronating our “queen” for us. They just forgot to read those early Bernie returns. The FBI has since its inception been a flawed organization lead by troglodytes, some of whom happen to be good investigators, so no surprise there. How fitting that Anthony Wiener’s pecker may be the ultimate symbol of Democratic Party failure.

    1. Why do you guys always state your lack of a belief in a American exceptionalism before going on about how exceptionally bad America is in one way or another?

      1. The liberal version of American exceptionalism IS that America is exceptionally bad. “Equity” is the lowest common denominator. Wealth, resources, power and influence are all presumptively ill-gotten gains, per anti-capitalist, anti-competition, anti-JudeoChristian collectivist dogma. It’s the geopolitical equivalent of fatuous moralizing about income inequality domestically.

        That’s why it’s America which must trim its horns in trade and resource development, and America (and Europe) which must siphon money and resources to Third World nations for, coff coff, “environmental” imperatives. (Good China is willing to begin assaying fractional targets in 2030). That’s why only America is “xenophobic” for wanting to secure her borders and eject trespassers.

  5. Like Davidly and many others I was terribly wrong in thinking Trump wouldn’t win. My reaction to his victory was laughter. I was ever so pleased Hillary lost. However it seems to me that Trump became the chosen one for our owners at some point. I’m not really interested in why. I suspect the Trumpeters are going to be sorely disappointed in their savior. Billionaires are always looking to help the little guy after all. There’s nothing really to laugh about, Trump will likely do as he’s told like a good little revolutionary. Revolution my potato.

  6. Five days before inauguration, this post is very reassuring to me. Thanks, Jacob.

    “I happen to believe our civilization will survive this. The Romans managed plenty of crises without collapsing; we focus on the ending only because it appears in retrospect the most spectacular.”

    I completely agree, especially after reading some of Mary Beard’s book SPQR. She writes about the cult of the emperors and notes that Octavian Augustus tastefully “straddled the boundary between the human and the divine with greater success than some of those who followed.” Many things happened in the 1st century AD that parallel changes in American political culture today.

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