How long do you think it will take the national debasement of the Trump era to play out to its gruesome conclusion? It won’t be too long now. You can feel it. The weight of inevitability.
The kind of collapse of collective illusions that America is going through now is not the sort of thing that typically just evaporates. It is a historic cycle, and it will play itself out. It is an old story, of a nation that gets so rich and powerful that it begins to believe that its will and the interests of its ruling class are equivalent to what is good. It produces a sort of moral rot, driven by greed, that starts on the far-flung edges of the empire and slowly creeps into the heart. All empires collapse. The flaws of human nature, the flaws of unbounded capitalism, the flaws of the uncurbed grandiose desire for more of everything eventually eat up all of history’s kingdoms. That’s us. Trump is not the cause of all this; he’s just the cancer produced by our malignant lifestyle of many, many years.
“What about our precious norms!” we all cried as soon as Trump began brushing them all away. He’s done a pretty good job making us forget those. Why were they so easy to destroy? Because many of them were just pleasant fictions to begin with. Trump did not make America greedy and uncouth; we already were. He just stopped pretending. Yes, he is a monster—but he’s a monster that the richest and most powerful and most respected leaders of our country lovingly laid the groundwork for, generation after generation.
The belated attempt to get rid of this fucker may or may not succeed. Either way, things are going to get ugly. The most immediate concern is: When does the violent phase begin in earnest? And how far does it go? The President of the United States is, right now, yelling about a “coup.” That’s fucking dangerous. That’s not something to play with. The president, who is quite open about the fact that he would love nothing more than to be a dictator, is held back by only the thinnest veneer of our vaunted rule of of law, which is exposed to a greater and greater degree every day as a farce. Though we constantly act surprised by Trump’s actions, none of it should be surprising any more. He is acting the way that countless aspiring dictators and strongmen and two-bit gangsters desperate for one big score have acted throughout history. This movie has played itself out over and over for hundreds and thousands of years. It doesn’t have a happy ending. By the time you get to the part where the corrupt leaders is telling his rabid followers that the political opponents trying to investigate him for his blatant corruption are staging a “coup,” you are right on the edge of chaos. The last few years of constant, half-ridiculous uproars may have lulled us to sleep a little bit. I don’t think people grasp how precarious our situation is right now. The script has unfolded all the way up to the point where the angry people start lashing out and everything slides into the fire.
What, after all, should be done in the face of a coup? Donald Trump’s base is a minority of the country, but it is a large minority. The most resolute portion of his base, the true believers, may be no more than ten percent of the population, but that’s still more than 30 million people. And he is, like it or not, the president. He does not have to say these things in grainy Youtube videos; he can say them on the White House lawn. He can say them while surrounded by the full pomp of America’s jingoistic traditions. He can stand up at the UN, or on stages in stadiums, or in the Rose Garden, and say that his enemies are undertaking a coup to remove him from power and destroy our democracy. And if even the most hardcore ten percent takes him seriously, imagine the choice they face in their own minds: to sit around and do nothing while the corrupt deep state pulls off a coup, or to... do something. To rise up! To defend freedom, or democracy, or white nationalist racial purity, or whatever the fuck these deluded people think they are fighting for. When the day comes that we try to remove Trump from power, there is going to be a reckoning. We’re well past the point of rational appeals to a common morality now. That is a joke. There are opposing teams, and the battle lines are drawn in the minds of enough people to guarantee that, one way or another, this thing will get fought out.
If you believe that this can all get fought out in a nonviolent democratic election, you are more optimistic than me.