Another Very Good, No Bad Week for Donald Trump!
Some thoughts on why establishment forces fail to inform, protect, and prepare American citizens for what may come.
Donald Trump may be the leader of the Republican Party, but he barely surpassed 50% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses, with voter turnout falling to a 20-year low. This embarrassing performance by a disgraced ex-president of the United States, who once sent a lynch mob to hang his own vice president to remain in power, is apparently a "landslide," according to CNN, and "decisive," according to The Washington Post.
Another very good, no bad week for Donald Trump!
The establishment media and Republican Party have broadly refused to contextualize the unique threat Donald Trump poses, and have in turn allowed him to escape cultural accountability for his failed coup attempt, among other things. That cowardly refusal by arcane establishment forces cleared the path for Trump to re-ascend as the Republican nominee, no escalator needed.
What’s even sadder, perhaps, is that in lieu of accountability these asleep-at-the-wheel establishment forces tried to prop up Ron DeSantis as a kind of manageable Trump clone — evil, sure, but in a traditionally digestible way! The plan was simple: position Ron DeSantis as a cookie-cutter conservative who could satisfy the ol’ "we don't like his tweets, but" crowd, whose political appetites are currently defined by their eagerness to engage in an endless white-grievance-based culture war.
That dream was never going to be realized, whether it was DeSantis or Nikki Haley, because most establishment forces never committed to holding Trump accountable — including, by the way, DeSantis and Haley! And so, as a direct result of this new High Society of American Cowards, we remain stuck in a kind of half-baked nightmare.
Regardless of how we got here or why Donald Trump will continue to be framed as strong and powerful by the media, the ex-president receiving 50% of the vote in the first Republican primary contest is, in reality, a clear indication of his weakness. There are a lot of Americans, even conservative Iowans, who have had enough of Donald Trump and his dark movement.
Despite historic first-term legislative victories by President Joe Biden and a strong midterm election performance by Democrats to boot, the mainstream media maintains the laziest of all political narratives: Democrats weak, Republicans strong.
How much political media do you consume that knowingly or unknowingly embraces this narrative? Even among liberals, some element of this narrative has become the default way through which American politics is understood. Joe Biden is weak, Donald Trump is strong. Democrats are in disarray, because left-leaning Americans feel comfortable criticizing the actions of the Democratic Party and its leaders, and the Republicans are in array, despite historic chaos in the House of Representatives, because Republican voters will ultimately support their nominee even if he’s a fascist authoritarian hell-bent on destroying democratic institutions.
In this bland narrative, voters are viewed as pawns who act in predictable ways. Leftists, for example, will end up spoiling Joe Biden’s reelection because of their diverse approach to political engagement. If Biden loses, we can blame the leftists! And in this bland narrative, conservative Americans are seen as unredeemable, unable to understand the threats we face and unwilling to break from their ideological leaders. In this bland narrative, the establishment forces that brought us to this point are not examined, and blame falls on ordinary Americans — Americans who are voting against sustaining a system which fails to satisfy their basic needs.
I’m not convinced by this bland narrative.
In the years after January 6th, when a broad denial about the reality of that day emerged and GOP whitewashing began to take hold, both the Republican Party and the establishment media adopted a sense of inevitability surrounding Donald Trump and his movement. Another rather bland narrative. In defense of this position, the political pundits point to polls — polls that show Joe Biden is presently unpopular (he is) and polls that show Donald Trump will perform well in November (he may).
Lost in their shared delusion as purveyors of God-like objectivity, the mainstream media apparently has no time to reflect on their obvious role in shaping public opinion.
Q: Why do so many Americans participate/follow/believe in QAnon?1
ongoing coordinated fascist misinformation campaign (social media)
ongoing failure to correctly frame news stories and combat misinformation (establishment media)
ongoing failure to improve quality of life for an impoverished working class (establishment government)
all of the above
The media regularly amplifies watered-down versions of conservative misinformation and conspiracies simply because they fail to consider (or actively ignore) the motives of actors they cover. Instead, they gracefully extend their patented pretend-yet-persistent objectivity. This is at the heart of the media’s failure to fully understand the present moment and their ongoing failure to inform the American public about these facts and threats.
With few exceptions, establishment forces no longer possess the ability to correctly assess what is occurring in American politics. Drowning in headlines and competing for clicks, quality journalism becomes more difficult to access, especially in the age of algorithms. With or without institutional support, those reporters and journalists who do the important work of shining light on our present darkness carry doggedly on. Supplementing their work is the work of activists, artists, and academics who remain central voices to the accurate description of our present moment. Small independent communities provide significantly more value than mass media consumption.
There is, of course, a historic comparison for such a moment. In the 1920s and 1930s, most of American media failed to understand the depth of the threat posed by fascism and Adolf Hitler. At that time, in America and in Germany, it was persistent journalists, activists, artists, and academics who spoke clearly and consistently about the very real possibility of a prolonged ideological darkness consuming Western thought — a darkness that could relatively quickly descend into sustained and unimaginable violence.
In our moment, Trump is often cast as inevitable, but those casting him as inevitable seem unable or unwilling to confront the truly profound darkness that would emerge with a second Trump administration. If they did, perhaps they would no longer view his movement as inevitable, because they would understand the necessity of stopping such a movement and immediately begin speaking out against it. They would abandon their false façade of elite objectivity and begin to correct for their participation in our descent toward darkness. With few exceptions, there is no evidence such a correction is taking place.
Denial and fear cripple our ability to confront and defeat modern American fascism. This present darkness, which has already taken hold of many of our neighbors, would much prefer we shield our eyes and ignore the ongoing threat. And, if and when we choose to open our eyes, this darkness would much prefer we act out of fear , seeing our neighbors as enemies, Others, who cannot be saved. Divided, we can be conquered.
I remain both aware and optimistic. With our democratic institutions presently preserved, I still believe the vast majority of Americans will not allow such a darkness to prevail. If I’m wrong, and I very well may be wrong, my focus will shift drastically in November. Regardless of my present convictions, I’m still preparing for the possibility of that outcome, because I refuse to act from a place of denial. But if I’m right, my focus will quickly shift from preservation to rapid improvement. Our imperfect nation still requires significant change and progress. Establishment forces that fail to understand significant ongoing threats are equally unprepared to fight for future progress. That will be our work as well.
Our future, I believe, will remain self-determined.
There are 290 days until the 2024 election.
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The answer, though incomplete, is 4.