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In his book On Television, Pierre Bourdieu warns against the twin temptations of historical analysis: everything is totally changed and unlike anything that went before, and nothing has changed over the last thousand years.

Nowhere are those temptations as visible as in Trump studies. You’ve got a large set of critics screaming that he’s our Hitler (or, for the Russophobes, Stalin), a violator of all the ethical norms of high office. And there’s a hearty band of Facebook ultras, less numerous than the alarmists, who assure us that Trump is little different from Obama (the deportation numbers are down, though there are technicalities involved). Is it too distressingly moderate to say that there’s more continuity in Trump than the screamers say, but that he does mark a turn for the worse?

People who talk about the dignity of the presidency mustn’t think much about Richard Nixon, a far more interestingly twisted character than the one-dimensional Trump. He ran a private spying operation and bombed Cambodia in total secrecy. His drunken ravings caused a frightened Henry Kissinger (co-architect of those secret bombings) and Alexander Haig to hide the nuclear football from him. It’s likely that Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis have a similar arrangement to control Trump.

Trump’s horrendous xenophobia, shocking by recent standards, has a lot in common with the nativism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His authoritarian longings are in tune with the country that brought you the Palmer Raids and McCarthyism, though Trump has fallen well short of those models so far. And no one is shooting strikers now, though that may be because there are so few strikers.

But everything does feel worse. Policy aside, there’s no question that Trump is a bare expression of the American political id. He’s encouraged the worst people — Nazis, white supremacists, clash of civilization types — to be far more open and even violent. ICE’s war on immigrants — and the targeted roundup of immigrant leaders — is vicious and terrifying. Nuclear war has become something people talk about. Millions will lose health care, national monuments will give way to uranium mines, and the climate will go to hell at an accelerating rate. Trump himself is ignorant and aimless, but there are enough right-wing thugs around him to do a lot of damage. It’s only accelerating a long-term downtrend in the quality of American life, but an acceleration it is.

In the face of this, the Left, whose prospects seemed good in the first days of the Trump regime, now looks confused and divided against itself. Leaving aside the Russophobes, who can’t be taken seriously, we’ve got one set of people blaming identitarians for everything, and another set blaming brocialists. It’s like the 2016 campaign not only didn’t go away, but became a chronic disease. I wish I had a cure, because it’s debilitating, and the times are miserable.



  1. izzy February 8, 2018

    If history is any guide, we seem, here in the USA, to be sliding towards a kind of Disneyesque parody of an oppressive political control system, with a malicious Keystone Cops providing the muscle, and a citizenry so thoroughly divided consensus is impossible. What is an ahistorical modern development is the wholesale toxification and overall degradation of the physical environment we need to live in. Almost everywhere. As the later takes hold of our operating theatre, things are likely to occur we have no precedent for.

    • LouisBedrock February 8, 2018


      I’m not a physicist, but once read a Thomas Pynchon short story called “Entropy”. He extrapolated the concept to a social environment.

      We are living through the historical counterpart of this thermodynamic phenomnon. And entropy is not reversible.

      • LouisBedrock February 8, 2018

        Merriam-Webster’s secondary definitions of “entropy” are:

        a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity
        b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder

        Henry Miller’s extrapolation of entropy to the social milieu is easier to understand. Thomas Pynchon used it as a preface for his short story “Entropy”.

        “Boris has just given me a summary of his views. He is weather prophet. The weather will continue bad, he says. There will be more calamities, more death, more despair. Not the slightest indication of a change anywhere…. We must get into step, a lockstep toward the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not change.”
        (Tropic of Cancer)

    • Harvey Reading February 8, 2018

      I’m beginning the think the new policy is to favor idiots. Probably increases circulation.

      • LouisBedrock February 8, 2018

        Today’s comment section supports your theory.

        • Harvey Reading February 8, 2018

          I noticed.

    • AVA News Service February 8, 2018

      Fixed. Thanks for letting us know.

      • LouisBedrock February 8, 2018

        Thank you.
        However, don’t you think JACOBIN should get some credit?

        • AVA News Service February 8, 2018

          Good idea. Done.

          • LouisBedrock February 8, 2018

            Is that Mike?

            • AVA News Service February 8, 2018


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