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What will life under a Trump autocracy be like?

All indications are that the GOP and the American people are prepared to collude in the transformation to an authoritarian regime, meani...

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What will life under a Trump autocracy be like?

All indications are that the GOP and the American people are prepared to collude in the transformation to an authoritarian regime, meaning we will be living in a Trump dictatorship, if we haven't already crossed over. So what will that be like? We will have to accept it and make a decision about where we live and how we live.

For most people, every day life will not be that different. Dystopian nightmares come to mind whenever we think about authoritarian regimes, but walking the streets of modern authoritarian states one will see people going about their business as they always have. There are still movies and work and school and shopping. It's mostly boring and tolerable. According to writer G. Willow Wilson:

The difference is the steady disappearance of dissent from the public sphere. Anti-regime bloggers disappear. Dissident political parties are declared “illegal.” Certain books vanish from the libraries.

In Hungary for example:

The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”
- How to Build an Autocracy - The Atlantic 
In a Trump authoritarian regime, for many people, life will go on without much change. Obviously things will get worse for some people, particularly those that have already suffered, such as people of color, women, and immigrants.

Elections won't matter. One could argue that elections haven't mattered for a long time, but in a Trump dictatorship dynasty, they really won't matter. All the power will be centralized in the Trump crime family. There will likely be the appearance of elections but somehow, just like with Putin, Trump always wins in a landslide.

If we look at the recent developments with the impeachment inquiry and the Trump camp's response, they are simply ignoring more and more laws and norms. Their defense is to simply break more laws in the open on live TV in an attempt to normalize it. This is exactly what dictators do.

If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

The Trump supporters will be happy with all this, at least until the policies and deficits start to hit them directly, or when they run out of people to blame their plight on. Trump will certainly continue to use fear, the bible, and find scapegoats in attempt to maintain their support, and he may keep their support for many years.

Americans need not look far to see what this kind of boring authoritarianism looks like. As University of Michigan political scientist Robert Mickey has argued, swaths of the US South were effectively under one-party rule during parts of the 20th century.
- Life in authoritarian states is mostly boring and tolerable, Vox
I've accepted that Trump is winning. He controls the military and A.G. Barr controls all law enforcement. What else does he need? He and is legal team are making the case that the law doesn't apply to him. Who is going to stop him? There aren't 20 republican senators with the courage or morals to convict him. They have already said they will settle the impeachment by Christmas in time for the republican primaries, business as usual. They already know how they're going to vote, regardless of the evidence presented at trial.

It is happening here. Make peace with it. 

It's a good time to review this: How to Survive an Authoritarian Government which contains this list:

  1. Assume all communications and activities are monitored.
  2. Do not trust any information released by the government.
  3. Support the production and dissemination of independent media.
  4. Move banned activities and observances underground.
  5. If necessary, change your identity.
  6. If you are able, shield those more vulnerable than yourself.
  7. Have a hiding place or escape plan ready.
  8. Make room for culture, even in dark times.
  9. Support labor unions and work stoppages.
  10. Keep the spirit of resistance alive and never lose hope.

A message from the future.

Reporting from Sweden 2037.

Donald Trump, the ‘dealmaker’ president of America died today. He was 91. He ruled for more than two-decades, making him the longest-serving president, surpassing Franklin D. Roosevelt who served four consecutive terms.

As expected, Jared Kushner, 56, will assume the title of president of America according to the results of a vote of National Electors.

Trump won the presidency in a surprise populist ‘Make America Great Again’ movement. Trump used his skills in legal maneuvering to consolidate power and establish a totalitarian government. His Attorney General acted as his ’Roy Cohn’ firewall enabling Trump to declare the traditional pre-Trump U.S. law invalid, refusing to recognize constitutional norms. Trump as commander of the military and A.G. Barr overseeing all law enforcement, left all other institutions powerless.

Trump was to be removed from office at the end of his term by the Federal Marshal Service, but Attorney General Barr ordered the marshals to stand-down, declaring a “deep-state emergency.”

Barr was later found dead under mysterious circumstances and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner became Attorney General.

Widely reviled for his many abuses of power, Trump was held up as a savior earlier in his administration by politicians and intellectuals who should have known better. Many believed the institutions would survive the ‘mad king’ and still others were sure politicians with future aspirations like Barr, or Vice President Mike Pence, or others would eventually put on the brakes. But Trump and his family outmaneuvered them all and in the end there was no one left to oppose him.

Trump told Swedish News in 2033 that “we have never, ever rigged an election.”

Trump gradually eliminated most government institutions and cabinet positions, filling all remaining positions with family members. The Congress and Supreme Court were marginalized to become rubber stamp institutions.

But his policies ultimately led the country to economic collapse and the brink of starvation. America is a failed state at the moment.

The Paradox of Political Polarization

One of my favorite podcasts is David McRaney You Are Not So Smart. He recently interviewed Lilliana Mason, author of the book Uncivil Agreement, How Politics Became Our Identity. It's a great interview about an interesting book and you should check it out. When I first listened to this interview some months back, I was fascinated and I've been meaning to write about it ever since. At the end of the interview it takes a very interesting turn. McRaney asks “What do we do? How do we fix it?”
Now you say in the book that as long as this social divide is maintained, then we’re going to behave more like warring tribes than unified nations of people who have different values and different ideas about what policies should be enacted. Now, it’s just like the side has to win and the other side has to lose, no matter what. I feel like these are both the same question, which is, “What do we do? How do we fix it?” I’m just going to stop talking and let you talk as long as you want about that, because I think that is the thing that people want to hear most from you, once you have made them feel as bad as I currently feel.
Mason then goes on to explain a number of things and suggests that one can practice techniques to avoid snap judgments and stereotypes "you can create, by practicing, a secondary response which can follow the first one relatively quickly that says wait don’t assume that. Give this person a chance. They’re a human being. They have family. They care about people." And then the kicker:

The problem with this is that it requires motivation.
People from more homogenous groups, for instance rural white and Christian, are seldom exposed to other religions, races, or cultures "and the more isolated they are, the less they’re going to be motivated to try to understand outsiders." Conversely, those who have social circles including people who are racially or religiously distinct from them have more motivation to be tolerant. "That means the people who are probably reaching out to you saying, 'I want to change this. I want to be more tolerant,' are the people who are already more tolerant and probably more exposed to people who are unlike them."

This itself falls along party lines:
What I found is that people who are largely in the Republican Party, because the Republican Party is largely white and Christian and straight, they tend to be socially exposed to other partisans who are very similar to them. It’s relatively rare for a Republican to meet another Republican who is racially or religiously distinct from them. Democrats are the party of everybody else. Democrats were 56 percent white, 19 percent black, and 17 percent Hispanic in 2016. So, for Democrats, any given Democrat is likely going to be exposed to another partisan member or another party member who is racially or religiously distinct from them, because there are plenty of very religious Democrats who are people of color, and there are plenty of very secular, white Democrats. Within the larger party umbrella, Democrats tend to be exposed to people unlike them on a much more regular basis, or at the very least they think of the people in their party and their group as more diverse.
The people who need to try the most are the people who are the least inclined to try. 
Saying everyone needs to behave the same way to fix this problem is not exactly correct, because it’s the people who are the most socially isolated who really need to practice this the most. It’s unclear to me exactly how to motivate that, because that’s an extremely threatening thing to say to somebody who feels very comfortable in their homogeneous socially homogeneous group.
This to me is similar to the paradox of fact checking. For those that want to know the facts, they're already doing fact checking. For those that need to live in a bubble, better fact-checking tools are not going to change anything because they won't use them nor will they trust them - they'll just scream fake-news whenever the facts don't align with their required alternative reality.

Mason wants us to stop framing things as a zero-sum game:
We need to find a way to step back and think, “OK, what’s the greater good?” Find a way to think about what is the best for the most people. Obviously, it’s not human instinct to do that. But we’ve done it before and we had crosscutting identities between the parties not that long ago. It is possible for us to have crosscutting identities again. That would link us to the other side in terms of thinking of them as human beings.
And the author provides a really good idea of working together in service to improve our understanding and compassion for each other.
The last thing that I’ll say is that the one policy that I’ve thought of this since I wrote the book that could work would be service. One way to get people of varying backgrounds to work together is to put them work together doing some type of service. Working in a soup kitchen or building houses for Habitat or working in Peace Corps or doing something in the military. The military is a giant melting pot of all different kinds of political orientations. One thing that could be helpful is to work together. This is my like moonshot idea.
Check out the full interview and the transcript.

Clinton was right about this too

We refer to them as "Trump 's base" but really that "base" the true #cult45 bunch, that roughly one-third that won't go away, is simply a cadre of racist, sexist, homophobic, folks. They were there before Trump, and more importantly, they'll be there after Trump (assuming there is an "after Trump").

They are essentially white-supremacists who fear losing their privileged position in society. Trump didn't invent them. He activated them and gave them a voice. Of course he doesn't really care about them, and in fact, deep down I think even they know that. They know he lies and he is mostly full of shit and they probably even know he is basically incompetent and a Christian faker - in fact, many evangelicals have said as much. But they support him anyway, because he successfully tapped into that fear and racism. He may be an idiot, but on this he beat them all.

Consider this exchange between Jeffrey Toobin and Rick Santorum, where Toobin claims "Donald Trump could hang on the ceilings having sex with anybody he likes" and "all that talk about character we heard about Bill Clinton and the role model to Americans, that's all nonsense, right?" and Santorum can only reply that "it's very disturbing to me and I don't like it" but he still supports him, to make Toobin's point.

Few of them will admit that they're racists, and in fact many sincerely believe they aren't racist; that's how denial and cognitive dissonance works. But it comes through clearly in their words and actions, sometimes subtle, often direct and outspoken. We keep wanting to say it's not about race; we want to deny it because we wish it were not so. But it is about race to a very large degree.

It's certainly not all Trump voters. Hillary Clinton took shit for it and continues to but she was absolutely right when she said "half of Trump's supporters" (not all) really could be put into a "basket of deplorables" -- that basket is out there now and they aren't ever going to change their mind about Trump because he let them climb out from under their rocks and claim their white-privilege proudly. They feel safe with their racism now being more blatant. They still use coded dog-whistle language and (supposed) "hoaxes" like the white-power OK sign, but the winks are out there in plain sight. White-pride, white culture, white identity movements, these are all part of the discussion now.

This is not going to end with Trump.

Trump the crusader? No, thank you.

If you aren't aware of Q and the Anon army, the short version is it is a movement in which followers believe there is a highly placed agent or agents, perhaps a member of military intelligence or even someone in the Trump administration that has access to highly classified information, with the codename "Q" who posts intel drops on sites like 4chan for the Anons to decode. The Anons are the followers of Q. They believe there is a satanic cult, conveniently made up of all the usual liberal villains, starting with Clinton and Obama of course, and including many "Hollywood elites" too, and of course the media. The payoff is "The Storm" when all of them will go down, which is always just one more post away.

While many QAnons are just your run-of-the-mill MAGA zealots. Others claim they are "non-partisan" and claim their fight is "good against evil" where the evil bad-guys in this case are those practicing pedophilia and other atrocities and the good-guys are those trying to stop this global cult in a counter-coup. Since the bad-guys include the "deep state" military intelligence, the media, the democrats, most the world leaders, pretty much everyone except Trump and his died in the wool supporters, one cannot defeat them simply by gathering evidence and presenting a case to law enforcement. Oh no, it requires a 4-D chess game. And who better to orchestrate such a thing than the "really stable genius" himself, Donald Trump.

This is all widely discounted as whacky conspiracy theory and right wing fantasy.

Following on the heels of similar bullshit such as Pizzagate, it advances a fantastic web of deceit that wraps up Trumpism, deep state fearmongering, evil, satanic pedophilia rings controlled by the Democratic Party, investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, the Las Vegas shooting, and New World Order paranoia into a package easily and wholeheartedly promoted by internet cesspools and Alex Jones. -

But I want to set that aside for a moment. Let's, for the sake of argument, say there really is a massive cult of well-organized and well-placed pedophile bad-guys. If Donald Trump is the leader of the counter-coup, I say "No, thank you." There's got to be better way. I don't need to decipher a bunch of cryptic fortune cookie style "intel drops" to see who Donald Trump is. He's been showing us for more than thirty years. He has shown us he is a self-serving coward who lacks empathy. He's a pathological liar with no loyalty to anyone but himself. Trump has been married three times and has five children from three wives. He's an admitted adulterer and accused sexual predator (including pedophilia, by the way).

Hillary Clinton could be a pedophile. It's possible. But there has never been any evidence to show that. Or Obama either, who shows all signs of being a good family man and loyal husband and father. But with Trump, we don't have to look far to see his character flaws, and worse, much worse.

In order to embrace Trump as a savior in this, one has to ignore the blatant evidence right before our eyes and instead assemble incomplete bits from all manner of "alternative" sources, a narrative to fit the MAGA alternative-reality where Trump has none of the obvious character flaws and personality disorders that he displays on a daily basis. One cannot go back from there. Giving up ones principles is to give up everything, to forfeit oneself. Even if you win, you lose. If Trump is the only way offered to fight the bad-guys, then sorry, but I'll wait for something better. If the good guys in this story are like Trump, there's no place for me, just as if the people occupying heaven are the evangelicals condemning me and many people I love to hell, I'm not interested.

Further Reading on QAnon

If there's one GOP candidate I might vote for, it's this guy

At Jeff Pulver's 2018 Spring Monage conference, I got to see Michael Allman give a talk entitled Blockchain and Voting. While the blockchain aspect of it is probably why he was on the agenda, to me that's a secondary factor. What I found most interesting is the idea of what Allman calls "direct democracy." In this model, he commits to voting as his constituency desires, issue by issue. Allman is running on the Republican ticket and describes himself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative "almost libertarian on some issues," he says. Allman will use a system he's created called to poll constituents and get their views on issues. He then commits to voting with those results, regardless of his personal preference or his party's platform.

Direct democracy is where people vote on the issues, and however they vote, that is how I will vote in Congress. Instead of me telling the voters how I am going to vote, they are going to tell me how to vote. It is giving political power back to the people, which is where it belongs.

For the first time, voters can have a say on an issue-by-issue basis. Anyone registered in my district can cast their votes on important questions of the day through a website or mobile app I have created. I will be guided by the results of these votes, not by special interests, lobbyists, or anyone else.

I love the idea. Anything that tries to move past the existing two-party, identity politics stranglehold is a good thing. Now, I can't actually vote for candidate Allman because I don't live in San Diego County, the 52nd district, where he is running, but I support what he is doing. Of course, I don't expect either party to be particularly open to this approach. They want candidates that vote along party lines. But if the people start to demand it, maybe they will have no choice. That's what Allman and his team hopes.

And his campaign accepts Bitcoin too 😃

Women's March Observations

We talk a lot about avoiding media spin and going directly to original sources. To that end, here's a few first-hand comments on what I saw.

There are a lot of different people, bringing different agenda to the women's march. Not everyone is on board with every one of these causes to the same degree. Whatever the official position of the organizers, from what I saw I would summarize the most unifying issues as:
  1. Trump disapproval
  2. Women's equality, generally
  3. Reproductive rights
From what I saw, Trump is a powerful unifying force, as much for his vulgarity as his policies. A lot of the women involved in these marches aren't generally activists, or at least they weren't before Trump. Another republican, with similar policies, but without all the ugliness that Trump brings, might not stir the same kind of movement. To a large degree, items #1 and #2 above are effectively the same thing. Trump is equated with misogyny and represents a giant step backwards on human rights generally, and women's rights and equality specifically.

Many on the right characterize this movement as a pro-choice movement (of course they would call it an "abortionist" movement). The right generally, and evangelicals especially, have traded their last ounce of dignity and moral authority defending a morally indefensible man because they see the ends of making all abortion illegal justifies the means. For them, it's all about abortion. Obviously, reproductive rights, women's choice, is a big issue. There were probably no "pro-life" women marching in the march in San Francisco but choice has been an issue with other administrations and this march is certainly not just about pro-choice vs. pro-life as much as the right may want to believe that. It's much bigger.

Women do not approve, Mr. Trump. It's not entirely about you, but you are a roadblock on their path toward equality and they will march right over you.

If you attended a march, let me know what you think.