Don’t Give In To Coup Fantasies; Power is More Straightforward

jackboot-2

By Arun Gupta (January 30, 2017)

I am getting notes and articles forwarded from numerous people, smart people, that are full of paranoid speculation about coups, false flag operations, and military mobilizations.
STOP IT.
This is exactly what the Trumpkins want. They want you to be paranoid, to be consumed by fear and irrationality. The last thing they want you to be is thoughtful, careful, rational. They want you to overreact and succumb to lurid fantasies.
Their exercise of power thus far is muscular but also chaotic, banal, and largely symbolic.
Take the Muslim ban. It is possible the botched order was a trial balloon by Bannon to see how various forces would react — the media, protesters, the judiciary, civil society. But it spurred an incredible resistance. Yes, many people will suffer but they really shot themselves in the foot with this one.
The Trumpkins have phenomenal contempt for everything from bourgeois political norms to the idea of democracy to the left and progressives. But stop thinking this is Year Zero, as many pundits are calling the Trump regime.  Their power grabs fit into a history of power grabs by presidents of both parties, going back to FDR. There are moments where some limits are placed, such as after Watergate, but then a new president undermines most controls and expands powers further. That is true, in different ways, of Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama.
If you really want to know the impact of what Trump is doing, start following the commodities and equities markets closely. Trump probably pulled back so quickly on the green card ban because of the protests and the furor from Silicon Valley. Trump and his league of doom may hate the tech industry, but they can’t ignore the biggest companies in the world.
Today the markets are down and the volatility index is up because Trump is spooking businesses and investors. The markets will be a huge brake on his regime.
Look at the flurry of orders and proposals in his first week that directly impact the economy. This is what I mean by banality. The Trumpkins are well aware if they don’t deliver on jobs and economic growth they will be a one-term administration. Even gerrymandering and voter suppression won’t save them. So they proposed and dropped a 20% tariff on goods from Mexico, which would have been severely disruptive to U.S. businesses and consumers. This was incredibly inept and exposes that Trump is as much of a shitty manager as a master manipulator. They ban and unban green card holders because of its deleterious impact on the tech industry. Trump’s order trying to revive the KXL and DAPL pipelines probably face years of legal challenges. His order about using U.S.-made pipelines is meaningless because most pipeline is already made here. This is what I mean by symbolic.
I’ve said this before and will say it again. Be scientific. demand specific, credible and verifiable evidence and primary sourcing. Be skeptical and cautious about drawing conclusions. Don’t speculate endlessly on motives and psychology, especially when they are unknowable. Power operates in a far more banal fashion than a fantastical one. This is a long game. Keep your wits about you and we will get through this together.

31 Comments

  1. Dave

    Thanks Arun!

    Reply
    1. Jan Wester

      First of all, for an article against ‘conspiracy thinking’, starting out with a this-is-exactly-what-they-want sort of statement is rather self-defeating. Assuming that a president does stuff because he is simply an idiot who has not yet learned ‘how to do this whole government thing’ is totally irrational in my book. The whole Trump-is-an-idiot-rethoric was nice during the elections, but we have to get real now. This guy is fucking skilled. He won a campaign from an impossible position, changed the face of politics forever in the process, and easily shrugged off scandals that would have crippled any other politician. I think Watergate is also a nice example of that. Imagine Trump did Watergate. It would mean nothing. He would simply laugh about it and tweet insults at anyone trying to hold him responsible. There is no reason to assume it was ever, or will ever be, his intention to govern the us in a remotely conventional way. Quite the opposite actually.

      I think the argument that the markets and big companies will be a huge brake on his regime is showing exactly how desperate the situation really is. Before Trump we would have said that these kind of companies are the things we need to be saved FROM, not BY. Counting on them to keep Trump in check is, sorry for rough comparison, like getting aids and then hoping your cancer will kill the virus.

      I would definitely say Trump is historically pretty unique (save for Hitler perhaps, but that is not exactly reassuring either) The fact that the republican party won everything in the last election is already quite unique on its own. Name one example of a situation that is comparable to what we saw in the last month.

      Also, how does the Muslim ban work in his disadvantage exactly? All the people who were against them are still against them, the people who support them still support them. He got exactly the reaction he expected. Yes, the world showed that they do not find him acceptable. Just like they did in the womens march a week before. Or like, during his whole campaign. He doesn’t care, and in his position, he also doesn’t have to care. Theoretical or legal issues with his policy do not concern him for they do not concern his supporters. This kind of logic doesn’t count anymore. Besides, if he manages to dismantle the democracy to a certain extent he might not even have to worry about ‘getting a second term’.

      Reply
  2. Ben Brucato

    The message here is that neoliberalism is multicultural, and that reactionary politics don’t jive with the current organization of capital. Maybe, but that’s the same trap we often find ourselves in: inability to conceive of politics outside of the rule of global capital. Trump and his close allies are doing the work of (attempting to) actualize alternatives to the present organization of global capital, and they are likely willing to make certain economic sacrifices in order to do so. This is what we saw happen with SB-1070 in Arizona: most of the capitalist class opposed it, because it would impede the necessary mobility of labor. This is bad for existing markets (e.g., Silicon Valley), but they will adjust and new markets can and will be fashioned if this is the new policy regime.

    Reply
  3. Michael Barrett

    I think the problem with ignoring the various “coup” articles is that one must not ignore any possibility that exists in the chaos field. While I think it is good advice not to indulge or internalize such theories, it would be foolish and even dangerous to wholly discount such theories as a mere distraction.

    Reply
    1. Joni Plotkin

      I agree.

      Reply
  4. Steph

    Interesting, good points are made, but it sounds like he’s more or less implying that we can rely on financial capitalism to work as a check on potential tyranny?
    But then how does one explain that so many autocratic nations have no trouble attracting investment dollars?
    Economic indicators over a 48-hour period are hardly a “scientific” predictor of how markets will react over four years!
    Also, this statement: “The Trumpkins are well aware if they don’t deliver on jobs and economic growth they will be a one-term administration. Even gerrymandering and voter suppression won’t save them.”
    First off, I’m annoyed by the term “economic growth” given how in 2016 so many Dems were constantly elite-splaining how Obama had made us all richer – since when does growing GDP automatically raise the social floor? That’s Reaganomics, and it’s BS.
    But ok, let’s say he really meant “increased generalized prosperity” (which no president has achieved in my lifetime anyway).
    Does the cult of personality count for nothing?
    How about the infuriatingly stupid issues like abortion etc. I mean, think of all the airtime that “gender-neutral bathrooms” got; nobody can predict what could be the next hot issue for morons, maybe body hair?
    And gerrymandering cannot be dismissed so easily, nor can voter suppression, vote tampering, etc.
    Plus, Trump’s already preparing 2020; can’t say as much for the opposing candidates.
    That said, the author has a point about not succumbing to irrantionality; i think the hysteria and hyper-emotivity that often comes from what we can call “the reactionary left” is one of the most important motivators of right-wing extremism.

    Reply
    1. Michael Dunkley

      “Irrantionality”, huh? I like it.

      Reply
    2. Jeanne B.

      I was all set to get pissed off when I realized you’re correct in your generalized assessment of the “reactionary” left. Yes, we can be this way. On the one hand, that fear turns into anger which turns into activism and action–not all bad. On the other hand, it also can be overwhelming, prevent rational thought, and as you’ve stated, give the righties a power boner. Which we don’t want to do.

      Whether we can or cannot dismiss psychology, or base the direction of this administration on the economic ebbs and flows, I do not know. What I DO know is that we who sit at any degree of left need to learn to keep it in check and respond rather than react. It’ll confuse the right, and it’ll help us survive it, too.

      Reply
  5. Jean Grandi

    Read this Kathy Norman. Hang on girl.

    Reply
  6. Clay T.

    Wow. A Trump column with thoughtful, if blunt comments. Congrats! You win the internet.

    Reply
  7. Richard B. Keys

    Ben, doesn’t that position assume that *power* ultimately resides within the political domain as opposed to the economic. Or that one can totally override the other?

    Without radically disentangling itself from global capital, and the international community at large (and all that such a move would imply) I don’t see how Trumps “regime” could do this.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne B.

      Power ultimately resides within each and every one of us, and those to whom we grant permission to have power over us.

      Reply
  8. Gary MacLennan

    I prefer the analysis at Richard Seymour’s Lenin’s Tomb. He has it that Bannon has overreached but is trying to reconstruct politics to the far right in a period which Bannon sees in apocalyptic terms.
    What has stymied the Trump forces has been the reaction in the streets, within the state and in sections of capital. Of these three the most important is the reaction in the street. It was swift and instinctive and totally correct. It did not need the stock exchange to tell it to act. And at best it knows the stock exchange is a crude and unreliable indicator of success in the struggle against the Far Right.
    Gary

    Reply
  9. Miatadon

    It is a coup, and they will inflict their damage quickly and decisevely. These people don’t care if Trump is just 1-term, as they are putting things in place, or taking things apart, which will be permanent. For instance, Supreme Court appointments will eventually be made as Democrats are not forceful enough to stop them. Those new justices along with most of the present ones, will guarantee that we are fucked for a long long time. Trump is also appointing many other judges, and they will be there for a long long time. And how do you put the national parks, or the post office, or Amtrak, or public schools back together again after they are gone?

    Reply
  10. James Dobson

    This has to be one of the most intelligent articles ever the election. I have been saying the point on the economy from Day 1 and it is proved right here. And the way the Prez is going in only 11 days, what do you think the Republican candidates are going to do by July 2018. Distance themselves as far from Trump as possible, bit it won’t work. These early days will haun them for a long, long time.

    Reply
  11. Seth Owen

    While there are some good points, I think it’s borderline obscene to compare Trump to FDR, or even Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton or Obama. The last 10 days were an order of magnitude more than any of those other presidents did in thevsame amount of time.

    There’s a saying: Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.”

    Yes, I have seen alarms being raised by large numbers of serious, knowledgeable people in the legal, military, intelligence, economic and security fields. Most are centrists or liberals, but a not insignificant number are conservatives. When I see experts alarmed, I think it is prudent to be alarmed.

    Reply
  12. Be Scientific

    where’s the credible and verifiable evidence and primary sourcing for any of Gupta’s claims?

    Reply
  13. Dexter X

    Where’s the specific, credible and verifiable evidence and primary sourcing for any of Gupta’s claims?
    Gupta writes “Don’t speculate endlessly on motives and psychology…” but also declares without evidence “This is exactly what the Trumpkins want… They want you to overreact and succumb to lurid fantasies.”
    “Their exercise of power thus far is muscular but also chaotic, banal, and largely symbolic.”
    “Trump probably pulled back so quickly on the green card ban because of the protests and the furor from Silicon Valley.”
    “The markets will be a huge brake on his regime”
    “Trump […] may hate the tech industry…”
    “Their power grabs fit into a history of power grabs by presidents of both parties, going back to FDR”
    “Trumpkins are well aware if they don’t deliver on jobs and economic growth they will be a one-term administration”
    “gerrymandering and voter suppression won’t save them”
    “Trump’s order trying to revive the KXL and DAPL pipelines probably face years of legal challenges”
    “His order about using U.S.-made pipelines is meaningless”
    These are wise words: “Be scientific. demand specific, credible and verifiable evidence and primary sourcing. Be skeptical and cautious about drawing conclusions.” Gupta thoroughly and comprehensively ignores his own advice:

    Reply
  14. Dexter X

    Gupta writes “Don’t speculate endlessly on motives and psychology…” but also declares without evidence “This is exactly what the Trumpkins want… They want you to overreact and succumb to lurid fantasies.”
    “Their exercise of power thus far is muscular but also chaotic, banal, and largely symbolic.”
    “Trump probably pulled back so quickly on the green card ban because of the protests and the furor from Silicon Valley.”
    “The markets will be a huge brake on his regime”
    “Trump […] may hate the tech industry…”
    “Their power grabs fit into a history of power grabs by presidents of both parties, going back to FDR”
    “Trumpkins are well aware if they don’t deliver on jobs and economic growth they will be a one-term administration”
    “gerrymandering and voter suppression won’t save them”
    “Trump’s order trying to revive the KXL and DAPL pipelines probably face years of legal challenges”
    “His order about using U.S.-made pipelines is meaningless”
    These are wise words: “Be scientific. demand specific, credible and verifiable evidence and primary sourcing. Be skeptical and cautious about drawing conclusions.” Gupta thoroughly and comprehensively ignores his own advice:

    Reply
  15. Jenny McClure

    I would encourage you to explore the parallels between Verwoerd, the architect of South Africa’s apartheid and Bannon. Here history is telling. I’m with Michael Moore on this one… A coup is being attempted.

    Reply
  16. iobehmom

    Read the book ‘Sapiens’ for the long view.

    Reply
  17. Peter Fitzpatrick

    Interesting but not convincing. The pace of shock actions has been remarkable. Already individual states are responding, pushing the envelope of Social and economic issues. The Senate confirmation hearings are moving against traditional ‘democratic’ procedures to shut down Democratic Senators ‘illegally’. The momentum is scary, the Soviet card is hardly fully exposed or understood, and new information on the role of mega-data suggests that this Trump movement has substantial and sophisticated planning, strategy and purpose behind it. My view; don’t blink…

    Reply
  18. Julie

    This is the kind of communication we need most as we come together in a big tent

    Reply
  19. Neal O.

    Didn’t the traditional aristocracy, cultural elites, capitalists and captains of trade and industry, alike and together, for myriad reasons, go over and back nearly all of the 20th C.’s regime toppling or democratically elected strongmen, tyrants and demagogues now thrown-up as textbook examples?
    The suggestion on On Point Radio, the other day, was that Bannon-Trump intend to constrain the labor pool via various radical policy moves in order to drive up wages for the poor, white base a’la the commonly held perception of the effect of the Black Death on Medieval labor, wages, economic institutions, etc.
    If true, one might wonder what other historical examples of societal catastrophes or reactionary, elite-popular policies Bannon-Trump might be aware of (the British policy of criminal Transport?) and what inspiration might be taken?

    Reply
  20. Tim Lennon

    My response to fear and paranoia is community and celebration.

    I want to promote the month of April as American Spring (like Arab Spring).
    We have Cesar Chavez Day, April 1st
    March for Science, April 22nd
    People’s Climate Movement, April 29th.

    We can fill the other two Saturdays with events, and weekdays with teach-ins.

    Let’s celebrate our community, our strength and make April ‘American Spring.’

    Reply
  21. nadin abbott

    It is not a coup… however, it is shock doctrine. This is not to say that shock doctrine always works. They can be redirected, or even fizzle. Most Americans, even know, do not understand it. They might think of Pinochet and the coup, the best-known example. But, Shock Doctrine was also used after Katrina to privatize schools in Louisiana. This is what is happening, and not well done.

    The back downs with green card holders point to that failure in the application, I expect another shock or two.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne B.

      What are direct actions and responses that can be taken to redirect or cause it to fizzle? If it’s not well done, perhaps it can be well undone. Please, someone, step up and tell us WHAT to do, not “how to think about it”. We need concrete answers rather than theories!

      Reply
  22. Beverly Swann

    Did you write this before or after he threatened to invade Mexico? Your argument seems to assume the man is sane.

    Reply
  23. Maxine Wells

    This is the most common sense post yet! Thank you, Cindy! A ray of hope lies in this message. It only needs a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. But we may have to take it straight! We can do it!

    Reply
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