HOW TO DUMP TRUMP

 

With apologies to Neil Diamond,

Have you heard about the frog who dreamed of being a king,

and then became one?

Well, except for the name and a few other changes,

if you talk about D,

the story’s the same one.

It was hard to picture the frog as being a king, and now that he’s become one it’s even harder. But there you have it. For bad or for worse, the frog-prince is the President of the United States.

I think we can all agree it’s been a practical joke gone terribly wrong. But what do we do now? There are lizard people in the White House. And they’re not even in disguise. How do we get them out?

I say ‘we’ because in the summer of ’39 the Poles had as much reason to want Hitler removed as did the few Germans who were still sane. What’s likely to happen is not much at all. But what could happen is scaring the shit out of a lot of people, myself included. I think the time has come for drastic measures. And I think I have the measure that just might be drastic enough.

I propose that it didn’t happen.

I’m not proposing we pretend it didn’t happen. Children pretend. I’m proposing that we make believe, but not in the sense synonymous with pretending, but rather in the sense of making ourselves believe. If we could make ourselves believe, then we would believe. And what is it to hold any position – from President down to crossing guard and all the way back up to God – other than for others to believe you hold that position?

Suppose we all just ignored the crossing guard. What could he do? Suppose we all ignored God – which, come to think of it, most of us do – what’s He done about it? Has He struck any of us dead with a lightening bolt?

“Ah, but Trump would.”

How? Does he carry lightening bolts in his suit pocket?

“No, but the people he commands do.”

Why would they do what he commands?

“Because he’s the President.”

No he’s not. Haven’t you been listening?

Now that Trump’s not the President, and never was, a number of options present themselves. We could believe that Hillary Clinton is, but I’d strongly advise against that. We could believe Mike Pence is, but his posture in all those photo-ops standing behind his master like an adoring puppy while he signs one arrest warrant after another … No, not Pence. Another election? God forbid No, I think we should just do without one for the next two and half years, and see what happens. I’m guessing not much.

“But decisions have to be made.”

Then make them.

“But I’m not authorized.”

By whom would you like to be?

People who are wont to say, “I was just following orders!” – people like Adolf Eichmann – still have to answer that question, and the answer better not be “I was just following the orders of the people whose orders I like to follow.” If he’d said that at his trial, the so-called Eichmann defense would have been less a defense than a confession. That’s something some of Trump’s functionaries should remember when they’re on trial for crimes not recognized as such by the current Administration.

So the fallback position has to be, “But there has to be due process.”

And indeed there does. But appeals to due process invariably beg the question. What process is the one that should be due? And how do we decide that, if not by the quality of the decisions arising out of that process? It was precisely because of the quality of the decisions arising out of the English monarchy that the Americans decided that a different process might be more to their liking. And so wasn’t it from the quality of the decisions arising out of the White House that we just decided the process that put Trump in power had to be replaced with one that was more acceptable?

So if you want a process that’s due, find one that is.

Is anything like what I’m proposing going to happen? Of course not. I put it out there to remind us of two things. First, that for all its indispensability to the very possibility of civil society, giving uptake remains a discretionary act. As John Locke insisted, under dire enough circumstances we can and should withdraw it. And second, that crimes against humanity transcend criminal codes, and so it puts those who are “just following orders” on notice that they may yet have to answer for the orders they were just following.

The Thousand Year Reich lasted just under twelve. Trump has at most six and a half to go. St. Paul assures us that “Love is patient.” Well, so is justice. So remember that while you’re standing at the border taking names so you can decide who can and cannot be reunited with their children, someone’s taking your name.

 

 

WHAT’S A POLITICIAN’S BASE?

 

Apparently in American presidential politics there’s something called a base. The Democrats have one, the Republics have another, and Donald Trump has his very own.

Voters who don’t belong to a base can drift from one candidate to another, but not if you do belong to one. But if you’re a member of one you can’t move to another. That’s because membership in a base is something you acquire shortly after you’re born, like an infant baptismal certificate, or no longer having a foreskin.

A base is what guarantees a candidate people to thank even if she was ‘disappointed’ by the results that “the CNN decision desk is now ready to declare …” Your base is what told you to run in the first place, and what allows you to think that, though a loser, you’re nonetheless still a player.

Your base is like your mother. You can do no wrong, but others can and do wrong you. And a base neither knows nor cares about what you stand for until after you’ve stood for it. This gives you an enormous amount of latitude in selecting policies that might appeal to those swing voters who are not of your base.

Pundits talk about candidates appealing to their base. This is nonsense. If you have to appeal to them they’re not, nor ever were, your base. So the more you have to fulfill one election promise, or walk another one back, the smaller your base must have been. This is why Trump, like every demagogue before him, has no need to look over his shoulder. The size of his base makes appeasement unnecessary.

Does this mean that, in the same way matter can neither be created nor destroyed, no base can ever grow or shrivel? If so, the obvious question is, how does a base ever enter the world or leave it? To which the obvious answer is: with you. Just as there’s a fact of the matter about how many words you’ll speak before you die – and therefore I advise you to husband them well – there’s a fact of the matter about how big your base will be the moment you declare your candidacy. Who were they beforehand? They were your base-in-waiting.

Trump took a look at his and if anything underestimated it. Clinton took a look at hers and vastly overestimated it. It was Sanders who commanded the Democratic base. Like Trump, he could say the stupidest things – and he did – and they loved him all the more for it. But for all that he couldn’t have won. Too old, too pontifical, and too Jewish.

Unlike in America, we don’t have the cult of personality in Canada, probably because our politicians don’t have any. And that seems to be the way we like it. But we do have our base voters. The NDP premier of the Province of Alberta, Rachel Notley, can betray everything the NDP base stands for, but it doesn’t matter because she’s the NDP premier. If it’s base wasn’t loyal, it wouldn’t be called its base.

Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, belonging to a base is not a sign of being politically engaged. On the contrary, it’s a way of being relevant to the issues without having to think about them. Not unlike in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, the Party, or the Great Leader, does all that thinking for you. But this is hardly a criticism. Since few of us are in a position to have an informed opinion about these issues anyway, it’s more efficient this way.

My grandmother was a Bolshevik. My father was a Marxist. So I became a socialist – not that I know or need care what that means – about the same time I lost my foreskin. Since in a healthy democracy somebody has to take this side rather than the other, what difference does it make whether he’s thought about it? It’s not like if we all thought about it we’d all end up on the same side. Think of it like Field Day when you were back in grammar school. Does it really matter whether you’re assigned to the Blue team or the Red team?

Well no, unless some of your friends were given their sashes just before you.

But that’s not a healthy thought-experiment. If I console myself by observing that I like the people on my team more than the people on theirs, I can’t help wondering whether I like them because they’re on my team, rather than the other way around.

And what this shows, once again, is that some things just don’t bear thinking about.