America and the Road to Rome

Spurred on by the illustrious philosoraptor, my general thoughts regarding America’s present political choices are:

  1. The “Progressive” Left remains very susceptible to:
    1. Its own hypocrisies (e.g. identifying as black instead of female)
    2. Its own religiosity (e.g. failure to sufficiently prostrate before its own arational ideals)
    3. General accusations of maladministration (excluding those acts which align with their arational ideology)
    4. Violations of general civility standards (in fact, they’re hyper-sensitive to this and exaggerate the susceptibility with identity politics nonsense)
  2. The right appears to be fairly invulnerable to historically-damning transgressions in any of the categories itemized above.
  3. With its lockstep support of trump, the right has:
    1. Reinforced the assessment that they are utterly devoid of genuine principle (I’ve held this assessment since the Senate Republicans’ uniform condemnation of the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate as unconstitutional despite many of them previously supporting such legislation for a long time, and that being the basis on which the Individual Mandate was chosen for the Affordable care Act)
    2. Demonstrated willingness to kow-tow to a genuine asshole regardless of what he does, even when that includes belittling them and disrupting their own alleged interests.

With that preface, I actually do worry that the biggest danger facing American politics right now is that trump is showing that Americans are actually severely lacking in moral, or even practical, principle. He is showing that someone can become president despite:

  1. Running a campaign of almost pure demagoguery, utterly failing to deliver nearly any promised deliverable
  2. Degrading American institutions by acting like an insanely stupid asshat
  3. Eroding public trust and confidence in essential components of our government (even going so far as to routinely call our law enforcement and intelligence agencies treasonous)
  4. Hypocritically ensuring the actualization of his cheap, unsubstantiated critiques of his adversaries (e.g. claiming incessantly that other countries are laughing at America, only to ensure that actually occurs by performing the above three steps and securing deserved derision and condescension from other leaders)

This is not good. The most worrisome thing to me about American politics is that it seems the American people are mindlessly, aimlessly plodding along, utterly uninterested in ensuring that even basic standards of civility or decency are imposed upon our leadership.

When Bush was president, I felt that his administration did things which were beyond the pale (e.g. publicly asserting that torturing to death innocent people based on mistaken identity is acceptable so long as Americans stay safe, invading Iraq for no reason at all and costing us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives) and it disturbed me greatly that some subset of the population remained supportive of the administration in spite of it.

But now, the ONLY good thing that can be said of trump and his administration, it seems, is that he isn’t the worst of his opposition. He is apparently a total piece of shit, without any redeeming quality other than his accidental adoption of decent policy when it suits him to do so for reasons utterly unrelated to the decency of that policy. He is obviously a charlatan, an ignoranus, and so self-absorbed that he can easily be manipulated with flattery and obeisance, and he has neither interest in nor tolerance for reasoned dissent. He has driven out of the administration numerous respectable figures on very worrisome grounds (e.g. Mattis left because he could not ensure that American allies would be valued and treated with respect, which he, and I as well, believes to be fundamental to continued American and global stability and security).

Despite all of this, a very sizable amount of Americans remain supportive of him.  In fact, a survey was recently unveiled which seems to indicate that some third of Americans has decided that trump could do nothing to lose their support.  This is just astonishing.

The best defense that I have heard mounted on behalf of trump’s supporters is that they are simply driven to this distasteful position by the utter horrors which trump’s political adversaries threaten to wreak upon American institutions. This is not a baseless accusation; American Liberals seem to have been driven from the public eye in favor of “Progressives” who continually push for a nanny state that will:

  1. Constrain freedom of speech on absurd grounds (e.g. the false equivocation of derogatory or asinine speech with violence, or the outrageously stupid bases offered up by identity politics)
  2. Constrain the right to bear arms on hysterical, reactionary grounds (e.g. the utter failure to observe that “gun violence”, particularly active shooters, are simply not statistically indicative that American gun ownership is a problem; do we want to become England, where, having constrained this right about as much as possible, are entertaining the prospect of prohibiting the sale and possession of kitchen knives with pointed ends?)
  3. Encourage and facilitate what appears to be one of history’s greatest psychological/psychiatric malpractice epidemics in “gender identity” issues and horrifying “treatments” resulting therefrom (imposed upon children, no less)
  4. Encourage and facilitate potentially disastrous identity-politics-driven policies without significant thought (e.g. open borders)

That is all very, very bad.

In spite of all of that, I think the more severe problem before us is this:  trump is proving to America that Americans are far more dangerously unsuited to the task of self-governance than I previously suspected.

I used to think something like: many Americans support policies which, sometimes prima facie, but sometimes not, should be discarded rather immediately by any citizen qualified to govern himself. This worried me. I consoled myself by thinking “Well, that’s only like 25% of the people in the country, and we at least have the Democrats who are generally on the right side of things and make usually-sensible arguments for their positions.”

Now, however, I see:

  1. trump demonstrating that it appears the entirety of the American right (at least their representatives) is unwilling to stand up to an obviously, terribly bad president (certainly the worst in my lifetime), and which seems to have a sort of bloodlust for the American government, reveling in trump’s antagonistic behavior and gleefully, or at least carelessly, observing his disrespect for numerous essential components thereof.
  2. The American Left demonstrating that all those principles I thought it once stood for were likely simply artifacts of fortunate collisions between those principles and the American Left’s actually-mindless opposition to the American Right

As I said, I think the most disturbing aspect of what’s going on in American politics right now is that we may actually be following the path that led to the destruction of Rome; our populace is disinterested in its own governance and absolutely unled by principled, rational political thought. It appears we have a feverish clash between segments of the population arbitrarily carved from its entirety by some combination of factors, none of which are rational thought. It seems to me that good times make for weak men, and here we are. Without desperation (e.g. imposed by war which requires participation from more than the volunteer military population, or significant economic hardship affecting the majority of the population) demanding that people actually try to think about this stuff, the American citizenry, within a single generation, becomes fat, lazy, ignorant, despondent, and aimless.

I now wonder: in the course of my life, was the behavior of politicans controlled not by what appeared to me as principled stands by Americans, but instead by the false belief that there actually existed such principles on which Americans made their stands?

When Hillary Clinton, for example, was persecuted for the Benghazi-hysteria-derived email debacle, it at least seemed to me that there was genuine concern that she was acting flippantly and unacceptably regarding matters of national security. Even if, I thought, the right was simply exaggerating and capitalizing on that genuine and real concern to gain political advantage, at least it was a sensible concern that was being used against the American people. They could be manipulated, I believed, but at least that manipulation was founded on basic rational principles.

Now, it seems much worse than that. For as long as I have been alive, it seemed to me, for example, that the American Right championed traditional Western civility and morality. When they were wrong, and when they acted immorally, at least there were those among them who called it as such, and it seemed to offer actual obstacles to the success of the culprits among them. Now, they near-uniformly support the greatest antithesis of all that traditional Western civility and morality in trump.  It now seems to me of the American Right: they have no principles, only a desire to gain and maintain political power. Even their constituents are showing that they can be abused (e.g. by becoming the most significant victims of trump’s boneheaded trade wars) and all they ask for in return is more trumpin’.

And likewise, for as long as I have been alive, it seemed to me the American Left championed reason and evidence. They were the “reality-based community”! And now, what? Now, men can become women by fiat? Not only that, but it’s always been that way due to [social construction mumbo jumbo]? Not only that, but if you disagree, you’re a bigot and if they gain power, you’ll be jailed? If you don’t think it’s true, but your child is brainwashed by the whole thing, you’ll be compelled by the courts to watch as doctors abuse them, ruining their bodies, and cementing their confusion? Also, you’re going to be disarmed for your own safety and your speech will be regulated for the same “reason”?

That is NOT good.

NOT GOOD.

And what it all shows is: the American people are dangerously, horribly unfit to govern themselves. There is no substantial opposition to any of this. During the Republican primaries in which trump ran, Republican candidates tore into him for all the reasons one would expect, derived from the points I’ve made above. The draft-dodging bastard even went so far as to chastise an actual veteran who was actually captured and actually tortured by the enemies of America.  For all his genuine service to this country, and all the power he would typically gain by virtue of that service with his constituency, trump belittled Senator McCain for being captured and walked away without losing any substantial number of supporters. And every time trump did something like that, something that I thought would’ve ended the campaign of any other Republican candidate in modern history (I mean, really, what alleged Republican principle was more inviolable than respect for our military?), the opposition would be mounted and quickly evaporate in the face of an immovable constituency.

The same thing has happened to the Left.  I can’t help but to believe that Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, hell, even the adulterous-but-somehow-otherwise-pretty-great Bill Clinton would, were they now rising among the current population of the American Left, stand up against the catastrophic nonsense spewing from the mouths of all those in power among them.  But it appears we are without such a valuable challenger among them at this time.  Or perhaps they do not rise when the accidental intersection between rational principle and political whim fades away.

So, what I’m saying is: while we should care greatly about the disastrous policy implications of the “Progressive” Left, I think the more severe problem we have is that trump is continually pulling back the curtain and showing America how pathetically incompetent it is at self-governance. By stepping into the ring and utterly disregarding all the conventions and standards which were apparently at some point devoid of actual substantive support among the American public, he has revealed that no one really cares. He has revealed that a politician can completely manipulate huge portions of the American population by doing and saying approximately whatever he wants, even when it’s patently false, or even when it’s self-contradictory, so long as he somewhat frequently utters key words that drives his target audience crazy with glee.  And the American Left has nothing to offer against him.  Despite the extraordinarily trivial ease with which such a target should be rationally obliterated, it is either the case that the politicians among the American Left are too stupid or incompetent to actually accomplish that trivial matter, or they have caught on to the strategy trump is implementing and are simply targeting the other half of America with their own rendition of it.

This is what happened to Rome. Average Roman citizens became relatively comfortable for a relatively long period of time. When that occurred, they rapidly lost interest and confidence in their government.  The outrage-of-the-day turned into a constant background noise that rendered them ambivalent and reckless.  They considered politicians invariably to be clowns and liars, and so they voted into office clowns and liars. And that civilization no longer exists, as a result.

So for now, at least, I am of the opinion that we must restore to the office of the Presidency a candidate who re-establishes vulnerability to standard political scandals. As I have written, I fear that such vulnerability will only be driven by some combination of factors unrelated to the rational basis which should drive it, but, sadly, we may be at the point where the re-establishment of a flimsy illusion is the most important and pressing concern we have before us. If we can’t gain back even the appearance of principle, even the accidental respect for genuinely good standards and norms, I’m afraid we’re destined for increasingly trump-like figures, and it won’t matter on which side of the aisle those figures are seated. We may be condemned to face a disaster which will necessitate the reinvigoration of the American public such that they again become qualified to govern themselves.

As it has been written: no advice is heeded more soundly than that which is received on a sinking ship.

So, in short, if we don’t get rid of trump and rely upon the Republican minority (and, of extreme import: the conservative Supreme Court) to prevent outrageously unconstitutional “Progressive” policies from being enacted, I’m afraid we are choosing to run faster towards a wall which I expect not to break, rather than trying to slow down in hopes of deadening and managing an inevitable impact.

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