We are now watching a full-scale fascist coup attempt in slow motion with assorted comic interludes. The attempt will almost certainly fail, thank God, but we are coming a great deal closer than most people, myself included, would have thought possible.
In order to seize control of the United States, Trump needs some or all of six elements of the American power structure: the Army, the Republican Party, the corporate elite, the judiciary, the senior administrative hierarchy of the federal government, and at least a good deal of the state and local administrative hierarchy. He has complete control of two of these six – the Republican Party and the senior administrative hierarchy of the federal government. But he has failed to take control of any element of the judiciary, he has little or no support of the state and local administrative hierarchy, the corporate elite has clearly decided to sit this one out, and far and away most important of all he has no control of the Army.
Trump is a buffoon and many of his closest aides – most notably Rudy Giuliani – are buffoons as well, but it would be a very bad mistake to suppose that because of his personal inadequacies, which are legion, he is not really a threat. Sophisticated, accomplished, well-educated elites perpetually underestimate fascist wannabes whom they would shrink from inviting to a dinner party.
I must say that as a veteran – however long ago my service and however insignificant its nature – I take a certain satisfaction in the fact that the uniformed services have completely resisted Trump’s efforts to use them as instruments of his dictatorial desires. I may not like what the US military has been used for by the presidents of the last 70 years but I have always admired their self-discipline, their efficiency, and their steadfast support of the Constitution (I say that as an unrepentant anarchist, by the way).
Would the Democratic Party have so completely subordinated itself to the fascist and authoritarian desires of a president of their party? I honestly do not know, although I suspect you would see more openly courageous resistance than has been manifest in the Republican Party.
As I have remarked on this blog before, one of the few benefits of this fascist coup attempt is that it will weaken and perhaps even put to rest the collective American fantasy that the United States is “exceptional,” that it is not subject to the forces of fascism and authoritarianism that have darkened the history of the rest of the world for centuries.
As I sit in comfortable isolation and watch this coup attempt unfold, I find myself wondering what the future of American politics will be and most particularly what the future will be for the Republican Party. At the moment, only 10% of those elected on the Republican ticket to the Senate or House of Representatives have publicly acknowledged that Joe Biden won the election. I think it is extremely likely that a sizable proportion of the remaining 90% will never acknowledge that Biden won honestly. Completely lacking anything remotely resembling character and desperate to hold on to their jobs, the men and women of The Grand Old Party will continue, with winks, nods, dog whistles, and bullhorns to tell their voters that Trump wuz robbed. In the short run, this may actually help us in the Georgia runoffs but in the longer run it threatens serious social and political disorder and dysfunction.
Now you might imagine that as a professed anarchist I would welcome the evaporation of the belief in the myth of the legitimacy of the state but you would be wrong. Ever since I wrote my little defense of anarchism, I have been quite well aware that it might be necessary to foster rather than to undermine that myth in order to accomplish all the concrete changes that I desire in the society in which I have spent my entire long life. The civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, the gay liberation movement, the union movement, the struggle for a livable wage, the campaign for universal healthcare, and, perhaps most important of all, the effort to address climate change – all of these can be accomplished in a modern world only with organized effective political action, and that action can succeed only if those who commit their energies and lives to it are sustained by a belief in the legitimacy of popular democracy.
I am desperately grateful that Trump managed to bring out enough Biden voters to defeat himself and perhaps that should be sufficient. But I fear for the future.