I noted recently the steps of twentieth century nations toward the abyss of totalitarianism; these were summed up in a Firing Line conversation with Richard Pipes.
First, clear the stage for a one party state, then give omnipotent power within the state to the political police, and finally enforce that power with deadly terror and “re-education” camps.
The last decades revealed the United States is not immune to the use of “political police” when the swamp – bureaucracy, media – is aligned with the executive, breeding a “one party state” (whether of city, state or country): governmental oppression of Tea Party and religious groups – using the great power of the IRS as well as EPA, OSHA, etc. – or arresting a hapless filmmaker after Benghazi, etc. Power changed, and the Russia hoax demonstrated swamp power alone could baffle and thwart executive and legislative power, leaving them at the mercy of institutions they theoretically led and funded.
Then, in the petri dish of covid isolation and a presidential election summer, “woke” power grew. A friend e-mailed Yelp’s classification punishment for establishments bucking Portland’s politics. The service seemed useful if easily weighted, but some anarchists perceptively saw its potential as a map to bring the unwoke into line through violence. Clearly Rioters Trash Portland. . . But Black Owner Just Got the Last Word was the logical consequence. Of course, Yelp, as many grander and prouder institutions before it, lost credibility – but that was intended. Only the party, eventually, remains. Still, real men, real Americans, lead:
But Jackson will have the last word. Not only are people of good will planning to eat at his restaurant as never before, but he told Fox News that the attack “solidified my Trump vote. I’m done with this weakness and we need some real strong leadership.”
However the next paragraph is also telling; men like Jackson are fewer as the models and narratives that give us courage are destroyed as well:
Day of Ragers also targeted the Oregon Historical Society, bashing windows and ripping out several historical items, leaving them trashed on the street.
The depth and range of the riots this summer reflect decades of preparation – Zinn and Ayers in teacher’s colleges followed by Soros’s workshops for state and city attorneys. These empowered the destruction of reminders of courage and individuality – the essence of a statue, the warm history of a people – honoring those who by example would stand in the way of politicization of thought and culture, of life itself.
Anarchists have always leveled the ground for the strong man. The solidification of votes for Trump of many rises from their sense that he is a strong man; he sees himself that way, taking charge, respecting force and energy. And of course his speeches include the bombast and pride (not always ironic) of a tyrant. But these are independent people and he remains American, quite aware of our limitations on executive power and reveling in others’ independence as well as his own.
His greatest acts have liberated energy by lessening government entanglements. The response to him is characterized by a reflecting/reflected energy; those apparently spontaneous flotillas and caravans are the opposite of passive adoration and more eccentric, energetic and rather happy movement. If Congress seems more willing to pursue him than to use its powers, it is not because he threatens them. He brokers peace instead of empowering tyrants. Would someone mad with power encourage charter schools? Which is more the pattern of a dictator – avoiding or embracing daily tangles with an opposition press? These ongoing and open feuds with the press irritate but they are hardly the actions of a tyrant –180 degrees from Putin’s (or his henchman’s) interactions. Or of Xi’s.
That this is not the way that the left sees him arises from a different (and more subjective, emotional) view of how the power of the state should be used. We have now seen days in which the woke subjective has been substituted for the rational, the law of the tear for the rule of law. Barrett reads her verdict from the point of view of those against whom she ruled, she says. Hers is intelligent empathy; her questioners sentimentality.
The contrast is disturbing if we are considering the presidential election and we take polls seriously. Do we want a party with AOC’s ambitions and Hirono’s sentiments? Do we want a party aligned with the swamp, aligned with politicizing our workspaces and our entertainment, of consulting its emotions but never seeing from its opponent’s point of view?
It seems to me that we should be glad that those that have dealt with the violence of the last few months are turning to someone who has nominated a judge like Barrett and who has, bravado and bombast aside, shown a respect for the limitations our government imposes – that nominates such a woman instead of considering packing the court to ensure a “yes” majority.
If the polls are right, the president will soon be a quite weak man. What will follow is not a cheerful thought. If Trump wins, well, will that be enough? Can he act strongly? Or will he be overpowered by the swamp? Surely it is not just a question of Trump – we need a Congress of like mind. And not just a member here or there, but a majority.
America has found its strengths and asserted them before; we have a history of openness and that openness gives us energy – the energy of those like Jackson. We take energy from freedom. What we should fear is the day we can no longer access our liberty, that we do not find that energy.