An article in The Globe by Thomas Homer Dixon tries to find a rainbow in all the storm clouds. But I'm afraid it doesn't work for me. He describes the Trumpenführer as a Social Dominator:
"like a bizarre hybrid of an idiot savant and a Mafia don." Who is "scarily brilliant when it comes to understanding and manipulating a crowd’s emotions, especially its anger and fear."
Problem is that he could be describing Hitler or Mussolini. In fact Thomas Dixon is describing the classic dictator personality of what Altemeyer describes as the "Socially Dominant" Demagogue! He is describing Trump's epitomizing the EMAD Scale:
- E: Trump is Exploitive!
- M: Trump is Manipulative!
- A: Trump is Amoral
- D: Trump is Deeply Dishonest
And he goes on:
"He can sense people’s deepest insecurities and then create easily grasped narratives that exploit these insecurities to mobilize people in his favour. He’s also paranoid, petulant and highly authoritarian. So he’s vindictive toward anyone who crosses or belittles him; and he values personal loyalty in his associates far more than competence or intellectual independence, which is why his closest advisers are family members or extremists who didn’t desert him during the campaign."
Again, these are the traits described by Altemeyer as classic traits of dictators from Lenin to Juan Peron and Franco.
But he doesn't stop:
"These aren’t characteristics most would regard as ideal in a U.S. president. But there’s more. Cognitively, Mr. Trump sees the world in terms of dichotomies: winners/losers, rich/poor, powerful/weak, friends/enemies. He also has an extraordinarily simplistic view of causation. For any particular problem he rails against, he identifies a sole cause and then personifies it in a particular individual or group – a scapegoat. His followers, of course, eat this stuff up, because it simplifies a bewildering world and identifies the bad guys they should attack. It’s classic demagoguery."
We haven't had someone so completely a Right Wing Authoritarian Demagogue as POTUS before. This is not a happy first.
The Wheels Aren't Going to Come Off!
But then he tries to soften the message with the idea that Trump will fail:
"When Mr. Trump drives this particular clunker of talents, personality features and cognitive styles into the Oval Office, the wheels are likely to fall off. It seems he can’t think about complex problems in a focused and nuanced way; instead, he seizes on simple and decisive answers that produce an immediate hit of adulation from his followers."
To Thomas this might be comforting, but the Right Wing is primed for "simple and decisive answers," And nuance in solving world problems is not on the agenda. So the question is will these be "unintended" or "intended" consequences:
"every problem has multiple causes. Even small decisions can generate cascades of large unintended consequences and many events of political import – banking crises, cyberattacks, the spread of new infectious diseases or the flight of a ballistic missile – happen faster than managers, policy makers and institutions can effectively respond. Worse, these events happen in a hysterical social-media echo chamber that pumps up ideological extremism by instantaneously amplifying emotions and propagating lies."
Ramping up to Totalitarian Behavior
If you are talking about a sane, rational, democratic, just society where the ideological extremes aren't at the helm, then such events would cause the "wheels to fall off." But we aren't dealing with that. so:
"The biggest danger is" ... that when he "repeatedly misjudge[s] ...situation[s] he’s facing, make[s] bad mistakes in response and then stubbornly double down on those mistakes – ultimately producing outcomes such as race riots, financial panics or war."
Those produced events, like Germany's Reichstag fire, the assassination of Ernst Von Rath and a host of other manufactured pretexts that will justify him going after his stated agenda! So on the contrary:
The greatest danger is that blowback from his policies will justify him to "implement hard-right policies by deporting millions of illegal immigrants, shredding trade and climate agreements, turning U.S. foreign policy sharply isolationist." and maybe even force the country into wars of imperialism and/or exploitation!
So the idea that the Trump administration will self destruct is not comforting. Trump will be a master of opportunism. Every time his policies hurt people and they strike back, that will be justification for ramping up those policies. I fear he will, just as Reagan invented criminal welfare clients and the Bushes invented imaginary murderers to bring down political opponents or justify policies. Just as Hitler instigated the Reichstag Fire, the assassination of Von Rath and other incidents, Trump's reckless policies will, instead of stopping him, be used as a pretext to ramp up to the full nasty agenda of his candidacy. The way such regimes work is that they push, back off, manufacture evidence and pretext, and then try again.
Whipping up the Mob
We already have an example of how Trump used an incident where a GOP office was fire bombed as a "mini-Reichstag." I'm pretty darn sure that will be his pattern going forward. Dictators like Trump depend on "the mob" to propel them on their agenda. It was no accident that Trump had supporters chanting "lock her up" in lynch mob fashion during his candidacy. It is fantasy to think he won't continue this pattern.
To read that argument read: America's Mini Reichstag Fire by "Priz" at Daily Kos And then there are Altemeyer's own words on Trump:
“Wanna-be tyrants in a democracy are just comical figures on soapboxes when they have no following. So the real…threat lay coiled in parts of the population itself, it was thought, ready someday to catapult the next Hitler to power with their votes.” [Altemeyer]
I'm scared the wheels won't come off in time. And every failure, blowback or conflict sparked by this tyrant will only be a pretext to more tyranny and ramping up the oppression. He meets the requirements for the "fearless leader" Hannah Arendt Talks about leading the mob of Authoritarian personalities that Altemeyer talks about.
- My Blogs on Authoritarianism
- The Dictator in Front of the Mob [http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-dictator-behindin-front-of-mob.html]
- Hannah Arendt on Donald Trump's Mob
- Wonky: Understanding Social Dominance Theory
- Globe and Mail Opinion by Thomas Homer Dixon
- On Donald Trump!
- My Review: "Value of Reading Altemeyer" [http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2015/01/authoritarians-and-totalitarians.html]
- On the tea Party [http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/drbob/Comment%20on%20the%20Tea%20Party.pdf]
- Daily Kos America's Mini Reichstag Fire
- Holocaust Museum Article on Kristallnacht
- Scholarly Stuff on Social Dominance: