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Any Republican President Would Be Terrible. Trump Is Even Worse.

[ 238 ] May 12, 2017 |
Cue endless screaming

Cue endless screaming

In the most recent thread, someone asked if Corey Robin had revised his view that Trump is just a more incompetent version of Rubio or Jeb! in light of the Comey firing. At least in terms of his initial reaction, the answer is apparently “no”:

I must confess that I don’t understand the argument here at all. The phrase “going after the FBI” is very misleading. It’s true enough that the FBI has authoritarian tendencies of its own, and if Comey had been fired for his election tampering or for the FBI not policing local police brutality enough, this would not be authoritarian. Firing the Director of the FBI in order to obstruct investigations into you and your aides after explicitly demanding a guarantee of personal loyalty is…pretty much Authoritarianism 101. Both Chait and Dan have laid out the reasons why this is so deeply concerning, but I have no idea how this point could even be controversial. If this isn’t evidence of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies I’m not sure what the evidence would even look like.

Still, Twitter isn’t the ideal forum for argument, and perhaps he’ll explain his reasoning at greater length. In the meantime, perhaps I should point out why I wasn’t persuaded by the earlier argument that Trump doesn’t have distinctive authoritarian tendencies. (I suppose I might disagree with Chait here too, although I think this is reading too much into the title — AFACT Chait has been freaking out plenty.) Corey cites three major reasons to doubt Trump’s authoritarianism. The first concerns his slow-walking of executive branch appointments:

Trump, in other words, has failed to fill 85% of the positions in the executive branch that he needs to fill in order to run the government to his specifications. It’s a strange kind of authoritarian who fails, as the first order of business, to seize control of the state apparatus: not because there’s been pushback from the Senate but because, in most instances, he hasn’t even tried.

I think this is material to Trump’s competence, but not really to his authoritarianism. Having unconfirmed acting heads of various departments would work just fine. In addition — I’ll come back to this — Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are more about his personal power that larger policy goals. I don’t think “run[ing] the government to his specifications” is particularly important to Trump as long as nothing is interfering with his ability to loot the treasury and private individuals or making him look bad.

The second argument is that Trump has not, yet, defied any of the court orders he’s complained about. This could be a data point, but given the substantial likelihood that the Supreme Court will uphold some version of the travel ban I’d hold off on reaching any conclusions yet. I’ll also note that there’s more than one form of noncompliance: what matters is not just whether Trump announces he’s defying the order but whether the officials under his command are willing to comply.

The the third, weaker argument concerns public opinion:

In March, I was on a panel of liberal scholars and writers where it was the universal consensus that Trump had an almost intuitive grasp of and control over public opinion – as evidenced by his tweets, which were held to be the invisible puppet strings of the American mind.

He’s elaborated on this point here:

Not only has he had the worst approval ratings of any president at this point in his term, but he’s also been singularly incapable of moving the needle of public opinion toward his positions. As I pointed out in my Guardian article last Tuesday, two of Trump’s signature positions—against immigration and free trade—are today more unpopular, almost by record levels, than they were when Trump was elected. Ironically, for all the talk (from people like Jeet Heer) that Trump’s words are a form of action, the main action that his words, qua words, have produced in the realm of public opinion is a movement away from his positions.

I’ve never encountered anyone on the left who thinks Trump is popular, myself, but certainly the consensus of the panel was obviously wrong. But this isn’t relevant to Trump’s authoritarianism, simply because both Corey and the unnamed liberals are mistaken about the potential of the president to control public opinion. Trump has failed to move public opinion not because he isn’t authoritarian but because with some exceptions in times of war no president — irrespective of their adherence to democratic norms — can. (Tax cuts and defense spending, for example, were less popular after Reagan left office than when he was first elected. Republicans took over Congress because in a nearly inevitable realignment marginal conservative voters in the South started voting for more conservative Republicans instead of relatively conservative Democrats. And Republicans have remained electorally competitive not because Regan or Bush or Trump persuaded a majority to support their unpopular agenda, but because the framers in their Infinite Wisdom created institutions that massively overrepresent their core constituencies.)

Trump’s unsurprising inability to move the public opinion needle is neither here nor there. What matters is his adherence to basic rules and norms, and here there’s a lot to be concerned about. His refusal to release his tax returns — not because of principled privacy reasons, but because he evidently has a lot to hide — followed by his open corruption is very disturbing. His immigration orders and how they were produced are very disturbing. It’s true that some of his authoritarian tendencies — most notably vote suppression — are shared by mainstream Republicans, but that doesn’t make them less authoritarian. And while it’s true that most of his cabinet appointments are generic Republican hacks, I don’t think any other Republican candidate would have nominated Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Any Republican victory would mean an increase in arbitrary violence against people — especially people of color and/or the poor — but Trump/Sessions are likely to be worse that the already bad Republican norm.

Still, with all there always was to be concerned about, the Comey firing –which Trump isn’t even denying was done for fundamentally authoritarian reasons — is really bad. I suppose we can disagree about whether it’s the clearest evidence for Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, but it’s clear evidence.

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  1. Judas Peckerwood says:

    Opinions are like assholes, Corey Robin’s more so.

    • StillWithHer says:

      Corey Robin isn’t an asshole and I think he has been right about most things thus far.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Regardless of what you think about the latter part of your statement, the former is pretty objectively true.

        • StillWithHer says:

          I have never even seen the guy be unfriendly towards anyone.

          • Erik Loomis says:

            Last year, he led an attack on me on Twitter because Campos wrote a post making fun of Matt Bruenig. I had nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, I received 100 tweets from him and Connor Kilpatrick about what a terrible person I was for something I didn’t write. There are so many examples of this sort of thing from him.

            • StillWithHer says:

              I thought everyone besides Eric Garland had agreed that Twitter isn’t real life?

              • Erik Loomis says:

                So your evidence that Corey is a great guy to everyone he has contact with comes from you having beers with him?

                • StillWithHer says:

                  No, I honestly did not know of those events.

                • Ahenobarbus says:

                  I think the point is, what does it mean when you say you’ve never seen him be unfriendly to anyone.
                  Are you basing this on real life meetings?

                • efgoldman says:

                  Are you basing this on real life meetings?

                  As far as I remember, SWH has never based anything on real life.

                • StillWithHer says:

                  Only because I know we live in the Matrix

                • zhirzzh says:

                  Are you even pretending not to be a troll anymore?

                • StillWithHer says:

                  Uh…uh…Green Lantern. Didn’t. Even. try. Kirsten Gillibrand is good. Familiar with all Internet traditions. Freddie DeBoer is Satan without the redeeming qualities.

              • veleda_k says:

                So, you think it’s cool for GamerGate to harass and threaten women because, hey, Twitter isn’t “real life”? Or is that only an excuse for people you like?

                • StillWithHer says:

                  Yo, I did my time in the great Gamergate Wars. I even bought supporting memberships at the last three Hugos to vote against the Sad Puppies.

                  Robin and Loomis having an online slapfight over Matt Bruenig ain’t Gamergate. Gamergate was disturbing for the most part precisely because it slipped into real life.

                • veleda_k says:

                  So, Gamergate was bad because it crossed into real life. Harassment and abuse are okay as long as it’s all online. Okay.

  2. CJColucci says:

    Trump is Nixon, but stupid.

    • waspuppet says:

      Yeah, just because he’s a bad authoritarian doesn’t mean he’s not an authoritarian.

      • LeeEsq says:

        Bat at authoritarianism or incompetent authoritarian. All authoritarians are bad authoritarians even if they are skilled at it.

        • What I’m learning is that to a lot of people the word authoritarian names something good. “He’s incompetent, how can he be an authoritarian?”

          It’s just another word for Republican at this point.

          • StillWithHer says:

            It ain’t that deep fam. It is just a confusion between “good” as in skillful at attaining ends and “good” as in that which is morally right.

            • And authoritarians are neither, so what’s your point?

              • StillWithHer says:

                I’d like to see the argument that Genghis Khan wasn’t good at what he was trying to accomplish.

              • Pete says:

                This is repetitive of SWH, and I hesitate to line up on that side, but many authoritarians have been skillful at attaining their ends.

                • Since the example is “not hiring enough people to get the job done,” I think that’s relevant here.

                  An authoritarian boss is not usually a boss who is prudent and knowledgeable and good at delegating. An authoritarian boss is often someone who compensates for not being trusted by requiring obedience and loyalty, and who hires underlings who prioritize a show of obedience over avoiding groupthink.

                  Now, if you think all bosses are by definition “authoritarian”, which I guess is arguable, or you think “authoritarian” amounts to “knowing what you want and hiring people who can get it,” that won’t work for you.

                  An authoritarian follower is generally someone who believes all bosses are by definition competent and good. On really no evidence. So I find it interesting that so many seem to believe the leaders authoritarian followers choose really are at least competent.

                  Do some people who are competent also have authoritarian tendencies? Sure. But it’s impossible to prioritize authoritarianism and competence simultaneously. Something has to give. At the very least, a group of employees has to be designated as free from worrying about overt displays of authoritarian values.

                • To put it another way: Stalin was good at finding people who would kill for him. He was less good at organizing farms, and at biology.

                • Dennis Orphen says:

                  He knew how to count though.

    • howard says:

      In the immediate aftermath of the election I said that trump would combine the worst of Nixon and bush 43.

      It turns out I was an optimist.

  3. StillWithHer says:

    What has become steadily clear is that, despite what we all might have feared on Nov 8th, Trump didn’t come into office executing some well planned out right wing coup de main orchestrated by Puppet Master Bannon.

    He is just a bored stupid old man with no ideology other than a worship of wealth and an innate crotchetyness.

    The Republicans (excuse the vulgarity) shot their load on a guy who isn’t competent enough to get their vile right wing shit through. They may never have another chance like this, ever.

    And on top of all of that demons like Kevin D Williamson and George Will are so salty they could be used to help keep food from rotting over long distances.

    Someone like Cruz or Rubio would have made all of this an unmanageable Conservative hellscape. What we are watching is just deeply incompetent nonsense.

    • CP says:

      The Republicans (excuse the vulgarity) shot their load

      I can’t tell if the vulgarity you’re apologizing for is the term “shot their load” or the word “Republicans” XD

    • tsam says:

      Right, but to question the idea that he’s demonstrably authoritarian is…misguided. He absolutely is. His opening speech, the Central Park 5, gonna “lock you up”…

      What has become steadily clear is that, despite what we all might have feared on Nov 8th, Trump didn’t come into office executing some well planned out right wing coup de main orchestrated by Puppet Master Bannon.

      These coups** in bigger republics are a slow burn, not an overnight changeover.

      **Coup probably isn’t the right word for what’s happening now, where we abandon norms and traditional fealty to a process that meant the office was bigger than the person holding it.

    • sigaba says:

      I don’t know if you can prove X isn’t auhtoritarian on basis of intention or competence. Historians and researchers have been actively debating for over 50 years this question in the case of Hitler and they still don’t have any sort of firm consensus, and if Hitler wasn’t an authoritarian than who is?

      • sigaba says:

        I would add, Robin’s argument sounds a lot like the argument that X or Y isn’t racist because X or Y doesn’t manifest hatred of a particular race, X or Y don’t have an “Original” race hatred or ideology. Or further, that X or Y isn’t racist because it X or Y doesn’t mean anything by it.

        This completely sets aside the institutional or structural nature of these things– people might not intend to be racist, or authoritarian, but in a particular social context these phenomena emerge because of certain potentiating factors, combined with a strong propensity for large numbers of people to conform, or at least not dissent, out of fear, or for profit, or to avoid locally adverse consequences.

        I guess in that light I’d say that the question of wether DJT is an authoritarian is meaningless, because authoritarianism is something that exists in a society among large masses of people. All of the actions of these people taken together is what counts.

      • StillWithHer says:

        I don’t see the comparison. Hitler was miles ahead of Trump in both competence (yeesh, I know it is icky to say that) and clarity of purpose, and was the beneficiary of immense good luck as well as incredibly weak political institutions.

        Interwar Germany was just ideologically and psychologically a totally different ballgame than the modern day US

        • sigaba says:

          Hitler was miles ahead of Trump in both competence (yeesh, I know it is icky to say that) and clarity of purpose

          What’s your basis for that comparison? I don’t think the “miles ahead” description is at all accurate. There’s no question that Hitler was surrounded by very competent people, and he himself was very popular and a reputation as a brilliant speaker and political infighter, but there’s very little substantiating evidence of this, people who weren’t under his spell and dealt with him personally thought he was a knave and a loudmouth with a lot of angry opinions, and his handlers had to constantly protect him from embarrassment and control who had access to him. A lot of the stories about his competence and cunning were contemporary propaganda and hard to substantiate.

          His speeches are actually grammatical messes; his book was unreadable and had no specific plans; he spent many years of the 20s in prison for a Keystone Kops-level putsch and only the intercession of rightwing politicians and a completely corrupt judiciary got him out early. The basis of his “genius” seems to be more about what contemporary German society wanted in a leader and less what he actually was.

          When he finally got IN to government he simply had the SA beat up anyone who opposed him, this is not brilliance, it’s the opposite. His actual running of the German state was chaotic and virtually guaranteed that the state would suffer an economic collapse by 1940, thus the war became an existential necessity. People have argued that Hitler did all of this on purpose in order to bring about the war, and the conditions necessary to start the Holocaust, but nobody can actually prove this, it’s just an interpetation. He definitely wanted the war, like every German rightwinger did, but he was effectively forced into a timetable by his shambolic and corrupt administration. And at a certain point after 1935 or so, it’s impossible to tell if he’s doing things on purpose or if he’s constantly having his hand forced by Himmler, Goering, or Heydrich, or someone else, because they’re all constantly trying to outdo each other and Hitler always has to be Left of No Man. He created the conditions, almost completely with words and words alone, but once things were rolling he was more or less redundant.

        • Dilan Esper says:

          The Holocaust was as awful as it was because it was an efficiently run and carefully planned government program.

          Evil and skilled/competent is far scarier than evil and incompetent.

          • But it was not run by Hitler. It was run by a combination of men who knew how to tell other men to do things and men who did those things. It was not run by men with pathologies like Hitler’s.

            • StillWithHer says:

              Hitler’s unique pathologies established the large scale framework and most of the guiding ideology that allowed incredibly efficient murderers to do what they did.

              • sigaba says:

                That’s an extremely general statement, change a few words and it could be the mission statement for a paper company.

                It’s so general, in fact, we could just as easily apply it to Trump; only hindsight makes it true for Hitler. We don’t know what Trump’s “unique pathologies” might enable in his followers — I wager quite a bit.

              • CD says:

                I’ve lost track of the larger point at issue, nor do I like arguing this stuff. But “most of the guiding ideology” is quite wrong. European antisemitism had a long, deep, and frequently-murderous history. The holocaust was by no means inevitable, but it could only happen because it made sense to a lot of ordinary Germans, and that pre-dated the Nazis.

          • sigaba says:

            That’s absolutely true, but don’t count on Trump’s personal incompetence to save anyone from anything. Hitler didn’t organize the Holocaust, he just gave an order, he had whole armies of people to make things efficient.

      • guthrie says:

        I seem to have missed the discussions that Hitler might not have been an authoritarian dictator who wanted people to do what he wanted.

      • btfjd says:

        I could be wrong, but isn’t the argument specifically about whether Hitler planned all along to kill every Jew in Europe, or whether the Holocaust developed momentum as it went along? But arguing over functionalism versus intentionalism isn’t the same as arguing whether Hitler was an authoritarian or not–news flash, he was.

        Hitler, though, had two overarching goals which he formulated as early as Mein Kampf, maybe even as early as Pasewalk. He wanted to make the German Reich “judenfrei,” and he wanted “lebensraum” in Eastern Europe by destroying the USSR. Trump has no such fundamental purposes as far as I can tell, other than the aggrandizement of himself and his family.

        This makes him less dangerous than Hitler, or Stalin, or other similar ideologues who achieve absolute power. But he’s still pretty damn dangerous.

  4. tsam says:

    Trump made his authoritarianism crystal fucking clear as soon as he debarked that elevator to make his entry speech.

  5. wfrolik says:

    As the person who did ask, (and who JUST checked Robin’s twitter feed-kid you not,) I want to thank you for this response.

  6. Given the sheer number of unwritten and customary checks on Executive power, Trump is far worse than a generic Republican simply because he exposes them as toothless at such an incredible rate. When Bush the Younger took unprecedented steps to politicize the Department of Justice, or looked the other way on torture, that was bad, but they were also scandals and took years to do. Trump fires the FBI director for investigating him, has an AG who perjured himself in his confirmation hearings, and is brazenly ignoring all kinds of ethics and anti-corruption statues (remember that putting Kushner in the White House is itself probably illegal), and more. None of them get more than cursory attention because he’s instantly onto something else.

    In other words, Trump’s policies are bad, but what makes him so much more damaging than a Cruz or a Rubio is that he’s paved the way for a competent authoritarian by blowing away decades and centuries of checks on Executive power, and all in less than four months in office.

    • eclare says:

      but what makes him so much more damaging than a Cruz or a Rubio is that he’s paved the way for a competent authoritarian

      This is what makes me most nervous. I mean, sure, the Senate eventually killed Caesar, but it was too late to save the Republic.

  7. DamnYankees says:

    In my view, the story here isn’t really about Trump. Trump is Trump. He’s an authoritarian asshole.

    The story is the Congressional GOP, and by extension the entire party. It’s just a party that believes in absolutely nothing but its own power. There’s nothing else, nothing left. It would be hard to imagine a less patriotic President – someone who not only doesn’t care about democracy or rule of law or the constitution, but literally doesn’t even pretend to. He openly doesn’t care, and is stomping on it.

    And the GOP doesn’t care. They are fine. They’ll take it and do nothing more than express tiny amounts of concern while doing nothing.

    I don’t know what the path forward is. Even if you get rid of Trump, you still have this party. It’s completely broken and backwards. What the hell do we do? A democracy can’t persist if one of its two major parties doesn’t care about its persistence.

    I’m depressed.

    • ap77 says:

      Taking it even further . . . it’s not just the congressional GOP. It’s the GOP voters.

    • StillWithHer says:

      I kind of wonder if the people living during the fall of Rome had any inkling that they were?

      • efgoldman says:

        if the people living during the fall of Rome had any inkling that they were?

        Probably not, without Fox to tell them.

      • tsam says:

        Only the occasional blog post called it, but everyone else just lol-ed.

      • rea says:

        At some point between 476 and 1453 people caught on that the empire was falling, surely

      • sigaba says:

        Fall of the Republic? Not really, many of them thought they’d benefit from the corrupt and wealthy Senate being brought to heel. (Alot of plebes probably though the Gracchi’s Goldman Sachs speeches were disqualifying and only an honest dude like Caesar could Drain the Swamp.)

        Fall of the City? Hard not to notice all those Lombards slaying people right and left.

        Fall of the Empire? Ask a Byzantine in 1100 if the empire had fallen, he’d say no, the best bits were merely carted east after the rump state that contained Rome changed hands a few times. Meanwhile the Roman Pope maintained influence and taxation powers in every city and local government from Acre to Dublin, a situation an Auraelian could hardly dream of.

        Things don’t change on the ground in the way historians construct, we can’t talk about the Fall of the Roman Empire in terms that are meaningful to the people that experienced it, because for the most part the “Fall” was nothing more than a name change and part of a political and economic trend hundreds of years in motion.

        • njorl says:

          (Alot of plebes probably though the Gracchi’s Goldman Sachs speeches were disqualifying and only an honest dude like Caesar could Drain the Swamp.)

          The Gracchi and Caeser were in the same party. It was probably not a good idea for the Optimates to change the rules of politics to include wholesale murder of the opposition.

        • Dennis Orphen says:

          Bravo.

      • btfjd says:

        If you read Boethius and Augustine, it’s clear that they did.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Once you have opened your eyes and can truly see, finding the path forward becomes a possibility. Our collective blindness is what has led us here. Give it a minute, suppress the compromised attention span that mother culture has imposed upon far too many us, and your eyes will adjust.

    • PotemkinMetropolitanRegion says:

      I’ll have you know Obama once forgot to where a flag label pin! And forgot to raise his hand to his heart during the national anthem! He’s the America hater libtard

    • JMV Pyro says:

      I think it’s unsustainable. I also think that unfortunately there’s a whole lot of avoidable pain and suffering that’s going to be caused in the meantime.

      A democracy can’t persist if one of its two major parties doesn’t care about its persistence.

      You know, I’ve been wondering this for a while now: just how long has the United States really been a “democracy” as we recognize it today. I’d argue not until the 1960s, which is also when most conservatives think America went to shit.

    • AMK says:

      This is also very relevant to the GOP-wide response (or lack thereof) to the Trump-Russia connections.

      What is modern Russia? It’s a flat-tax oligarchic/neofeudal, authoritarian ethnonationalist state where the paramount entities are the security services, the traditionslist quasi-state church and the extraction industries; which exist in an interlocking web of corruption, propaganda and constant supression of dissent to the benefit of shifting coalitions of ultraweathly families that intermingle their own intetests with the state.

      In other words, a GOP paradise–what red America would look like if you removed blue America from the equation tonorrow and fast-forwarded ten or fifteen years.The way that some on the left look at the nordic countries as models, the right now looks at Russia. That’s the scandal.

      Ultimately, the question is how a liberal democracy deals with illiberal threats to its own existence. People give me shit here when I suggest, for example, that Dems should not provide funding for opioid response because the epidemic is killing tens of thousands of GOP voters a year. But active measures have to be taken.

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        There also are those who — reluctantly of course — will throw in with that same flat-tax oligarchic/neofeudal, authoritarian ethno-nationalist state because it has the ability to cooperate in smashing the US imperialist hegemon.

        The struggle continues!

  8. CP says:

    And Republicans have remained electorally competitive not because Regan or Bush or Trump persuaded a majority to support their unpopular agenda, but because the framers in their Infinite Wisdom created institutions that massively overrepresent their core constituencies.)

    Oddly enough, the country that America reminds me the most of right now is Lebanon. There, the system was set up to give roughly proportional representation in government to each of the three big sectarian groups. Problem: said representation was determined by the census of 1932 and hasn’t been revisisted since, which means that the demographics of the Lebanese government no longer look anything like the demographics of the Lebanese people. Some groups are now massively overrepresented, because that’s the rule, and God forbid we recognize that the rule no longer serves the country, if it ever did.

    The U.S. is in a similar situation of a representational system that wasn’t terrible in the days it was set up when most Americans did live in rural areas (though of course, it was terrible in other ways) but is now completely out of sync with the population it rules.

    (Feature, not bug, of course, as far as an assload of people are concerned. The Right People are entitled to wildly disproportionate representation. Don’t you know who they are?)

    • mongolia says:

      if we didn’t eliminate the electoral college and the senate, cities would dominate over people in rural areas, dontchaknow?!?!?!

    • LeeEsq says:

      Lebanon was one of those countries that I thought would really benefit from a very strict separation of religion and state. Get rid of the entire confessional nature of representation and institute something more normal but insist on no religious parties, no religious based independent politicians, no clergy talking about political issues, and no religious based law. Enforce it as best as you can.

  9. brewmn says:

    This does a pretty good job of dismantling Robin’s arguments:

    http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/05/trump-is-an-authoritarian-in-his-actions-and-his-words-and-words-are-actions/#.WRYfznqSg3k

    …his administration is the most nepotistic, and kleptocratic, US administration in memory. He has brazenly ignored every convention, rule, and law governing conflicts of interest, and he uses his office to advance the business interests of his friends, his family, and himself. That his conduct resembles Papa Doc Duvalier more than it does Franco or Mussolini does not make it any less authoritarian.

    Trump’s words — Tweeted daily to tens of millions, and broadcast to hundreds of millions — are real. They are political acts. Trump’s words mobilize hatred against “foreigners.” They denounce and demonize journalists and independent news organizations. They enact, and encourage, an utter cynicism about the distinction between truth and falsity. They incite anger and hostility towards judges, and the rule of law, and regulations and procedures that stand in the way of the decisive action of The Leader.

    If that is not “authoritarianism,” then what is?

    • StillWithHer says:

      Corey Robin: “Liberals pay attention to Trump’s words and not his actions.”

      That guy: “LET ME BREAK DOWN WHY HIS WORDS ARE AUTHORITARIAN!”

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Firing Comey to obstruct justice strikes me as more action than words, but anyway.

      • sigaba says:

        In politics words are actions. Dissent itself is nothing more than words, authority derives from statements of shared meaning and purpose, er, words.

      • tsam says:

        Hitler’s speeches at the Nuremberg Rallies didn’t prove he was an authoritarian either. We had to wait around for action.

        • StillWithHer says:

          Get back to me when a.)Trump has a party that actually likes him and b.) burns down Congress and blames it on the DSA

          • brewmn says:

            Nice job ignoring the fact that Trump still has the support of 80% of the Republican base. He doesn’t need Ryan or McConnell to “like” him. They’ll carry his water just the same.

          • tsam says:

            Think about it a little harder–in the context of the discussion we’re having.

            Words vs. actions…? Does it really matter that much? History says not really.

          • Lost Left Coaster says:

            Get back to me when a.) Trump has a party that actually likes him

            Huh?

            If you mean rank and file, he’s still popular among Republicans. And if you mean Congress, well, please enlighten us to how they have opposed or impeded his agenda in any way. I mean, they just passed his stupid bill that is putting a lot of their seats at risk — and this reflects that they don’t like him?

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Seriously — the idea there’s any meaningful tension between Trump and the congressional GOP is as delusional as the idea that Merrick Garland could constrain Trump as FBI Director.

      • calling all toasters says:

        You did a really good job of pretending the first quote isn’t there.

    • mds says:

      That his conduct resembles Papa Doc Duvalier more than it does Franco or Mussolini does not make it any less authoritarian.

      Just so. If we use Robin’s “reasoning,” a caudillo could never be an authoritarian unless he were efficiently and thoroughly staffing the bureaucracy. Hell, plenty of Roman emperors would fail to be authoritarian by this standard, which really underscores just how fucking stupid it is.

  10. brewmn says:

    And I love his argument that pointing out that pointing out that Trump is in the banker’s pockets is a more effective way of bringing about his political defeat than prosecuting him for impeachable acts. As with a lot of other leftists, I find myself asking of Robin, “How can someone so smart be so stupid?”

    • StillWithHer says:

      The impeachment fantasy is panem et circenses for the kind of people who watch Keith Olbermann and Maddow.

    • aturner339 says:

      He literally wrote the book on conservatism as fundamentally hierarchical and then when confront with the most hierchical candidate to date seems to believe his supporters are populists.

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        Leftists have predicted 16 of the last zero populist uprisings, but they have a strong hunch number 17 is JUST around the corner.

        • StillWithHer says:

          What is a “populist” uprising?

            • catbirdman says:

              And yet, I have a hunch that we’re really just one major chaotic event away from seeing transformative levels of violence. A dirty bomb or something else on the level of 9-11 or bigger. I’m not even saying that it’s being planned by Trump or his people, although it very well could be — I wouldn’t put it past Bannon or Gorka, for example, to set out to purposefully shock the system in a major way, just to see what happens. I’m a 52-year-old, peace-loving liberal biologist, born and raised in southern California, and I’m sitting here thinking about moving to Canada and/or arming myself for the first time in my life. Not even under 8 years of W did I think, “Well, probably time to shop for a fucking pistol.

              One thing history tries to teach us is that shit can get real in a hurry, and we’re living in a country populated with a whole lot of heavily armed rubes who are positively DOWN with what we’ve seen from Trump so far. I feel like I’d be putting my head in the sand not to seriously consider a few worst-case scenarios, because they don’t seem far-fetched to me anymore. This is a serious effect of what Trump’s doing to our country — me times a couple hundred million — just by being the chaotic, self-obsessed prick that he is.

              • Redwood Rhiadra says:

                I’m sitting here thinking about moving to Canada

                Unless you speak French, have a Canadian relative, or are a member of one of the recognized First Nations, you will not be allowed in.

                That was one of the first things I investigated after the election.

                • catbirdman says:

                  Lol I just filled out the online questionnaire and they said I’m not eligible, but could be if I were to be accepted to a study program. Maybe I’ll apply for grad school!

                • bender says:

                  Or have half a million dollars to invest, I believe.

      • Well, NewishLawyer seems to think he’s not really hierarchical, just a low-status person’s uneducated idea of what hierarchy is like. So do all those Rs who insist the guy is really a D.

    • nemdam says:

      Maybe he’s not very smart?

      • JMV Pyro says:

        I would say it’s more of a cultural/ideological thing then an intelligence thing. For some reason, a lot of people in the Jacobin/DSA/Chapo crowd do not like the idea of focusing on Trump as an authoritarian.

        If I had to guess why, it would be that they see Trump as the symptom of a wider disease and want to focus on whatever that is(capitalism, the Republicans, Neoliberalism, etc.)rather then Trump, who they view as relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

        • StillWithHer says:

          For anyone who cares about such things, the wounds from the Primary are still pretty fresh. Nobody wants to get played. Nobody wants to go through the grueling next 4-8 years just to end up back at Obama 2.0 or worse.

          What was eye opening and politically difficult for me and I think many other “BernieBros” was feeling the real merciless weight of the pro-Clinton campaign and the countless ways they treated the Left as an absurd, contemptible enemy during the entire election cycle. It is a feeling hard to forget.

          One thing I can’t imagine is championing Bernie and seeing him get to the General Election, lose, and then spend the next six months trying to convince Clintonites it was somehow their fault. It seems only a matter of principle that the party faction that loses takes its wallops, but the Clintonites have shown a skill in blame deflection that borders on the paranormal and a shamelessness to match.

          I think we want the opportunity to elect someone in the Bernie mold, and that won’t happen while the current Democratic establishment controls the narrative.

          • calling all toasters says:

            One thing I can’t imagine is championing Bernie and seeing him get to the General Election, lose, and then spend the next six months trying to convince Clintonites it was somehow their fault.

            Wait for the punchline….

            I think we want the opportunity to elect someone in the Bernie mold, and that won’t happen while the current Democratic establishment controls the narrative.

            • veleda_k says:

              No, hey, that’s totally right. The only person Sanders cultists blamed for Sanders’s loss was Debbie Wasserman Schultz The DNC the debate schedules Hillary Clinton clearing the field the stupid and neoliberal Democratic voters Sander’s himself. No blame shifting there, no sir.

          • Gator90 says:

            It seems only a matter of principle that the party faction that loses takes its wallops

            You don’t say.

          • ironic irony says:

            One thing I can’t imagine is championing Bernie and seeing him get to the General Election, lose, and then spend the next six months trying to convince Clintonites it was somehow their fault.

            Isn’t that exactly what the BernieBros are doing to Clinton supporters (or Clinton herself)?

            • StillWithHer says:

              I must have been unclear – I mean – If Bernie had won the Primary and gotten to the general election only to lose to Trump, Clintonites would be right to want the heads of BernieBros on a platter. (And, one would have thought, vice versa)

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Clintonites would be right to want the heads of BernieBros on a platter.

                Actually, they wouldn’t. Especially if he lost because the director of the FBI called him a crook less than two weeks before the election.

          • Nick056 says:

            Oh fuck off with the wounds of the primaries. Wounds? The constitution is Caesar’s body, Mitch McConnell and friends are standing there holding the dagger, and you’re talking about the primaries?

            Please. I’ve said plenty about the Democratic establishment, Clinton, etc. — now it’s all hands on deck. He fired Comey and admitted he did so corruptly. Forget the primaries, which Hillary won.

            • StillWithHer says:

              I was responding to what I thought was a sincere and thoughtful post by JMV Pyro. Go check Putin isn’t under your bed.

              • Nick056 says:

                Joking about Putin this week is pretty rich.

                I read your comment, it’s hard to believe anyone is complaining about the Clinton machine right now. The thing is, the more Trump comes off as obstructing justice, the more adverse inferences are permitted, the more illegitimate her loss seems, the more complaining about HER machine is tendentious.

          • efgoldman says:

            feeling the real merciless weight of the pro-Clinton campaign and the countless ways they treated the Left as an absurd, contemptible enemy

            Oh, goodie. Let’s re-litigate the fucking primary again. Just where you’ve been headed since this thread hit.
            And “The Left” was and is absurd and contemptible. Try being Democrats, instead of working against the only party that shares a lot of your goals.
            I think Jacobin and their followers are ignorant, mendacious and contemptible, yes.

        • gmack says:

          If I had to guess why, it would be that they see Trump as the symptom of a wider disease and want to focus on whatever that is(capitalism, the Republicans, Neoliberalism, etc.)rather then Trump, who they view as relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

          That’s part of the issue for Robin. Another part has to do with his first book (Fear: The History of a Political Idea). HIs aversion to analyzing Trump as an authoritarian stems, in part, from his belief that the liberal analyses of Trump are rooted in political mobilizations of fear, and that this mobilization is something of which we should be critical.

          My own view is that Robin is onto something here, but also that he’s overplaying his hand, so to speak. I do think there is a strand of liberal critique of Trump that distorts the threats Trump poses and that also forecloses some our ability to work toward more positive alternatives (in particular, I am not particularly fond of any analysis that is trying to show that Trump is always “winning” no matter what happens, or that he’s some sort of strategic super genius who is brilliantly laying the groundwork for an authoritarian take-over). On the other hand, I think Robin’s preoccupation with these strands of liberal critique can blind him from some of the uniqueness of Trump’s threats.

          There is also a broader tendency in Robin’s analyses of the contemporary situation to be more preoccupied with diagnosing/criticizing aspects of liberalism than with examining the right. This can come off as at least tin-eared in the current context (though I must say, the Tweet that SL cited in the original post sounds considerably worse than “tin eared” to me).

          • tsam says:

            Awesome comment.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            I think gmack is really onto something, and I think this essay provides reinforcement for it. It makes the link to the first book explicit, and also makes it clear that he’s viewing Trump through the lens of a Democratic primary he sees as having near-apocalyptic significance (which also helps to explain his minimization of the Trump/Republican threat.)

            • gmack says:

              Cool. Thanks for the link. I hadn’t actually read this essay until now, though I sort of gleaned much of its content from his other writings since the election.

              Having now read it, I’ll make a highly general observation: The effort to root one’s position on a highly specific political situation (e.g., Trump’s firing of Comey) in a broader theoretical diagnosis of a whole mode of thought (e.g., X philosopher’s claim that liberalism is best justified/rooted in fear, as opposed to a positive vision) can no doubt generate interesting insights; at its best, such efforts can shift our vision and challenge a collection of basic assumptions about what’s going on and how we can react to it. But when it fails, it fails pretty spectacularly.

          • Brien Jackson says:

            “My own view is that Robin is onto something here, but also that he’s overplaying his hand, so to speak. I do think there is a strand of liberal critique of Trump that distorts the threats Trump poses and that also forecloses some our ability to work toward more positive alternatives (in particular, I am not particularly fond of any analysis that is trying to show that Trump is always “winning” no matter what happens, or that he’s some sort of strategic super genius who is brilliantly laying the groundwork for an authoritarian take-over). On the other hand, I think Robin’s preoccupation with these strands of liberal critique can blind him from some of the uniqueness of Trump’s threats.”

            I agree with this. I’ve grown REALLY tired of “the resistance” types who are constantly bleating about “distractions” and Steve Bannon SUPERGENIUS and hanging on every word of various cranks and frauds on Twitter who are maximally fabulist every day at every story. To say nothing of the straight forward conspiracy theorists. It’s so bad I even had to concede that Sarah Jones wrote a really great article denouncing those people.

            But that’s really odd to apply here, because it’s precisely the liberal writers who have written a lot about the deficiencies of American Constitutionalism and the radicalization of the GOP who are LEAST likely to be taken with that stuff. Here is him throwing some serious shade at Masha Gessen, even.

            There is also a broader tendency in Robin’s analyses of the contemporary situation to be more preoccupied with diagnosing/criticizing aspects of liberalism than with examining the right. This can come off as at least tin-eared in the current context (though I must say, the Tweet that SL cited in the original post sounds considerably worse than “tin eared” to me).

            Rephrased; Given the choice between criticizing Trump or bashing Chait, Robin will pick the latter every fucking time.

            • Corey is in some sense committed to something like what Rorty called the idea that “polishing the mirror of nature”, figuring out the best, most accurate thing to believe, is really important for doing politics right, at least on some level. And that’s true.

              He is not that I see committed to saying what this means in detail. For one thing, he presumably thinks everyone knows where to look for that. For another, that’s for people on the ground to choose, not for intellectuals to dictate. Intellectuals’ sphere is elsewhere.

              So when he looks like he’s telling us on the ground what to do, we’re probably misunderstanding him.

              If I’m wrong about that, maybe someday he’ll write a book explaining why, I guess.

          • mds says:

            HIs aversion to analyzing Trump as an authoritarian stems, in part, from his belief that the liberal analyses of Trump are rooted in political mobilizations of fear, and that this mobilization is something of which we should be critical.

            Hang around Crooked Timber comment threads long enough, and commenters like Bruce Wilder will express the extension of this, which is that “identity politics” is a phony mobilization tactic used by Democratic politicians to distract people from how they’re actually indistinguishable from Republicans. That this seems to be such a natural progression makes me wary of Robin’s thesis that “existential threat” rhetoric is really just a cynical ploy at vote-getting by Democrats. I could see it having some explanatory power (e.g., how mobilization against the Walker regime in Wisconsin was co-opted by Democrats who were completely incompetent at articulating anything other than “Walker bad”), but we must be careful not to dismiss all expressions of fear as overblown.

  11. keta says:

    …Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are more about his personal power that larger policy goals.

    YES! To believe Trump gives a flying fuck about policy beyond whatever he feels most flatters himself is to deeply misunderstand him.

    As DamnYankees notes above, it’s the GOP elects who are most flexing authoritarian muscle. The bloated ego of an incompetent simpleton at the helm merely provides cover.

  12. Sebastian_h says:

    Corey is a little weird. He spends years and tens of thousands of words spinning speculative and tenuous connections between types of conservatives–but can’t recognize clear cases. You’d think that buying into tenuous cases would make you think that clearer cases were super damning, but apparently not.

  13. Joe_JP says:

    basic rules and norms

    Yes.

    We were going to be stuck with a Republican in office here sometime, but Trump isn’t just “shrugs” there. Rules and norms matter.

    And, basic competency. The fact we didn’t have to deal with an alien invasion from Mars or something here doesn’t mean that already in some fashion him and his staff’s incompetency hasn’t screwed us over even at this early date. Long term, it’s much more likely.

    Again, more so than even some other Republican whose policy alone will blow things for us. On this level, yeah, even Ted f-ing Cruz is better than Trump. Though his competency as a whole, outside of some skills at legal stuff and campaign strategy,* is unclear.

    ETA: Picking Carly Fiorina makes me inclined to qualify that, but he did show some skills.

    • StillWithHer says:

      Short of literal “Foreign boots on the ground” sort of national existential crises, wanting a competent Republican pres is insane. Especially that gelatinous half human hybrid Ted Cruz.

      • Joe_JP says:

        Living thru 9/11 et. al., I’m not going to assume this sort of thing isn’t going to happen, whatever test you are putting out there. And, Trump there makes it happening more likely.

        Having incompetent people flying the plane I’m on is also not something I desire.

        • StillWithHer says:

          We somehow waddled through with W.

          • Bloix says:

            We waddled through with W because we got lucky. If we’d been unlucky we would be living in Dick Cheney’s one-party authoritarian paradise. With Trump we got unlucky. I confess I don’t see a lot of luck in the future but man, I hope I’m wrong.

            • Joe_JP says:

              as Samantha Bee notes, Trump is so bad that we are pining for Bush even on a norms and competency level. If a Republican won in 2000, yes, I rather it be a competent one. Small scale, including on things like Medicaid expansion and GLBT rights, competent/half-way reasonable Republicans over the alternative has mattered on the state level too.

              • TopsyJane says:

                Trump is so bad that we are pining for Bush even on a norms and competency level.

                I’d not go that far myself, but Private Eye would:

                George W. Bush
                An Apology

                In recent years our readers may have had the impression that……George W. Bush was in some ways an unsuccessful and controversial president. Headlines on his tenure such as “So Long Bush, You Murderous Warmonger,” “Idiot Tyrant Dubya Grabs Oil As He Bombs Innocent Children,” and “Loony Bush Can’t Even Speak English Good” may have aided this regrettable impression.

                In the light of the election of Donald Trump, we now realise how lucky we were to have a president of such unimpeachable stature….and that the 43rd President is one of the most distinguished, noble and honorable holders of the office….as well as a man relentlessly devoted to world peace. As such, he deserves nothing less than recent headlines, including “Freedom Fighter Bush Defies Loony Trump,” “Bush is Eloquence and Dignity Made Flesh,” and “New Mandela Bush Spreads Universal Peace and Love.”

                We hope this clears the matter up.

            • Brien Jackson says:

              Well also, it’s not exactly right to say that the Bush administration lacked competency specifically. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Card, Powell….lots of people in the upper reaches and inner circle of that administration had a lot of real, high level experience with government and the executive branch specifically (to say nothing of the ever present option of Daddy Bush), and at least passed the threshold of being minimally competent at the mechanics of the job, even if their policies and goals were awful.

              Trump can’t even clear that bar! Who’s he always got around him? Kushner, Ivanka, Bannon, Priebus, Spicer, and Pence. The gap between that group and Bush’s is staggering!

          • Lost Left Coaster says:

            Who is “we” in that sentence?

            Just asking because George W. Bush’s presidency cost hundreds of thousands of lives, at minimum.

          • ironic irony says:

            Some people didn’t.

    • Joe_JP says:

      Breaking: Dep AG Rosenstein sees no need at this point for special prosecutor in #Russia probe

      Sen. Gillibrand said she opposed him for not guaranteeing a special prosecutor on Day One. Cory Booker, Kamala D. Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto. Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal also voted “no.”

  14. nemdam says:

    I like this idea where defying a court order is authoritarian, but defying the law isn’t. Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution from the second he was sworn in. Not divesting his business and employing his family into key positions is all the evidence one needed to conclude Trump thinks he is above the law which is the fundamental attribute of an authoritarian.

    If he hasn’t been convinced now, I wouldn’t hold my breath on Corey ever believing Trump is an authoritarian. I believe there are still Democrats to blame for this.

    • so-in-so says:

      ICE did defy court orders within a week of his taking office. That probably ought to count.

    • Just_Dropping_By says:

      I like this idea where defying a court order is authoritarian, but defying the law isn’t. Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution from the second he was sworn in. Not divesting his business and employing his family into key positions is all the evidence one needed to conclude Trump thinks he is above the law which is the fundamental attribute of an authoritarian.

      So Obama was also an authoritarian? He ignored the War Powers Act which seems far more egregious given that it involves killing large numbers of people and not merely lining one’s pockets.

    • Mike G says:

      Shorter Corey:
      I don’t see Trump growing a toothbrush mustache, so no signs of fascism here.

  15. calling all toasters says:

    It took me a few minutes to figure out what the Inspector Javert of Brooklyn College meant by his tweet. Apparently anything that hurts the FBI is anti-authoritarian– right? Even if it results in Giuliani being put in charge? Or am I missing something?

  16. Bloix says:

    “Trump has not, yet, defied any of the court orders he’s complained about.”
    He’s been president for all of FOUR MONTHS. And he doesn’t need to defy any court orders. He gets to appoint the judges and he’s just getting started. In two years there will be judges throughout the federal system who will uphold everything he does. (This is courtesy of Mitch McConnell, who refused to hold hearings on lots of open judgeships, not just the S Ct seat.)

    But this Russian thing is breaking too early. He doesn’t have the judges in place yet and he hasn’t managed to purge the civil service and fill the Justice Dept with hacks at every level. We don’t know what it is but obviously it’s very, very bad. He needs to suppress it or at least slow-roll it for a long time, and Comey wasn’t going to let him.

  17. Origami Isopod says:

    I suppose I might disagree with Chait here too, although I think this is reading too much into the title — AFACT Chait has been freaking out plenty.

    I’m not defending Corey Robin here, but Chait says in his tweet, “Before it seemed the authoritarian threat was overblown. But now Trump’s going after the FBI. Time to freak out.” The time to freak out was last November 8.

    • StillWithHer says:

      Chait is the Bill Kristol of the…Center.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I’m not defending Corey Robin here, but Chait says in his tweet, “Before it seemed the authoritarian threat was overblown. But now Trump’s going after the FBI. Time to freak out.” The time to freak out was last November 8.

      True. OTOH, this piece would seem to indicate that Chait doesn’t think that Trump’s authoritarianism started with the Comey firing, and I’m inclined to privilege that over a tweet (although that’s not Corey’s fault; he did tweet that.)

    • Brien Jackson says:

      That is a…weird thing for Chait to say, because Chait has written a ton of words in the past 18 months or so detailing Trump’s authoritarian impulses, and also pointing out that the entire GOP has become an authoritarian party. I don’t get what he means by “overblown,” but Chait was definitely freaking out from day one.

  18. thispaceforsale says:

    Administration is now in a death spiral. Will the country be able to detach itself from the domino of dumpster fires?

  19. jroth95 says:

    perhaps he’ll explain his reasoning at greater length

    Really? You think Corey Robin might explain his reasoning at greater length? Is your next supposition that Ovechkin might disappear in the playoffs? That the Mets might mishandle injuries? That the NYT Opinion page might feature a useless soi-disant liberal?

    Robin’s loquaciousness is exceeded only by his self-regard.

  20. hey so says:

    All he said was that Trump wasn’t more authoritarian than a garden variety politician (his counterfactual is FDR), and I’ve never read Robin as putting a lot of daylight between conservatism and authoritarianism.

    Yeah, Ted Cruz probably wouldn’t have fired Comey, but he wouldn’t be so incompetent as to find himself in a position where he had to and certainly wouldn’t be dumb enough to pull the trigger even if he did. Robin’s thesis holds.

    • calling all toasters says:

      All he said was that Trump wasn’t more authoritarian than a garden variety politician

      Let’s see…
      Trump is more racist than a garden variety politician.
      Trump is more narcissistic than a garden variety politician.
      Trump attacks the press more than a garden variety politician.
      Trump attacks the courts more than a garden variety politician.
      Trump is more nepotistic than a garden variety politician.
      Trump attacks commonly understood truth more than a garden variety politician.
      Trump is more corrupt than a garden variety politician.
      Trump is more of a populist demagogue than a garden variety politician.
      Trump violates institutional norms more than a garden variety politician.
      Trump likes military displays more than a garden variety politician.
      Trump demands acknowledgement of his greatness more than a garden variety politician.

      I can see how Corey would have missed these minutiae, though.

      • hey so says:

        Robin’s thesis is that he openly engages in these things because he’s weak, not because he is more prone to them than others (though he may be).

        If you didn’t know anything about Suharto you’d probably think he was charming.

        • hey so says:

          To clarify, Robin isn’t saying Trump isn’t dangerous. He’s saying Trump is more dangerous because he is weak, though his stance on this has been evolving in the past few weeks since the budget passed.

        • calling all toasters says:

          I don’t even understand how that can be a thesis. Of course Trump is personally weak. And of course he puts on his Mussolini-face to attract other weak people who are angry and afraid, and who want a man on horseback. This is how every fucking dictator does it.

          • hey so says:

            If you want an idea of what makes a strong authoritarian, stick to the ones who die in office of natural causes.

            EDIT: this one’s pretty good https://tompepinsky.com/2017/01/06/everyday-authoritarianism-is-boring-and-tolerable/

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              So are all American conservatives authoritarian, or none? I’m getting dizzy.

              • hey so says:

                Have you read The Reactionary Mind? Robin would say they are.

                What’s the source of confusion here? Were you surprised the Evangelical Right fell in love with somebody like Trump?

                Or…are you saying you think Robin is saying Trump doesn’t intend to be authoritarian, rather than just failing to do it effectively?

                • I’ve read the book and pretty sure Robin doesn’t use the word “authoritarian”.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  I’ve read it. Being committed to hierarchy and being committed to authoritarianism are not the same thing. You can be a reactionary without believing that the national police force works for you personally.

                • Robin quibbles, I think, between saying his conservatives are committed to hierarchy and saying they’re committed to making themselves certain to be on top of the hierarchy when they’re not really anymore, by finding age-old victims to dominate and twisting even liberal theories to their own use.

                • hey so says:

                  I’ve read the book and pretty sure Robin doesn’t use the word “authoritarian”.

                  Did you miss the part where the whole book was connecting conservativism to reactionaries?

                  I’ve read it. Being committed to hierarchy and being committed to authoritarianism are not the same thing. You can be a reactionary without believing that the national police force works for you personally.

                  This is a pretty narrow definition of the authoritarian tendency! Most members of the religious Right are not personally trying to be king; they’re fine with not being anywhere near the top of hierarchy as long as they don’t think they’re at the bottom, per Altemeyer.

                • I can go do a search on the word but I’m not encouraged by your seeming not to know the definition of the word “word.”

                  ETA If your response is going to be “you’re so stupid you don’t know that I’m right and you’re wrong,” please don’t bother.

                • hey so says:

                  I’m confused. Are you saying somebody who seeks to establish a rigid hierarchy doesn’t necessarily deserve to be called authoritarian?

                • Lee Rudolph says:

                  Did you miss the part where the whole book was connecting conservativism to reactionaries?

                  Do you have grounds for assuming that either “conservative” or “reactionary” is used by Robin as implying, or being implied by, “authoritarian”? If, as bianca steele says (and you haven’t bothered to refute), the word “authoritarian” doesn’t appear in the book, then those grounds—supposing you to have them—must have some basis outside the book. What is it?

                • hey so says:

                  The simplest response would be, “do you know of any reactionaries that aren’t?

                • hey so says:

                  The more complex answer is that Robin doesn’t namecheck authoritarianism because he sees it as a tool, a method of exercising power, rather than a philosophy in itself. This is the basis of “watch what they do, not what they say”: authoritarian rulers, after all, don’t engage in authoritarianism for its own sake. They do it because they want things that more diffused government can’t give them (fascism, Great Leaps Forward, shitloads of money, etc.). Since Reactionary Mind is about conservativism as a philosophy, how conservatives actually exercise power is left to the imagination (spoiler: not democratically).

                  Personally, I don’t think this is enough; after all, it’s all well and good for Edmund Burke to whine about how everything went to shit but when I consider how conservativism as affected my life I need to explain how they can turn this essentially Romantic idea into a mass movement. So that’s where Altemeyer comes in: Authoritarianism DOES exist as a personality type, and it’s frustratingly common even among people who’ve lived their lives in praise of a government system like the U.S.’s expressly designed to counter it (to whatever extent it succeeds at doing so).

                  So, you’ve got one author (Robin) who says Republicans are part of an intellectual tradition that longs for a return to a hierarchical system that uniformly exercised power through authoritarian means, and another (Altemeyer) who says a very large number of people long to live under a hierarchical, authoritarian system. Please explain why I’m wrong to consider this essentially the same conclusion?

                • calling all toasters says:

                  authoritarian rulers, after all, don’t engage in authoritarianism for its own sake.

                  Yeah, they certainly don’t get a thrill from exercising power.

                  You are a caution.

                  P.S. please save the reply where you “explain” that you weren’t talking about THIS, you were talking about THAT. You’re killing innocent electrons.

                • hey so says:

                  Yeah, they certainly don’t get a thrill from exercising power.

                  haha oh jeez compared to whom?

                  I’m pretty sure Obama enjoyed being President.

                • hey so says:

                  Or rather, I don’t consider Obama an authoritarian but I’m sure he enjoyed being President.

                • calling all toasters says:

                  I just realized… you’ve never had a job with a boss.

                • hey so says:

                  Dude, what the hell are you even talking about?

                • hey so says:

                  I mean, of course I’ve had bosses. Some of them have been authoritarian and some of them have not. I navigate them with the interpersonal skills I’ve learned through the process of becoming an adult human being.

                  Altemeyer says about half of his samples exhibited authoritarian tendencies and half did not. Based on my personal experience with folks who’ve had authority over me at various points in my life, this seems about right.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Robin’s thesis is that he openly engages in these things because he’s weak, not because he is more prone to them than others (though he may be).

          How many of these things were true of Jimmy Carter, who was also in a weak position? (Indeed, weaker — the Republican Congress has been much more supine for Trump.)

          • calling all toasters says:

            You’re missing the point, Scott. Openly engaging in authoritarianism is a sign that you are not authoritarian.

            • hey so says:

              Trump is trying to be totalitarian, which comes from a position of weakness.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Trump is trying to be totalitarian,

                Nah.

              • calling all toasters says:

                So if he tries to not be authoritarian, that would be strength, which would make him authoritarian? Gotcha.

                But no matter what he is, Hillary is worse, amirite?.

                • hey so says:

                  So you didn’t read the article I posted and really have no interest in considering authoritarianism beyond what you learned from the History channel, huh?

                • hey so says:

                  Also, 1) I voted for Hillary, and 2) you’re a child.

                • Yeah, no one here has read that.

                • calling all toasters says:

                  I actually read that did-you-Americans-know-that-authoritarianism-is-not-totalitarianism pile of snot. I can see why you like it so much. Not sure what it has to do with anything, but I’m sure you feel that it is absolute proof that you’re the smartest guy here. Good luck with that.

                • hey so says:

                  It is in response to your frankly weird contention that authoritarians always come in with the jackboots like Mussolini, or maybe bianca’s attempt upthread to characterization authoritarian governments as, well, Ricky Gervais in the Office.

                  I mean, do you not feel you are glossing over something particularly important? Vladimir Putin is pretty uncontroversially authoritarian, but Russians love him based on polls. What’s more likely: all those polls are cooked, or that he really has made the lives of Russians better (not a hard thing to do after Yeltsin, maybe) and all they’ve had to do is give up their political freedoms and dismiss Pussy Riot as a bunch of troublemakers?

                • calling all toasters says:

                  Who are you arguing with? And why are you trying to convince them of Putin’s popularity?

                  Answer neither of these questions first.

                • hey so says:

                  There is such a thing as an effective authoritarian, loved by his subjects. He is still a monster.

                  This is…an alien concept to you, evidently?

          • hey so says:

            Maybe Jimmy Carter wasn’t actually an authoritarian piece of shit, or at least was not an aspiring authoritarian who was really bad it, which is the kind of leader who goes full-bore at tearing down institutions rather than simply subverting them.

            I’ll go Full Hot Take and say GWB was a pretty good example of a successful American authoritarian, in this mold.

            • hey so says:

              an aspiring authoritarian who was really bad it, which is the kind of leader who goes full-bore at tearing down institutions rather than simply subverting them.

              And just for fun, I’ll even say Mussolini was arguably in this mold, except he caught some lucky breaks. If Luigi Facta stood his ground against the March on Rome Mussolini would have spent the next 40 years in Switzerland writing sad letters.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yeah, Ted Cruz probably wouldn’t have fired Comey, but he wouldn’t be so incompetent as to find himself in a position where he had to and certainly wouldn’t be dumb enough to pull the trigger even if he did. Robin’s thesis holds.

      Yes, a thesis is likely to hold up if one redefines it to make it unfalsifiable.

      • hey so says:

        Not at all. It took years for Washington and the MSM to come around to Bush having lied about Iraqi WMDs. The Trump administration can’t maintain a lie for 3 hours.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          There are words here but none are relevant to the question of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies.

          • hey so says:

            That’s because they aren’t about his authoritarian tendencies (which aren’t beyond what we’d expect to see in people generally, and in America, Republicans); they’re about his weakness.

            • hey so says:

              And to clarify, I’m not talking about personal weakness. I’m taking a different tack than Campos, though I certainly don’t think Trump being a Fox News Grandpa with dementia doesn’t matter. I’m talking about his weakness as a leader, which starts with him but continues throughout his administration: Spicer and Conway’s horrible messaging, Bannon trying to strongarm erstwhile allies, the relentless infighting, the easily-traceable embarrassments like Gorka, etc.

              Somebody mentioned upthread that 33 of 69 things Trump’s actually done involved the EPA, but that’s not evidence of Trump being particularly focused on environmental deregulation; it just means Scott Pruitt is one of the only people in there who’s good at his job.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Ah, so you concede that this “weakness” gibberish is not relevant to the post. Since it’s certainly not remotely interesting in itself either, there’s no need to pursue it further.

              • hey so says:

                My point is this post is attacking a strawman. Robin isn’t saying Trump doesn’t have authoritarian tendencies. This passes without comment because Robin’s position, based on his past work, is that all Republicans and indeed many if not most Democrats do: again, his counterfactual for effective authoritarian Presidential action is FDR.

                So the fact that he’s authoritarian and would like to govern that way isn’t that interesting or unique. If Trump is worse than Ted Cruz (and I agree he is, whether or not Robin would), it’s because he is bad at being authoritarian, which means he’s way more likely to directly attack and destroy institutions rather than subvert them to get what he wants.

                I linked one post from Tom Pepinsky about Malaysia on this, but all his stuff’s good. But I guess that’s not interesting to you?

  21. Is Sessions the only outlier? Pruitt is not only a corrupt tool of the oil industry, he’s a highly effective fanatic. 33 out of the 69 actual policy actions taken by Trump in his 100 days were attacks on environmental protection. Perhaps someone who knows more about Anne Gorsuch can give us a rating. Also, Bannon.

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