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Darkness at Noon: Trumpism as revolutionary cult


The Michigan state canvassing board is meeting right now, in what under normal circumstances would be a completely routine certification of the 2020 election. But of course this is 2020 and the Age of Trump, so nothing is routine:

Just to be clear, under Michigan law the board has no discretion at all in this matter, but of course that means nothing in the context of Trumpism, which is every bit as lawless as Stalinism.

UPDATE: After several hours of Republicans talking a lot about their feelings, the board voted 3-0 to certify the election, with one GOP member abstaining.

Speaking of which, the psychology of Trump supporters and the Republican party (a distinction at this point with no real difference) in regard to “election fraud” and the 2020 presidential election is comparable to the psychology of Stalinists in the late 1930s to the Moscow show trials of the Old Bolsheviks.

In both cases the supporters can be divided into three categories, with considerable gray zones and overlap between them, even in terms of the psychology of particular individuals [ETA: many commenters have made the astute observation that very few people can actually stay in category (2) below for very long, without migrating toward (1) and/or (3)]:

(1) The rubes, the marks, the simple believers.

Any political cult requires the participation of huge numbers of people who are too naive and/or stupid and/or lazy to notice that they’re being told to believe facially outrageous things, for which there is not even the beginnings of any proof. This is the modal viewer/listener in the vast audience for the right wing scream machine in all its many forms.

(2) The cynical opportunists.

These are people who are well aware the charges are complete bullshit, but who don’t care about that because they only care about power, wealth, etc. Many if not most Republican elites, especially officials elected to high office, fit this category.

(3) The Noble Lie/Higher Truth zealots. These were the most interesting types during the great purges both in and outside the Stalinist Soviet Union, and they are certainly the most interesting members of the Trump movement now. These are people who know the specific charges being made against the Old Bolsheviks and the Big City (ahem) Democrats are not true in any literal sense, but they believe them to be true in a higher, perhaps Platonic or Jesuitical sense.

While it’s true the Old Bolsheviks didn’t commit any of the lurid crimes they were accused of committing, they had committed the more fundamental crime of failing to support the one True Leader of the revolution, which made their literal innocence in regard to the crimes with which they were charged a sort of trivial detail, of concern only to those obsessed with “bourgeois justice.”

And while the Democrats didn’t literally steal the election in the way in which the Elite Legal Strike Force – 1 is accusing them of stealing it, they are in fact stealing it by committing the more fundamental fraud of using people who aren’t exactly Real Americans to betray the revolutionary reactionary vision of movement conservatism, and its One True Leader. And that vision isn’t merely a political preference: It is the Revealed Truth about America as the primary instrument of the eschatological narrative these people believe regarding the fate of the world in general.

Now as always the most interesting question, from a practical perspective, is: how many people belong to each category, and in particular among our social and economic elites? It’s clear that it will soon be the case, if it isn’t already, that the vast majority of Republicans will swear as an article of faith that the Democrats stole the presidential election. Some of these people will be idiots, some of them will be liars, and some of them will be zealots of the cult, who will maintain the complex attitude toward concepts such as facts and truth that being a zealous member of a cult requires.

And it’s likely that we’ll have to wait a very long time for the equivalent of Khrushchev’s secret speech.

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