C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Drive: Good Morning

As performed by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain (1952):

Saturday, February 25, 2017

This Week in Trumpocracy, 2/25/17

We are a month into the Trumpocracy, and make no mistake about it, my friends:  the celebrity-dictator Trump is just what he promised he would be, and it is the duty of every true liberty-loving patriot to resist the one-man rule that he wants to inflict upon our country, and resist that evil utterly, whether by great measures or small.  I am old and weary, tired of strife and effectively disabled, but I am doing what I can here by posting reports and news that may encourage some others to do more than I can.

We stand at one of the great turning points in American history, and who knows how we shall find our way out.  Perhaps the first and best thing we can all do is to see what is right before our eyes, speak the truth to our neighbors, and keep on speaking it.  Light a little candle in the darkness, if you can do no more, and keep it burning - we Americans will not go silent and unresisting into the night, will we?

1. Kudos to my trucklady friend June over at The Wounded Bird, who struck a blow for democracy way down in the bayous this week, and justly earned her 15 minutes of fame by breaking into a Senator's self-serving speech:

2.  CNN's Jake Tapper on the "un-American" White House, which barred the nation's leading news media from a press conference yesterday:

3. Why some former Obama voters voted for Trump; notice that these folks-next-door have no fangs and horns, but are sadly misguided:

4. At CPAC this week, Trump's ghastly eminence gris Steve Bannon admitted that the goal of this administration is to "destroy the administrative state" - which your Head Trucker would translate as "destroy democracy" - in other words, replacing our system of government with the Will of Trump alone - is this not a blueprint for dictatorship?  Yes it is.  Also high treason. Daily Kos reports:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.

“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said. He posited that Trump’s announcement withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.”

The crippling or wholesale elimination of Federal agencies that ensure we receive such things as clean air, clean water, fair labor laws, fair housing standards, anti-discrimination laws, financial protections, food and drug safety, national education standards and the like, has been a goal of far-right “thinkers" for decades. Their rationale, propagated by corporate and industry-funded think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, has always been that that the existence of these “unelected" agencies represents a mortal threat to American “sovereignty and self-government." This is exactly the line Bannon was peddling at CPAC today. It is delusional, right-wing garbage.

5. A Republican state judge in Ohio wrote a blistering editorial for the Cincinnati paper, excerpt:
The leader of the band of Mad Hatters occupying the White House has already insulted allied world leaders, issued illegal and badly written orders, impugned a “so-called” judge appointed by his own party, and appointed the least-qualified cabinet ever. The first secretary of state was Thomas Jefferson. Trump appointed a big-oil executive with close ties to Russia. The first treasury secretary was Alexander Hamilton. Trump appointed a former Goldman Sachs exec who got rich foreclosing on homeowners. The national security advisor lasted 24 days.

And all that’s just at the time I write this. Who knows what happens next. Each new day is a new nightmare. We are still trying to digest one breathtaking assault on America when another is signed, issued, or Tweeted. All this amid constant lies. Constant. Lies.

I am a lifelong Republican. I voted for every Republican presidential candidate from 1968 to 2004. But I have watched what once was a sane, center-right party go off the rails, first to the extreme right, then to wherever Trump is, which is in another universe.

It’s tough, but we must end this dangerous presidency. Trump must be impeached and removed with all haste. But only Congress can initiate the process. . . .

Basic American values – free speech, the rule of law, separation of powers, even common decency – are unknown in this White House. We now have a president who has no concept of separation of powers, or why we have three branches of government. If he knew anything about the Constitution, he would know the framers envisioned just the situation we have now – a would-be dictator. They provided checks and balances – such as an independent judiciary to protect us from presidential tyranny. . . .

All the above bothers me and should appall all Americans. We must admit we have elected a president who has immediately proved himself to be a grifter, a pathological liar, a mean-spirited bully and dangerous to American values. This not-ready-for-prime-time show is too dangerous to continue. America is at stake.

6. Dan Rather, one of the elder statesmen of journalism, sounded the emergency alarm on his Facebook page:
The time for normalizing, dissembling, and explaining away Donald Trump has long since passed. The barring of respected journalistic outlets from the White House briefing is so far beyond the norms and traditions that have governed this republic for generations, that they must be seen as a real and present threat to our democracy. These are the dangers presidents are supposed to protect against, not create.

For all who excused Mr. Trump's rhetoric in the campaign as just talk, the reckoning has come. I hope it isn't true, but I fear Mr. Trump is nearing or perhaps already beyond any hope of redemption. And now the question is will enough pressure be turned to all those who enable his antics with their tacit encouragement. There has been a wall of unbending support from virtually every Republican in Congress, and even some Democrats. Among many people, this will be seen as anything approaching acceptable. And mind you, talk is cheap. No one needs to hear how you don't agree with the President. What are you going to do about it? Do you maintain that an Administration that seeks to subvert the protections of our Constitution is fit to rule unchecked? Or fit to rule at all?

This is an emergency that can no longer be placed solely at the feet of President Trump, or even the Trump Administration. This is a moment of judgement for everyone who willingly remains silent. It is gut check time, for those in a position of power, and for the nation.

7. Look into the crystal ball - is a military coup in our future? Patrick Granfield's Politico essay, "The Generals Guarding American Democracy," implies a hitherto unthinkable thought.

Bonus:  The New Yorker slyly captures the essence of the moment on its annual Eustace Tilley cover:

Friday, February 24, 2017

Waitin' for the Weekend

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Refugees Welcome

Activists today unfurled a welcome banner on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, which was soon removed by park rangers.  Earlier in the day, the Department of Homeland Security had issued its new plan for rounding up and deporting illegal aliens found in this country.

Although the banner made a cheerful sight, today's deportation orders remind me of this cartoon from 1939 and the shameful story behind it: a cautionary tale for our time.

I also came across this poster, source not stated, which gives pause for thought:

More food for thought, if anyone is hungry:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today's Toon

While Trump is ramping up his deportation force . . .

By Andy Marlette, Pensacola News-Journal, pnj.com

. . . this is happening in Canada:

Sunday Drive: Whispering Hope

An exquisite performance of the beloved hymn by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae, recorded in 1949:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Waitin' for the Weekend

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Enemy of the People

My usual Friday post will be delayed a bit while I inform my truckbuddies of this appaling item: this afternoon, Trump declared the mainstream news media "the enemy of the people."  Breathtaking effrontery!

Oh yeah? Well, I have a much better, much clearer idea of who the real enemy of the people is. Nobody who shoots his mouth off like this has any right to be sitting in the Oval Office.

It would seem that Republican Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe feels the same way as your Head Trucker:

My God have mercy, I have lived to see this day - a sitting president denouncing the free press, which the Founding Fathers held was essential to our Constitution and our liberties - a view which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld ever since. This cannot continue. This attitude has no place in our republic, and no one who thinks this way and spews such fascist garbage has any place in our government.  Such a one is a traitor to all that America stands for.

He must go, and all his fascist minions with him - the sooner, the better. Will anyone second this motion?

Bonus: Scholars might debate the meaning of the word fascist, but here is a living, breathing example direct from the White House last Sunday - Trump advisor Stephen Miller announcing to "all of planet Earth" that the powers of the President "will not be questioned." The panel at Morning Joe take him to task for that dictatorial attitude:

Less than a month in office, Trump has shown his true colors, and they are just what we feared they would be. What more proof is needed?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Destruction of Honesty

Photo from the Slate article on today's press conference, which it called "a stunning display of Trump’s ability to lie, exaggerate, obfuscate, and mislead the public while insisting that it was actually the media who were doing all of those things."

An excerpt from "The National Nightmare Has Just Begun" by Gabriel Schoenfeld, a Republican political advisor, writing for USA Today:
It is not too soon to tally the damage wreaked so far by our 45th president.

Donald Trump's rampage through key institutions is an obvious place to begin. The executive branch of our federal government has never run like clockwork, but in peace or wartime it has rarely been this chaotic. In effect if not by title, the White House now has three competing chiefs of staff, each with walk-in privileges to the Oval Office and each playing our ignorant and impressionable president as if he were a piano. The disarray has radiated outward to the agencies to the nation and even to the world. The botched formulation and execution of Trump’s travel ban, and the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn via surprise trapdoor, are of course Exhibits A and B.

The judicial branch has suffered a blow of a different sort, with the president blasting Judge James Robart, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate unopposed, as a “so-called judge.” Dismissal by the president of the judiciary’s role as a check and balance on his own power could derail our democracy. In a tweet, he has already, and pre-emptively, assigned blame for the next terror attack to Robart and our entire court system. We have been duly warned: Should such an attack come, it will be a moment of maximum danger not only for our safety but also foor our freedom.

Then we have the Republican Party, which, following Trump’s siren song, is committing moral-intellectual suicide. Defenders of religious liberty have turned into proponents of a backdoor Muslim ban. The banner of free trade has been dropped for protectionism. Budgetary thrift has given way to profligacy. So many things the GOP stood for a mere two years ago — good character and ethical conduct, a clear-eyed view of Russia — have been replaced by their opposite. To the party’s leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, political principles are nothing. Political power is all. In their apologetics for the billionaire blockhead at America’s helm, never has hypocrisy been more perfectly distilled.

Our free press remains intact; indeed, it has been rising to the occasion as it has come under assault from a president who, even as he relentlessly castigates it, stays glued to its coverage, obsessing over every criticism and slight. But though the news media are performing their critical function, they are losing — along with our entire society — a more fundamental battle.

Here we come to damage of a different sort: The destruction of honesty, one of democracy’s most fundamental norms.

Trump and his team lie as naturally as leaves grow on trees. America is being polarized along a new axis of division. On one side are dupes, possibly numbering in the millions, who accept the president’s preposterous fabrications as gospel. On the other side are those appalled by the dawn of post-modern America in which truth is supplanted by “alternative facts,” the euphemism employed by Kellyanne Conway, the president’s most brazen flack, for the projectile falsehoods that spurt from her mouth. As every aspiring authoritarian leader grasps — and Trump is no exception — a world without truth is a world without rules, without justice and without the possibility of democratic deliberation.

And in today's press conference at the White House, Trump was caught red-handed dispensing "fake news" himself - kudos to NBC's Peter Alexander for calling him out:

Just for your information fellas, here are the electoral college results for all elections since 1932. The three number columns show, respectively, the total electoral votes, the winner's share, and the runner-up's share.

From Wikipedia.  Click to enlarge.

Update, 7:55 pm: Shep Smith of Fox News, which for many years has been the propaganda mill of the Republican Party, incensed at the way Trump tried deflect attention from his staff's undercover dealings with Russian intelligence by branding all reporters as purveyors of fake news, lashed out at Trump on camera after today's press conference: “No sir. We are not fools for asking the question and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lies, Damned Lies, and Kellyanne Conway

Defending Truth, Justice, and the American Way -
Kellyanne Conway in her fantasy outfit work uniform.

Or, how to be Minister of Propaganda in four easy lessons - see the Vox video below for directions.

The Flynn scandal is opening a big can of ugly worms, not the least of which is on-camera proof of the blatant dishonesty of Trump's head cheerleader.

(Though confidentially, fellas, your Head Trucker recognized decades ago that politicians of all stripes and all parties do exactly the same thing nearly every time they are on camera, and the public is used to it by now, sad to say. There must be a secret school for this stuff in Washington and in every state capital. Conway's greater sin is to make it so very, very obvious, used in a wicked cause.)

1. MSNBC's Morning Joe team calls Conway a flat-out liar this morning:

2. On NBC's Today show, Matt Lauer tells a haggard, somewhat disheveled Conway to her virtual face that she is making no sense:

3. Vox breaks it down for us:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Drive: If I Had a Hammer

As performed by Peter, Paul and Mary at their 25th anniversary concert in 1986:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Waitin' for the Weekend

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Blind Tweeting the Blind

New Yorker cartoon by Liam Walsh

The unceasing and daily intensifying coverage by the news media of the Trump trainwreck is certainly fascinating and appalling in equal parts - but perhaps a bit too much so. It might, in fact, be salutary for us all to stick our heads out of the tweetstorm now and then, and remind ourselves that there is an entire world existing right below our feet that also is worthy of attention - really it is.

Here's an article from the Atlantic that may give pause for thought: "The Binge Breaker." Excerpt:
While some blame our collective tech addiction on personal failings, like weak willpower, Harris points a finger at the software itself. That itch to glance at our phone is a natural reaction to apps and websites engineered to get us scrolling as frequently as possible. The attention economy, which showers profits on companies that seize our focus, has kicked off what Harris calls a “race to the bottom of the brain stem.” “You could say that it’s my responsibility” to exert self-control when it comes to digital usage, he explains, “but that’s not acknowledging that there’s a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down whatever responsibility I can maintain.” In short, we’ve lost control of our relationship with technology because technology has become better at controlling us. . . .

McDonald’s hooks us by appealing to our bodies’ craving for certain flavors; Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter hook us by delivering what psychologists call “variable rewards.” Messages, photos, and “likes” appear on no set schedule, so we check for them compulsively, never sure when we’ll receive that dopamine-activating prize. (Delivering rewards at random has been proved to quickly and strongly reinforce behavior.) Checking that Facebook friend request will take only a few seconds, we reason, though research shows that when interrupted, people take an average of 25 minutes to return to their original task.

Sites foster a sort of distracted lingering partly by lumping multiple services together. To answer the friend request, we’ll pass by the News Feed, where pictures and auto-play videos seduce us into scrolling through an infinite stream of posts—what Harris calls a “bottomless bowl,” referring to a study that found people eat 73 percent more soup out of self-refilling bowls than out of regular ones, without realizing they’ve consumed extra. The “friend request” tab will nudge us to add even more contacts by suggesting “people you may know,” and in a split second, our unconscious impulses cause the cycle to continue: Once we send the friend request, an alert appears on the recipient’s phone in bright red—a “trigger” color, Harris says, more likely than some other hues to make people click—and because seeing our name taps into a hardwired sense of social obligation, she will drop everything to answer. In the end, he says, companies “stand back watching as a billion people run around like chickens with their heads cut off, responding to each other and feeling indebted to each other.” . . .

“Our generation relies on our phones for our moment-to-moment choices about who we’re hanging out with, what we should be thinking about, who we owe a response to, and what’s important in our lives,” he said. “And if that’s the thing that you’ll outsource your thoughts to, forget the brain implant. That is the brain implant. You refer to it all the time.”

And here's a video interview with the subject of the article.

For clarity: Your Head Trucker has no smart phone or even dumb phone, and has no intention of having any.

(Ain't that a damn shame, boys?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Vacation, all I ever wanted . . .

Necker Island, BVI, owned by Sir Richard Branson

A couple of weeks after leaving office, former President Obama is enjoying a well-deserved holiday from the woes of the world, kite-surfing in the beautiful waters of the British Virgin Islands.  Who can blame him?

Which reminds me of this song:

Two weeks without you, and I still haven't gotten over you yet.

*Sigh* Miss you, man.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Window of Time

Politifact is tracking Trump's claims.

George Prochnik in the New Yorker, writing about Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig (1881-1942):
In his memoir, Zweig did not excuse himself or his intellectual peers for failing early on to reckon with Hitler’s significance. “The few among writers who had taken the trouble to read Hitler’s book, ridiculed the bombast of his stilted prose instead of occupying themselves with his program,” he wrote. They took him neither seriously nor literally. Even into the nineteen-thirties, “the big democratic newspapers, instead of warning their readers, reassured them day by day, that the movement . . . would inevitably collapse in no time.” Prideful of their own higher learning and cultivation, the intellectual classes could not absorb the idea that, thanks to “invisible wire-pullers”—the self-interested groups and individuals who believed they could manipulate the charismatic maverick for their own gain—this uneducated “beer-hall agitator” had already amassed vast support. After all, Germany was a state where the law rested on a firm foundation, where a majority in parliament was opposed to Hitler, and where every citizen believed that “his liberty and equal rights were secured by the solemnly affirmed constitution.”

Zweig recognized that propaganda had played a crucial role in eroding the conscience of the world. He described how, as the tide of propaganda rose during the First World War, saturating newspapers, magazines, and radio, the sensibilities of readers became deadened. Eventually, even well-meaning journalists and intellectuals became guilty of what he called “the ‘doping’ of excitement”—an artificial incitement of emotion that culminated, inevitably, in mass hatred and fear. Describing the healthy uproar that ensued after one artist’s eloquent outcry against the war in the autumn of 1914, Zweig observed that, at that point, “the word still had power. It had not yet been done to death by the organization of lies, by ‘propaganda.’ “ But Hitler “elevated lying to a matter of course,” Zweig wrote, just as he turned “anti-humanitarianism to law.” By 1939, he observed, “Not a single pronouncement by any writer had the slightest effect . . . no book, pamphlet, essay, or poem” could inspire the masses to resist Hitler’s push to war.

Propaganda both whipped up Hitler’s base and provided cover for his regime’s most brutal aggressions. It also allowed truth seeking to blur into wishful thinking, as Europeans’ yearning for a benign resolution to the global crisis trumped all rational skepticism. “Hitler merely had to utter the word ‘peace’ in a speech to arouse the newspapers to enthusiasm, to make them forget all his past deeds, and desist from asking why, after all, Germany was arming so madly,” Zweig wrote. Even as one heard rumors about the construction of special internment camps, and of secret chambers where innocent people were eliminated without trial, Zweig recounted, people refused to believe that the new reality could persist. “This could only be an eruption of an initial, senseless rage, one told oneself. That sort of thing could not last in the twentieth century.” In one of the most affecting scenes in his autobiography, Zweig describes seeing the first refugees from Germany climbing over the Salzburg mountains and fording the streams into Austria shortly after Hitler’s appointment to the Chancellorship. “Starved, shabby, agitated . . . they were the leaders in the panicked flight from inhumanity which was to spread over the whole earth. But even then I did not suspect when I looked at those fugitives that I ought to perceive in those pale faces, as in a mirror, my own life, and that we all, we all, we all would become victims of the lust for power of this one man.” . . .

I wonder how far along the scale of moral degeneration Zweig would judge America to be in its current state. We have a magnetic leader, one who lies continually and remorselessly—not pathologically but strategically, to placate his opponents, to inflame the furies of his core constituency, and to foment chaos. The American people are confused and benumbed by a flood of fake news and misinformation. Reading in Zweig’s memoir how, during the years of Hitler’s rise to power, many well-meaning people “could not or did not wish to perceive that a new technique of conscious cynical amorality was at work,” it’s difficult not to think of our own present predicament. Last week, as Trump signed a drastic immigration ban that led to an outcry across the country and the world, then sought to mitigate those protests by small palliative measures and denials, I thought of one other crucial technique that Zweig identified in Hitler and his ministers: they introduced their most extreme measures gradually—strategically—in order to gauge how each new outrage was received. “Only a single pill at a time and then a moment of waiting to observe the effect of its strength, to see whether the world conscience would still digest the dose,” Zweig wrote. “The doses became progressively stronger until all Europe finally perished from them.”

And still Zweig have might noted that, as of today, President Trump and his sinister “wire-pullers” have not yet locked the protocols for their exercise of power into place. One tragic lesson offered by “The World of Yesterday” is that, even in a culture where misinformation has become omnipresent, where an angry base, supported by disparate, well-heeled interests, feels empowered by the relentless lying of a charismatic leader, the center might still hold. In Zweig’s view, the final toxin needed to precipitate German catastrophe came in February of 1933, with the burning of the national parliament building in Berlin–an arson attack Hitler blamed on the Communists but which some historians still believe was carried out by the Nazis themselves. “At one blow all of justice in Germany was smashed,” Zweig recalled. The destruction of a symbolic edifice—a blaze that caused no loss of life—became the pretext for the government to begin terrorizing its own civilian population. That fateful conflagration took place less than thirty days after Hitler became Chancellor. The excruciating power of Zweig’s memoir lies in the pain of looking back and seeing that there was a small window in which it was possible to act, and then discovering how suddenly and irrevocably that window can be slammed shut.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

Waitin' for the Weekend

Pete Kuzak

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lies, Clarity, and Resistance

Excerpts from a couple of conservative thinkers - yes, conservative - in the current issue of the Atlantic that you fellas would do well to take time to read:

1.  Eliot Cohen:
This is one of those clarifying moments in American history, and like most such, it came upon us unawares, although historians in later years will be able to trace the deep and the contingent causes that brought us to this day. There is nothing to fear in this fact; rather, patriots should embrace it. The story of the United States is, as Lincoln put it, a perpetual story of “a rebirth of freedom” and not just its inheritance from the founding generation.

Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly—in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness. These are all the opposites of the qualities exhibited by this president and his advisers. Trump, in one spectacular week, has already shown himself one of the worst of our presidents, who has no regard for the truth (indeed a contempt for it), whose patriotism is a belligerent nationalism, whose prior public service lay in avoiding both the draft and taxes, who does not know the Constitution, does not read and therefore does not understand our history, and who, at his moment of greatest success, obsesses about approval ratings, how many people listened to him on the Mall, and enemies.

He will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books. To repair the damage he will have done Americans must give particular care to how they educate their children, not only in love of country but in fair-mindedness; not only in democratic processes but democratic values. Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents. They can attempt to renew a political culture damaged by their decayed systems of civic education, and by the cynicism of their popular culture.

There is in this week’s events the foretaste of things to come. We have yet to see what happens when Trump tries to use the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy his opponents. He thinks he has succeeded in bullying companies, and he has no compunction about bullying individuals, including those with infinitely less power than himself. His advisers are already calling for journalists critical of the administration to be fired: Expect more efforts at personal retribution. He has demonstrated that he intends to govern by executive orders that will replace the laws passed by the people’s representatives.

In the end, however, he will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.

2. David Frum:
In an online article for The New York Review of Books, the Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen brilliantly noted a commonality between Donald Trump and the man Trump admires so much, Vladimir Putin. “Lying is the message,” she wrote. “It’s not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself.”

The lurid mass movements of the 20th century — communist, fascist, and other — have bequeathed to our imaginations an outdated image of what 21st-century authoritarianism might look like.

Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead. . . .

The oft-debated question “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” is not easy to answer. There are certainly fascistic elements to him: the subdivision of society into categories of friend and foe; the boastful virility and the delight in violence; the vision of life as a struggle for dominance that only some can win, and that others must lose.

Yet there’s also something incongruous and even absurd about applying the sinister label of fascist to Donald Trump. He is so pathetically needy, so shamelessly self-interested, so fitful and distracted. Fascism fetishizes hardihood, sacrifice, and struggle — concepts not often associated with Trump. . . .

Perhaps this is the wrong question. Perhaps the better question about Trump is not “What is he?” but “What will he do to us?”

By all early indications, the Trump presidency will corrode public integrity and the rule of law—and also do untold damage to American global leadership, the Western alliance, and democratic norms around the world. The damage has already begun, and it will not be soon or easily undone. Yet exactly how much damage is allowed to be done is an open question—the most important near-term question in American politics. It is also an intensely personal one, for its answer will be determined by the answer to another question: What will you do? And you? And you?

Of course we want to believe that everything will turn out all right. In this instance, however, that lovely and customary American assumption itself qualifies as one of the most serious impediments to everything turning out all right. If the story ends without too much harm to the republic, it won’t be because the dangers were imagined, but because citizens resisted. . . .

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

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