How Does It Feel?

We’re in a hostage crisis. And a fog.

What I think those of us who are white males haven’t absorbed yet about this election is that there’s no being a “citizen,” male or female, second-class or otherwise, in a liberal democratic republic anymore.

We all lost the country this year. All of us. Including those Trump voters who thought they were voting to defend the Constitution.

If you’re now feeling a twinge of apprehension in having voted for Trump, or are a white Clinton voter feeling sorry for Muslim Americans–or wondering what it might feel like to be black in Trump’s America–I’ve got news for you. You’re now a rolling stone as well. If you think the Bob Dylan song is a romantic fancy, listen to the lyrics closely at the dawn of the Age of Trump, and weep.

We’ve lost the country, not in a partisan sense, but in the literal sense. There are no second-class American citizens now, male or female, patriot or hippie, Muslim or non-Muslim, because there are no American citizens.

I’m trying to describe the situation. This is Donald Trump’s America. We just live here. Going forward, we’ll all become increasingly aware that we’re moving about in this country, not because the law protects us, or because we’re citizens and this country is ours, but because we are at his sufferance. He’s going to be tolerating us being here–and he’ll be revoking that tolerance if we cross him in a way that threatens his grip on power. His loyalty is not to democracy, the rule of law, and its institutions, but to himself. He owns us.

This is a daddy-child and master-slave situation, not a citizenry to public servant situation. We have seen nothing all year in his character that suggests he can exercise self restraint, and in two months, he’ll be the boss, and he’ll believe the law won’t apply to him. There will be no effective balance of powers to check him because he’ll be ignoring them, and if anybody tries to resist him, he’s going to crush them (first with soft power, but with hard if that becomes necessary). And in four years, he’s not leaving office, even were he to lose an election. (“It was rigged, it was totally unfair.”) In four years, if he’s gathered sufficient power to himself, and can figure out a way not to, he may not even hold an election.

If you resist, and you persist in your insolence, rising above the radar into his attention, expect to be deemed an enemy of the state. There will be no normal avenues effective against him now.

That’s where we are. Washington to Obama. That was America’s Republic. We’re now dealing with a completely different animal. The veneer of the old laws and the old Republic will be cloaking a lawless authoritarian attempting to grab all the power he can get, dangerous to ourselves and the rest of the world, propped up by a system of mass propaganda, popular will, and force. This veil of the old, but dead, Republic, with its forms and laws, by cloaking this new thing that has come into existence, is going to make it very difficult to think clearly about what’s really going on. It’s the emperor’s new clothes, and we’re going to have to see through them to the truth of our situation.

How will Trump consolidate power? What will be his modus operandi? The same as we’ve witnessed all year. He’ll defame and threaten, ramping up crisis after crisis, and won’t budge–and people will relent because he’ll simply make it too hot for them if they don’t. Watch Paul Ryan buckle again and again. Watch yourself. There will be lots of rationalizing. You’ll be doing it as well. You’re not going to be witness to many profiles in courage in this age we might properly call The Fog of Trump, and you’re not likely to be one yourself.

How does it feel?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in atheism, Bernie Sanders, donald trump, feminism, hillary clinton, Politics, science, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to How Does It Feel?

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      I watched the video. Sending me over to have a look at a populist rehearsal of elite vs. people issues is to miss my point. Trump may very well forge a populist alliance between Bernie populists and Trump populists against Jewish bankers (the bogeyman of that final Trump commercial), gathering additional nationalist backing. I don’t know. My point is that Trump’s loyalty is not to the Republic and its institutions, but to himself as the one who (he imagines) will channel directly the people’s will. It’s the model Putin runs in Russia. It’s a model where the populist and majority will is enacted by an intuitive strongman who imagines himself to be the channel of Hegelian history. It’s a Herderian, not an Anglo-French Enlightenment, model of nation/leader. It is not a rational and deliberative Republic of laws accompanied by effective balances of power, civility, and compromise. It is mass democracy channeled directly through a strongman who is above the law and is not above crushing his enemies. We’ve lost our Republic, Andrew. You okay with that? Do you think Trump will seriously exercise restraint? We have just collectively taken our most precious national treasure–our Republic of laws and checks and balances–and tossed it into the air like a coin on a gamble with a strongman. You can’t see that?

      • andrewclunn says:

        Ah okay, I see now. Then the answer is yes. If my choices are fascism or bureaucratic oligarchy, then bring on the fascism.

      • andrewclunn says:

        You know what, you deserve a more complete answer than that. Let me get back to you with a more in depth response (will have to be later on in the day).

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Well, at least you’re honest about it. You don’t like the stand-off between the competing elites in this country–even though the effect of that stand-off is to check each other’s worst impulses and powers in numerous ways that are not insignificant. And you don’t see a way of breaking their hold on power, and so you’re casting your lot with the authoritarian control of just one of them–a person you think (at the moment) is to your liking.

        I’ll point you to a book that I think carries out the relentless logic of such a choice: Zygmund Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust (Cornell 1989). He argues that bureaucracy wed to a strongman is how we end up with what Hannah Arendt would call “The Blob”–systems that function beyond individual responsibility.

        I wrote about this a while back here:

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        If you get a chance to come back and talk more about this today, great, but it’s not like Trump is going anywhere. We’re going to be dealing with our American Putin–if we survive him–for many years to come. I hope we’ll be able to talk about this together periodically. I always value your vantage–especially when we don’t agree.

      • andrewclunn says:

        I’ve been thinking. I think I should recommend you an alt-right podcast or something of that nature to keep you mindful of that part of the culture. It may make you rage (I mean I yell at John Oliver on the TV fairly regularly), but I know it’s important to expose myself to stuff I’m likely to disagree with. Let me know if you’re at all interested.

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        Sorry for the belated response, but send me any web page or podcast, etc., you think I ought to see or be aware of.

  1. In other words you think nothing can stop this chain of events at this point?

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      I’d love to be surprised, with Trump showing restraint and genuine loyalty to the Republic qua Republic. But given his pattern of behavior this past year, he appears incapable of controlling himself–and that means we’ll almost certainly have to witness the enactment of his tyrannical personality type in the White House. I don’t think he’ll be able to self-regulate.

      Of course, our system of government is designed to check this sort of person, but I think it’s going to fail its stress test because he won’t accept the rules of the game. He’ll do whatever he wants, and surround himself in legal opinions that say he can do whatever he wants.

      It’s akin to climate denialism. How do you talk about solutions to global warming with someone who won’t acknowledge climate change is even happening? Likewise, how do you get Trump to follow a Supreme Court ruling, a general’s advice about torture or nuclear weapons use, or a Congressional action if he has a simple meme in his head that the Executive branch is independent and doesn’t have to answer to anyone?

      Part of the danger of this moment is being masked by the fact that Congress and the Supreme Court will both be in Republican control, so he’ll seem like he can play nice precisely because he’s getting everything he wants at first, not really being resisted with consistency.

      But that’s the low-lying fruit, and that may be the first six months. Think, for instance, of how Trump behaved with Obama when Obama was in surrender mode this week. Nice. But what if Trump had lost the election? Naughty.

      I believe we’re all going to witness this nice-naughty cycle play out again and again in the first year, and it’s going to confound clear analysis of where we’re at, but at some point there’s going to be a collective acknowledgment that we’re in a hostage crisis; that he won’t ever leave his office, won’t budge or defer to expertise or anybody, and won’t play by the rules. And then what?

      The Stockholm Syndrome (getting love and threat from the same source, with no exit). We start identifying with our captor; we start learning to live with the new normal. Alpha-male Daddy Trump at that point has got us.

      Do you think otherwise?

      I suppose we’re in the scenario-speculation phase of this, and resistance strategizing. What’s your take?

      • My best guess is paralysis. He won’t be able to get funding for anything he’s promised. Not without destroying what’s been his party’s narrative since the Reagan years. It’s only a matter of time before Republicans turn against each other since blame politics is how they keep their base motivated.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        That’s an interesting take. Follow the money, essentially. The fact that Congress holds the purse strings may make you right about how far Trump can go. You need gas to drive a car. Trump, however, is going to have that populist wind at his back, where he can threaten to primary out Ryan if he won’t do what he wants. We’ll see.

  2. Staffan says:

    You forget all about what led to Trump’s win: an establishment of politicians across the board, the media, and ultimately the rich doing as they please and your vote doesn’t count. As paradoxical as it may sound, the people who voted for Trump (and Sanders) voted for democracy.

    To think Trump would tear down the fundaments of the republic is to see a mythological monster instead of a narcissistic businessman. He doesn’t have the power over its institutions or the ability to tear them down. He may butt his head against a few walls, but then settle down to be the figurehead.

    The analogy to Putin is false because Russians revolted against tsarism because it was incompetent, not because it was authoritarian. They replaced it with communism, and when that became incompetent it was replaced by Putin. They kept the authoritarinism all along because they have no desire for democracy.

  3. You make it sound pretty bad, and it is, but trump won’t last. His agenda is only to make himself look good. He will be gone in two years max. He will either resign or will be impeached, caught lining his own pockets with taxpayer money and his own fellow republicans will stand in the limelight expounding doing right thing for the republic and voting for impeachment.
    The one that will bring fascism to our front doors is pence.
    Right now we need trump to keep pence from sitting in the oval office, and in the meantime we need to find STRONG candidates to run for the House and Senate and make those two bodies for the people.

  4. colinhutton says:

    Hi Santi
    On “Fascist” :

    You invited me to provide an outside view, with particular reference to your earlier post :
    where you concluded (irrationally) that : “ Donald Trump’s movement can be reasonably thought of in fascist terms.”
    I read your original post at the time and have now re-read it, as well as Eco’s essay to which you link.
    I have enjoyed mentally outlining my response and jotting down some notes. I will enjoy fleshing out the notes into a coherent written argument. However I will be unable to reduce it to the limited space that would qualify it to be a legitimate blog comment. I will submit it to you by email and trust that you will be kind enough to award me a grade, as you might for one of your students. I will be perfectly happy if you were to choose to post all or any fairly paraphrased part of it as a comment here on your blog.

    My thesis will be that you, most of the main stream media (MSS), and half of your citizens have not realized (frog in the pot etc) that the USA is currently an authoritarian/fascist state. Fortunately, the other half have realized it, consciously or sub-consciously.

    My conclusion is that the intellectual fascism of the left was the root cause of Trump’s victory.

    I do not expect or hope to persuade you of that. I do hope, however, that I will be able, in a year or two, to revert to you (rationality regained) and say “told you so”.

  5. North Charlton says:

    “How Does It Feel?”

    When I finally realized that the shared individual responsibility mandate – essentially a fascist program in its nature and predicate as social insurance – might have a stake driven through its liberty-sucking heart, I felt pretty good. I felt as if a weight which you (as a hypothetical representative of the progressive kind) had somehow managed to offload onto me through the force of a dubious and constitutionally flawed “law”, i.e., the expressed will of the slaves of appetite that others of us becomes slaves of their slavery, might be lifted. I felt just provisionally, not absolutely, but hopefully, good.

    It felt good that I might not be chained to your organic dysfunctions, penalized financially for your redounding misdeeds, made a victim and a sacrifice for your needs which are not my needs, and forced to pay the price of your obnoxious vices which are not my vices. That is how it felt.

    You say you worry about the fate of a republic? But you did not balk at Obama’s determination as Chief Executive to subvert the rule of law, and attempt to ultra vires rule with a pen and a phone call.

    ” <a href="…””>I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders …”

    You say of Trump that:
    ” … he’ll be the boss, and the law won’t apply to him. There will be no effective balance of powers to check him because he’ll be ignoring them”

    Or as Obama once said to Republicans who offered suggestions ” Elections have consequences”.

    C.S. Monitor ” … Obama infamously espoused this view shortly after his 2009 inauguration, during a meeting with congressional Republicans about his economic proposals. Mr. Obama was later quoted as telling GOP leaders that “elections have consequences,” and, in case there was any doubt, “I won.”

    And as Valerie Jarrett said to Tom Browkaw, ” … Obama is prepared to, really, take power and begin to rule on day one …”

    To, “rule”, get that?

    What appreciation of the balance of powers (or roles) was it that you were referring to again?

    The President’s job in case you missed it, is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, not to make them, nor to rule.

    You talk of a republic, Santi, but many of the most irritating and intrusive legal changes that have been rammed through in recent years were not the result of public legislation but of a judicial appropriation of a legislative function.

    Of course your view of the rule of law is obviously constructed with a number of convenient escape hatches, or as you frame it : ” … a rational and deliberative Republic of laws accompanied by effective balances of power, civility, and compromise. ” Or as you mean it, laws which are enforced when and to the extent you wish them to be.

    Well, this is what you get Santi old man, by playing your administrative discretion cheat card. It comes back to bite you in the ass.

    How do I feel about seeing you squeal when the chickens came home to roost in your hair?

    Not too bad.

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