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Morons R Us

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

At this point, Trump supporters who are not plutocrats or diehard Republicans are white supremacists, nativists, Islamophobes, stooges or some combination of all of the above. In a word, they are morons. There is no more reason to take their views seriously than there are reasons to believe a word Donald Trump says.

Democrats and Democratic media won’t outright call them morons because they think that candor would be impolitic. It is not clear why: perhaps they believe that there are still potential voters who have somehow managed not to make up their minds and they don’t want to insult them on that account. Or perhaps it is because they are the kinds of liberals Robert Frost described; people who are too reasonable to take their own sides in arguments.

Nevertheless, it is the bitter truth that the views of Trump supporters merit contempt, not respect. Everybody with a functioning brain knows this, no matter how great the determination of some of them to abide by a secular version of the principle: “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Not all Trump supporters are assholes from birth. Environmental factors helped make them that way, along with Fox News and other rightwing media. Perhaps, in time, some of them will get past all that; the temptation is great, but not all of them should be entirely written off.

But they should all be called to account. Even in “alternative fact” Trumpland, where nothing is the Donald’s fault, the buck has to stop somewhere, and inasmuch as the consequences of Trump’s malevolence and malfeasance loom so large, blame where due should not be spared.

Topping the list of the blameworthy are Trump Party stalwarts in the federal government, all three branches of it. The hapless folk who get their news and views from Fox don’t know better; Republican high-fliers do. Hillary Clinton may disagree, but the miscreants in high places are the most “deplorable” of all.

There is no point now in dwelling on the many reasons why no sane or decent person could contemplate four more years of Donald Trump without recoiling in horror; if they have been paying even scant attention to what Trump and his minions have been up to for the past four years, they already know reasons aplenty.

In any case, there isn’t world enough and time. The list is huge and grows day by day.

With Trump becoming increasingly desperate, new reasons have been accumulating at an astonishing pace. Indeed, with Election Day approaching, he has been decomposing in plain public view.

The Donald’s goal at first may have only been to enhance his brand, but, as the campaign wore on and the ranks of venal and pathetic Trump supporters swelled, he became addicted to the adulation. For a narcissist of his caliber, this was all but inevitable, once it became clear that his campaign was taking off.

No doubt, the highs were heaven, but even he must have been aware, at some level, of portents of hell. After all, he could hardly not realize, deep down, that he is nothing more than a third-rate huckster, a loser kept afloat at fist by his father’s money and political juice, and then by the kindness of banksters and oligarchs and other malefactors, in way beyond his depth.

His determination to keep himself and others from facing up to this obvious fact has always been palpable. If only for this reason, he feels compelled now to hold onto power by any and all means, no matter how disingenuous or vile.

He surely realizes too, at some level, that he has been involved in so many actionable criminal offenses that, were there anything like “equal justice under law” in the United States, he could count on spending the rest of his life dealing with the consequences.

The Obama-Biden administration gave Bush era war criminals, up and down the pecking order, get-out-of-jail-free cards; this was Wall Street’s man, the Deporter-in-Chief, President Drone’s Original Sin. With an aroused citizenry intent on some semblance of justice coming Trump’s way, it will be hard, but not impossible, for Biden to repeat that mistake, much as he might like to. Obama did it, the story goes, to make it easier to “move forward.” After Trump, it will take time and effort clearing away countless messes before any such talk could even sound plausible.

But even were a Biden administration to hand out free passes to Trump and his underlings by the truckload, our worst president ever would still have New York state to deal with. There is not much that Biden or anyone else in the federal government could do about that; presidents cannot pardon individuals convicted of state crimes, only state governors can.

Because he is a coward, as insecure as they come, the last thing Trump wants is to trade in the outfits he wears at his golf resorts for orange jump suits supplied by Club Fed. But if and when he is finally dispatched, that could well be his future. He can therefore be counted on to do anything, no matter how vile or world-endangering, to stay where he is.

And yet, despite incontrovertible evidence – some of it inferred, some recorded in his own words by official Washington’s “iconic” scribe, Bob Woodward – that the conman despises his marks to such an extent that he is glad that, thanks to the pandemic he has done so much to exacerbate, he no longer has to shake their hands, his supporters continue to pack his covid-19 super-spreader events and to make themselves ridiculous by posting yard signs, wearing Trump apparel, and sticking Trump flags on their vehicles. They aren’t even ashamed.

For some time now, it has been plain that this is just what one would expect. Those people are morons.

The sad fact is, though, that one doesn’t have to be a bona fide moron, a Trump Party fanatic straight out of central casting, to think and act moronically; Democrats and “independents” and genuine leftists do it too — not all the time, like the knuckleheads who wear baseness and servility on their sleeves, but a lot of the time nevertheless.

There is surely something moronic, for example, in the way that the pillars of the Democratic Party establishment and the donors they serve, along with their propagandists, the ones that have made MSNBC and CNN unbearable even for background noise, decided, in the course of quashing the Sanders and Warren insurgencies, the better to keep their own power intact, to field the most lackluster and rightwing contender for their party’s presidential nomination this year, a doofus, past his prime, who, in nearly five decades in the political limelight, has seldom, if ever, gotten anything right.

They nominated the candidate least likely to succeed – least likely to enthuse voters, least able to deal boldly and decisively with Trump should he unleash mayhem or even civil war in order to remain in power, and least likely to be able or willing to lead the country beyond the debilitating, normative constraints of the past.

If, as seems likely, Democrats take back the Senate this year, perhaps Biden could be forced to side with the efforts of Democratic Senators to democratize that wretched institution just a little, say by eliminating the filibuster. It won’t be easy, though, to get Biden on board because while the times call for thinking boldly about the future, his head is stuck in the past.

To focus on matters now very much in the news, it won’t be easy to get him to push for, or even go along with, among other things, DC and Puerto Rican statehood, expanding the size of the Supreme Court, establishing new federal district courts, expanding the number of judges in old ones, and imposing term limits on federal judgeships. Biden’s politics are even more retrograde than Hillary Clinton’s.

Despite this, however, the likelihood that Trump would do better than him in a free and fair election is nil.

He may be able, though, through voter suppression and other forms of skullduggery, to do well enough to make the election unfree and unfair enough to delegitimate its results. There is even reason to fear that he and his followers will create so much chaos that anything could happen – up to and including a coup d’état.

Were the Democrats running a bolder and more charismatic candidate, and were they promoting a fundamental change of course rather than a return to a later-day version of the pre-Trumpian status quo, the chances of getting through the troubles ahead without too much damage being done would be much improved.

But they are running Biden, and the sad fact is that there is no meaningful way to vote against Trump other than by voting for him.

In more normal time, this would be an issue for genuine progressives in our so-called “democracy” only in “battleground states.” Voters not living in one of them – in roughly forty of the fifty states – could then, in good conscience, cast protest votes for “third party” or independent candidates, perhaps thinking that, by doing so, they are striking a blow at our debilitating duopoly party system. This is what I have been doing for years – by voting for the Greens.

Or they could not vote at all. Why bother, after all, when there is nothing or no one to vote for?

But these are not normal time. After four years of Trump, dangers lurk that no one four years ago would have imagined. It has become fashionable lately to talk about “existential threats.” This is one time when that description actually fits.

Thus, the case for voting for Biden, even for piling on votes for him in “blue” states, distasteful – indeed, objectionable — as doing so may be, has become compelling.

Enthusiasm for Biden would help bring anti-Trump voters out, a point reiterated continuously, it sometimes seems, by pundits on the cable networks. But “ought” implies “can,” and those able to work up enthusiasm for the ticket afflicted upon us by the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Stenny Hoyer, James Clyburn, and others of their ilk – in other words, by those whose “center left” politics made Trump possible – are few and far between. With a center left like theirs, hardly needs a rightwing, much less a cult-like fascistic movement led by Donald Trump.

It is different with the incorrigible morons who support that cult leader; they have enthusiasm to spare. This makes them even more dangerous than Trump himself. Were they to get their way, they would bring the world to an end with a bang.

Biden and his backers would do much the same, but more slowly and with a whimper.

Better the latter, at least in the short run; it buys proponents of real change time. Also, it will cause the craziness to subside a little at least for a while. We could all use a break.

The kinds of morons who would eagerly put their own health and the health of their families and friends in mortal jeopardy just to be in the presence of a feckless nimrod who holds them in contempt, all for the sake of keeping him in the White House and out of prison, are enough to make anyone with an ounce of good sense and moral decency despair for the human race.

But is it that much less moronic not to pile on votes even for an establishment Democrat when there is no other way to keep a clear and present danger at bay?

Biden is and always has been bad news. In all his many decades on the national scene, there is hardly anything that he has gotten right. Therefore, in more “normal,” circumstances, including those that obtained as recently as four years ago, not piling on votes for him, especially in states Democrats are sure to win, would not be moronic at all.

Voting for a lesser evil candidate often is a waste of time at best; more often than not, it is a step downward in a race to the bottom, run for the benefit of the billionaire and multi-millionaire beneficiaries of our overripe capitalist system.

All that is true but irrelevant in the face of the “existential threat” a second Trump term would pose.

***

Among other things, a second Trump term would imperil the still robust liberal constraints that are the saving grace of our civil society.

So far, books have not been burned or banned, perhaps because fewer people read books these days than in 1930s Germany, and with only a few exceptions – Wikileaks, is the most blatant and shameful, but that is more the Democrats’ fault than Trump’s – publishers of information and opinion have not so far been suppressed.

Nevertheless, if Trump’s machinations are not beaten back, it is far more likely than not that even this will change for the worse.

As recently as a few months ago, anyone voicing such concerns would have seemed alarmist, perhaps even hysterical. No longer; not with “big and stable” authoritarian minds even more extreme than Trump’s, Attorney General Bill Barr’s for example, and hardcore racists such as Stephen Miller, the shame of Santa Monica, gaining influence at the expense of the few so-called “adults in the room” who have not already left the administration in shame and disgust, or been kicked out for not flattering the Dear Leader conspicuously enough.

In the past, relief might have come from the judicial system. We should forget about that now. By packing the federal courts with troglodyte judges, Mitch McConnell, one of the most iniquitous Senators in the history of the United States, has seen to that. And now with the Supreme Court itself in danger of becoming even more of a super-legislature of the far right than it already is, to expect relief from that quarter would be foolish in the extreme.

Because jurists in the federal system serve lifetime terms, McConnell may actually have done even more harm to the American body politic than Trump himself. We are just beginning to see the results. If Trump “wins” again – in other words, if Democrats cannot stop him from stealing the election – expect those results to spread like the plague or covid-19 disease.

Therefore, for anyone left of the dead center, now is not a time for politically fastidious gestures, no matter how principled or thoughtful – not with a level of repression never seen before on our shores threatening.

We should remember that the Weimar Republic was arguably the foremost center of science and culture in the world in the 1920s and early 1930s, and yet it happened there. It can happen here too. If they are not soundly defeated by the time this electoral season concludes, Trump and his minions will see to it.

Letting that happen would be as moronic as it gets, right up there with African Americans who don’t want black lives to matter even less than they currently do sitting the coming election out.

Like the Clintons, Biden has always worked hard to build relationships with civil rights “icons” and, insofar as there is a difference, with leaders of African American political machines. This spring, through the good (actually, very bad) offices of James Clyburn, his efforts paid off handsomely in the South Carolina primary.

But Biden is not now and never has been a white skinned Great Black Hope. Quite to the contrary, on such issues as bussing (desegregating schools) and criminal justice enhancements (incarcerating black youth) he has been one of the very worst Democrats around.

Those damn icons notwithstanding, many African Americans know this well; it is why some of them are inclined to sit this election out, much as they did in 2016.

But that would be a big fat moronic mistake because if Trump stays in power, black lives will be toast. White skin privilege will likely soften the blow for others, but systemic racism will do in African Americans who can’t be bothered to vote against Trump in the only way they can.

The situation is much the same with LatinX voters, though slightly more complicated, because, falling under that description are population segments in which rightwing ideologies have a significant hold, a situation that Trump is trying hard to exploit.

As first and second generation anti-Castro Cubans in Florida and elsewhere were fading off into the great beyond, and with the Obama administration timidly taking baby steps to normalize relations with the island, younger Cuban Americans were, and still are, moving away from their community’s quasi-fascist past.

Also, before Trump, social conservativism was, on the whole, less vicious and also less integrated into the Republican fold than white evangelical communities or their Catholic counterparts. Now, however, with Trump appealing to their moronic side, a trickle of potential voters of Hispanic ancestry have crossed back over to the Dark Side.

Trump finds his white fans “disgusting.” What about his few brown fans, especially those whose first language is Spanish? We know that he calls people who, as the current saying goes, “look like” them “rapists” and “murderers,” and that when others who look like them trek through Central America and Mexico, at great risk to themselves, seeking asylum in the United States, he keeps them out as best he can, often separating parents from their children, and then warehousing those children in concentration camps, more or less incognito, all over the country.

People who forgive him for that because he stacks the federal courts with anti-abortion judges truly are disgusting, not least for being so moronic as to think that he wouldn’t soon go after them as well.

Indeed, he already is, if not directly by design, then indirectly by making them bear a major share of the burdens of the radically inegalitarian regime he has helped make even more unequal, putting their health and well-being in far greater jeopardy than it already was.

Historically, anti-Semitism and fascistic rightwing ideologies of the kind that prevail in the Trumpian orbit have been, for all practical purposes, joined at the hip. But now, ironically, because Israel has made itself a favored nation of the respectable and not-so-respectable Right – thanks mainly, but not only, to Islamophobia – Jews have less to fear from a second Trump term than one would otherwise expect.

It helps too that some of the most viciously fascistic ideologues in the Trump administration are Jewish – Stephen Miller is again a prime example – and that Ivanka, Trump’s most favored offspring, converted to Judaism when she married the airhead who would go on to become Trump’s trusted advisor and Minister of Almost Everything, Jared Kushner.

As paragons of modern Orthodox piety, the Kushners have been fruitful and multiplied. Therefore, Trump now has Jewish grandchildren. That should help keep anti-Semitic agitators at bay too, as does the fact that some of Trump’s sleeziest cronies in his real estate, gambling, and reality TV businesses are Jewish.

Most of all, though, there is the financial support that the Trump campaign receives from Zionist plutocrats. A lot of that is already drying up, however, because they don’t need the Donald quite as much as the used to inasmuch as Biden has long been the Israel lobby’s best friend.

Nevertheless, it is still safe to say that if Trump somehow manages to prevail this election season, they will be coming for the Jews last.

But there is not much comfort in that. No one should be surprised if, in a second Trump term, non- or anti-Zionist Jews – our numbers are large and growing — take a serious hit. And it is a safe bet that Trump and his underlings will do all in their power to penalize or even criminalize participation in the non-violent and morally impeccable BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement. Sheldon Adelson and others like him can rest easy, though; hallelujah.

***

These are only the most obvious and dramatic reasons why Trump must now be defeated soundly and mercilessly. There are many more conventional, policy-driven, reasons as well. But the bottom line is that the enemy is at the gates and must be turned back by any means necessary – even if that means voting for Biden and Democrats like him.

At this point, not to vote for Biden, or to pile on for him, would be even more moronic, a lot more, than nominating Biden in the first place was.

It will be different once Trump is gone; then Biden and Democrats like him will transition from ally to enemy status, and the task will be to undo the conditions that made the Trumpian nightmare possible.

To that end, inasmuch as there seems to be no feasible way to abandon and replace the actually existing Democratic Party, because our duopoly party system is too deeply entrenched, that party’s radical reconstruction will become Job Number One.

This is a task for the future; getting rid of Trump and de-Trumpification comes first. But, now is an outstanding time for getting one’s ducks in a row — by getting clear on what the trouble with Biden is. Some of it is obvious; some much less so or much less widely known.

There is a book that can be helpful — Branko Marcetic’s Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden (London and New York: Verso, 2020).

There is always a chance, of course, that thinking through the case against Biden will make it psychologically impossible for some people to vote for him or to encourage others to do so. Anyone who fears that this might be true in their case should just wait a month and half before digging in.

But most people should not find it all that difficult to hold the case against Biden in their heads along with the case for piling on votes for him now.

Because there is a world to win, a better possible world, those people should get going right away, with the necessary thinking, reading, writing, and organizing, so that when the time comes to take Biden and his co-thinkers in the Democratic Party mainstream on, they will be able to hit the ground running.

 

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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