June 18th, 2017

The national threats engendered by the election of President Donald John Trump are not relative. Banning only some Muslims is not measurably better than banning all Muslims. Phasing out Medicare and Medicaid over any period of time is not better than phasing both programs out tomorrow. No one should feel any comfort in using any form of the phrase well, at least he’s not…. There are no reasonable, conventional people, from the President down, in the White House. Not one.

Naomi Klein, writing in The Worst of Donald Trump’s Toxic Agenda Is Lying in Wait—A Major U.S. Crisis Will Unleash It for The Intercept, explains:

During the presidential campaign, some imagined that the more overtly racist elements of Donald Trump’s platform were just talk designed to rile up the base, not anything he seriously intended to act on. But in his first week in office, when he imposed a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, that comforting illusion disappeared fast. Fortunately, the response was immediate: the marches and rallies at airports, the impromptu taxi strikes, the lawyers and local politicians intervening, the judges ruling the bans illegal.

The whole episode showed the power of resistance, and of judicial courage, and there was much to celebrate. Some have even concluded that this early slap down chastened Trump, and that he is now committed to a more reasonable, conventional course.

That is a dangerous illusion.

Klein continues:

It is true that many of the more radical items on this administration’s wish list have yet to be realized. But make no mistake, the full agenda is still there, lying in wait. And there is one thing that could unleash it all: a large-scale crisis.

Large-scale shocks are frequently harnessed to ram through despised pro-corporate and anti-democratic policies that would never have been feasible in normal times. It’s a phenomenon I have previously called the Shock Doctrine, and we have seen it happen again and again over the decades, from Chile in the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet’s coup to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

As Sinclair Lewis showed us 82 years ago: It Can Happen Here.

There is much written in the past 250 or so days about the chaos in the White House. The supposition is that the chaos is the result of arrogance, ignorance and incompetence. What, however, if the chaos is a design feature and not a bug?

Since taking office… Donald Trump has never allowed the atmosphere of chaos and crisis to let up. Some of the chaos, like the Russia investigations, has been foisted upon him or is simply the result of incompetence, but much appears to be deliberately created. Either way, while we are distracted by (and addicted to) the Trump Show, clicking on and gasping at marital hand-slaps and mysterious orbs, the quiet, methodical work of redistributing wealth upward proceeds apace.

This is also aided by the sheer velocity of change. Witnessing the tsunami of executive orders during Trump’s first 100 days, it rapidly became clear his advisers were following Machiavelli’s advice in “The Prince”: “Injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less.” The logic is straightforward enough. People can develop responses to sequential or gradual change. But if dozens of changes come from all directions at once, the hope is that populations will rapidly become exhausted and overwhelmed, and will ultimately swallow their bitter medicine.

We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

All of this is shock doctrine lite; it’s the most that Trump can pull off under cover of the shocks he is generating himself. And as much as this needs to be exposed and resisted, we also need to focus on what this administration will do when they have a real external shock to exploit. Maybe it will be an economic crash like the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Maybe a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy. Or maybe it will be a horrific terrorist attack like the Manchester bombing. Any one such crisis could trigger a very rapid shift in political conditions, making what currently seems unlikely suddenly appear inevitable.

Klein dives deep into the possibilities. Many will seem in the realm of Truthers, Area 59 advocates and those certain that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is living out his waning years on a Greek island, but Klein is not conspiracy fanatic. She knows what she’s writing about and we dismiss her warnings at our own great peril.

The people in the White House are not stupid.


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