How to take down Trump
Recently, in “Trump’s Parade v. Rule of Law,” I argued that current U.S. politics can be seen as a clash between Rule of Law and Charismatic Leader (definitions by Max Weber).
Following Weber’s model, I suggested that the way to bring down Trump is to undermine the myth he that propelled him to power (and the myth he created.)
This raises the question: How do we do that?
Mussolini (a quintessential charismatic leader) rose to power by evoking the “myth of Rome,” promising to return Italy to the era of Roman glory. Italian military losses in the war proved the myth false and caused his down fall. For sources, click here and here.
Trump isn’t promising victory through military conquest. He promises to restore America to past “greatness” through force of personality, rule and norm breaking, and destruction of the deep state (bureaucracy created by liberal democracy)
This comment was funny and true:
Modern day fascists (Charismatic leaders) have taken the fight and myth creation to the Internet.
Trump’s myth—it seems to me—is this: The Deep State is an illegitimate government in which “real” Americans have been forgotten. I alone can restore America to greatness. To do so, I will need to bend and break a few rules and norms along the way. I alone can do it.
I’ve argued that MAGA means return America to the 1920s, or at least the nation as it was before Brown v. Board of Education (the case that desegregated schools) ushered in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements.
Of course Trump talks like he’s from the 1950s. To us it sounds phony. To people pining for the good old days when white men ruled and others knew their places in the hierarchy, he sounds like a prophet.
If this is the myth, it seems to me that exposing Trump’s rule breaking will not shatter the myth. Exposing him as a liar will not shatter the myth, because his followers understand that his lies are destructive, and they want him to be destructive.
Jailing him will not shatter the myth. If your hero is jailed, you don’t abandon your hero. You blame the system. His followers will just think his (and their) enemies are powerful and dangerous.
So how do we shatter the myth?
If the myth is “I alone can fix it,” when it’s clear he can’t “fix” it, it seems to me he’ll lose some support. What else? How about if:
- Trump is ineffective in stopping the forces of democracy and the rise of diversity;
- Trump is unable, through force of personality, to return America to the age of white supremacy and robber barons;
- his bullying tactics don’t work (imagine the Democratic candidate laughing at him instead of showing alarm or outrage); or
- his followers find themselves an insignificant minority, overwhelmed by the majority who don’t mock them but refuse to buy into the myth.
Remember that study that showed Trump lost support when people realized he wasn’t self-made?
His supporters don’t seem to mind if he got rich by breaking a few rules. They LIKE strongmen and rule breakers. But they don’t like the idea that he was born into wealth and got it all from Daddy. It’s contrary to the image of himself he created and sold to his fans.
There will always be people who prefer the myth. Myth has a lot of appeal. Rule of Law has its flaws. I had people tell me that if Rule of Law doesn’t work perfectly, they’ll lose faith and abandon it. Newsflash: No system is perfect. But every system can be improved.
Trump will not be the last person in the U.S. to figure out how to rise to power by evoking myth
It’s a continuing fight for each generation.
Dear current generation: You’ve been handed your challenge.
I’ve received a number of comments like this one:
I’ve observed that people who want to see the law “enforced” are generally hoping to see punishment meted out, or they’re looking the criminal justice system to fix what is essentially a political problem.
On Twitter, and perhaps elsewhere, there is a chorus of voices from the left calling for Trump and all of his pals along with his three oldest children to be imprisoned. “Lock them all up,” they say. Yesterday someone told me that Trump lawbreaking is now punished (by which I’m sure the person meant jailed) then “Rule of Law has no meaning.”
For 15 years I had a private criminal appellate practice. All my clients were indigent. I’ve never represented anyone who could afford to pay. I’ve given a great deal of thought to crime, punishment and justice.
I believe America over incarcerates and overly penalizes. See this thread for a general discussion of punishment.
Rule of Law as a system of authority ideally relies on a social contract. We know this isn’t really true because lots of people reject the social contract.
The problem of what to do with the people who reject Rule of Law is not easily solved.
July 5, 2019