Musing about law, books, and politics

The Trump Reality Show

Today’s episode: Scaramucci (the “Mooch”) turns on Trump after Trump attacked him on Twitter.

Yesterday’s episode: Trump pushing conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death.

Timothy Snyder explains why we are caught up in the constant drama of a Reality T.V. President.

The sources for this thread are Snyder’s book, The Road to Unfreedom, and his YouTube series, Snyder Speaks.

When a leader wants both wealth and power (a would-be oligarch) he can’t govern the usual way, by seeking to better life for his constituents. Putin taught modern wanna-be oligarchs what to do instead.

The methods for becoming a modern oligarch are not hard, and Trump is a natural.

Would be oligarchs can’t enact left wing policies of providing services to working people, because this allows others to rise up and challenge them. Funding infrastructure means less money to channel to the would-be oligarchs. It also creates a stronger democracy. So they can’t do any of that.

Nor can they adopt conservative policies like free markets, because then other people can rise up and compete and challenge them.

In fact, the policies that would-be oligarchs enacts (take away health care, tax cuts for the rich) actually harm their supporters. But the supporters don’t care because the would-be oligarch is giving something they want more than economic advancement. The would-be oligarch promises to protect them from their “enemies.”

They cheer when their strongman leader fights their enemies (liberals, Democrats, immigrants, and minorities) and revel in the battle.

They love the show.

This is what Snyder calls the honeymoon period with an autocrat. In the beginning, the norm-bashing is thrilling.

Instead of devising policies to better the lives of the citizens, would-be oligarchs govern by creating crisis and spectacle.

That’s why the Trump presidency has been a never-ending reality show.

If you compare Trump to a traditional president like Obama, he appears to be constantly stumbling, misspeaking, misspelling words, and failing. But when you evaluate him as a would-be oligarch and creator of crisis and spectacle, his talent becomes evident. He’s good at it.

Trump creates a story and forces us all to become actors in the show.

The solution: We need to counteract the spectacle by staying focussed on what matters.

Pick something off my list.

Working to strengthen democracy accomplishes 3 things:

  • If everyone does a little bit, it adds up to a lot.
  • Getting involved with work will keep you sane by lifting you out of the exhausting news cycle.
  • The reality show will have fewer viewers and the ratings will drop.

We come always to the outrage dilemma. We feel we have to react or we “normalize” the behavior, but outrage feeds the beast.

Each time Trump does something outrageous, he accomplishes 4 things:

  • He keeps his base excited.
  • He enrages his critics.
  • He batters democratic institutions, and
  • He fulfills his campaign promise, which was to protect his followers from their “enemies.”

Volunteering allows you to distance yourself from the Reality Show without guilt.

The weeks I spent volunteering in a detention center, I didn’t follow the news at all. I didn’t have to. I was pushing back against the regime in a much more tangible way.

[View as a Twitter thread]