Musing about law, books, and politics

Trump Knows What He’s Doing

After yesterday’s thread on Trump’s techniques for destroying Democracy, a few people asked if Trump knows what he’s doing.

It’s no accident that Trump is using the exact techniques Putin uses.

First I’ll try to persuade you that Trump knows what he’s doing. Next, I’ll tell you how to counter the effects and save Democracy.

How is that for a grand ambition?

My belief that Trump knows what he’s doing is backed up by authority.

Yale professor Jason Stanley believes Trump is purposefully and “cynically using a set of fascist tactics to gain and maintain power.”

Remember, it’s easier to destroy democracy than preserve it. You start by creating a world in which facts don’t matter. This is easy for Trump, who, “naturally and gracefully inhabits a world of fiction.” Quotation from another Yale professor, Timothy Snyder.

Also from Snyder: Trump’s task as president to create a good story and pull us all into that story.

Trump keeps everyone’s attention where he wants it to be.

He can create so much shock and outrage that people hardly notice if he’s accused of rape.

James Comey concluded that Trump has above average intelligence. 

Snyder agrees. He says Trump is a “talented” politician. He describes how modern fascists govern by crisis and spectacle, and argues that Trump is a natural.

People make fun of how much TV Trump watches. Well, of course he has to watch TV. How else will he plan his game?

Trump knows how to flood the zone. He keeps everyone busy paying whack-a-lie.

In Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee, he described how Trump signaled to him which lies he was supposed to tell.

McCable describes the same techniques. After Trump fired Comey, Trump summoned McCabe to a meeting and offered a “gleeful” description of what happened with the firing of Comey.  McCabe understood Trump expected him to “adopt” this lie. When he refused, he Trump sought to destroy him.

This is evil, but not stupid.

Cohen explained how he was drawn in for more than a decade: “Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself — that you were somehow changing the world.”

People underestimate Trump.

Maybe Trump wants to be underestimated. It’s easier to con people if they underestimate you.
Liberal democracy is like ping pong.

Putin-style fascist techniques are like bowling.

Every time Trump throws a heavy ball to the ground, people think he’s screwing up.

Nope. He’s playing a different game.
The way to counter this is to make people aware of the Russian-style attacks on our democracy — and that Trump is deliberately using these tactics.

The Center for Strategic International Studies issued a report on how to counter these attacks.

The conclusion is on p. 11: One of “the most effective countermeasures is to increase public resilience against the kinds of techniques used by Russia.”

How? By “increasing public understanding of the threat” and “strengthening our commitment to democratic institutions.”

Find people who lean Democratic, but feel discouraged, frustrated or apathetic. If they feel frustrated that “nothing is being done,” explain that due process—like democracy—is slow and laborious.

If you don’t believe democracy is slow, requiring compromise, and give and take, run for local office and try to get something done. 

The alternative is tyranny. Dictatorship moves quickly. There are no checks and balances, and no need for compromise.

“My way or you go to jail,” gets things done fast.

I think what the CSIS report meant by “strengthen a sense of shared narrative around the value and importance of our democratic institutions” is this: We need to help everyone fall back in love with representative government, even with its flaws (and slow pace).

We’ll miss it if it’s gone.

[View as a Twitter thread]