Where We Are

At the time of this writing, Donald J. Trump has been President of the United States for half a year. Though I normally prefer to leave commenting on day to day political matters to others (of whom there are a great many, and who do what they do with great skill), it occurs to me that this is a worthwhile time to reflect on where we stand in the historical cycle, the role that Trump plays, and where we are likely going in the foreseeable future.

Much like the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman films, I like to think of myself as being ahead of the curve. While I long ago gave up on representative democracy of any kind, I am left having to admit that most of the right has not yet gotten on my level. Most of them – even in that loose category of people who make up the “alt-right” – cling to what grownups told them when they were very small: a mythos about how only this one solitary form of government based on one solitary piece of paper could keep us out of literal chains and deliver us decent, sustainable laws. It’s no use saying that this is a fairy tale – of course it is, but fairy tales are designed to make people feel good by sweeping them out of reality and into a realm of fantasy where things are very much simpler and more to their liking than in the cruel, complex, boring real world.

Yet past a certain point, even the pull of a fairy tale won’t be sufficient to keep anyone but the most delusional from noticing just how bad and how unsustainable things have become. Our collective ability to whistle past democracy’s graveyard began to get very strained indeed during the Obama years. The omens of this were not embodied in anything as overt as throngs of citizens crowding the streets holding up signs calling for a restoration of monarchy, but they were still there for those able to see them. Consider: In 1994, a ban on “assault weapons” passed with minimal opposition or outcry, because at that time ownership of such weapons was uncommon – few people had them, wanted them, or were all that motivated to fight to keep them. Today, enactment of a new ban of this sort on a federal level (the original law expired in 2004) would be impossible. The spike in ownership of such weapons over the past thirteen years has been dramatic (and part of a larger, unprecedented increase in gun sales), with AR-15 pattern rifles practically flying off the shelves of gun shops. And while I am as great a supporter of civilian firearm ownership as can be found anywhere, pardon me if I can’t quite see panicked hoarding of military-style weaponry as the sign of a healthy republic that has the faith and trust of the people solidly behind it.

It is an undefined feeling of dread about the future that led millions of average Americans to make room in their bedroom closets for an AR-15 and a few hundred rounds of 5.56 ammo, and that is that same feeling which sent millions of them to the voting booths last November with the usually-unspoken, but undeniable feeling in their hearts that Donald Trump was the last, best hope of the republic. And they were right – that’s precisely what he was.

So six months into his time in office, what do we have? We have a presidency under siege from the actual centers of power (Call them what you like: the Establishment, the Globalists, the Cathedral, the Deep State – either way, they comprise the entrenched bureaucracy, the courts, the media, and big money interests) who thought that they had adequately made the point about elected leaders defying them back when they hounded Richard Nixon out of office. Whether they can actually remove Trump from office, or even defeat him in re-election, is a secondary concern; if they can merely bog him down in having to defend himself against their endless attacks such that he has no time or energy left to accomplish much of anything productive, they will have achieved their objectives. In this, they have the collusion of the Congress – both parties, in both houses. The members of this august body are, as a rule, easily spooked and easily bought off (either by one of the many forms of bribery that Congress has left technically legal for its members to enjoy, or in the form of positive media coverage and other intangibles). That this is not true of all of them is beside the point. It doesn’t need to be all of them, it just needs to be enough of them, which it reliably is.

Ask yourself a question: If this system, while under the complete control of the putative “right”, is unable even to repeal Obamacare – a deeply unpopular and plainly dysfunctional program that is quickly collapsing under its own weight and which the now-ruling party promised to repeal within its first week in power – in half a year of trying, what could possibly make you think it will ever be able to deal with the larger issues, both social and economic, that plague our society? What makes you think it will ever ban abortion, or repeal gay “marriage”, or arrest the slow banishment of the Christian faith from the public square, or effectively stop the immivasion that promises to soon make the founding stock of this nation a minority in its own lands, or bring any restraint whatsoever to the out-of-control welfare state, or get our nation out of the empire business, or end the Fed, or wrangle our astronomical national debt under control? And yes, maybe Congress will eventually get around to some weak-tea repeal of Obamacare and its replacement with a slightly less obnoxious and ramshackle state program. After all the compromises and backroom dealing that will have to go into getting the true centers of power to allow it to pass, can anyone believe that it will really do what we want it to – deliver us good healthcare at affordable prices?

All of this makes plain that democracy, if it ever worked at all (a highly questionable proposition), is obsolete in the modern age. The government set up in 1776 was intended to be a small-time farmers’ republic designed to deal with the problems of a sparse rural population that was almost universally made up of northern European Christians who needed (and wanted) only minimal governance and were deeply uninterested in world-saving. As the nation became more populous, more urban, more industrialized, more globalized, more diverse, less cohesive, and less religious, the republic attempted to deal with the problems of a society that had gradually come to look nothing like the society it was designed to govern by becoming an ever-bigger government. This didn’t actually make it any better at its fundamental task of solving society’s problems; on the contrary, it simply made the government ever more bloated, expensive, and intrusive in the lives of its citizens. That this government is now utterly incapable of effectively dealing with the problems we face is not merely my opinion – it is the reality in front of us.

As someone who has “been around the block a few times” in terms of watching democratic politics, I knew from the start that the hopes pinned on Trump were overblown. Even in the best of circumstances, presidents normally accomplish maybe a third of what they start out promising to do. This springs from two causes: first that there are many things they promise to do that they have no real intention of ever doing in the first place, and second from systemic resistance to their agendas. In Trump’s case, I suspect there is remarkably little of the first at play, but this will be made up for by an extraordinary amount of the second. In the end, he will be quite lucky indeed to get anything like the customary one-third of his stated goals accomplished, and it will probably be much less. This will not be enough to save the republic. If anybody could have done it, it would have been Donald Trump, but the reality that is making itself obvious right before our eyes is that nobody can do it. The people already cry “Drain the swamp!” and demand that someone with the power do something to get the Deep State under control, which can’t practically be done by the means available to Trump, especially within a mere eight years. And it won’t be long before people start also to compare what Trump has been able to accomplish when he hasn’t had to rely on Congress (a lot) with what he’s been able to accomplish when he has had to rely on Congress (not a lot), and begin to wonder whether Congress is more trouble than it’s worth. This bodes well for those of us who favor non-democratic forms of government*.

There are many who would fall prey to the temptation to look at a single dramatic event – say, Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon or the Battle of Actium – as the moment when the Roman republic died, but in fact its death was a long process that took something like a century to fully unfold. First there were the Gracchus brothers, who tried to reform the system peacefully (and who were murdered by it for their trouble). Then there was Sulla, who came to Rome with an army and who tried to reform it and restore it to its former glory at swordpoint (the Roman version of the Deep State undid all his reforms as soon as he died). Then there was Julius Caesar, who came with another army, instituted reforms, and tried to avoid having them meet the fate of Sulla’s reforms by draining the swamp even deeper (the swamp drained his blood onto the Senate floor instead). Finally there was Augustus, who sealed the inevitability of Plato’s cycle by killing anyone who stood in his way. And yet, once he had power, he rebuilt the city (he was fond of bragging he had found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble), patronized a remarkable flowering of the arts, filled the public coffers with money, and expanded an empire that would last another four centuries (or another fifteen, if you count Byzantium).

On the grand Spenglerian curve of civilizations, Trump is not our analogue for Augustus (all of the interenet’s talk of “the God-Emperor” aside). He is not our Julius Caesar. He is unlikely to be our Sulla. But (whether or not he ends up being physically assassinated), he is almost certainly our Gracchae – the first of a series of populist reformers who take on a powerful and entrenched system, with both sides using increasing levels of force, until finally that system topples, keeping Plato’s perfect record of being right on these matters intact.. This toppling of the system may come in the form of a single authoritarian figure taking power in Washington, or in the breakup of the republic into smaller entities that will have mixed fates (some will find good authoritarian leaders and survive; others will collapse), but either way, inevitability is catching up to the current system.

It is worth here noting that the Spenglerian curve that the West is on has always run more quickly than that which the Greco-Roman civilization traveled, meaning that what took a hundred years to happen for them may take a considerably shorter time for us. So if you haven’t bought one of those AR-15s already, now might be a good time. I don’t know when you might need it, but I now believe that day will come a lot sooner than I believed it would back in 1994.

 

(*It is not entirely unexpected that Dunning-Kruger cases like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have completely misunderstood what Plato was trying to warn them about. They believed that Plato was warning them that democracies always give way to authoritarianism, and thus built strong defenses against authoritarianism into the design for their democracy. But what Plato was really trying to tell them was that democracy inevitably devolves into such horrendous moral, social, and economic chaos that decent, smart, educated people will, with full deliberate intent, beg an authoritarian leader to take power and restore order, even if it does impinge on their liberties to some degree. The fear that these pseudointellectuals really did design a system that will make it impossible for a Caesar to come and save us is what keeps me awake at night.)

Professional Wrestling For Reactionaries

I have long said that American politics (and most democratic politics, really) cannot be properly understood without a working knowledge of professional wrestling. Such understanding, however, also requires knowing the terms used in the wrestling business’s famously unique and colorful jargon. I do realize that most of my readers are of the cultured and intellectual sort, may consider such things a bit blue collar for them, and thus may not have had the chance to learn any of it. Never fear – today, on the day of Wrestlemania 30, I am here to provide a helpful glossary of professional wrestling terms and their political contexts to help those who may be unfamiliar with them.

Kayfabe: This is the general illusion that what one is seeing in professional wrestling isn’t “fake” – that it is not all an act, and that what you see before you in the ring or on the screen is the way that things really are behind the scenes. It is considered very bad indeed for a wrestler to “break kayfabe” – in other words, to publicly acknowledge that it is scripted and that what one sees on television is all carefully staged in order to seem as if it is something it’s not. In some wrestling companies (especially in Japan) breaking kayfabe, even just a little bit, is not only a firing offense, but can render one completely unemployable in wrestling. It can also make one unelectable as President – just ask Ron Paul.

Mark: A “mark” is a fan who continues to believe in kayfabe. In other words, someone who believes that it’s all real, and that everything one sees on the screen (or reads in a newspaper, or finds in a high school civics textbook) about what’s going on and how things work is actually the way it is. This group would include the vast majority of the American people, who honestly believe with all their hearts that Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant really hated each other, that the Republican Party establishment gives a flying fig about social conservatism, and that the Democratic Party believes in peace and civil liberties. It can also be used to describe someone who is a devoted fan of a particular character, e.g. a Hogan mark, a Cena mark, or an Obama mark.

Smart or Smark: A “smart” or “smark” is a fan who understands that what they see is all an act, but continues to enjoy professional wrestling because they find it amusing. Or to not enjoy politics, because what they see happening around them is not at all amusing. This group would include many libertarians, reactionaries, and in their own unique (and ever less crazy-sounding) way, conspiracy theorists.

Marking out: Strongly, emotionally, maybe even hysterically expressing admiration for a certain character of whom one is a fan. This can happen even to smarks sometimes, but is often the province of total marks. See: The internet’s reaction to Barack Obama or Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Angle: In wrestling lingo, a continuing storyline is called an “angle”. This could be, for example, a feud between two characters, like the legendary angle that pitted Vince McMahon against Stone Cold Steve Austin. Or it can be something like the “Russian expansionist imperialism” angle, the “Islamofascism” angle, or the “continuing struggle for marriage equality in the face of patriarchal cisheteronormist hate” angle.

Promo: When a wrestler gets in the ring and gives a speech to the audience, it’s called “cutting a promo”. Wrestlers usually do this on television to explain why he’s the best wrestler in the whole world, or why the person he’s feuding with is a loser or a jerk. Presidents do it on television to explain how wonderful their clunky, expensive, unpopular health care scheme is.

Work: A “work” is something – a match, a promo, a public appearance – that happens in furtherance of kayfabe. In a “work”, wrestlers stay in character and do things that push the angle that they’re involved in forward. This can happen in the ring, in a taped backstage segment, or perhaps in a media event like an appearance on a Sunday morning political talk show.

Shoot: Occasionally a wrestler will do something that is not a work – they’ll publicly break character, or admit that wrestling is staged, or maybe even do something in a match that wasn’t in the script. Since this is obviously breaking kayfabe, it’s very rare for active wrestlers to do this (although retired wrestlers will often do shoot interviews that break kayfabe). It’s even rarer in politicians. And for good reason – just ask Mitt Romney, whose entirely accurate but politically poisonous remark about 47% of the people being tax consumers instead of tax contributors helped cost him the Presidency.

Worked shoot: This occurs when a wrestler cuts a promo that appears to be a shoot (perhaps by including some wrestling lingo or backstage details known to smarks in order to give the appearance of breaking kayfabe), but is in fact simply a work designed to give some extra credibility to an angle he’s involved in. A good example would be the infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo that was cut by CM Punk in the summer of 2011. When politicians do this (or talk about doing it), it’s frequently called “Going Bulworth”.

Face or Babyface: A “good guy” wrestler. Someone you’re supposed to cheer for.

Heel: A “bad guy” wrestler, who you’re supposed to boo. There’s a saying among wrestling heels: “It doesn’t matter if they’re cheers or boos, it only matters how loud they are”. Obviously, no politician would ever say that.

Face turn or Heel turn: Very few wrestlers remain a “face” or a “heel” for their entire careers. Most will occasionally switch from one to the other in order to keep their character fresh. When that happens, it is called a “face turn” (if going from bad to good) or a “heel turn” (if going from good to bad). In a political context, politicians and leaders themselves almost never voluntarily do this, but it is often done for them by the Establishment, and especially by its media arm. For example, Col. Quaddafi was a heel in the media throughout the 80s and 90s, but was given a face turn by them in the early ‘00s when he agreed to play ball in the “War on Terror”. Then a few years later, when his usefulness to the Establishment had been exhausted, he was given a final heel turn, ousted, and brutally executed. The Establishment does this kind of thing rather often.

Booker: The writers behind the scenes who actually set up the matches and write the promos that wrestlers cut are referred to in wrestling lingo as “bookers”. Examples of legendary bookers include Paul Heyman, whose work has been seen in ECW and WWE, and Peggy Noonan, whose work has been seen in the mouth of Ronald Reagan.

Job/Jobber: To “job” is to lose a wrestling match, and a “jobber” is someone whose primary purpose with the company is to lose matches to more popular wrestlers to make them look stronger and maintain the kayfabe illusion that their rise to the top was based on an impressive string of victories. In other words, it’s someone who’s simply there to lose. (See: Mitt Romney)

Jabroni: A term popularized by The Iron Sheik and The Rock, and almost certainly etymologically related to the word “jobber”. Calling someone a “jabroni” is a kind of insult in wrestling. It amounts to strongly calling someone a loser – someone whose destiny is to fail, and who could not do otherwise. (See: Mitt Romney)

Get over: To become popular with the fans. Example: “Chris Jericho really started to get over with the WWE fans during his feud with Chris Benoit”. Sometimes a talent will get over organically, without a big push from the higher-ups (See: Daniel Bryan, Ron Paul). Often, however, a push will just be a cynical attempt to try to get a bland “company man” who kisses the butt of the Establishment over with the fans. (See: John Cena, Mitt Romney)

Bury: A wrestler gets “buried” when, for some reason, the company he works for has decided that they don’t like him or want him to get popular, so they intentionally book him to lose matches and look like a jabroni in order to deny him popularity. The WWE did this to the unfortunate, talented John Morrison in 2011, and the Republican Party did it to Ron Paul the following year.

Rub: When a wrestling company likes a young star and wants him to get popular, they often book an angle in which he teams up with a popular established wrestler in hopes that the established wrestler’s popularity will rub off on the young star. This is referred to as the young star “getting a rub” from the more stablished wrestler. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – WWE attempted this by teaming up the young star Zack Ryder and the established John Cena a couple of years ago, and it didn’t really go anywhere (although whether this is more of a reflection on Ryder’s popularity or on Cena’s is debatable). Presidents often make campaign appearances with candidates from their party to try to make this happen. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes the effect is the opposite of what was intended.

Card: The “card” refers to the relative positions of wrestlers in terms of how popular they are, and consequently how much exposure they get and which championship belts they’re booked to win. The “upper card” refers to the top guys in the company, followed by the “midcard” and finally the “undercard”. Political parties have much the same arrangement. It’s pretty easy to tell who’s in the upper card – they’re the guys doing work interviews on Meet the Press.

Battle Royal: A type of match involving a large number of wrestlers that features an “every man for himself” sort of competition in which the last man left in the ring wins. Think of a political primary as a kayfabe midcard battle royal in which one of the entrants is booked to win by the Establishment.

Sports Entertainment: When Vince McMahon finally quietly admitted that what he produces is fake and scripted, he stopped calling it “professional wrestling” and started calling it “Sports Entertainment”. I encourage you all to start calling the current system “Politics Entertainment”.

Except it’s really not very entertaining, is it?

Another Reason Republicans Are Losers

The recent passing of Baroness Thatcher brought to light another aspect of the Republican Party’s spectacular self-destruction when, a couple of days ago, a British acquaintance asked me if American politics had as strong an element of social class in it as British politics has.

I replied that it does, but the American version is different from the British. In Britain, the political dividing line runs more or less along the lines of the upper class vs. the proles. In America, the Democrat/Republican split has long been broadly expressible as the top and bottom together vs. the middle. The Democrats have, in the post-WWII era (and certainly in the post-Vietnam era) been the party of the social, cultural, educational, and economic elites banded together with the low end of the working class and the entirety of the welfare class; while the Republicans have, in that same time frame, been the party of middle class respectability.

Hey Republicans – guess what happens when you allow your corporatist cronies in big business to destroy the country’s middle class in order to maximize profits and stock prices?

Goodbye Baroness Thatcher

Despite the ultimate futility of what she tried to accomplish, she was (and I will speak of this more soon) one of that final generation of western leaders who were honestly, unmistakably grownups. In the end, it was her lot to fight the good fight for a noble lost cause; to push back against the impersonal, irresistible, Spenglerian forces that flow where they will; to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!”.

Farewell, Baroness – as Pat Buchanan said of your friend and compatriot Ronald Reagan, we shall not see your like again. The historians of a saner age, a few centuries hence, will speak highly of you.

The Cynical Truth Of Gay “Marriage”

With more news articles appearing with every passing day about how many politicians, even among Republicans (which should further demonstrate the futility of voting for that forlorn party expecting any serious social conservatism out of them) have offered their support for gay “marriage”, it has become obvious that the cultural and political elite very badly want this issue on the forefront of the national discussion. Much has been said about the obvious ridiculousness and immorality of gay “marriage”, and there is little more that I can add to it. More interesting, however, is why this issue seems to have come out of nowhere and so quickly become something that the elites, especially on the left, want to do battle over. Of course the left is degenerate; of course they hate religion and tradition and embrace every sort of immorality, sexual and otherwise. But this is really about more than that. As with so many things in our time, this is primarily about misdirection.

The true origins of this as a new hot-button political issue lie in the left’s shocking (even for them) abandonment of true civil rights issues, which evaporated along with their opposition to useless Middle East quagmires on the day that Barack Obama became President. Yes, there are a few principled exceptions on the left; the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Ted Rall, and Cindy Sheehan come to mind – and yes, leftist groups like the ACLU occasionally must save some face by making a perfunctory muted growling here or there about the continuance and expansion under Obama of the horrendous civil rights abuses begun under Bush. But these are but pitifully small exceptions to the vast, bleak overall picture: that the left has failed at the one time it was really needed and could have shined. Its Bush-era posturing on war and civil rights – not to mention corporate welfare and Wall Street’s alarming hold on Washington politics – vaporized overnight as soon as a man with a (D) after his name came to occupy the Oval Office and began engaging in or benefiting from these things.

So what do you do to save face, or even to be able to look yourself in the mirror, when your massive, shocking refusal to live up to your own professed principles or to do genuine good becomes undeniable? You engage in misdirection and distraction. In this case, you fall back on two reliable old leftist tactics: turning the sexual into the political, and using excessive pathos on a weak-minded public. Or, more plainly, you mask your failure to protect actual, ancient, universal civil rights that are actually in the Constitution by grabbing on to a phony-baloney, made-up “civil right” that nobody had ever heard of before 1995 or so, and making that your new deeply-impassioned cause. If you are the elites, this is how you misdirect your base into continuing to support you and treat you as if you were important. If you are the rank-and-file of the left, this is how you live with yourself; it enables you to say, to yourself and others: “Of course I still defend civil rights – see how strongly I fight for gay marriage?” Meanwhile – a precious few exceptions, as I have noted above, aside – the left stands silent as genuine civil rights erode away, slowly and steadily, under “their” man just as they did under the men they opposed.

Here again, Aldous Huxley stands as the one of the great prophets of the age, as it was he who said: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Just so.

And there, dear reader, is the awful truth: the elites (especially but not exclusively of the left) want this as a distraction from the loss of genuine freedoms, leftists are snakes who cannot be trusted to live up to their own rhetoric, the Republicans are a corporatist party who do not genuinely care about faith or tradition and thus are of little real value to the faithful and traditional, the voting lumpenproletariat are damn fools who are ridiculously easy to sway with a little pathos, you will end up both with less morality in public life and with less freedom at the end of all this, and this issue demonstrates as clearly as can be demonstrated both how bad things have gotten and how bad they will continue to get in the future.