The Fog of War 2020

“What if Trump simply refused to concede no matter what” is not a new question. Experts and organizers have been chewing on that one for a while. But lately, it feels like more people are starting to digest it, as something not just hypothetical but entirely real.

Local blogger and alt-weekly veteran Eric Sandy advised weeks ago that “this is not an election campaign.” Then in the past few days, The Atlantic and Slate both published similar arguments that America is already outside of recognizable “politics.” Dahlia Lithwick was direct: “We have reached the point at which there is no reason to frame the 2020 elections in terms of ‘politics.’”

Also, Full Frontal reported last week that from each realistic scenario the Transition Integrity Project looked at, the result was chaos. “What we gotta do is win big” just didn’t appear relevant, and I have to agree that it may not be.

Other warning lights are flashing a similar color. So, huh.

This is not the worst prospect, of course. America’s monstrous authoritarian president isn’t really close to actual majority support, something which can and does happen. (Way too close for any kind of sane world of course.) He doesn’t seem to be doing great at the game of securing enough support in the hideous tradition of the Electoral College, either. Or even enough support to be confident of voter-suppressing away enough of opposed majorities to get victory certified.

I don’t feel safe counting on any of those points, but I also think it’s worth confronting the facts of 1) a “supreme leader” who is not under any circumstances going to admit losing reelection fair and square, and 2) a supportive propaganda network which effectively keeps at least one-third of the population sealed within a virtual-reality Matrix at all times.

The best I can come up with is that if there’s some way out of that, or even to avoid being swallowed whole by it for now, it’s going to be a contest of defeating the opposition’s will to resist. It’s storytelling, it’s spell-weaving, and if these concepts seem compatible with “politics” I think that overlap is not really the relevant relationship here. Instead I’m drawn to the ritual intimidation phase which, historically, has often preceded battles. If we’re in a cold civil war, an immensely significant battle is coming up and (even before skirmishes become full-blown physical battle) the attempt to break the opposing side’s will is not going to be politics, it’s very much going to be intimidation in the context of war.

“War is politics by other means,” but the different sets of means are blurring increasingly and the blurring is going to accelerate.

I really don’t know what’s going to happen but the range of realistic outcomes does not seem to be skewed toward positive possibilities. Again, worse is certainly imaginable, and it’s good that people are attempting to grapple with the real nature of the situation.

But as I have said before, it seems that a hurricane is headed our way, and while people can plan and organize to react in ways that are more useful than others, there’s no real way to organize effectively enough to divert or stop the hurricane.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation