Amoeba’s Lorica: Our President

As Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was (alas) driving to his local bank for an errand yesterday (21 October 2017), he trundled bumper-to-bumper behind a minivan bearing this “Not My President” bumper sticker. A search suggests that the minivan owner got them on eBay.

And eBay goes ka-CHING!

YFNA thinks he’s finally figured out how come unemployment’s been dropping and the stock market’s been going bananas ever since the November 2016 USA elections, in the absence of evidence of intelligence, competence, and decorum on the part of the government that We the People elected –

Yes, we did! The rules were set up in the 1790s and have hardly changed since then. The longevity and stability of the Republic testifies to Our willingness to play by them, and reject all others. The rules were no less stringently adhered to in 2016 than in 1824, or 1876, or 1888, or 2000, hanging chad fans. Look in the mirror, dear reader – yes, this is hard – and repeat after YFNA: “There is no escape, there is no excuse. We did this. The evidence was all there, and we did it anyway. We did this.”

[Ahem] YFNA thinks he’s finally figured out how come unemployment’s been dropping and the stock market’s been going bananas ever since the November 2016 USA elections. The political noise is driving the economy!

Of course, this is hardly the first time this sort of thing has happened. Once upon a time, there was a nation that elected a noisy bigot to its highest executive office. Four years later, the nations gross domestic product was growing at more than 10% a year, and unemployment had dropped from around 21% of the workforce to less than 1%. In fact, there was a critical labor shortage.

See what happens when you let the boys of the master race run things?

Of course, all these things were accomplished through massive governmental deficit spending, and massive curtailment of individual rights (though, to be fair, in the stratified remnants of pre-Nazi feudal society in Germany, there were few individual rights to be curtailed), and the removal of women, Jews, and other “undesirables” from the workforce. But hey, the money! And Adolf Hitler was Time magazine’s Man [sic] of the Year in 1938. How bad could it get?

As part of the political noise to which We the People are subjecting ourselves, to the joy and profit of various purveyors of things like social media, Mr Zuckerberg, YFNA learned that there was a run on an old book by Sinclair Lewis. That book, written in 1935, postulated the election to the US presidency of one Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, who then proceeded to impose a uniquely American-style dictatorship on the US people.

After a campaign that looked shockingly like the one Mr Trump ran. In a 2015 article, Malcolm Harris spelled out exactly how Windrip achieved his goal:

Once elected, President Windrip appealed directly to his core constituency of unprosperous and resentful white men to help him repress dissent and bring fascism to America.

Harris continues:

Like Trump, Windrip uses a lack of tact as a way to distinguish himself. Americans know on some level that the country’s governing system has never conformed to its official values. There are basic contradictions between what politicians and policymakers say and what they do, but also at the core of the national identity. We are, in our own mind, a scrappy underdog and the world’s only superpower at the same time. Right-wing populists don’t shy away from either side of the dichotomy; instead they gain credibility by openly embracing the contradictions. They tell the truth about why they’re lying and declare their ulterior motives.

The prevailing view of Trump among his critics sounds a lot like [Oremus Jessup, the liberal protagonist of Lewis’s novel], even after fascism has been imposed: “The hysteria can’t last; be patient, and wait and see, he counseled his readers. It was not that he was afraid of the authorities. He simply did not believe that this comic tyranny could endure.” Still convinced he will, at very least, be able to maintain his own standard of living, Jessup dithers. Even as his son-in-law is extra-judicially executed in Jessup’s backyard, he holds out hope that nothing will be required of him beyond that he continue to perform his professional duties with integrity. He does his best to believe the system’s existing foundations are strong enough to repair themselves.

When Lewis exits Jessup’s mind, the book’s tone changes. As the “corpo” state consolidates, Jessup’s liberalism looks more like a combination of laziness and cowardice than conviction. He doesn’t know where the line is between what he can accept and what he can’t, nor what he’s prepared to do once the line is crossed. “So debated Doremus,” Lewis writes, “like some hundreds of thousands of other craftsmen, teachers, lawyers, what-not, in some dozens of countries under a dictatorship, who were aware enough to resent the tyranny, conscientious enough not to take its bribes cynically, yet not so abnormally courageous as to go willingly to exile or dungeon or chopping-block–particularly when they ‘had wives and families to support.’”

Once Jessup has lost the privileges that kept him complacent, his deeply held commitment to nonviolent reform fades quickly. Locked in a cell, deprived of the lifestyle that made his patient compromise comfortable, the scales fall from his eyes. Jailed by the same community leaders with whom he used to politely disagree, Jessup realizes who is truly to blame:

It’s my sort, the Responsible Citizens who’ve felt ourselves superior because we’ve been well-to-do and what we thought was ‘educated,’ who brought on the Civil War, the French Revolution, and now the Fascist Dictatorship. . . . It’s I who persecuted the Jews and the Negroes. I can blame no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!

We have been warned. Repeatedly. We elected Mr Trump and his compatriots anyway. We have not removed them. We have not even made life difficult for them. Hell, we’re making money for them, hand over fist. There is no escape. There is no excuse. This is who we are. All of us. Bumper stickers notwithstanding.

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