Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Appian road to autocracy | xpostfactoid

What the consequences of four years of this deeply unworthy man of stunted limited intellectual competence I cannot estimate.  But the potential for debacle is high.

Just to indulge myself: my basic message is that conservative media, beginning with talk radio normalized insult, snark, resentment, victimization, and vulgarity.  The contempt for our civil order grew so grave that 62 million people voted for someone who exhibited and exhibits our worst selves, not our (dare I say it) greatest.

I have been toying with writing my reflections on the past year.  I may yet but I'll just link to Andrew Sprung for the moment. - gwc

The Appian road to autocracy | xpostfactoid
by Andrew Sprung

The decay of our own political institutions is obvious. Looking at the moment we're in, having just elected a lifelong fraudster turned authoritarian demagogue, who's put in a cabinet of plutocrats, racists and cranks, I see a few long-term forces converging:
 1) a globalized economy pressuring employment and wages. This could have been coped with, but we failed. 
2) The eternal tidal pull of elites' unflagging efforts to subvert restraints on their ability to maximize their advantages and pass them on to their children. Francis Fukuyama traces the corrosive force of this never-ending pressure through several societies in The Origins of Political Order. 
3) Our archaic constitution, which saddles us with nonrepresentative democracy, and renders its own amendment too difficult. 
4) Our foundational racism, which has always limited and reversed attempts to distribute wealth and opportunity (education, basic security, lead-free water, etc.) more equitably.

***On election night, I followed the results on the New York Times Upshot's app, which calculated odds for each candidate in real time. Clinton's fell steadily from 85% to 5%. When Trump crossed to 55%, I went into the bathroom and threw up my dinner.Since then it feels as if my life before that point has floated off into a kind of lost age of innocence, where we all assumed (check that -- where I assumed) that the United States would continue as a democracy, that at any given time some conditions of life would get better and some would worsen (crime in one generation, say, and income inequality in another), but we would maintain a basic capacity for collective problem solving, along with personal liberty and basic security.

I realize that these conditions did not obtain for millions of Americans, and for hundreds of millions or billions of people worldwide, but the cocoon of the relatively privileged majority of Americans felt safe.

Maybe it's fair that it wasn't. For our sins, Trump.

Of course, the jury's still out. Maybe Obama will prove right. Maybe Trump will provide a needed and manageable shock, discrediting the corrupted and now functionally fascist Republican party enough to force it to change. I wouldn't count on it. But we've got to work for it -- to defend our liberties, and do what we can to strengthen institutions meant to protect our liberty and self-governance -- what's left of electoral accountability, our judiciary, state and local government, universities and research nonprofits and media that will keep putting facts before us, businesses that have absorbed an ethos that you reach out to all potential customers and seek to attract and foster talent from all quarters, even a military with some recent experience of the ill effects of abrogating its own best norms. 

It's going to be a rough ride. Happy New Year.

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