A Party of Faction and Fantasy

“It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.”
— David Hume

Roger Kimball,

Why are there some 21,000 troops and oodles of razor wire in Washington D.C.?

Really, it is an amazing, not to say an ominous, spectacle. As one Twitter wit put it, Donald Trump brought peace to the Middle East, Joe Biden brought war to Washington.

The ostensible reason for turning the capital of the United States into an armed camp is to protect the mostly virtual inauguration of China’s Big Guy, Joe Biden, against the onslaught of all those “right-wing extremists,” “white supremacists,” etc. that the magical magus Donald Trump is mobilizing through secret “dog whistles” and other shamanistic practices.

The trouble is, all those “right-wing extremists,” like President Trump’s supposed “incitement” of the crowd at his “Save America” rally on January 6, are a figment of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s addled imaginations. Yes, that meme is assiduously, not to say preposterously, circulated and amplified by the media, social and anti-social alike. But those threatening hordes do not exist.

Just so, the violent mob scene at the Capitol on January 6 was not an “insurrection” or an act of “domestic terrorism” but rather, as Tucker Carlson put it, a political protest that “got out of hand.”

Here’s something else that has got out of hand: the American political order.

Many people, myself included, have been quoting Benjamin Franklin’s response to an inquisitive citizen upon the conclusion of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

“What sort of government have you given us, Dr. Franklin?”

“A republic, madam, if you can keep it,” was Franklin’s reply.

Well, that’s all over now. Welcome to the American oligarchy.

As the years go by, historians, if the censors allow them access to the documents and give them leave to publish their findings, will count the 2016 presidential election as the last fair and open democratic election.

Beginning with the election of 2020, the game was rigged.

I know, I know, we are not supposed to say that, and Twitter, Forbes, Facebook, and other woke guardians of the status quo will frown upon the suggestion.

But every honest person knows that the 2020 election was rigged.

The statistician William M. Briggs has a handy round-up of the evidence. He also makes the commonsense observation, “If a party cheats, and is in charge of investigating accusations of cheating, and if the media calls the cheating a conspiracy theory, and if the rulers move to expel those who question the cheating, as has already happened, then that party will win by virtue of its power.”

That, as he goes on to observe, “is the way power works.”

Noted.

The forces that rigged the 2020 election had tried before. Hitherto, their efforts had met with only limited success. But a perfect storm of forces conspired to make 2020 the first oligarchic installation of a president. (John F. Kennedy’s election courtesy of voter fraud in Chicago was amateur hour stuff compared to what we have just witnessed.)

It would not have happened, I think, absent the panic over the Chinese virus. But that panic, folded in a lover’s embrace by the democratic establishment, was not only a splendid pretext to clamp down on civil liberties, it also provided an inarguable excuse to alter the rules for elections in several key states.

Well, “inarguable” is not quite the right word. There could have been plenty of arguments, and many lawsuits, against the way the executive branch in many states usurped the constitutionally guaranteed prerogative of state legislatures to set the election rules when they intervened to allow massive mail-in voting. But the Trump Administration, though foreseeing and complaining about the interventions, did too little too late to make a difference.

There are many lessons to be drawn from the 2020 election. The transformation of the United States of America from a republic into an oligarchy is a large and portentous lesson.

Of course, it didn’t happen all at once. These things take time. Even Vladimir Lenin needed several years to get rid of Kerensky and install his workers’ paradise. People have been warning about the dangers of an unaccountable administrative state for many years. Rule by unelected bureaucrats and judges was not exactly what Alexander Hamilton and James Madison had in mind when they outlined the rudiments of the American political system.

Among the many sobering realities that the 2020 election brought home is this: in our particular form of oligarchy, the people do have a voice, but it is a voice that is everywhere pressured, cajoled, shaped, and bullied. They have a choice, but only among a roster of approved candidates.

The central fact to appreciate about Donald Trump is that he was elected without the permission, and over the incredulous objections, of the woke oligarchy that governs us.

Representatives of that power tried for four years to destroy Donald Trump. The first mention of impeachment came mere minutes after his inauguration, an event that was met not only by a widespread Democratic boycott and hysterical claims by Nancy Pelosi and others that the election had been hijacked, but also by riots in Washington, D.C. that saw at least six policemen injured, numerous cars torched, and other property destroyed.

You will search in vain for media or Democratic denunciations of that violence or for bulletins from corporate America advising their customers of their solidarity with the woke ambassadors of the latest left-wing initiative.

Howie Carr, commenting on the disturbances at the Capitol on January 6, noted some riots are more equal than others. Some get you the approval of people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Kamala Harris. Others get the FBI sweeping the country for “domestic terrorists” and the establishment canceling people who say the 2020 election was illegitimate—which it was.

But it doesn’t signify. “In the sense that matters,” William Briggs notes, “Joe Biden won the election. Sure, Donald Trump may have won more votes in more states, and he was surely cheated out of votes in several others. But he lost. And Biden won.”

How do we know? “We know Biden won because it will be he that is sworn in next week and not Trump.”

Remember what Briggs said about power.

Someday—maybe someday soon—this witches’ sabbath, this festival of scapegoating, and what George Orwell called the “hideous ecstasy” of hate will be at an end. The orgy will end one day and people will be aghast, some will be ashamed, of what they did to the president of the United States and people who supported him: proposing to put Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on a “no fly” list, for example, or Simon & Schuster canceling Senator Josh Hawley’s book contract or—this just in—Loews Hotel canceling a scheduled fundraiser for Hawley.

Michael Barone, one of our most percipient political commentators, got it exactly right when he wrote of the rapid movement “from impeaching incitement to canceling conservatism.” That is the arc our oligarchs are inviting us to travel now.

Donald Trump’s accomplishments as president have been nothing less than stunning. (Here’s a nice summary by a spokesman for the administration.) Trump was, and is, a rude force of nature. He accomplished an immense amount. He lacked one thing. Some say it is self-discipline or patience. I agree with my friend who suggested that Trump’s critical flaw was a deficit in guile.

That sounds odd, no doubt, since Trump is supposed to be the tough guy who has mastered “the art of the deal” and long before he was president became famous for intoning, “You’re fired!” But I think my friend is probably right. Trump seems never to have discerned what a viper’s nest our politics has become for anyone who is not a paid-up member of The Club.

Maybe Donald Trump knows now. I have no insight into that question. I am pretty confident, though, that the more than 74 million people who voted for him have a deep understanding of that reality. It’s another reason that The Club should be wary of celebrating their victory too expansively.

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