A Real Threat Or Just A Fear Of Atmospherics?

I hope Corey Robin is right and that all we have to fear is fear itself (boldface mine):

This is a fascinating article, in spite of itself, about the aura of power that the Bannon/Breitbart operation behind Trump tries to create. If you read it quickly, it sounds scary: message discipline enforced by Bannon from on high, gets transmitted to terrified members of Congress down low.

But what’s the actual threat these guys wield? Tweets. Tweets. In other words, they’re depending on that old dream of politics watchers in the US—the presidential bully pulpit—hoping it can be more of a power than it has ever really been.

Beyond the bully pulpit, there are two kinds of threats to members of Congress: first, having funds cut off or denied to your favored pet projects in your state/district or not being able to get critical legislation that you want passed; second, being primaried if you’re up for election. In other words, this is pretty much the landscape of presidential action we already know, and the question will be whether Bannon/Breitbart with their tweets, and Trump with his, will have any more power over their own party in Congress than presidents and congressional leaders have ever had over theirs.

I have my doubts, but this is why resisting the politics of fear is so important. Power like this, resting in tweets, relies a lot on atmospherics. The purpose of that atmospherics is to magnify power: so that its wielder can hold that power in reserve, and thereby deploy it more efficiently, or because its wielder doesn’t have that much power in the first place, and needs to generate fear in order to make that power seem more potent than it is. Hobbes understood this all too well. So did the forces around Joe McCarthy. We need to understand it, too, and oppose it: not to cooperate with it, not to contribute to it, not to participate in it.

The fundamental question I have about Il Trumpe et alia is this: to what extent are they just a ‘normal’ Republican administration, albeit one on steroids, and to what extent will they either tacitly condone violence and physical intimidation (which is to say, terrorism) or use the state to destroy political dissent?

If this is a normal-ish Republican administration, then I think Robin is absolutely correct. But I can’t help but think that Il Trumpe, especially with Lewandowski and Bannon advising him will encourage or engage in violence. And we should be very afraid of that–because that’s something you don’t ever walk back.

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1 Response to A Real Threat Or Just A Fear Of Atmospherics?

  1. jonolan says:

    Personally, I think some level of violence is warranted. To me it’s going to devolve down to what level of violence and in what circumstances.

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