Close to my 96th birthday, I think a lot about “unfinished business”. I can’t complain. I’ve had far more time than most to try to work things out. Call it an unfinished “search” or, better still, an unending “struggle”. As inevitable as death and corporate evasion of taxes, the business of social change is never finished.
Late though it is, I'm starting a Diary of Unfinished Business. By “diary”, I mean stuff I’m writing mainly for myself, to help me deal with questions that disturb me, memories that are blurred, anguish about an ominous present and a much too-murky future. Of course, the lifelong pull of social responsibility remains, and if I have something of possible interest to share, I’ll let readers of my blog know.
Initial thoughts are very much in the present. While Charlottesville put torch lights on the racist heart of the fascist threat, recent events tell much about the strategies by which the anti-democrats aim to prevail. Trump and Bannon know there is a very big strategic problem they have to get around: how to cement totalitarian control when a clear and growing majority of Americans fear and detest them. Now even two Republican Senators have denounced Trump in the strongest terms, their most urgent concern that the Trump Administration is on a path toward nuclear war.
The Trump-Bannon strategy is to exploit a central flaw in the electoral system, the one that put Trump in the White House with a minority of votes. It’s not just the Electoral College; it’s the whole gamut of advantages in control of state governments, mega donors, gerrymandering and voter suppression. What it all ads up to is that there is a formula by which dictatorial rule could be sustained against the will of the majority. Mister Inside (Trump) and Mr. Outside (Bannon)* are manipulating the ultra-right primary threat to purge Congress, yes even this most hapless and reactionary GOP Congress. So Corker and Flake are forced out as prospective “losers”, and Graham bends the knee along with a whole contingent of Republicans who stake their future on Trump and Trumpism.
Another arrow in Trump’s strategy quiver appeared in the episode triggered by the death of four special forces soldiers ambushed in Niger: if challenged, call forth the generals. All the nonsense about the generals as a normalizing and moderating influence on Trump collapsed in Kelly’s angry tirade against the Congresswoman friend of the dead black soldier’s family. This was the real 4-Star General Kelly, the one who said that if it was up to him, the number of immigrants allowed into the country would be between zero and one. He was so deeply offended by the sight of the black Congresswoman speaking at an earlier event honoring two fallen FBI agents, that he could wave off her taped speech with a huge public lie.
Trump’s coterie of generals is to be feared, especially as wars and interventions have become chronic and Trump ‘ups the ante’ on nuclear catastrophe. War is tempting to a desperate regime. Military juntas are anathema to democracy, another (so far un-American) way of overruling a majority.
There is no single remedy, no easy recourse. Nothing good can happen without organized resistance in all areas of public life. And there’s nothing that can turn the tide without major victory over Trump and Bannon in 2018 and 2020.
*Army football backfield tandem, vintage 1945: Mr. Inside, fullback Blanchard, crashed the line and Mr. Outside, halfback Davis, ran around end.