Three books to Read To Understand the Trump Years

 

The next few years are seemingly uncharted territory.  Never before has the Oval Office been inhabited by someone who is racist, functionally mentally retarded, morally degenerate, and actively and intentionally working against the best interest of the US all at once.  Sure, we’ve had three of the four but Andrew Jackson and Jimmy Carter weren’t actively working to destroy America (they were just dumb enough to believe their bullshit) and FDR could be said to be a lot of things, but dumb wasn’t one of them. But Trump really is all of those things.  His trade policy is so vile that you could put in every other pro-growth policy that conservatives have wanted for decades and the economic isolation he wants to impose will ruin the economy at a far deeper level than Obama could ever have tried.  His foreign policy is at best destructively naïve, at worst evil.  And his other domestic policies such a hodgepodge of inconsistent lines of idiocy, apparently taking some of the worst from multiple ideologies our best hope is the bureaucracy decides to just not follow instructions for the next few years and that the country prospers due to the lack of their activity.

So do we have any guiding light on how the next few years are going to go?  Yes.  History, philosophy and literature are, as always very informative.  Before Obama you would have been best to read Bureaucracy by James Q. Wilson to understand how Obama would use the power of the 4th branch to impose his idea, The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek to understand the destructive nature of increasing government, and Robert Graves’ novel I, Claudius to understand how people and government are often insufficient to stand in the way of charisma’s ability to cause rot in the foundation of a republic.

There are similarly three books I think we should pay attention to right now, which I highly recommend you read in the next few months to understand what we are in for.

Spirit of the Laws by Baron de Montesquieu

(Free Audio book version)The-Spirit-of-The-Laws-Book-Cover.jpg

This book has its place as one of the most important books in the history of government.  Its key point is looking at how law and government function in three different forms of government: Monarchy, Tyranny, and Republic.  Tyranny is all about the single individual, Monarchy despite have a single head is all about the aristocracy, and Republic is all about the masses and with it the law takes central importance as a way to deal with the masses.  This book served as one of the key sources of ideas for the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention.  But it is still very valuable.  It’s description of the importance of law in a Republic will be a key way to look at how government acts in the next few years.  Key points to pay attention to is how laws take precedent in a Republic but the individual strong man is front and center in a tyranny.  How republics depend on communities and cooperation for defense, but tyrannies more than any other type of government are obsessively protective of their borders and fearful for foreigners.  Honestly almost every page contains insights into the nature of government that are still relevant, but more so in this day and age where the virtues of the republic are being ignored and it needs to be pointed out when we veer off course from the type of Constitutional democratically-Republican government we are supposed to have.

Granted the book was written before Adam Smith and thus its understanding of economics is rather limited and sometimes incredibly incorrect…yet somehow even with these bad assumptions about economics the book still has a better understanding of economics than Trump or Obama has ever shown.  And his chapters on the relationship between climate and government are a bit off so it can help just to skim these parts, but the overall thrust of the book and its understanding of how law must operate in different kinds of government is essential.

It will be especially illuminating when, as will inevitably happens, how Trump reacts to not getting his way.  I suspect it will not resemble the way Montesquieu says the powers that be in a Republic are supposed to act in respect to the law.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirerrise and fall.jpg

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  The whining goes, “that’s knee-jerk idiocy.  You can’t compare him to the Nazis.  He hasn’t done anything like that.  It could never happen here.”  That’s kind of why this book—especially its first sections—are so, very, very important.  The comparisons in the early chapters are quite illuminating, and horrifying in their comparisons.  For instance, throughout the entire book there is a theme that despite being quite clear in his intentions in Mein Kampf and always living up to the goals—yet despite being quite clear on his plans for the Jews and his desire to conquer the continent of Europe and Russia, everyone kept saying that he didn’t really mean that.  Sound familiar?  Trump kept saying during the campaign that he loved Canadian healthcare and he thought it worked (it doesn’t) and his sycophants just said he doesn’t really mean that, but strangely what he is now proposing is basically Canadian style single payer (but don’t worry despite containing everything that defines single-payer, Trump says he doesn’t support single payer…so despite the fact that he will only approve something that to any outsider is single payer, it won’t be single payer because the Glorious Leader says it’s not).  Or how about the fact that Fuhrer Trump has repeated and clearly stated he thinks NATO is obsolete and useless and would quite eagerly withdraw our protection from Europe (especially those Balkan states which Russia wants to re-conquer).  But despite Trump being constantly clear on this point actual conservatives keep deluding themselves by believing that modern day Riefenstahl Kellyanne Conway that “you can’t listen to what Trump says, you have to listen to his heart.”  When reading the The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich you will see that there are numerous similar excuses made through the rise of the Reich, “don’t listen to his speeches where he promise to take over your country, we really don’t want to do that”… of course until they did just that.  “Don’t worry about his anti-Semitic screed…don’t listen to his words, listen to his heart.”  Strangely with narcissistic lunatics their hearts and their words are often working in tandem.

The real importance of this book is that every idiot who has decried “you can’t compare them to Hitler” no matter who the comparison is drawn to wants to compare someone’s early career to Hitler’s late career.  This is beyond stupid.  But it’s because most people know the war, they know the bunker, they have a general idea of the propaganda, but they really don’t know about the rise.  And this is what people need to know about, how a stupid, talentless, charismatic lunatic took power.  Because it bears comparison the current rise of a stupid, talentless, charismatic lunatic who is about to take power.

People think the only thing that defined the evil of Nazi Germany was the Holocaust.  It wasn’t.  The Holocaust was merely the logical conclusion to numerous other evils that had already been put into place.  The denial of property right.  The government control of business and media.  The intimidation and suppression of opposition voices.  The chipping away at due process.  The slavish faith in junk science (eugenics for the Nazis, global warming for the modern world).  The belief that the government is more important than the individual. The assault on religious freedoms.  The attempt to use socialism to cure economic problems.  The centralization of power in one office.  The denial or reality in favor of party line.  The grants of legal status and privileges of some groups over others.  The Holocaust was merely the logical conclusion of these assaults on natural rights and limited government, for the second people begin to question whether the party doesn’t work you have to give them someone else to blame. And it is in the seeds of these evils we need to be on the lookout for, making a comparison from the beginning of one regime to the end of the another is always going to yield discrepancies.  It needs to be the beginning of both that you need to compare.  And to do that you need to know about the beginning of the Nazi regime, before the death camps, when there was only “Germany first” rhetoric, the blind nationalism, the demonization of foreigners, the ignoring of due process of law and the capitulation of all the checks built into the system of government.  We have already crossed some of these lines.  We need to be on the lookout for the others, not just with this presidency but with all people who hold power.  Only then do we prevent it from happening again. If you just wait for the millions of dead bodies before you feel you can make comparisons, you have ignored every warning history has tried to give you.  You must compare the root of the problem to the root of a new regime, not wait for the atrocities to come about again.

It by Stephen King 

It_cover.jpgYou might initially think that this doesn’t fit.  But think about it.  Trump is a psychotic clown bent on world destruction.  Pennywise had bright orange buttons and pale skin…this clown had bright orange spray-on tan covering very pale skin.  But, more important the villainous Pennywise is only part of the problem in It.  For anyone who has read the book, they know the real problem is the town of Derry, Maine itself.  It feeds off the evil there, cultivates it, helps it grow, but there is something evil there in the people of Derry that goes beyond the Spider.

The people of Derry are shown to be complacent in the evil of the town.  They turn a blind eye the small evils.  More than that they almost enjoy when Derry more than any other place allows them

Trump voters, as it has been observed by so many people are people who feel they have been ignored by government.  They felt disenfranchised by a liberal establishment that peddled entitlements and divisive racist language to every group but them.  They feel left behind because of globalization.  And the line seems to go that because they haven’t gotten their share of the entitlement pie, because the government hasn’t coddled them and protected their jobs, because they haven’t gotten their handouts, their anger from being shortchanged for so long justified voting for the worst human being they could find because he promised to care about them.

This is not in any way, shape, or form a valid justification for doing what they did.  The government ignored you?  Good!  You should be grateful.  There is a reason why there are books like Please Stopping Helping Us:How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, when the government pays attention to a group you’re in, terrible things happen.  But these people allied themselves with the alt-right, the modern incarnation of fascism, to help put in someone who promised he would care about them (it’s going to come as a rude awakening that a politician to care about you is a death sentence to whatever group you identify with).

Then of course there are the people who voted for Trump because he paid not to subtle lip-service to the racist vision of the alt-right.  And here I need to quote extensively from another book to illustrate the point of how bad the alt-right is and how bad those who allied with them are.

What is clear now is the scale of the challenge, which in two senses is different to what we originally contemplated. The first is that in the mindset that is modern Islam, there is one spectrum, not several. At the furthest end of the spectrum are the extremists who advocate terrorism to further their goal of an Islamic state, a rebirth of the caliphate that came into being in the years following the death of the Prophet. It is true they are few in number, but their sympathisers reach far further along the spectrum than we think. While many do not agree with the terrorism, they ‘understand’ why it is happening.

Still further along the spectrum are those who condemn the terrorists, but in a curious and dangerous way buy into bits of their world view. They agree with the extremists that the US is anti-Islam; they see the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq as invasions of Muslim nations because they were Muslim nations. They see Israel as the symbol of Western anti-Islamic prejudice. This group stretches uncomfortably far into the middle of the spectrum.

Then you have, of course, a large number, probably the majority, who condemn the terrorists and their world view.

But – and here is the second point – even this group have not yet confidently found their way to articulating a thoroughly reformed and modernising view of Islam. In other words, it is true they find the terrorism repugnant and they wish to be in alliance with the Western nations against it, but this does not yet translate into an alternative narrative for Islam that makes sense of its history and provides a coherent vision for its future. What this means is that very often countries in the Arab and Muslim world will offer their people a disconcerting and ultimately self-defeating choice between a ruling elite with the right idea, but which they are reluctant or fearful to advertise, and a popular movement with the wrong one, which they are all too keen to proclaim.

The combination of all of this means that this battle is not, I’m afraid, one between a small, unrepresentative group of extremists and the rest of us. Or at least, it is not only that. It is also a fundamental struggle for the mind, heart and soul of Islam.

-A Journey, Tony Blair

While we all agree that there are levels to support for terrorism, as suggested in the above quote, I think it is fair to say almost all rational people feel that those who are not choosing to oppose the evil of terrorism with the quiet acceptance or silence in the face of it are part of the problem. This is a belief especially true of those on the right in America.  The irony here that these same people will tell you that despite the fact that Donald Trump, while supported by neo-nazis and the Klan, while refusing to denounce their evil, while making their hate a key point of his twitter feed and thereby offering support for and legitimizing their evil will say that they’re not racists for supporting him.  So, they say that if you should take the blame for terrorism even if you aren’t a terrorist but support them but feel they themselves shouldn’t take the blame for the fascism and racism of Trump because they’re not a racist.  A double standard worthy of such hypocrisy only the alt-right and the progressives of the American left could indulge in such a fantasy

But maybe I’m just being harsh. It’s not like Trump is anything like ISIS.  I mean ISIS is a group of women hating lunatics, who use social media like Twitter to effectively spread a message of hate dressed up as a nationalist call to return the Caliphate to its former glory. How on Earth is that like Trump’s misogyny spread through tweets to Make America Great Again.  Nothing remotely similar there.  I mean radical Islam attacked the World Trade Center, one of the of the greatest symbols of globalization and America’s presence in the world.  Trump and his ilk only hate globalization and want to rip up NAFTA and TPP thus ending America’s presence in the world.  I mean there is nothing in common with radical Islam wanting to hold onto a way of life centuries that is out of date, Trump and his kin only want to hold onto jobs and traditions that are out of date and have been replaced by modern technology and innovations. Both sides believe in power over law, in mob rule over deliberation, in might makes right.  So yes it’s completely uncalled for to compare those on the right who voted for Trump and gave tacit approval to his destruction of everything America stands for to those in the Muslim world who give tacit approval to those whose goal is to destroy everything America stands for.

So, at once they embody the evils of the far right and the far left, of the worst of the secular progressive crowd and the religious fanatic crowd.  Just like Derry, the worst of everything all at once.  Just like Derry a sick mixture of malevolence and indifference which rots everything it touches.  The next few years are going to be filled with his supporters vacillating between these two extremes, utterly unconcerned with the logical jumps required.  They have bought into Trump and because they bought into this vile excuse of a human they will defend it to the end. Just as you will see Derry was designed to defend its own unholy alliance with the Spider.  And reading It will give you a clear view of the mental state of your average Trump supporter.

Certainly, there are many other books you need over the next few years, a lot of reading on economics would probably also be called for.  But these three tomes will give you a good start on what to look for from our Glorious Leader and his followers.

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2 Responses »

  1. Support Trump if you think Hitler should have won.

  2. I’m about 200 pages into “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Although I disagree with some of what you say here, you’re absolutely right about the early stages of Nazism and their parallels to Trump-ian America. Hitler was not imposed on Germany, she chose him, democratically. He was a charismatic leader who exploited people’s fears, using propaganda, lies, intimidation, and even (occasional) restraint when it suited his purpose. This “Make America Great Again” is not that far removed from the excessively nationalistic “Der Vaterland” and “Deutschland Uber Alles.” Of course, if you try to emphasize this to anyone – including some liberals – their eyeballs roll. One thing in America’s favor is we’re not (currently) in an economic depression, we have two solid political parties rather than ten weak and disparate parties, and we have a good system of checks and balances, even with the current Republican monopoly. Despite the damage Trump will cause (and has already caused), history has a way of dealing with petty tyrants.

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