Kavanaugh and the Authoritarians

I don’t care too much about the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, one way or another. There doesn’t appear to be any hope of salvation in our present quandary, not for anyone involved (or uninvolved), far beyond who ends up on the Supreme Court.

But from a detached perspective of depressive realism, the GOP is on a clear decline, to a far greater degree than the Democrats which is saying a lot. Back during the presidential campaign, I stated that neither main political party should want to win. That is because we are getting so close to serious problems in our society or rather getting closer to the results of those problems that have long been with us. Whichever party is in power will be blamed, not that I care either way considering both parties deserve blame.

Republicans don’t seem to be able to help themselves. They’ve been playing right into the narrative of their own decline. At the very moment they needed to appeal to minorities because of looming demographic changes, they doubled down on bigotry. Now, the same people who supported and voted for a president who admitted to grabbing women by the pussy (with multiple sexual allegations against him and multiple known cases of cheating on his wife) are defending Kavanaugh against allegations of sexual wrongdoing.

This is not exactly a surprise, as Trump brazenly and proudly declared that he could shoot a person for everyone to see and his supporters would be fine with it. And certainly his publicly declaring his authoritarianism in this manner didn’t faze many Republican voters and Republican politicians. He was elected and the GOP rallied behind him. Also, it didn’t bother Kavanaugh as his acceptance of the Republican nomination implies he also supports authoritarianism and, if possible, plans on enacting it on the Supreme Court. Whether or not true that Trump could get away with murder, it is an amazing statement to make in public and still get elected president for, in any functioning democracy, that would immediately disqualify a candidate.

It almost doesn’t matter what are the facts of the situation, guilt or innocence. Everyone knows that, even if Kavanaugh was a proven rapist, the same right-wing authoritarians who love Trump would defend Kavanaugh to the bitter end. Loyalty is everything to these people. Not so much for the political left in how individuals are more easily thrown under the bus (or like Al Franken who threw himself under the bus and for a rather minor accusation of an inappropriate joke, not even involving any inappropriate touching). Sexual allegations demoralize Democrats, consider the hard hit it took with Anthony Weiner, in a way that never happens with Republicans who always consider a sexual allegation to be a call to battle.

The official narrative now is that the GOP is the party of old school bigots and chauvinistic pigs. They always had that hanging over their heads. And in the past, they sometimes held it up high with pride as if it were a banner of their strength. But now they find themselves on the defense. It turns out that this narrative they embraced probably doesn’t have much of a future. Yet Republicans can’t find it in themselves to seek a new script. For some odd reason, they are heavily attached to being heartless assholes.

This is even true for many Republican women. My conservative mother who, having not voted for Trump, has been pulled back into partisanship with the present conflict and has explicitly told me that she doesn’t believe men held accountable for past sexual transgressions because that is just the way the world was back then. Some conservative women go even further, arguing that men can’t help themselves and that even now we shouldn’t hold them accountable — as Toyin Owoseje reported:

Groping women is “no big deal”, a Donald Trump supporting mother told her daughters on national television when asked about the sexual misconduct allegations levelled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Among Republicans, we’ve been hearing such immoral defenses for a long time. There is another variety of depravity to be found among Democrats, but they at least have the common sense to not openly embrace depravity in their talent for soft-pedalling their authoritarian tendencies. Yet as full-blown authoritarian extremists disconnected from the average American, Republicans don’t understand why the non-authoritarian majority of the population might find their morally debased views unappealing. To them, loyalty to group is everything, and the opinions of those outside the group don’t matter.

The possibility that Kavanaugh might have raped a woman, to right-wing authoritarians, simply makes him seem all the more of a strong male to be revered. It doesn’t matter what he did, at least not to his defenders. This doesn’t bode well for the Republican Party. With the decline they are on, the only hope they have is for Trump to start World War III and seize total control of the government. They’ve lost the competition of rhetoric. All that is left for them is force their way to the extent they can, which at the moment means trying to push Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court. Of course, they theoretically could simply pick a different conservative nominee without all the baggage, but they can’t back down now no matter what. Consequences be damned!

Just wait to see what they’ll be willing to do when the situation gets worse. Imagine what would happen with a Trump-caused constitutional crisis and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. However it ends, the trajectory is not pointing upward. The decline of the GOP might be the (further) decline of the United States.

10 thoughts on “Kavanaugh and the Authoritarians

  1. “With the decline they are on, the only hope they have is for Trump to start World War III and seize power of the government.”

    Having both boxed themselves into a corner, and been boxed in, they are left with two alternatives: capitulation, or war. Needless to say, they will choose war by which I mean both foreign adventurism as a distraction and a means to “silence the law” and/or a direct neo-fascist seizure of power. The Kavanaugh putsch is just that – a putsch and the unraveling of even a pretense of procedural norms leading to an ever narrowing decent into tyranny. The party of old white male bigots is obviously demographically in terminal decline and as is always the case such demographic moments create conflict. They never go gentle into the good night of history. Trump, Giuliani, Bolton, McConnell, the Koch Brothers, et al, are fanatics; a combination of unhinged (Trump) and ruthless psychopaths (Bolton) and they are all acting as if they are in the same fever dream and, that’s because they are. Of course, also needles to say, the dems are as much to blame and my “depressive realism” is as disgusted with them as with the toga clad Klansman.

    • Trump is the authoritarian leader. Since Trump won’t back down, his authoritarian allies and followers won’t back down. There are obvious reasons for Trump to take this personally, beyond his own sexual misdeeds. He wants Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court in case the situation gets bad and he needs the Supreme Court on his side.

      • Absolutely. He views K as an “Break in event of emergency” tool to save him from impeachment or prosecution. And for McConnell K is an ideological issue as McConnell is a true believer and cynical – an aristocratic reactionary.

    • Here is what matters to Trump and hence to the GOP. Not whether Kavanaugh is guilty or innocent, as to them power used over the powerless is not a crime to be punished. What is at issue is that Kavanaugh is a strong defender of executive power and the GOP presently controls the executive. Trump is going to need all the executive power he can get if he isn’t to be removed from power.

      • True – they don’t care if K is guilty just that he’s useful. Though I think some of them are true believers – Lindsey Graham believes in the white pontifical smoke pouring out of his own ass. Others are more cynical but regardless they all are feeling desperate and under siege.

  2. Just to let you know: the rest of the World is GLUED to this extraordinary drama.
    We have our own problems, of course, with the warped combo of Neo-Liberalism and Anti-Globalism – the sort of Conservative Populism that gave birth to Brexit and Trumpism.
    As to the coming DOOM? I think as an example, about Wall Street Occupy.. After the last Stock Market Crash, there was Wall Street Occupy, that led to NO CHANGE. But I think it does mean that, next time there is a dramatic crash, the resistance/questions/demands for change will be greater and potentially more muscular next time.
    It doesn’t have to be like that (Iceland jailed their bankers) – but how likely is that to happen in the countries of the most offending and offensive financial criminals – the US and the UK?
    But – as to your general point – that 1% and the political class that represents them – those toxic old white Conservatives – won’t go quietly, or silently – won’t even accept any change. Not one bit. Just as Judge K can’t admit to one ounce of his rapey frat boy drunken jock animal house past. Not one bit.
    You’re absolutely right about that.

    • As an independent American, I’ve grown numb to the inanity. The circus show is no longer amusing, not that it ever was particularly entertaining. I’ve been trying to ignore present craziness. And I would hardly know about it, if my mom didn’t have it on the tv when I visited. It is her talking about it that caused me to write about it.

      I don’t exactly about the coming doom. There are numerous plausible scenarios, but some more probable than others. It does feel like we are long overdue for WWIII, a thought I’ve had going back a number of years. But as for this Trump era specifically, I have no doubt that it would feed Trump’s ego be a war president and all the better if he got to start it. Then he could play his authoritarian demagoguery for all its worth.

      As for causes of conflict, reasons can always be manufactured and events can be staged. That is the easy part, if and when those in power decide it is in their self-interest.

      The response of the public, as always, could complicate their schemes. But with enough fear, real or imagined, the public is predictably made compliant. There is no war in US history that didn’t eventually get the backing of the American people, even if public opinion later turned against it (even the Vietnam War took more than a decade before mood soured and by that time it had already served its purpose in constraining Soviet reach into the region).

      No protest movement that doesn’t lead to revolution — or at least threaten to do so — is going to change anything. I realize countries like Iceland are different, but the US is no where near being like Iceland, as you indicate. In all of US history, relatively short of course, there has never been major change that didn’t involve mass armed violence in facing down violent oppression. That was true of the Civil Rights Movement as well, preceded by decades of military-style race wars in the streets and happening along with the rise of militant black groups.

      We Americans tend to let situations get really bad before we do anything. And once we finally do something, we inevitably take it to the point of violent threat to the social order. The American elite relent to public demands for major change when and only when they are forced into a position of having no other choice. That is how we do things here. It’s the American Way.

  3. As an outsider looking at current USA I feel the need to say: The democratic revolution really has only just begun.
    True democracy has only become possible since the advent of scientific method on Earth. That might sound pretentious but the fact is that scientific method [SM] needed at least three fundamental ingredients present for its true germination: a radical test of a fundamental “authoritative” statement from the past which was shown decisively to be wrong, printing of written texts, and universal literacy – or something close to it. Those three historical accidents occurred in Europe 500+ years ago and the combination started the scientific revolution. SM allowed human beings to discover where we really are in the universe and to discover how to derive energy and resources from previously unimagined sources in umpteen new ways.

    SM was instrumental thereby in starting three great changes:
    1/ the liberation of the bulk of humanity from being beasts of burden,
    2/ revealing to those with eyes to see that much of ancient authority and lore was simply the manifestation of entrenched ignorance, and
    3/ revealing also that openness and free communication is needed for any society to escape from such ignorance and the oppression which accompanies it.
    The developed economies of all the countries which have succeeded in establishing and maintaining democratically elected legislatures show us that democracy as such is not just an optional good thing but is necessary for effective and sustainable economic development. The current apparent success of Mainland China, the PRC, is not a disproof of this; it is still early days yet. The great challenge facing the communist regime[s] of China is how to transform China into a stable federation of democratic entities which coexist by means of peaceful cooperation and mutual assistance. In effect they need to achieve a “union” more like the European Union than the union of the USA.

    The ubiquitous fly in the ointment is bureaucracy. Why? Because bureaucracy [B] everywhere entrenches itself as a bastion of authoritarianism. B wherever it evolved was, and remains, in the absence of true democracy, the default method of enforcing control over a population in opposition to feudalism and organised crime. Note: the similarity between feudalism and mafia type organised crime is not accidental. The latter was the original form of the former and will always grow that way in the absence of adequate control. This point here is that entrenched B becomes a stolid background and labyrinthine landscape of canyons and silos behind which powerful people without empathy [or even much ability in some cases] can be hidden and protected by their lawyer servants.

    The antidote to B is democratic method [DM]. This is so because B establishes and maintains itself by disempowering the majority of people who have anything to do with it – ie both its employee workers as well as clients and customers. This occurs because authority which is the essence of the system, flows outwards and downwards, never the other way. As Karl Popper pointed out, authoritarian entities, by and large, do not deal effectively and fairly with the unforeseen negative consequences of policies [UNCOP] because it is the disempowered lower level workers and poorest clients or customers which are the first to experience any such problems. They – or more accurately we – as such are not able to readily communicate problems which arise because the balance of power is always tilted in favour of those who are higher up in any power hierarchy and the processes and job specifications always evolve towards normalisation and habituation of the path of least resistance – as felt by those who have most power.

    What develops is an entrenched resistance to change within the managerial hierarchy and an endemic fatalism on the part of lower level workers: “You can’t change the system” is the fallback motto of those who have become resigned to almost never being listened to. This means that B everywhere develop and retain significant levels of dysfunction which becomes “the norm” which is accepted as the landscape of their world by lower level workers yet is denied by those in the higher levels of the hierarchy.
    As Popper pointed out DM is the only system which can deal effectively and fairly with UNCOP because those who make the rules are subject to constrain and dethronement by those they rule over. This is the essence of democracy, that the voice and power of the rich and powerful is constrained by those who, otherwise, would be powerless. There is no reason at all why DM cannot arise and convert the dysfunctional caterpillars of B into effective, robust , and sustainable democratic entities – the butterflies we need.

    My apologies for what probably looks like a very digressive rave, but I feel seemingly unremitting disappointment caused by the dysfunctions of the USA Chief Executive Officer needs to be balanced by meditation upon the ultimate means whereby such folly can be turned into distant historical memory.

    • I lean toward what is in the US is called Anti-Federalism. There is some confusion to this. The Anti-Federalists in early America were actually the advocates of genuine Federalism. But the reactionaries seized control of the government and successfully implemented a counterrevolution. Those opposed to genuine Federalism also gained control of the ideological framing, often through blunt force of using mobs to destroy their opponents’ printing presses. As such, they were free to declare themselves as ‘Federalists’. Everything they supported, though, directly contradicted Federalist principles.

      If you want to know what Federalism looks like in the American tradition, you have to read the original founding documents, The Declaration of Independence and The Articles of Confederation, which together express democracy. The original Confederation was a union of independent states. That is why, in the US, the local government is called a state because that is what they were intended to be. But the power of local governments has been slowly whittled away, starting with the right-wing coup of the Constitutional Convention when the second constitution was written, which by the way was explicitly unconstitutional according to the first constitution (i.e., The Articles of Confederation).

      There is a reason I’m explaining this. Those original independent states were small. That is what made democracy a real hope for a new American society. It was limited in many ways but the local governments of the time were heavily influenced by the local populations. In response to enforce authoritarian rule, the colonists had revolted numerous times prior to the American Revolution. This kept the would-be ruling elite in check. This is important to keep in mind. Every well-functioning social democracy in the world is a small in size, both in terms of population and territory. Democracy requires a personal connection between citizens and their government. That is why inequality in particular is so fatal to democracy.

      The US is simply too large for democracy. The only hope the US has is that the (pseudo-)Federal government will collapse, breakdown, or severely weaken. That will allow for the possibility of re-democratization of states and communities.

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