But unlike the Godfather character, the president of the United States is backed by powerful people enabling him.
.. The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.
.. Until now, Trump’s worst moments have occurred behind closed doors, and have become known to the public only second-hand, leaked by worried officials, aides, and advisers. Yesterday and today, we have seen a Trump temper-tantrum in real time on Twitter
.. the most important moment in Wolff’s book are words attributed at second or third-hand to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time of Donald Trump’s election. “He will sign anything we put in front of him.”
.. Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades.
- Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist.
- Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host.
- Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate.
- Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime.
.. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected.
The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.
.. The Senate Judiciary committee—the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee that oversees the proper enforcement of the law!—formally filed a criminal referral with the Department of Justice against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier about Trump’s Russia connections. The referral was signed by the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, without even notice to Democrats on the committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said; a startling abuse of majority status and a sharp departure from the norms of the Senate, especially a 51-49 Senate.
.. It’s ominous, however, that on the very same day, the FBI obeyed Trump’s repeated demands and reopened a long-closed criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
.. the important thing about Trump is not the man; it’s the system of power surrounding the man.
.. What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway.
Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him;
conservative media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the cultural wars he provokes;
rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country... he is indeed the “very stable genius” he claims to be: Trump understands how to mobilize hatred and resentment to his own advantage and profit. He has risen higher than Joe McCarthy or Charles Lindbergh or Theodore Bilbo—and he has lasted already nearly a full year in office, holding the approval of one-third of the country
.. without the complicity of other power-holders, Trump would drop from his central position like a tooth from a rotten gum. What we need to do now is widen the camera angle beyond Fredo Trump to the hard-faced men and women over his shoulders. Those are the people who put Trump where he is, and keep him there, corrupting the institutions of American democracy and troubling the peace and security of the world.
.. We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.
.. Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.
.. Indeed, the core of much modern activism, from protest rallies to leaflet campaigns to publicizing offenses on websites, appears to be concerned with rallying enough public support to convince authorities to act. [p.698]
.. A second notable feature of microaggression websites is that they do not merely call attention to a single offense, but seek to document a series of offenses that, taken together, are more severe than any individual incident. As the term “micro” implies, the slights and insults are acts that many would consider to be only minor offenses and that others might not deem offensive at all. As noted on the Oberlin Microaggressions site, for example, its purpose is to show that acts of “racist, heterosexist/ homophobic, anti-Semitic, classist, ableists, sexist/cissexist speech etc.” are “not simply isolated incidents, but rather part of structural inequalities” (Oberlin Microaggressions 2013). These sites hope to mobilize and sustain support for a moral crusade against such injustice by showing that the injustices are more severe than observers might realize.
.. Rather, such forms as microaggression complaints and protest demonstrations appear to flourish among the relatively educated and affluent populations of American colleges and universities
.. Microaggression complaints are largely about changes in stratification. They document actions said to increase the level of inequality in a social relationship – actions Black refers to as “overstratification.” Overstratification offenses occur whenever anyone rises above or falls below others in status. [Therefore…] a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality
.. [In other words, as progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offense to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger and constant level of perceived victimization.]
.. It is in egalitarian and diverse settings – such as at modern American universities – that equality and diversity are most valued, and it is in these settings that perceived offenses against these values are most deviant. [p.707]. [Again, the paradox: places that make the most progress toward equality and diversity can expect to have the “lowest bar” for what counts as an offense against equality and inclusivity. Some colleges have lowered the bar so far that an innocent question, motivated by curiosity, such as “where are you from” is now branded as an act of aggression.]
.. Honor is a kind of status attached to physical bravery and the unwillingness to be dominated by anyone. Honor in this sense is a status that depends on the evaluations of others, and members of honor societies are expected to display their bravery by engaging in violent retaliation against those who offend them (Cooney 1998:108–109; Leung and Cohen 2011). Accordingly, those who engage in such violence often say that the opinions of others left them no choice at all…. In honor cultures, it is one’s reputation that makes one honorable or not, and one must respond aggressively to insults, aggressions, and challenges or lose honor. Not to fight back is itself a kind of moral failing, such that “in honor cultures, people are shunned or criticized not for exacting vengeance but for failing to do so”
.. Honorable people must guard their reputations, so they are highly sensitive to insult, often responding aggressively to what might seem to outsiders as minor slights (Cohen et al. 1996; Cooney 1998:115–119; Leung and Cohen 2011)… Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or nonexistent and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack
.. The prevailing culture in the modern West is one whose moral code is nearly the exact opposite of that of an honor culture. Rather than honor, a status based primarily on public opinion, people are said to have dignity, a kind of inherent worth that cannot be alienated by others
.. Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. It is even commendable to have “thick skin” that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor (Leung and Cohen 2011:509). People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general an ethic of self-restraint prevails.
.. Unlike the honorable, the dignified approve of appeals to third parties and condemn those who “take the law into their own hands.” For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame. But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries…. The ideal in dignity cultures is thus to use the courts as quickly, quietly, and rarely as possible.
.. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.
.. But insofar as they share a social environment, the same conditions that lead the aggrieved to use a tactic against their adversaries encourage their adversaries to use that tactic as well. For instance, hate crime hoaxes do not all come from the left. [gives examples] … Naturally, whenever victimhood (or honor, or anything else) confers status, all sorts of people will want to claim it.
.. Ley notes, the response of those labeled as oppressors is frequently to “assert that they are a victim as well.” Thus, “men criticized as sexist for challenging radical feminism defend themselves as victims of reverse sexism, [and] people criticized as being unsympathetic proclaim their own history of victimization.”[p.715] [In this way, victimhood culture causes a downward spiral of competitive victimhood.
.. What we are seeing in these controversies is the clash between dignity and victimhood, much as in earlier times there was a clash between honor and dignity…. At universities and many other environments within modern America and, increasingly, other Western nations, the clash between dignity and victimhood engenders a similar kind of moral confusion
.. Add to this mix modern communication technologies that make it easy to publicize grievances, and the result, as we have seen, is the rise of a victimhood culture.
White nationalists all generally agree white people should be in charge, but they have many different competing beliefs about why that is the case, and how white rule should be implemented. These differences are not trivial, and for decades they have prevented a broadly concerted campaign of action by white nationalists in America.
.. Prior to Fields’s attack, Charlottesville was on track to be a clear victory for the alt-right. While attendance of 500 people is a pittance compared to most mainstream political events, it represents a marked upswing from 2016. Simply turning out that many people in one place was an unqualified win.
The fact that few participants sought to conceal their identities was a bold statement about the mainstreaming of white nationalism, which did not go unnoticed during an ominous torch-wielding event the night before the formal rally. Even after the “Unite the Right” rally itself was shut down by authorities as an unlawful assembly in the face of escalating violence, the event was seen as a show of strength.
.. When “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler attempted to hold a press conference on Sunday in Charlottesville, he was chased away by a crowd of people shouting “murderer” and “shame.”.. The question now is how the alt-right will process the backlash, and an early indicator will be seen in Saturday’s marches and rallies.Terrorism is a double-edged sword. While it can help mobilize the most radical segments of an extremist movement, it simultaneously alienates the least radical, including people who are loosely supportive of an extremist movement, or tolerant or dismissive of its rhetorical excesses.
.. it is unclear how those within the alt-right will process its meaning. In the first 24 hours, online adherents responded predictably, with a mix of
- disavowals of Fields, and
- the advancement of conspiracy theories to explain the problem away.
.. If attendance is high and the participants include more of the same Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists in garish costumes and armed to the teeth, it would be hard to interpret that as anything less than extremely alarming.
.. An aggressive showing by antifa groups looking to meet violence with violence could lead to further escalation
.. Some portion of the alt-right is more enamored of Trumpism than of white nationalism.
.. The only certainty is that the week ahead is bound to be interesting and consequential. By the time we reach the other side, Americans will likely have a much clearer picture of the shape and direction of white-nationalist extremism in America.
Here’s Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser to Trump but no longer with the campaign,painting a surprisingly grim picture of the road ahead:
“The campaign has no infrastructure in the states,” he continued. “The woman who ran Wisconsin for Trump previously ran Oklahoma for Trump. Trump lost. Prior to that, she had never run any political campaign, so there was no depth of experience. This is something I see again and again, particularly at the ground roots level. Now, I salute these people for their enthusiasm, but this is a science. This is not something we guess about. And now you move to a serious [sic] of states like Colorado, Wyoming, and Arizona [which] should be watched very carefully. And those become hand-to-hand combat at state conventions or state committee meetings, where once again the Trump people have built no infrastructure.”
.. Over the summer, Lewandowski became embroiled in a battle for control with Stone, Nunberg, and Cohen. The principal fault line was over Stone and Nunberg’s belief that Trump needed to invest money into building a real campaign infrastructure and Lewandowski’s contention that their current approach was working fine.