The Trump kakistocracy

In my December 19th post on the Deplorables I linked to a piece by Norman Ornstein on the Trumpian kakistocracy. As with most others, I was not familiar with the term ‘kakistocracy’—”government by the worst and most unscrupulous people among us”—before the 2016 campaign, when certain commentators, e.g. Paul Krugman, started to use it, warning that kakistocracy was in store for America in the unthinkable event that Trump were to win the election. That Krugman et al were prescient in their warning is the understatement of the century.

In this vein, Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith has a must-read essay (March 15th), simply entitled, “The worst government possible, on purpose.” The lede: “The disastrous Betsy DeVos interview shows how much America is now on its own.” Smith begins

I worry less about Kim Jong-Un than I do Betsy DeVos. The North Korean dictator, for one, doesn’t have dominion over the educational futures of nearly 51 million elementary and secondary students and countless more in college. Barring a nuclear attack, of course, the wealthy charter-school champion is poised to play a much larger role than Kim will in determining the future of United States. The sophomoric invective he directs at us pales in comparison to the utter disrespect that President Trump demonstrated by nominating her to lead the Department of Education in the first place. To build a United States government of the worst people, one must not merely be amateurish. It requires a special hatred for America to form a kakistocracy.

I don’t think the Trump kakistocracy’s hatred is so much for America as it is for a very large number of Americans. The American right loves America; it’s Americans they hate.

Further down, Smith writes

As the most vulnerable in our society have long known, incompetence and willful disregard in Washington is common. Kakistocracies are not. Even conservatives in the Reagan era who preached the gospel of limited government saw some value in the actual practice of governance. Today, all that voters on the right seem to demand of their elected officials is headline fodder and comfort in the face of a more multicultural future. They voted less for a president than an emotion, and Trump’s results thus far bear that out. Even their few efforts to shape legislation have been darkly comical. A government that works is a pretty important thing, yet this one will always be more skilled at reproducing gruel for cable consumption than it will be at forming policy.

What both in this White House and from Republicans in Congress are giving us now is more akin to an aggressive virus than an operational Washington apparatus. Like the president they serve, DeVos and many of her fellow cabinet members have proven themselves not merely the antithesis of what their particular offices require, but a band of grifters wearing the masks of public servants as they seek to profit politically or financially from their service. Virtually every office is undergoing a hostile takeover. (…)

To read the whole piece, go here.

Continuing in the vein, NeverTrumper Republican Eliot A. Cohen has an incisive comment in The Atlantic (March 14th) on Trump’s “Team of sycophants.” The lede: “Tillerson’s dismissal leaves the White House more than ever the conniving and dishonest court of an erratic, ill-informed, and willful monarch.” Cohen concludes:

As one looks at those in and out of government who have either excused or attempted to ignore the president’s conduct, one notes only one figure who has not merely stood up to the president but in some measure thwarted him. It is someone who, like them, has pleased the president but unlike them has failed to be intimidated or even, in large measure, silenced by him. Indeed, it is someone who, unlike Sean Spicer or Michael Flynn or even Stephen Bannon, has successfully monetized an intimate association with the president.

That is, of course, the pornographic actress and director Stormy Daniels. She has demonstrated a sense of humor, shrewd judgment, and toughness. She has used the president’s own formidable skills at playing the lowest end of the television market against him. She has not been steamrollered by Trump’s flunkies. It is a sad day for the country, however, when that sorry array of Republican elders, senior officials, hypocritical preachers, and compromised intellectuals demonstrate that they lack the gumption, or indeed the self-respect, of a trollop.

In regard to the “trollop,” TheWeek.com culture critic Lili Loofbourow argues in a fun essay (March 15th) that “Stormy Daniels is crushing President Trump at his own game.” Way to go, Stormy!

On Trump’s latest kakistocratic nominee to a cabinet-level position, UC-Santa Barbara sociologist Lisa Hajjar explains in The Nation (March 16th) “Why Gina Haspel, the Queen of Torture, was able to rise to the top of the CIA.” The “why” has to do with President Obama deciding not to hold war criminals in the Bush-Cheney administration legally responsible for their criminal acts. A regrettable error.

The Trump regime’s ideologue-in-chief, Stephen Bannon, recently toured Europe, as one may be aware, during which time he spoke with journalist Nicholas Farrell of Spectator USA (March 14th), telling him that “‘I’m fascinated by Mussolini’.” Honestly, Steve, we had no idea…

On the legions of deplorables in the regime’s base, Slate’s Isaac Chotiner spoke with NeverTrumper Michael Gerson (March 13th), who wrote speeches for Bush 43, about “Why white evangelicals abandoned their principles for Donald Trump.”

Also see the piece (March 11th) by Forbes blogger and onetime Republican Chris Ladd, that was posted on the Forbes website and then taken down—by Forbes, not the author—on “Why white evangelicalism is so cruel.” Hint: it has to do with the South and slavery.

Vox’s David Roberts has a piece well worth reading (March 15th), in which he takes the NYT op-ed page to task for “not [being] honest [with its readers] about [the ugly truth of] US conservatism.”

Lest I forget, Ron Reagan, whose deceased father was once a US president, has a great slash-and-burn essay in The Daily Beast (March 6th), in case one missed it, “The problem isn’t just Trump, it’s our ignorant electorate.” The lede: “It is not effete snobbery or elitist condescension to note that ill-informed voters contributed to the current mess.” Those ignorant voters are very disproportionately to be found on one side of the political spectrum, bien entendu.

C’est tout pour le moment.

3 Responses

  1. on March 18, 2018 at 14:22 | Reply fifthwarder


    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  2. I often feel like we are witnessing the chronicling of the downfall of the Republic in real time. It is like watching a rising tide destroy a sandcastle.

    • As I’ve said before, we’re hanging by a thread. If no SCOTUS justice resigns or dies this year and the Dems take back Congress in November, then we’ll probably be okay. If not, then I will fear the worst for the Republic.

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