Given yesterday’s dramatic events, it is entirely understandable that the pundits in the reality-based world have worked themselves into a lather. I wish to commend two commentators to your attention.
Like so many others, including your humble scrivener, Mr. Beinart ponders the imponderable: why are so many Trumpistas sticking with him? In Why Trump Supporters Believe He Is Not Corrupt, Beinart writes,
The answer may lie in how Trump and his supporters define corruption. In a forthcoming book titled How Fascism Works, the Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley makes an intriguing claim. “Corruption, to the fascist politician,” he suggests, “is really about the corruption of purity rather than of the law. Officially, the fascist politician’s denunciations of corruption sound like a denunciation of political corruption. But such talk is intended to evoke corruption in the sense of the usurpation of the traditional order.”
Fox’s decision to focus on the Iowa murder rather than Cohen’s guilty plea illustrates Stanley’s point. In the eyes of many Fox viewers, I suspect, the network isn’t ignoring corruption so much as highlighting the kind that really matters. When Trump instructed Cohen to pay off women with whom he’d had affairs, he may have been violating the law. But he was upholding traditional gender and class hierarchies. Since time immemorial, powerful men have been cheating on their wives and using their power to evade the consequences.
The Iowa murder, by contrast, signifies the inversion—the corruption—of that “traditional order.” Throughout American history, few notions have been as sacrosanct as the belief that white women must be protected from nonwhite men. By allegedly murdering Tibbetts, Rivera did not merely violate the law. He did something more subversive: He violated America’s traditional racial and sexual norms.
Once you grasp that for Trump and many of his supporters, corruption means less the violation of law than the violation of established hierarchies, their behavior makes more sense. …
Why were Trump’s supporters so convinced that Clinton was the more corrupt candidate even as reporters uncovered far more damning evidence about Trump’s foundation than they did about Clinton’s? Likely because Clinton’s candidacy threatened traditional gender roles. For many Americans, female ambition—especially in service of a feminist agenda—in and of itself represents a form of corruption. “When female politicians were described as power-seeking,” noted the Yale researchers Victoria Brescoll and Tyler Okimoto in a 2010 study, “participants experienced feelings of moral outrage (i.e., contempt, anger, and/or disgust).”
Writing today in The President Is a Crook, Frum begins by marveling at Republican tolerance for corruption (in the commonly understood sense of the term), but quickly turns to the point where the rubber meets the road:
Trump has apparently calculated that the cost of closing down Robert Mueller’s inquiry is greater than the cost of enduring it. That always looked a gamble against the odds. Now it looks a proven bad bet, and a bet that will only worsen over time.
Can Trump’s own affairs survive the scrutiny applied to Cohen’s and Manafort’s? Can his company’s? Can his family’s?
Before Trump entered politics, nobody ever bothered to look very hard into Trump’s affairs. Now they are looking. Trump imagined that holding the usual powers of the presidency would safeguard him. He has learned his mistake. …
Trump’s whole philosophy of life is of a kill-or-be-killed competition. It’s an old question: Is Trump an authoritarian, or a crook? The answer is shaping up. Trump must be an authoritarian precisely because he is a crook. The country can have the rule of law, or it can keep the Trump presidency. Facing that choice, who doubts what Trump’s answer, or the answer of his supporters, will be?
For what it is worth, and that is probably not much, I share Frum’s surprise that Trump has not already provoked a constitutional crisis. And I share his prognostication that Trump WILL provoke a crisis, and that right soon.
And then we shall see how many among us are fascisti and how many are willing to protect the republic. I think it will be about 30 to 70.
And by the way, be sure to note Beinart’s point about gender. Lots ‘o ladies gonna decide they don’t want to live in a fascist country.