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“Autocracy: Rules for Survival” Essential reading for everyone in Trump’s America

Maximum Leader Trump
Maximum Leader Trump

If there’s a part of you that still holds out hope that, for all his autocratic tendencies, Donald Trump will revert to a sort of political normality as president, you need to read Masha Gessen’s chilling but essential article “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” in The New York Review of Books.

Gessen, a journalist who has devoted much of her career to making sense of Russia under Vladimir Putin, offers a number of hard-won lessons for surviving in the autocracy that we may soon find ourselves living in here in the US.

The first and in some ways most important lesson for those still holding out hope for a more-or-less normal presidency:

Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. 

I think we’re going to have to suspend Godwin’s Law for the length of Trump’s presidency; the comparisons are simply too apt.

He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted “Lock her up!” They, and he, meant every word. … Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.

Gessen’s other rules:

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Consider the financial markets this week, which, having tanked overnight, rebounded following the Clinton and Obama speeches. Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people. …

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. …

Rule #4: Be outraged. …  [I]n the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. …

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises.

The final rule offers up a little bit of hope:

Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. 

Gessen ends her piece with a call for “resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged.” Thousands of Americans are already taking to the streets in cities across the country to let the world know that Trump — who after all lost the popular vote — is not their president. He’s not mine either. We need to join those in the streets — literally, figuratively, or both — to make clear we don’t want, and won’t stand for, Putinism in the United States.

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Scildfreja Unnýðnes
Scildfreja Unnýðnes
5 years ago

I totally agree, Scoots, and I’m really so sorry about your stress. Avoid caffeine, drink water, breathe slow and regular – especially while on a computer. People breathe funny when they’re on a computer for some reason, and it makes their adrenaline spike.

Many, many of us were Bernie supporters here – and still are. Hillary was never the perfect candidate. You can’t be in politics for 30 years and still be perfect. Bernie’s platform was better, and even though the DNC adopted many of its points at the convention, I was dubious that they’d follow through if they won. The real fight against corruption and corporatism is prolonged, difficult, tedious and unrewarding – voting Bernie in wouldn’t change that, and he knew that. He said that to us. The president can’t do that. The people have to.

We’re angry at the Bernie Bros – the guys who decided that if they couldn’t have Bernie, they’d vote to burn the whole thing down. They put an abstract, token “fight against the establishment” ahead of the safety and lives of millions of people. If you’re a regular reader, and I believe that you are, then you know how terrible that is, and I hope you’re mad at them, too.

We’re not mad at you, and certainly not mad at people who want Bernie’s dream to come true. We’re mad at the people who failed once, and instead of rolling up their sleeves and doing hard work, decided to light a dumpster fire instead.

I hope that helps you feel a little better, and I understand your frustration. I wince when I hear about how “bernie bros” are ruining everything, too.

richardbillericay
richardbillericay
5 years ago

Can’t help thinking the “consensus building” infrastructure initiative is unsettlingly reminiscent of Hitler kicking off his rule by building Autobahns. Is that another dog whistle?

Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
5 years ago

@Scoots
It’s not my intention to make anyone a chewtoy. And I’m sorry about what you’re going thru. I truly am, and I hope you come out the other side… if not OK, then better. I’m rooting for you <3

That said:

maybe next time we don’t do things this way

What way should we do things then? I’m not miffed at Sanders supporters making suggestions. I’m miffed that some Sanders supporters think ‘I told you so, this is your fault’ is a suggestion. Foster Campbell for Senate, Keith Ellison for DNC Chair, Kamala Harris 2020. These are suggestions. So, I ask with no malice whatsoever, what do you suggest we do? No need to answer now, you have enough to deal with (sorry again). It’s just that gloating is the last thing we need right now

Also, what @Scildfreja said 🙂

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
5 years ago

@Angry Since 11/09/2016
From what I’ve seen online there have been alot of people having the horrid realization that the people who were kind and close them did show that at the end of the day, their kindness is the closeminded sort. On another note thank you for the compliment on my name! It’s kind of silly, I can’t remember why I made that name up, but for some reason I keep thinking it might have been an important reason.

@Scoots
As someone who has ardently argued on behalf of Bernie to the point of coming off as a troll, and went through the efforts of phonebanking for him, yeah I understand. If you read the entire forums during the election you would be hard pressed to find anything that pins blame on Hillary’s failings her staffers. And on a personal note I am so glad you spoke out. I was hesitant to do so because I wondered if stating the failures of Clinton’s staffers and the DNC as a whole would come off as classic left cannibalism.

The people we’re talking about aren’t those who wanted Bernie in, or those who believed in his message, we’re talking about spiteful people who when they lost due to very poor decisions on the DNC’s part (let’s be real, acting like they were anything but incompetent the entire way is naive at best and being willingly ignorant at worst), they then decided to facilitate Trump’s victory. The people we’re talking about are those who basically decided to turn their backs against everything Bernie believed in, even after Bernie managed to get Clinton to turn left instead of traditional republican views. We have no quarrel with you, we have quarrel for those who valued their own spiteful self satisfaction over the welling of others.

Make no mistake we all hate the DNC for being the biggest losers in the history of the US, alongside their corporatist leanings and many missteps in the campaign. If the DNC was a cologne company and Clinton was their Brand, they failed to outmarket Trump, the Axe Body Spray of the political sphere. If that isn’t a particularly big sign that their political strategy is garbage and have no value to us the american people, nothing else will. You want the DNC to get booted out in favor of true progressives like Keith Ellison for DNC chairman, who has the backing of Warren and Bernie? We’re with you right there. You want the Democrats to actually be the party of the people and start getting ready to be the boulder in the GOP’s path to self immolation? We’re with you right there.

Hell I was plenty fucking pissed off when people started to pick Bernie supporters as their whipping boy as a way to avoid taking blame for their failures. Yes Hillary being a women was a major issue that brought her down, but I’m positive no one here would think that her campaign was exactly a near flawless one in terms of well, everything.

In short, continue to express that anger, it’s helpful in getting past the anti honeymoon phase of this election and getting into the “what went wrong, now how do we fix/mitigate it” phase.

@ richardbillericay
At this stage taking Trump’s word and assuming he means what he says is a good way to stay alive. Don’t mistake any form of normalcy that things are okay and alright.

Handsome "Punkle Stan" Jack

In my defense, my hate of Bernie Bros is pretty recent, and only for certain Bernie Bros.

Hell, I mean, I was 200% behind Bernie, I voted for him in the primaries, I thought the DNC was rigged, too, but I supported Clinton reguardless.

It’s the Bernie Bros that do I hate, the Ride or Die Bernie Bros who put their “principals” above common sense, above what Bernie wanted, above decency–oh, yes, there’s a certain hatred for the Bernie Bros that spread all sorts of misogynist memes about Clinton.

I mean, god forbid we’d have to deal with “more of the same” for a few more years. It’s not like people only have one shot at running for president. Bernie has even said recently he’s thinking of running again. It’s almost like people don’t have to be fuckheads and screw everyone over because they didn’t get what they want the first time.

But now Donald Dump is possibly going to be president with a goddamn anti-science, sexist, neo-nazi cabinet members. I hope those Bernie or Bust people really enjoy the “bust” part, if worst comes to worst and Donald Dump gets officially voted in. I hope they enjoy every second of it.

Skiriki
Skiriki
5 years ago

Correct me if I am wrong, but had Hillary been elected (well I guess she still might), couldn’t Bernie do the thing where she tells Hillary as a fellow Democrat “have you considered doing X” AND expected to have a reasonable convo with Hillary? Like, “Hillary goes well, that’s interesting, tell me more, or no, is there some other way to do it” and then they could talk about it like adults and have proper committees and what the fuck ever? Like politicians?

And correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t the chances of that kind of thing happening with Bernie and The Donald is so abysmally low, that I’m likely to be hit by a meteor, hit by lightning AND winning the lottery at the same time?

Handsome "Punkle Stan" Jack

Oh, Skiriki, that’s not how it works! I mean, what president would appoint their party rival to a cabinet position where they may actually have some sort of powe–

http://i.imgur.com/RaUA6xK.png

Oh…

Oh wait.

Skiriki
Skiriki
5 years ago

Oh my, my lying eyes are telling me lies about Obama doing something nice for Hillary. What is this!?

sparkalipoo
sparkalipoo
5 years ago

@Dan Kasteray

I understand your anger. Sometimes when I can’t handle how horrible this world is and how horrible people can be sometimes I also have revenge fantasies. However, telling someone how to kill another person is not the most helpful thing. I think that a lot of people would not be able to kill another person if push comes to shove so any defense that depends on someone killing another person isn’t very reliable. Try to channel that anger and frustration into something helpful. If teaching you’re friend self defense would be helpful do that. As Scildfreja said promote and support policies in Canada that would protect marganilized people. Also, you could see if you can donate to organizations in like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU that would help defend marganilized and vulnerable people (at the end of the latest episode of Last Week Tonight they list a whole bunch of similar organizations)

sparkalipoo
sparkalipoo
5 years ago

@Belladonna

I feel the same way. Those Bernie supporters forget that, as you said, ALL THE POLLS WHERE WRONG and that when Hillary first entered the race she was wicked popular and when you analyze the media coverage she got the most negative coverage of anyone in the election and Bernie lost the primaries.

My boyfriend had a friend who was a Bernie or Buster and voted for Jill Stein and after the election he was like “I’m going to do everything I can to protect black people” when he could have started by voting for Clinton

Belladonna
Belladonna
5 years ago

@Sparkalipoo
Thanks. You know, it’s not really even people like your boyfriend’s friend who voted for Jill Stein who I’m mad at. All the polls were telling us Clinton would win. I read some article just before the election that was speculating about ways Donald Trump could win the election (and even it didn’t go so far as to say he could win Wisconsin and Michigan) and all the liberal comments in it were like “right, nice fiction, never gonna happen.” Liberals were really confident going into this election, so I can forgive someone who made a conscience vote. In fact, I can especially forgive someone like that whose initial reaction is “OMG, I’m going to do all I can to protect vulnerable people.”

I’m for sure not mad at people like Scoot, either.

No matter which way they voted, the ones I’m truly sick of are the ones who haven’t even bothered to stop and say “This is so horrible” or said anything about how they would fight any harm before launching into “this is what would have happened if you’d listened to us” gloating.

It’s like people who warn someone else that something might be dangerous. And then if the other person decides to proceed anyway, they watch and hope that person gets hurt. And then if the person does get hurt, they feel deeply satisfied and happy about the harm, just because they get to feel like they were right.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

@kupo

Thanks so much!

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
5 years ago

@Psycho Gecko:

Yeah, Trump isn’t a populist.

Trump is a demagogue.

sparkalipoo
sparkalipoo
5 years ago

@Belladonna

what’s frustrating to me about people like my boyfriend’s friend is that I spent this entire election cycle trying to convince people (including him) that to vote for Clinton and that she isn’t just as bad as Trump and kept getting “no she’s just as bad because blardieblar” and now their upset that she didn’t get elected and it’s like “why couldn’t you agree with me when it would actually make a difference?”

Belladonna
Belladonna
5 years ago

@sparkalipoo

Ick, you didn’t tell me about those “she’s just as bad arguments.” I liked Hillary reasonably well, for a politician, but I could certainly understand a lot of the criticisms of her. But I’ll never understand (ever, ever, ever) how anyone claiming to be a progressive could take a stance that Hillary was “just as bad” as the orange, scumsucking, con man, racist, sexist, lying, glory-seeking narcissist.

Clearly, maybe he never really thought Hillary was “just as bad,” after all, eh? I empathize with your feelings on this! Hugs to you (if you want them)!

sparkalipoo
sparkalipoo
5 years ago

@Belladonna

I’m sorry, I need to get better at communicating clearly, especially on the internet

thank you for the hugs, this election cycle has been disappointing and frustrating the whole way through and now it’s scary to think about what could happen next and it might be to late to do anything about it

Belladonna "Toxic Hag"
Belladonna "Toxic Hag"
5 years ago

@sparkalipoo
I didn’t mean to accuse you of failing to communicate clearly! It was just sort of, well, bad transition garbage, to try to say how much I get what you’re saying! And I’m scared, too.

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