|Which one is the other's pit bull? Hard to tell. They probably think the other one is.|
The political and cultural maelstrom we find ourselves in is the result of a number of factors, and the swirl makes it hard to pinpoint what's happening and why. First, there's the utter incompetence. Then there's the adoption of Hitlerian propaganda practices (okay, I went there. Get over it. Trump literally read the book and follows Hitler's techniques.) Mix in a set of advisers and spokespeople that emulate his "brand." And we haven't even gotten to policy yet.
The policy is emerging but was for a while obscured by what I suppose could be called the Trump Effect. That Effect may be a permanent fixture of his administration (may it be mercifully short!), but in the end it's the policy that will matter.
It can be best summed up as We the People being supplanted by Me the Person. This applies both domestically and internationally, depending on scale. Me the Country is our new nationalism, and Trump embodies it horribly. He was born to be this thug of a guy. He bullies at home and abroad. Fucking his contractors over during his real estate career was fueled by the same instinct that drives him to bully Mexico. Mexico, for Pete's sake!
That instinct drives him to use the Bully Pulpit as the best toy he's ever found. He can turn it on Germany, France, or any country that pisses him off because they might get over on him. It's as simple as that. He trashes NATO because the members are a little slack on their "dues." Other presidents got that the answer there is "So what? NATO lets us extend our power right up to Russia's borders and actually lets us do it on the cheap. NATO for the win!"
Not good enough for a bully. The same instinct that wants Mexico to pay for the wall is what drives him to flail at NATO. The result is the same as any schoolyard bully. He rules the schoolyard and everyone hates him to the core. That's not winning, dude. But bullies never get that.
America First is the schoolyard bully's equivalent of a foreign policy and demonstrates the shortsightedness of the bully's approach. Sure, he controls the schoolyard, but in the end he's isolated. He's got everybody's lunch money, but no one wants to eat with him.
This metaphor works, so I'm going to run with it.
Domestically we can view Trumpism as a battle for supremacy at school. A typical school has an administrative approach to education. Chaos is not a school principal's friend. Harmony and regularity -- following school rules, being on time, doing your homework -- is key and applies to students and staff alike. A bully walks into this harmony and disrupts it. Breaking rules and tossing norms aside is the bully's stock-in-trade, it's his superpower.
So Bannon and Trump want to deconstruct the administration, destroy the norms, abandon the regulations, essentially render government impotent. All they really want is the force, the power, which is, in their minds, rooted in two things: wealth and the military.
First, get the money, which involves soothing the donor class, who'll let them have the military, which insures them of being the preeminent bullies, the toughest kids on the block. The donor class looks at them with a certain disdain, seeing them as the crude ruffians they are. They're to be tolerated because the elite have been placated, bought off with tax cuts and deregulation.
The balance of power is thus achieved. The true ruling class, the hyper-wealthy elite, allow the petty thugs to "run things" while the elite summer in the South of France.
This might be Trump's special sauce. His supporters are not of a piece, not all in the same basket, so to speak. The donor class tolerates him because he gives them their due. The Christian conservatives tolerate him -- heathen though he obviously is -- because he'll give them the Supreme Court picks, keep women barefoot and pregnant, and slap down the gays and other perceived perverts of the newly evolved Free World. The white working class admire him because they aspire to be like him: successful, in charge, and grabbing them by the pussy. His swagger is the swagger they wish to make their own. If only the rubes knew how little he'll do for them, how little he cares.
And so it goes. Putin, by the way, appeals to Trump in the way that one bully might give another bully his props. Trump admires Putin, aspires to be like him (Putin could give a shit about Trump, by the way, most especially because Trump he regards as a patsy), but it's a dangerous game. A Hitler can be useful to a Stalin, even become an ally, but that generally can't last. You know what happened with them!
But thugs, even crude ruffians from Queens that have their day, cushioned by Daddy's money, will come to their end, flaming out in all their glory, or snuffed in a diner like Tony Soprano, never seeing it coming. When the Trump Team runs its course, hopefully America will survive, and Me the Person will return to We the People reasonably unscathed.
In the meantime, Bannon and Trump will run the country through their policy mill and deconstruct what we've built and come to know and love as America, crumbling though it already is from years of underfunding and neglect. Hopefully, we'll recognize it when we get it back, and get back to work.