The Blathering Superego at the End of History
JUNE 18, 2017
LIBERALISM IS NOT working. Something deep within the mechanism has cracked. All our wonk managers, our expert stewards of the world, have lost their way. They wander desert highways in a daze, wondering why the brakes locked up, why the steering wheel came off, how the engine caught on fire. Their charts lie abandoned by the roadside. It was all going so well just a moment ago. History was over. The technocratic order was globalizing the world; people were becoming accustomed to the permanent triumph of a slightly kinder exploitation. What happened? All they can recall is a loud thump in the undercarriage, an abrupt loss of control. Was it Brexit? Trump? Suddenly the tires were bursting and smoke was pouring into the vehicle, then a flash. The next thing they could remember, our liberals were standing beside a smoldering ruin, blinking in the hot sun, their power stolen, their world collapsing, their predictions all proven wrong.
In the six months since the election of Donald Trump, American liberals have managed to regroup, assembling themselves into a self-styled “Resistance” and attempting to reassert control over a world they no longer recognize. But something happened out there in the desert. There is something off about them now. On every level, our most prominent technocrats have entered the new year like uncanny valley copies of themselves, stuttering and miming their old habits, with each take trying to remember what their lives felt like before the accident. They can’t quite get the message right. For months, serious journalists studied The Origins of Totalitarianism like a divination manual, wondering when Trump would pass his enabling act. First, the president was a fascist, until he failed to consolidate power. Then he was an authoritarian, until he showed no interest in micro- or macro-management. Then he merely had authoritarian tendencies, or something, and at any rate was probably a Kremlin agent.
The situation is no better on television. Rachel Maddow, once the charming spokesperson of a kinder world, crazily unveils tax returns she found in Al Capone’s vault. Keith Olbermann — never charming but at least self-confident — now squats on the floor in promotional photos, swaddled in an American flag. The newer stars of the left — the Louise Mensches and Eric Garlands — are using game theory to outwit invisible Soviet assassins. Elected Democrats are paralyzed. They repeat, over and over, that none of this is normal, commit themselves to the fight, and then roll over, confirming the president’s appointments, praising the beauty of a missile strike, or begging the FBI to save them. Hillary Clinton emerges from the woods to blame Jim Comey, the DNC, and the Russians for her loss, and the day before the United States withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement, she tweets a covfefe joke.
On television, in journals, in the halls of Congress, none of the old methods by which American liberals enforced their claim to superior expertise are working anymore. For all their “resistance,” the greatest impediment to Donald Trump remains his own stupidity. Despite every evil and crime of his administration, the most ambitious Democratic victory on the horizon is making Mike Pence president. Our liberals are right: none of this is normal. This isn’t how it used to be. Everywhere, our best and brightest blink. Are they still in the desert? Is all this an hallucination, a bad dream?
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