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The antidote for magical thinking.

I don’t understand the minds of the people who voted for Trump. I’m not wired that way. I can’t see what they see in him and, like William below, I find it puzzling that anyone would praise his “accomplishments”. Long time readers know that I wasn’t a fan of Obama either for the myriad of reasons I documented from 2008-2016. Obama may go down in history as the luckiest man to ever be president because he was sandwiched between two of our worst presidents.

But if we compare temperaments, Obama was passive and complacent while Trump was unfit. We knew this ahead of time. No doubt, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did extensive opposition research on Donald. It’s not like he suddenly became pathologically impulsive and irresponsible overnight. He’s been that way for his entire adult life.

Here was Hillary’s warning in 2016:

I don’t believe for a minute that Trump’s voters didn’t know that about him. I think it was a feature to them. For some reason, they want destruction. They think so little of the government they’ve had the privilege to grow up with that they want to see it burned to the ground. Even if that means chaos. Even if that means bloodshed. Even if that means loss of services, energy grid, weather forecasts. Even if that means they won’t be retiring with the Social Security and Medicare they’ve paid for all their working lives.

That’s why so many MAGA supporters to this day, after so many hearings and evidence of Trump’s unfitness are still unwilling to see things as they really are. He was getting away with things they could only dream about.

There are specialists in autocratic governments and how they are created who have been warning that it could happen here. The American population has cut its teeth on jingoism and slogans and imagery of baseball game anthems and fireworks that have lost all their original meaning. We are sitting ducks for the strong men who will slide in unawares and gobble up everything that once belonged to all of us and will now be handed out like fiefs by a feudal lord.

There will come a day soon when Florida will crack down on abortions in the state, probably following Victor Orban’s lead on what he did in Hungary: Reduce the number of weeks to 12 or close to it, prohibit the use of medication for abortions, force women seeking one to go to a crisis pregnancy center for a couple of time wasting meetings where they will be emotionally manipulated and if that doesn’t work, humiliated and lectured before they’re finally allowed to make a decision that is right for their lives. Ron DeSantis is definitely playing by the Orban playbook and the next steps are entirely predictable.

Magical thinking is believing that some strong man is going to avenge your wrath on your enemies on your behalf and remake America into the idyllic past that never existed. Accountability is necessary to impose limits on pursuing magic instead of governance. The people responsible for what happened on 1/6/21 and to this day (because they’ve been busily setting up their next coup) have to be held accountable. They must face the consequences of their actions. There must be punishment or prohibition from ever holding office again. The public needs to see that we won’t tolerate the theft of our government by extraconstitutional means.

I get it that they think they have enough guns to overwhelm us but what does that get them? Do they really want to be those people? The kind that slaughters innocent people like the pioneers just passing through Mormon territory at Mountain Meadows in 1857? Those Mormons who participated in the slaughter were indoctrinated and lead to believe that the pioneers were their enemy without any justification. That’s where we are heading, slaughter of fellow Americans. The shooters who did it were eventually caught, tried and hung but the strongman, Brigham Young, who sicced his domestic terrorists filled with the wrath of God on 140 men, women and children, seemingly got away with it, giving hope to the many renegades to come, some of them the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and their wannabes of 2021.

That’s what is going to happen here. He’s going to try to get away with it. And then he’ll do it again because he can’t help himself. Even this week, he tried to get Wisconsin to change its 2016 election results. He’s focussed like a shark on only one thing: whatever he wants. And the one who aspires to be next will take advantage of the cracks in our electoral system that Trump has helped to open up.

And when you’ve lost your vote, you’ve lost your control over your future and the stability of your country. Ask any voter in Russia or Hungary how they feel about the strongman they once invited in and can’t get rid of. Once you’ve lost it, you can almost never get it back without becoming the enemy of the state you put in power to begin with.

We don’t have to go through that. We can start imposing limits now. We can punish the guilty. We can keep insurrectionists from holding office, forcing voters to choose a different hard ass Republican for their district, one that doesn’t have treason on his hands and who won’t run from the vampire’s minions he invited into his House.

There is no antidote for magical thinking. It’s like a fire that may take a long time to burn out. The only thing that stops it in its tracks is decimating the believers and hoping that their leaders go down with them.

I take that back. Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, wrote this in a recent substack. The antidote is pulling ourselves back, giving ourselves a moment to reflect:

“Russian propaganda reaches us for much the same reasons it reachers Russians. The three “N”s give us no analytical purchase on what is actually going on; we cling to them for the reasons that Russians do, which is that they touch deeper emotions. If your default inclination is guilt about the world, and you are inclined to believe that America is responsible for all evil, then your “N” is NATO. If you are fearful and looking for a reason to do nothing, then you are best served by “nukes.” And if you like to look down on others as barbarians, or have the urge to be seen as the most radical person in your pack, you will be susceptible to Putin’s characterization of his chosen enemies as “Nazis.”

It is easy to demonstrate that none of this makes any sense, nor has any bearing on Russia’s war aims. But unless we are able to say about ourselves: “oh yes, I have that vulnerability” or “sure, I might fall for that sometimes” or “I can see how I could be led down that rabbit hole” such a demonstration will make no difference. And this, one hopes at least, is the fundamental difference between Russia and America at the moment. We still have the institutions and, one likes to hope, the inclination to reflect, to reconsider. Tyranny at some late stage is based on nothing more than the backwash of violent action: it must have been right because we did it at the tyrant’s behest. Democracy depends upon the ability to catch ourselves halfway, before we internalize the slogans and defend them just because we defend them.”