The Idiot is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Like most Russian literature, it is a big book full of complicated characters, with funny names. The central character of the novel, Prince Myshkin, is a young man whose good intentions and decency are taken to be stupidity by the worldly characters of the novel. The title is intended to be ironic. His naivete is assumed to be due to stupidity. The novel is a study of what happens when such a person is put in a world populated by people lacking basic decency and morality.
Our cultural elites use something similar to promote the values of the ruling classes through movies and television. The movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is the classic example. The twist our betters put on it is the innocent adventurer taking on the corrupt system holds all of the values cherished by our actual ruling class. Meanwhile, the fictional villains are always people who sound like the critics of managerial state democracy. Even so, the basic theme is the same. We have the naif versus the cabal of the cynical.
Whether as propaganda or psychological study, the central question is whether a corrupt and malignant system can be changed or defeated by a morally good person. The Hollywood version will on occasion have the white hat defeated, for the purpose of reinforcing some element of the one true faith. Usually though, the the good guy triumphs over the system. This propaganda has been so effective, most American truly think that by assiduously obeying every rule they will one day have their country back.
One of those Americans seems to be President Trump. The back story to his run is that he was motivated to run, after being disrespected by various on-line propagandists like Jonah Goldberg. Trump could not understand why a billionaire like him was mocked, by guys like Goldberg, who are nothing more than servants to rich men like Trump. To Trump, this made no sense. He was motivated to run in order to prove to these people that he could do anything they can do, but even better. There’s nothing bigger than President.
Since his victory, Trump has been searching around for some way to be accepted by the political class. He assumed that winning the election would also win him the respect of official Washington. Instead, they locked shields to oppose him, even installing a special prosecutor to dig around in his life for a way to impeach him. Unable to figure out why he is treated like a skunk at the picnic, he has flailed around looking for something to give away in order to get the respect he craves.
Now, he is willing to fink on his voters by breaking every promise he made during the campaign. That’s why he is dealing with Chuck Schumer. The sole reason for Schumer to exist in Washington is to guide troublesome Republicans through the process of committing political suicide. In the case of Trump, that means going for amnesty, abandoning the wall and supporting candidates who hate him. It is not enough that Trump fink on his voters. He must humiliate himself in front of them as well.
This is not to say that Trump is just a craven liar. He is one of the few people in the financial elite who embraces those old ideas of civic responsibility and fair play that used to define the American elite. Trump is from an age when it was your duty to uphold the rules and be a good example to others. He naively thinks that is how things still work. They don’t, which is why the ruling elite looks at him as odious interloper. They don’t hate him as much as they hate what he represents. They also think he is an idiot because of it.
One of the main critiques, from the Dissident Right, of Buckley Conservatives, is that they naively cling to ideas that are no longer applicable. Waving around the Constitution, for example, when the document is now interpreted to mean the opposite of what the Founders intended, is idiotic. The foolish embrace of principal, when it means sure defeat, is proof that the alleged opposition to the managerial state is either composed of fools, or traitors sent to subvert any real opposition to the status quo.
Now, much of what comes from the alt-right is ignorant chanting that is not based in anything but frustration with their fringe status. Even so, they are not wrong to point out that the Civic Nationalists and the alt-lite are naive and foolish to think they can talk the other side into turning away from their suicidal course. Every attempt to affect change within the system, is bound to fail, as the rules of the system are designed to protect and perpetuate the status quo. The people in charge are not going to quit on their stool.
“We’re not voting our way out of this” is a popular way of making this point. That’s not entirely true, but it is a useful way to put it. Simply electing people who say the right things is not changing a system that has been corrupted to defend the interests of the two percent. The system, as it stands, must be subverted and destabilized. That does not happen at the ballot box. That’s what we’re seeing with Trump. He is being swallowed up by a system designed for that purpose. You don’t beat it by playing by the rules.
It is hard to know if Trump will pull out of his death spiral. He has shown a willingness to reverse course if he feels he has made an error. It’s also possible that he fears Mueller has something on him or his kids and he is hoping to trade away your future for his dignity and freedom. Maybe it all just part of the chaos that Trump seems to enjoy. Regardless, it is another reminder that the people putting their trust in the system are idiots. The system is not the solution to out problems as a society. The system is the problem.
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