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The trials of Trump

The trials of Trump
Photo by iam_os / Unsplash
"The state is the motor of revolution."

“I didn’t cross the Rubicon. The Rubicon crossed me.”

Anyone who remembers Caesar’s own legal woes will sympathize with this affidavit. Yet the analogy has an inevitable farcical edge. Yet politics is the art of the possible in the real world—and does not the real world have a farcical quality? Do you see it yet? This hilarious quality of our time, grim though its implications be, will only accelerate.

Trump is no Caesar. We are no Romans! There is a resonance between Trump and his era, just as there was between Caesar and the classical world—still a late Greek world. Caesar was an Olympian. Trump should be on Ozempic. Shouldn’t we all? All Trump’s shallow and stagy phoniness only speaks to his time and people—as any leader must. (I make this mistake every time I see the word. I can’t wait for the Paris Ozempics.)

The state is the motor of revolution

One chestnut of the revolutionary age, attributable to I know not whom—Kropotkin? Karl Radek? Gracchus Babeuf?—is that the state is the motor of revolution.

In revolutionary theory, the revolutionary does not supply the fuel for the revolution—just the spark. The fuel is the inevitable, yet inevitably counterproductive, actions of the regime. If the regime could ignore the spark, it would not catch fire. Yet it cannot. Yet—the spark is not the fire. Is Trump the spark? (Iskra, or Spark, was Lenin’s mag.)

Let me stipulate—as I will explain at length shortly—that the revolutionary era is over.  Revolutionary logic no longer works. However, revolutionary logic may be a special case of a more general rule which still applies. The state is still the motor of revolution—or, as we prefer to say here, regime change (ie, nonviolent revolution).

To understand how regime change in a post-revolutionary world can work, we need to subtract the revolutionary analysis. Any hint of larping in this area is disastrous. To subtract it, though, we need to see it clearly—perhaps with a satiric magnifying glass.

The reason that the opponents of the current institutional oligarchy are not effective is that once we get frustrated with trying to make the system work, we start trying to operate according to the rules of revolutionary democracy—which no longer exists.

The revolutionary analysis

Will a judge—any judge, for any judge can—send Trump to jail before the election? Maybe. Polymarket puts the probability at 15%. I feel like this may be a good bet. (What would be amazing would be to run the debate over the jail’s visitor phone.)

Will this outrage make Trumpists rise up, mob up, pry their Führer from Epstein’s cell, shred any human being in their way, and seat him on an Oval Office throne of blood? (At least an Aeron chair of blood—Trump’s back, like mine, isn’t getting any younger.) Lol. Did anyone… did anyone even protest his trial? Lol.

Charlottesville and January 6 were the last lame breaths of what John Adams called “mobocracy” in America. Just as monarchy cannot exist when the king is five years old, mobocracy—that is, revolutionary democracy—cannot exist when the “mob” just wants to grill.

Under the rules of revolutionary democracy, that the state is the motor of revolution means that Trump must become a revolutionary martyr—energizing his supporters by provoking the state to treat him unjustly. Like, say, MLK Jr.

In fact, according to this logic, from the perspective of the revolution, ideally Trump would be murdered in jail, like Cornelio Codreanu or (Foggy Bottom tells us) Alexei Navalny. Or, second best, he could be assassinated by a schizophrenic DSA member.

The result would be a burst in Trump support from rhe backbone of the American petty bourgeoisie—outraged used-car dealers, general contractors, small-town investment advisors, who would realize that they have to arm themselves and demand the  new Trumpenreich… with the stern methods of the Red Shirts of the Southern Redemption“though much is taken, much abides…” lol. Nothing, in fact, abides. Nothing of this, anyway!

The problem with effective political action today is that everyone knows the rules of revolutionary democracy. Everyone keeps returning to them. They no longer work. This is the dictionary definition of a “trap.”

The rules of the revolutionary age

The revolutionary is infinitely weaker by definition than the state. He need not assault the state. He helps the state to act in ways that, through the state’s own power, allow it to destroy itself. As this snowball gathers force and begins to roll downhill, he runs in front of it, clearing obstacles.

The classic pattern, purest as always in Russia, is the martyred heroic terrorist. The natural prey of the terrorist is the moderate. His mission is to make any moderation impossible—to heighten the contradictions. A good way to do this is to kill moderates. The state’s vengeance makes him a martyr, strengthening the cause.

To an early reactionary, like Maistre, the murder of moderates is God’s hard justice. No revolution would be possible without the moderates, never driven by principle, always trimming their sails to the latest wind. Later in the age of revolution, this principle becomes universal. The rough fascist displaces the gentleman reactionary. The fascist is the revolutionary’s natural enemy. The moderate is their mutual prey.

The end of the revolutionary age

Look at the relationship between American’s 1970s Days of Rage and the Russian terrorists who assassinated Alexander II a century earlier. The nihilists of Victorian Russia knew in every bone that one of them would one day ascend a throne of blood. The radicals of hippie Berkeley faked it in every bone. Hippies no longer plant bombs—it is almost astonishing that, only 50 years ago, they were willing to. Yet even the bombs of the ‘70s were seldom set to kill. They were mostly statements.

We are no longer in the revolutionary age—1750 to 1950—the 19th century, broadly, defined, extended dance remix. Moreover, we are not aligned with but against the revolution—or rather, against the fat bureaucratic moth of this carnivorous larva.

The revolutionary age ends when revolution no longer works. Revolution no longer works because revolution requires the masses to be collectively powerful.

The mob has to be able to physically overwhelm the police. It has to be able to arm itself and challenge the military. Or at least—it has to be able to attract the support of other political forces (even foreign forces). If it cannot do something that gives it power, no piece of paper can make it matter.

The only justification for the participation of the public in governance is the inherent physical power of the public as a whole. Historically, this power is a rare confluence of cultural, technical and economic forces. It does not appear often or last long.

If the revolutionary period had not already fallen prey to cultural forces, it would have been ended by technical forces. Imagine physically challenging the state in a modern country like China! The state, God’s vicegerent on earth, has always wanted to approximate the powers of God on earth—to be omnipotent and omniscient. The Chinese Communist Party is neither—but it is not far away.

Nor is it perfect, but compare! Compare the CCP today to the bloody horror of its revolutionary roots! Indeed the perfect state, at least to my mind, is not weak and blind, but wise and strong. “If the rule you followed led you to this—”

The post-revolutionary age

So what does regime change look like in the post-revolutionary era? Revolution no longer works. Yet the state remains the motor—now the motor of peaceful, friendly,  optimistic regime change.

Trying Trump is still a mistake—and still a mistake that the regime cannot avoid making. Maybe it will even make the bigger mistake of sending him to jail, or even keeping him there. It will not hang him. His sworn followers will not rise up and take the cities in a storm of pickup trucks, country music and brutal homophobic violence.

But the mistake is still a mistake. Why?

The rules of regime change

For a regime to change, it must defeat the previous regime by its own standards. We are not in an age of blood, so the state cannot be captured by blood. We are in an age of systems—and the state must be captured by systems.

And it can be. But these systems have to be hacked. It is getting harder, not easier, to pull off these hacks—so time is of the essence.

The spirit of democracy has disappeared. The system of elections is very much with us. However, the election system is not effective by default. It is not just necessary to win elections—it is necessary to hack them.

The regime does not steal elections (mostly). It hacks elections. Sometimes the hack is just an intentional security hole that lets private actors large or small cheat. Generally, a hack is anything you can get away with that works.

The regime can get away with almost anything. Its enemies can get away with almost nothing. Certainly we cannot break the law—though, of course, anyone these days can be prosecuted for anything.

But to hack a system is not to smash it with a hammer. It is to use the system in a way that is unintended or unexpected. In the 21st century, no one expects anyone to try to use elections to take over the government. Yet it is perfectly practical and even legal. (It is the present legislative/judiciary control over the executive branch that is illegal.)

The absolute prerequisite for hacking a system is that you not believe in it. Still, in 2024, most Republican voters still believe in the American system. For example, they believe that a judge is in some sense a consecrated person, like a Catholic priest. Like a priest, he gets to wear a special costume—what century are we in, anyway? Lol.

The Democrats, profoundly atheistic in every sense, certainly no believers in costumes (unless they work) have played this game of using the Republicans’ respect for the old fake-Roman institutions of an 18th-century America so different from today’s country that the Founders would be aghast and appalled that we would try to use their systems.

But as in the age of revolution, the state is the motor of change. Again, the critical point of all action is the destruction of moderation. The moderate, while he of course wants some change, believes the system is fundamentally sound and can be improved. He supports the regime against the radical—for even thinking it can be improved is a way of supporting it.

In a world where voters elect Trump with a mandate to just take over the government—as completely as the Allies took over the government of Germany in 1945—he will probably screw it up, anyway. Yet he doesn’t have to screw it up. (The only way to not screw it up, for Donald Trump, is to be the chairman of the board, and delegate to a single executive ready to be the plenary CEO of America.)

If you think a judge is a sacred bearer of the fire of Jupiter—there is an unmistakable, pagan quality, the last breath of Fustel de Coulanges—in your deference to the decrees of this man who by the gods’ immutable design is more than a man. But if you think a judge is a man in a black polyester robe that someone ordered from China…

Today, even most Republican voters are voting to make the system work better. They are not voting to break the system. To get them to vote to break the system, the state needs to break them out of its frame—to shatter their traditional illusions. It needs to desecrate the holy temple of the state—turning it into just another office building. And while the great gate of Jupiter is never closed, any office building can be padlocked.

And why is the regime doing this? Because it is not a monarchy. The revolutionary rules are rules for democracy fighting monarchy. Our regime is an oligarchic regime. While an oligarchy is much more resilient than a monarchy, a genuinely decentralized oligarchy makes mistakes which a small amount of central guidance would prevent.

The judge trying Trump does not realize that he is scoring an own-goal. Possibly he does not even understand that he is scoring an even bigger own-goal by sending Trump to jail. All he knows is that the more he does, the more adoring press he gets. There is literally no one who can stop this one-man motor of regime change.

And this is just the effect on the public. But regime change is not pure democracy—it is the alliance of democracy and monarchy against oligarchy. The king is an essential part of the equation. What is the effect of the prosecution on him? It is to deprive him of all courses of action, except that course which is most dangerous to the regime. Exactly what Cato did with Caesar.

Trump would never cross the Rubicon. But there are thousands of judges in America. Which means thousands of Rubicons, just waiting to cross him. And each of them has the incentive to do so—and no one can tell them to stop.

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