So: Trump appoints his son’s wedding planner to head NYC’s massive federal housing agency. She has no experience in housing; she falsely claims to have a law degree; she falsely claims to have gone to Yale. This is very much in line with most of Trump’s appointments. People look at the series of gormless courtiers and fox-in-henhouse given important posts and say, “What’s going on?”
I think two things are happening. First, Trump is trying to turn the US into a thuggish authoritarian state run by a corrupt family (such as Kazakhstan), with incompetent kinfolk and sleazy cronies taking over government offices, while the ruling family milks the country like a cash cow. Second, his vizier Steve Bannon has been explicit about his intention to use Trump’s presidency to destroy the state — “dismantling the administrative state,” as he puts it; that is, a state that administers the laws and regulations of a democratically elected government. Instead he wants to see a strongman government free from all restrictions of law and dedicated to the imposition of harsh, exclusionary nationalist ethos on the whole population. Again, he is very open about this, it’s not some surmise or conspiracy theory.
This is also part of a broader GOP extremism that has been openly operating for years: the idea of deliberately causing governments to become dysfunctional — as in Kansas, by starving it of even the minimum funding to perform its functions adequately while slashing taxes for the rich and powerful — so that the very idea of a government that addresses the common good is discredited. (Indeed, you can even hear some of these rightists denounce the very notion of a “common good” as evil.) These GOP extremists now control Congress, the White House, most state governments and, by the time Trump (or Pence) is through, almost all of the federal judiciary.
So we will have the entire US governmental apparatus in the hands of people who hate the very idea of government; who despise the very notion of a common good; who relentlessly seek to restrict voting rights in order to thwart the will of the majority who oppose their policies; who are systematically criminalizing any kind of active protest and working to extend this repression to verbal dissent (as in Trump’s repeated threats to “tighten libel laws”); who believe that only the very rich have the right to influence policy and receive government benefits; who champion and excuse the use of violent force against unarmed citizens; who are committed to a hyper-violent foreign policy run largely by the military without close civilian oversight, a policy that, as our own intelligence services tell us, destabilizes whole nations, exacerbates hatred and spreads terrorism at home and abroad.
The United States can probably survive a few years (or months, as the case may be) of Trump’s third-rate thugocracy. But it is the second point — the deliberate destruction of government by extremists fiercely dedicated to authoritarian/oligarch anti-democratic rule — that is far more dangerous. This far-right radicalism has been gathering power for years (yes, even before Putin came along!), like a tidal wave building far in the distance but moving inexorably toward the shore. Now it’s breaking upon us with tremendous force. And there is no guarantee that the structures of our government and civil society — already rotted by years of bipartisan corruption, warmongering, soulless neoliberalism and plutocratic rapine — can survive the blow.