I follow the novelist A.R. Moxon on Twitter, where his political takes routinely bring genuine insight, wit and moral rigor to the increasing beserkery of our times. But he recently posted an observation, or prediction, that I found I couldn’t agree with, much as I would have liked to. It prompted some thoughts in response that I put up – on Twitter, where else? – not so much in refutation of his point but more as a wider-angle lens on the possibilities that face us in a post-election meltdown. Below are Moxon’s comment and my response, which has been edited and augmented somewhat, since the original was in the terse telegraphese of Twitterspeak.
On Saturday, A.R. Moxon wrote:
For literally millions of us our remaining hope is that the monster is gone in January and I do wonder if Republicans understand how dangerous the desperate fury that will rise up simultaneously all over the country will be, if that hope is thwarted on some cheating ass bullshit. I don’t think Republicans have even seen a riot yet.
Perhaps. But honestly, who will lead this riot? The Democrats will do nothing but issue a few stern tweets and cry, “Just wait til the midterms!” The media will pen some trembly editorials, then keep broadcasting Trump rants and doing “process” pieces about insider politics in the White House and endless stories on “What do folks in this Ohio diner think about Trump’s contentious second term?”
Obama & Michelle will make some uplifting Netflix shows about hope & unity – while sternly warning people not to “riot” or carry out a general strike: “Engagement, not estrangement: that’s the key!” Hollywood/NPR/NYT liberals will follow their lead, while supplying us with lots of clever memes and skits and biting satire about Trump’s comb-over and his ghastly entourage. John Oliver and Trevor Noah and Rachel Maddow will look sternly into the cameras and denounce the latest outrage – then cut to a commercial for some massive corporation raking in ungodly profits from Trump tax cuts and deregulation.
Billionaires like Bezos will keep chasing, and getting, fat government contracts, Facebook of course will be rolling in clover (while continuing to serve as a gargantuan propaganda machine for Trump and fascism). Google and other Silicon Valley giants will keep working on “important partnerships with the government on vital communication and national security issues.” Wall Streeters will keep wallowing in the hot tub. Military contractors will keep practicing their sinister alchemy, transmuting the blood and suffering of human beings into gold.
Meanwhile, those who do take to the streets – in organized actions by unions and other groups or in spontaneous protests – will be beaten, caged, gassed, jailed or shot dead by berserk cops and their militia allies, augmented by DHS goon squads, with the full force of the Justice Department (and federal courts backed with Trumpist hacks) to back up their atrocities.
The god-awful truth is that there are no institutional forces in American life that will stand up to a post-election power grab by Trump. They’ve already demonstrated this by failing to stand up to his egregious and brazen pre-election power-grabs, and his howlingly obvious, easily impeachable/prosecutable corruption. They have already surrendered, they have already given up on our constitutional democracy, the rule of law, equal justice and the very idea of a greater common good. Our institutions gave up on this long ago, to service the super-rich, the militarist empire & their own comfort and privilege.
So again: where will these riots come from? And if they do arise, how will they be sustained, in the absence of any genuine support from the bastions of civic society, from the political opposition, from any institution on the commanding heights of the system? I desperately hope I’m wrong and we will see a massive outpouring that will overwhelm the tyrant and force our surrendered institutions and political leaders to join with the people or get swept away. I fervently hope this will be the case if (or when) tyranny comes. But at the moment, it is very hard to see this happening.