Daily Archives: January 7, 2018

Trump is an Existential Threat

German soldiers parading through Lübeck in the days leading up to World War I.

Here are a few more pieces warning us about our (quite possible) forthcoming doom.

In “Trump is an existential threat — but we can’t give in to pessimism,” Conor Lynch writes that “Donald Trump could fulfill all the most dire prophecies of 20th-century theory.” But he asks us to reject the pessimism of most Frankfurt school theorists and embrace the cautious optimism and socialism of Albert Einstein, Eric Fromm, and Noam Chomsky.

But it is hard to turn our backs on pessimism. As Lynch writes:

the survival of the human race remains very much in doubt. Indeed, one has as much — if not more — reason to be pessimistic about the future of humanity in 2018 as critical theorists did in the 1940s. This is especially true when considering the current state of affairs in America, where the most powerful man in the country seems intent on accelerating humanity’s collective suicide. Donald Trump possesses all of the worst qualities found in humans — greed, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance, impulsiveness, myopic self-interest — and these characteristics have unfortunately flourished in our contemporary society. (The president is, in many ways, a reflection of our consumer capitalist culture.)

In this light consider Trump’s recent boast that his nuclear button was bigger than North Korea’s. In response

John Mecklin, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is known for its “Doomsday Clock,” observed that Trump’s tweets about North Korea are “an existential threat to humanity,” and could “increase the probability that North Korea will misinterpret normal military exercises as an attack and respond with force,” leading to worldwide thermonuclear war and “the end of the human experiment.”

But even if we escape an apocalypse brought about by this unstable man and his minions there is still plenty to fear.

If the president’s insane and impulsive tweeting doesn’t lead to the end of the human experiment, his right-wing policies will certainly help get us there — especially his environmental policies, which will exacerbate the man-made crisis of climate change. Last year, Noam Chomsky called Trump’s Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in world history,” noting that there has never been an organization in human history that is “dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth.”

Still, Lynch asks us to remain optimistic since only that helps provide the impetus to act to save the world. If we don’t reject pessimism, Lynch argues “the “Doomsday Clock” — currently the closest it has been to midnight since the 1950s — will continue ticking until it is too late.”

And David Frum writes in the Atlantic that this is mostly the fault of the Republicans who enable Trump. In “Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo,” he notes that Trump’s character was well-known before his ascent to power:

Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades. Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist. Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host. Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate. Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime. From the start, Donald Trump was a man of many secrets, but no mysteries. Inscribed indelibly on the public record were the reasons for responsible people to do everything in their power to bar him from the presidency.

But none of this stops those who hope to use him:

What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway. Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him; conservative media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the cultural wars he provokes; rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country …

Michael Wolff has done a crucial service, showing more intimately than any reporter yet the true nature of the man at the center of the American system. But without the complicity of other power-holders, Trump would drop from his central position like a tooth from a rotten gum. What we need to do now is widen the camera angle beyond Fredo Trump to the hard-faced men and women over his shoulders. Those are the people who put Trump where he is, and keep him there, corrupting the institutions of American democracy and troubling the peace and security of the world.

I wish I could do something to change all this, but I cannot. For those who do have the power to stop all this madness, I hope they have the necessary courage.