The American Ruling Class and its Trump Derangement Syndrome

The people who really run the United States of America have made it clear that they can’t, and will not, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again.

By Michael Anton for Compact Magazine

America’s Ruling Class cannot let Donald Trump back in. They made this clear in 2020, in a series of public statements. Simply for quoting their words in an essay for The American Mind, I was mercilessly mocked and attacked. But they were quite clear. Trump won’t be president at noon, Jan. 20, 2021, even if we have to use the military to drag him out of there.

“Anti-Trump hysteria is in the final analysis not about Trump.”
If the Permanent State regime felt that strongly back then, imagine how they feel now. But you don’t have to imagine. They tell you every day. Liz Cheney, Trump’s personal Javert, has said that the 45th president is literally the greatest threat facing America today—greater than China, than our crashing economy, than our unraveling civil society.

That’s rhetoric, of course, but it isn’t merely that. It’s safer, and generally more accurate, to assume that your adversaries mean what they say. If you doubt this, ask yourself: When was the last time they acted more moderately than they talk?

Even if it is just rhetoric, the words nonetheless portend turbulence. “He who says A must say B.” The logic of statement A inevitably leads to action B, even if the speaker of A didn’t really mean it, or did mean it, but still didn’t want B. Her followers won’t get the irony and, enthused by A, will insist on B.

Take some time to listen to the mainstream media. It doesn’t have to be long; five minutes should do. Then spend another five or so reading the statements of prominent politicians other than Trump. To round it out, sacrifice another five on leading intellectuals. It should become abundantly clear: They all have said A and so must say—and do—B.

And B is that Trump absolutely must not be allowed to take office on Jan. 20, 2025.

Why? They say Jan. 6. But their determination began much earlier.

And just what is so terrible about Trump anyway? I get many of his critics’ points, I really do. I hear them all the time from my mother. But even if we were to stipulate them all, do Trump’s faults really warrant tearing the country apart by shutting out half of it from the political process?

Love him or hate him, during Trump’s presidency, the economy was strong, markets were up, inflation was under control, gas prices were low, illegal border crossings were down, crime was lower, trade deals were renegotiated, ISIS was defeated, NATO allies were stepping up, and China was stepping back (a little). Deny all that if you want to. The point here is that something like 100 million Americans believe it, strongly, and are bewildered and angered by elite hatred for the man they think delivered it.

Nor was Trump’s record all that radical—much less so than that of Joe Biden, who is using school-lunch funding to push gender ideology on poor kids, to cite but one example. Trump’s core agenda—border protection, trade balance, foreign restraint—was quite moderate, both intrinsically and in comparison to past Republican and Democratic precedent. And that’s before we even get to the fact that Trump neglected much of his own agenda in favor of the old Chamber of Commerce, fusionist, Reaganite, Conservatism, Inc., agenda. Corporate tax cuts, deregulation, and bombing Syria: These are all things Trump’s base doesn’t want, but the oligarchs desperately do, which Trump gave them. And still they try to destroy him.

Again, why? I think it’s because, while Trump’s core MAGA agenda is decidedly not outside the historic bipartisan mainstream, it is well outside the present regime’s core interests. Our rulers’ wealth and power rise with open borders, trade giveaways, and endless war. Trump, at least in principle, and often in practice, threatens all three. The old America—the one in which Republicans cared about the heartland and weren’t solely valets to corporate power, Democrats were pro-worker and anti-war, and Bill Clinton and The New York Times could advocate border security—is in the process of being replaced, if it hasn’t already been, by one in which there is only one acceptable opinion on not just these, but all other issues.

“Our rulers’ wealth and power rise with open borders, trade giveaways, and endless war.”

Anti-Trump hysteria is in the final analysis not about Trump. The regime can’t allow Trump to be president not because of who he is (although that grates), but because of who his followers are. That class—Angelo Codevilla’s “country class”—must not be allowed representation by candidates who might implement their preferences, which also, and above all, must not be allowed. The rubes have no legitimate standing to affect the outcome of any political process, because of who they are, but mostly because of what they want.

Complaints about the nature of Trump are just proxies for objections to the nature of his base. It doesn’t help stabilize our already twitchy situation that those who bleat the loudest about democracy are also audibly and visibly determined to deny a real choice to half the country. “No matter how you vote, you will not get X”—whether X is a candidate or a policy—is guaranteed to increase discontent with the present regime.

People I have known for 30 years, many of whom still claim the label “conservative,” will no longer speak to me—because I supported Trump, yes, but also because I disagree on trade, war, and the border. They call not just my positions, but me personally, unadulterated evil. I am not an isolated case. There are, as they say, “many such cases.” How are we supposed to have “democracy” when the policies and candidates my side wants and votes for are anathema and can’t be allowed? How are we supposed to live together with the constant demonization from one side against the other blaring 24/7 from the ruling class’s every propaganda organ? Why would we want to?

More to the point: How are we supposed to get through the next two and a half years? The regime would prefer to get its way via the path of least resistance. The ideal situation, at least for those of a less punitive cast of mind who would be satisfied seeing Trump gone but not necessarily in jail, would be for Trump to just walk away. But how likely is that? He doesn’t, to say the least, seem primed for a graceful exit in which he passes the baton to Ron DeSantis (or whomever). Even if he did, how many in his base would convince themselves that the fix was somehow in? “They threatened his children,” etc. That kind of thinking leads not to demoralization but to outrage. That might be irrational, but this isn’t a math competition; it’s politics in a hyper-partisan, supercharged time.

Since the long goodbye has about as much chance as Kamala Harris completing a sentence without cackling, Plan A is to use the Jan. 6 show trials to make it impossible for Trump to run again, or barring that, to win again. But that isn’t working; at least, not well enough. They may have dented Trump a little in opinion polling, but not nearly enough to prevent him from getting the GOP nomination. Perhaps they still can; I doubt it, but who knows? But more likely, even if they do further damage, Trump will have plenty of time to get his numbers back up.

And the ruling class will surely help him in that endeavor by being ever-more radical, hateful, and incompetent. They have shown time and again that there is no moderation in them. They can’t let up even a single mile per hour, not even when easing back is in their clear interest. Whether they are driven by the demands of their base, their own internal conviction, or some supernatural force, I couldn’t say.

Plan B is for the Jan. 6 committee to lay the groundwork for an indictment of Trump. The Justice Department is already leaking that “seditious conspiracy” might be the charge.

Now, I personally believe that such a charge would be ludicrous. Seditious conspiracy, when it is charged at all, which it rarely was before Jan. 6, is typically reserved for the likes of Omar “Blind Sheikh” Abdel-Rahman, who tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. And they are going to try it against a former president, for phone calls and texts ambiguously connected to a protest in which many walked through doors held open by Capitol Police, minimal property damage occurred, the only people who died were unarmed protesters, and which may have been a setup, or at least egged-on, by the feds.

I am under no illusion that I’m going to convince regime apparatchiks of any of this. However, if any are reading, I would ask them the following. I know you think it’s perfectly obvious that “Trump Is Guilty!” and that anyone who doesn’t agree is not merely insane, but A Danger to the Republic. But just as I know I can’t convince you, I also know that you can’t convince 100 million Trump supporters. Do you realize that, too? Do you consider it a feature, not a bug?

Moreover, if the regime goes forward with this, it’s going to try him in the District of Columbia’s 77 percent Democratic and 92 percent virulently anti-Trump jury pool, which lately has been acquitting obvious Democratic miscreants and convicting Republicans on silly charges that never used to have been brought in the first place.

It’s just a fact—perhaps, to many, a baleful fact—but nevertheless a fact that somewhere between a third and half the country is going to find this totally illegitimate and be outraged by it.

I know what some of our masters are thinking because they are already saying it: Justice must be done, come what may. We must stand on principle, consequences be damned. This sounds noble in the abstract.

“What if, somehow, Trump is acquitted or gets his case tossed out?”

Is it? I suspect some of them are thinking: This is win-win for us. If we convict him, or damage him enough that he can’t run, and there isn’t a huge backlash, then mission accomplished. Or if there is, well, those people were already, or soon-to-be, insurrectionists and so we will be justified in unleashing the security state against them. Indeed, there are benefits to flushing them out now, before they are fully organized for the “Second Civil War” we know the insurrectionists are already plotting.

At any rate, a conviction would all but ensure a Senate vote under Article I, Section 3, making Trump constitutionally ineligible to run (at least half the Republicans would sign on).

But what if, somehow, Trump is acquitted or gets his case tossed out? Then I think you will see the same indignant reaction, but from the other side. Suddenly it will be Blue America declaring all our institutions, and especially the courts, illegitimate. You might even see some attempts at blue secession, e.g., “Calexit.”

Plan C, if none of this works, is to have Trump declared ineligible under the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment. This is riskier than Plan B. If they couldn’t get a Senate vote in favor (and, absent a conviction, I don’t think they could), it would come down to a mere court opinion. If you think Trump’s base will howl over a conviction in a DC kangaroo court, wait until you see their reaction to some Democratic-appointed appeals judge saying Trump can’t run. Even if the regime got the Supreme Court to uphold that 9-0 (and they won’t), Trump’s base won’t accept it.

Plan D—just beat him at the ballot box—is also risky. The country is in desperate shape. Biden is enormously unpopular. Harris is spectacularly unpopular. Getting rid of one of them will be hard. Getting rid of both? The first black, South-Asian, and female vice president and heir apparent? Does anyone think the race-and-sex-obsessed Democratic base of 2024 is going to tolerate that?

And then who do they replace them with? Gavin Newsom? A ciswhite male? Even if they can get past that non-trivial problem, which they can’t, Newsom has no appeal outside deep-blue America. I’m not saying he would certainly lose, but it’s dicey as hell, especially with a demoralized base and the very strong likelihood that the state he governs will be deep in recession by election time.

Plan E is to cheat. I know what you are thinking. But I’m not talking about Dominion voting machines. I mean the kind of “pre-cheating” that the regime boasts about as “election fortification”: change the rules in advance in ways that favor Democrats and hurt Republicans, especially in swing states. There is no question that they will do this. Why wouldn’t they? It worked last time, and the more overt cheating they can avoid, the better.

They are already using the federal government to thumb the scale in favor of Democrats. Biden’s Executive Order 14019, “Promoting Access to Voting,” requires “every federal agency to submit a plan to register voters and encourage voter participation. It also required agencies to form strategies to invite nongovernmental third parties to register voters.” That is to say, a federal takeover of state elections by the Biden administration. This is a replay, with federal power, of the $400 million in “Zuckerbucks”—money donated by the tech-oligarch founder of Facebook—that pre-rigged the last election, but this time with taxpayer dollars, a White House aide (Susan Rice) coordinating, and cabinet agencies like Housing and Urban Development implementing, in conjunction with leftwing NGOs. That combination will be hard to beat.

“A supermajority of Republicans doesn’t believe that the election was on the level.”

But suppose it is. There is always cheating-cheating. If you believed that Trump presents an unprecedented threat to the republic, would you really object to a few boxes of extra ballots falling off trucks near vote-counting headquarters in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta? When the Survival of Our Democracy Is on the Line?

One has to tip one’s hat to the rhetorical disadvantage they have imposed on us. All questioning of any election they win is denounced as paranoid, unpatriotic, “racist,” and a threat to the integrity of the process. (Never mind that they always do it when the right wins; see, for instance, 2000, 2004, and 2016.) The questionable practices such as late-night ballot dumps that lead to our questions are never explained, much less ended. They get to engage in shenanigans that make elections look fishy; we get blamed for saying they look fishy. When we point out that, hey, something looks off there, the response is invariably: How dare you sow doubt about the election! You are undermining confidence in Our Democracy™. Not their shenanigans, but our doubts undermine confidence.

But there is reason to wonder if they can get away with it next time. Whatever happened in 2020, a supermajority of Republicans doesn’t believe that the election was on the level. The regime is extremely worried about this, which is why the propaganda on it is so intense. They know that to pull off a win in 2024, and have it accepted by the 2020 doubters, the next election is at least going to have to look a lot cleaner than the last. Making it look cleaner is hard to do without actually making it cleaner. The downside to that, though, is obvious.

So the choice before them is: Do what(ever) they did last time—and more so, if necessary—and risk an even bigger reaction, or take their chances that they can win a fair fight. (The latter assumes that they have complete control of their minions who run elections at the local level.) But to repeat a point: Perhaps they consider the reaction a feature, not a bug?

Which leaves Plan F, which they have already sketched in broad outlines. I don’t know exactly what form it will take, but they have made clear that “under no circumstance” can Trump be allowed to take office again. Among the “circumstances” covered by the word “no” would seem to be an Electoral College majority, or a tie followed by a House vote in Trump’s favor.

What happens then? Well, in the words of the “Transition Integrity Project,” a Soros-network-linked collection of regime hacks who in 2020 gamed out their strategy for preventing a Trump second term, the contest would become “a street fight, not a legal battle.” Again, their words, not mine. But allow me to translate: The 2020 summer riots, but orders of magnitude larger, not to be called off until their people are secure in the White House.

On Sept. 20, 1911, the RMS Olympic—sistership of the ill-fated Titanic—collided with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke, despite both vessels traveling at low speeds, in visual contact with one another for 80 minutes. “It was,” writes maritime historian John Maxtone-Graham, “one of those incredible convergences, in full daylight on a calm sea within sight of land, where two normally operated vessels steamed blithely to a point of impact as though mesmerized.”

Our sea isn’t calm, nor are our vessels normally operated. But we do seem headed for a point of impact, with the field of vision before us as clear as it was on that day. And the regime isn’t changing course. It must want this—or else is so high on its own supply that it can’t see what it is doing.

Rest assured, if what I fear might happen, happens, we will be blamed for it. And the fire next time will make their reaction to Jan. 6 look like a marshmallow roast. I don’t know which possibility is scarier: that they haven’t thought any of this through, or that they have.



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