The Deep State

Adam Shatz

A few months before Donald Trump was elected president, I was in Paris talking to an American political scientist, a specialist on North Africa who has made his home in France. Laxminarayan (not his real name) was sceptical of Trump’s chances. And even if he were to win, Laxminarayan added, it was very clear what would happen next.

‘Really?’ I said. ‘And what is that?’

‘He will have to be removed from power by the deep state, or be assassinated.’

Laxminarayan’s faith in the power, if not the wisdom, of the American deep state has declined since the election. If there is a deep state – a network of political, military and economic interests operating behind the scenes to ensure the continuity of America's governing structures – it isn’t clear that it has the coherence, or the ability to act in periods of emergency, that deep states in the Middle East have, thanks in large part to their foundations in military rule. Laxminarayan and I used to debate the workings of the deep states in Algeria and Egypt, as if it were a kind of experts' game. We also drew, I suspect, a certain relief from the fact that Western democracies were less burdened by their machinations.

Once Trump came to power, however, Laxminarayan began talking about the deep state in longing tones, hoping – not unlike Middle Easterners welcoming a military coup against a regime they disliked – that it might ‘do the job’. Where, he asked in emails, is Khaled Islambouli, who masterminded the assassination of Sadat, or Lee Harvey Oswald, when you needed him? This was dark humour, of course, but it wasn’t merely that.

I don't meant to single out Laxminarayan. I was recently on the phone with a woman in her seventies who asked why someone couldn’t ‘put out a contract on …’ I interrupted her; better not to say it.

Talk of violence, civil war and secession is in the air in the blue states today. Many, perhaps most of us who live in coastal cities have found ourselves having criminal thoughts and violent fantasies since 9 November. Some involve Trump and Steve Bannon; others involve white supremacists like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos; still others involve the fabled white working class that is supposed to have voted for Trump (the reality is more complicated than that, I know), which most of us have found it easier to hate than persuade. (I'm as guilty as the next person.) These feelings provide a measure of psychological release, but they are also difficult to manage. Living with bile and rage is not pleasant; it eats away at the soul, when the adrenaline subsides.

I've been thinking a lot, lately, about what these fantasies mean (aside from the obvious desires they express), and how we might use them (other than for the obvious purpose, which would only be a gift to the administration). My hunch is that they express, above all, a sense not only of horror, but of impotence. The ‘resistance’, as the mobilisation against Trump has become known, as if we had all taken to the maquis rather than our smart phones, is gratifying, even encouraging, but it isn’t enough, and no matter how widespread and determined, it cannot, on its own, eject Trump and Bannon from power. It is more likely that our president will be in power for four years than that he will be forced out. He can only be removed before the end of his term by impeachment or death, natural or otherwise. That many are fantasising about the last of these is hardly surprising, since neither impeachment nor death by natural causes seems likely. Trump may not be as healthy as Obama, but he isn’t ill; and he has control of both houses of Congress for the next two years, at least.

There is no inherent harm in fantasising. People living under tyranny often dream that their leaders will come to a violent end (if they haven't embraced him as a beloved father figure). Still, it’s notable how easily violent thoughts have come to those of us who have known only a single, and much contested, month of the Trump-Bannon era. American exceptionalism may be dead, but it lives on as a habit of mind, measured now not in the supremacy of our democracy but in the unprecedented horror we imagine ourselves to be experiencing. These thoughts are, in a way, a tribute to the power Trump has over our imagination. If he had a sense of irony, he might draw a perverse pleasure from the fact that he has provoked otherwise pacific people into dreaming of violence – and dreaming that violence is their only resort against him.

It might be useful to think about these fantasies in wider terms, as a way of trying to understand the citizens of other countries, particularly those whom Americans have for the most part refused to sympathise with. We might try, for example, to understand why Palestinians have carried out violent attacks against the people who have occupied them for (as of June this year) half a century. They have been under military rule, without recourse to elections or a fair legal system, much less citizenship, for roughly 600 times as long as we have been under Trump. Americans who think suicide bombs are shocking, or are evidence of cultural backwardness or a Muslim disposition towards violence, might do well to reflect on the fragile psychology of political violence, as we feel the fantasy, even the temptation of violence, rise up in ourselves.

The dangerous fantasy that the deep state might rescue us – Laxminarayan’s fantasy – also merits examination, for we have seen its results in Egypt. Without this fantasy, General Sisi could never have come to power. I was among those who deplored Egypt's coup, not because of any sympathy for Mohammed Morsi or the Muslim Brothers, but because I feared that it would lead to the destruction of the Egyptian democracy movement, and of whatever trappings remained of procedural democracy in an already deeply authoritarian society. I haven’t changed my mind about that. But I have a better understanding of Egyptian friends who welcomed the military's intervention because they were afraid that Morsi would introduce an Islamist dictatorship. Fear is not a good guide to political wisdom. The Egyptians now live under a far harsher regime than Morsi's, or Mubarak's. Military intervention against Trump, even if it were possible, and I doubt it is, would probably result in a more sweeping and destructive transformation of our democracy. When we act on our fears, we usually end up being ruled by them.

Read more by Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books

Frantz Fanon's Revolution · 19 January 2017

Mubarak's Last Breath · 27 May 2010

On Yasmina Khadra · 7 October 2004


  • 14 February 2017 at 6:16pm
    alpan says:
    The ability to consider assassination fantasies (not my styling, but the header of the e-mail that brought me here) as a way of "trying to understand the citizens of other countries" must be a fascinating privilege for an editor of a leading literary magazine. It's a privilege the other side doesn't get to enjoy -- at least, not as publicly as this. If anything, Hillary Clinton's defeat is a cause for optimism for those of us (such as me, living in one of "the other countries" as I do) who might wish to imagine an alternative for the U.S.'s engagement with certain parts of this world, parts close to where I live; something beyond the tired, failed neoconservative utopianism of the last fifteen years. In this light, Trump's election represents possibility rather than resignation. Of course, the writer, true to his word, probably doesn't even consider this. You're not really interested in citizens of other countries beyond their use of a literary device for a poorly conceived blog post.

    So no, your fantasies are not "notable" in any way that actually matters. Self-satisfied? Sure. In the end, "pathetic" is the truer word for the sentiment described in the piece, especially because it hints at the unthinking buoyance that undoubtedly will occur should the "fantasy" be realized. Apparently unheeding of David Bromwich's recent call in the magazine to oppose, you have chosen instead to submit, to unthink. Go ahead; just don't justify it. I have no idea who you are as a person, but I can tell you that it doesn't become you.

    • 14 February 2017 at 10:50pm
      michael in australia says: @ alpan
      Well said, Alpan. 'American exceptionalism': if I never hear that phrase again it will be too soon, unless it's used ironically. It's an unhealthy way for citizens to view their country, and especially unhealthy for the citizens of nations in which America has peddled 'democracy'. American power is exceptional; not its agenda nor its morality. Unless you're inside the bubble, of course.

    • 15 February 2017 at 1:07am
      mjohn says: @ alpan

      It is hard to argue specifics with someone from one of the "other countries" who declines to identify that country or how the "failed neoconservative utopianism" has impacted him.

      But to treat the rise of Trump and his henchmen as "cause for optimism" for people living in "those other countries" is either ignorant or delusional or both.

      No one knows for sure where Trumpism will take the United States on the international stage, but the most likely results are withdrawal, thus ceding more international influence to the Russias and Chinas of the world (perhaps what you want?); or (more likely to my way of thinking) repeated Iraq-like interventionism, with debacles of the sort that the innocent in those "other countries" continue to suffer.

      Please, tell us what other possible "alternative" for the U.S.'s engagement with the world is likely with Trump? What gives you "cause for optimism"?

    • 15 February 2017 at 10:36am
      alpan says: @ mjohn

      I did not "decline to identify" anything, I merely didn't disclose the information; nice going. I'm from Turkey. Perhaps the fact that the country is merely a semi-failed state (as opposed to totally failed) does not satisfy your constraints for the impact of neocon policies, but, unhappily, that would be a delusion. This is not to say that Turkey itself didn't have any role in its current predicament. But that's a different matter.

      You are free to call me ignorant or delusional, or both. The sentence looks elegant but the words mean nothing. It matters very little in the grand scheme of things.

      Yes, I am more receptive to a multipolar world than the unipolarity that the U.S. has been pushing. It seems to me better representative of the world we actually live in. The initial postwar years, just about the only time the U.S. could be considered as "leading by example", are long gone; the discourse remains but no longer convinces in any form.

      Neither Russia nor China had an interest in replacing Syria with an anarchic hellhole under the guise of "bringing democracy"; this would have been disastrous for the Middle East and by extension Turkey, but probably not you and wherever you may be living. By all means, continue to deny that Trump has criticized exactly this sort of thing. If you can't see at least the possibility that he represents a different view, then I'm very sorry, and you are blind.

    • 15 February 2017 at 10:41am
      piffin says: @ mjohn
      Why would American 'withdrawal', ie stopping bombing and invading other sovereign nations, translate into China and Russia rampaging across the world like unhinged bulls. Stop projecting America's very specific 'engagement' with the world onto others.

    • 15 February 2017 at 4:59pm
      mjohn says: @ piffin

      Turkey? As you rightly note, plenty of blame to go around there.

      Many of us who voted for Clinton (clue as to where I'm from!) were not fans of her inclination for intervention. But for you to choose Trump because he is not Clinton is to repeat the error of many of my fellow Americans.

      Perhaps "delusional" was a big too strong--what I see in your response is more like "wishful thinking."

      As you watch events unfold over the net few months, don't pay attention to what Trump says (although his pronouncements on your part of the world have been ignorant and incoherent), but what he does.

      Look at his most prominent foreign policy action--the Muslim ban. (And just try to get into the U.S. if you are from Turkey.)

      Look also at his choices for key foreign policy roles--an oil company executive as Secretary of State; an Iran-obsessed general as Secretary of Defense; a Russian stooge as national security adviser (oops, he's gone!): and a settlement booster as ambassador to Israel.

      Neither bodes well for the disappearance of heavy-handed American intervention in your part of the world.



      Ask the folks in Syria, the Ukraine, the Baltic states and all over East Asia how they feel about "rampaging bulls."

      Think what you want about American interventionism. But don't delude yourself about the motives other world powers.

    • 15 February 2017 at 6:19pm
      Edward Weldon says: @ mjohn
      Ask the folks in Syria, Ukraine & the Baltic states? It depends which folks you ask. And why the Baltic States, has something happened there?

    • 15 February 2017 at 8:30pm
      alpan says: @ mjohn

      Again, you can call me however you like. That remains irrelevant. Let me be clear: I harbor no illusions that Trump's foreign policy will be angelic. With respect to the Middle East there are no angels, no final redemption, no easy way out, there is only a messy reality. That's what I'm trying to attend to.

      What you understate as an "inclination for intervention" is a very real recipe for disaster that's already been proven once by her own initiative. Again, you're so removed from the consequences of your nation's actions that it appears it suffices for you to simply "not be a fan" of her interventionism. For me it disqualifies her entirely. She would have lead the region into disaster, one "reasonable" step at a time.

      But never mind Clinton. For eight years you've had an absolute avatar of preternatural calm and educated reason in the White House. I grant and appreciate that he's had the good sense to not interfere in Syria directly, even though in the end he looked like a fool. I'm not even discussing the rest of his record here -- what could have made you possibly think that Clinton would be in any way better than him?

      You are right that Trump's actions and not his words are what's important. That's why I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, nothing more (and no, this is something I wouldn't have afforded Clinton). However, in saying so you appear to be betting on the assumption that I disapprove of Trump's ban. You may be surprised.

      Finally, I happily trust my ability to (drumroll) change my mind should Trump end up being as catastrophic as everyone seems to worry. That's why I aspire to be a realist. Hence the core of my current view remains; Clinton represented a fatal resignation, while Trump represents the tiniest kernel of something different. None of your words can really falsify this, partly because it's so early into the Trump presidency, and partly because you know very well Clinton's record yourself.

    • 16 February 2017 at 1:30am
      mjohn says: @ alpan

      Thanks for the conversation. I appreciate your willingness to change your mind with the facts. Perhaps I'll check back with you when we see how this Trump thing is working out.

      BTW, did today's abandonment of the two-state solution make you feel any more nervous? It would me, if I lived in your neighborhood.

    • 16 February 2017 at 5:40am
      alpan says: @ mjohn
      Likewise, mjohn.
      As for the two-state solution news, well, at this point it's just news. Again, I don't believe it's wise to reach a conclusion based on a press conference. I'll see what actually happens next.

      But it's an interesting you asked. Words are not the same as actions -- but for the last eight years you've had a president who really did believe that the good speech made for the virtuous action, though in reality it never did. This rhetoric-as-reality paradigm also suited -- and still suits -- the media (which is why the main outlets liked Obama so much, I guess), because the two-state solution is currently only "abandoned" to the extent that the media outlets represent it at such.

      Now, I don't intend to disparage the media. But when you rely on the media's representations for too long you start to overlook what you're losing by the relentless reductionism that subtly goes on as part of news reporting. Sometimes -- maybe most of the time -- that's harmless. But once in a while the chasm between representation and reality adds up, widens; then Trump gets elected and you're left to wonder why. So, do be careful, and farewell.

  • 14 February 2017 at 6:16pm
    scatman says:
    I am surprised there is no mention in this piece of the Russian Federation where Putin is regarded by many (inside and outside Russia) as a product of the "deep state" there.

    • 15 February 2017 at 1:18pm
      Edward Weldon says: @ scatman
      Maybe NATO can step in and undertake a regime change for the sake of Democracy? Trump wants to leave anyway. It would Give them something worthwhile to do, instead of trying to cause a confrontation with Putin in order to justify its continuing existence.

  • 14 February 2017 at 6:24pm
    clivemacd says:
    'He can only be removed before the end of his term by impeachment or death' - the 25th Amendment to the constitution may also be relevant

    • 14 February 2017 at 9:04pm
      Tanvyeboyo says: @ clivemacd
      Interesting. A relatively recent, and rare, amendment from 1967. One of only 6 amendments since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
      Sections 1 to 3 of the 25th Amendment have been invoked since 1967 in an orderly manner as foreseen by the thus amended Constitution. Ford’s accession to power in 1974 is the most obvious example.
      Section 4 describes an institutional 'coup d'état' and might be relevant to Trump's overthrow by VP Pence and Congress fired up by something like conspiracies and funding from a putative Deep State. Members of Congress are certainly for sale individually. I don't know if they can be bought wholesale, but money talks in the USA, like in lots of places. If there is a Deep State, in there somewhere, this is their legal roadmap to dump the Donald. J Edgar Hoover would have excelled in such conditions. He would have known how to ‘teleguide’ Pence.
      Personally, I think Section 4 is the road to some form of civil war. Not because US civil society, (if it still exists over there), is attached to the present POTUS, but because conflicting strands of the Deep State may be profoundly divided as they were in the lead up to the inevitable War of Secession. Trump won 30 out of 50 states based on an expanded Dixie. Chaotic or not as the next four years may be, and I expect they will, I can still see him winning 30 states or damn close.
      So Section 4 anyone?

  • 14 February 2017 at 6:40pm
    Coldish says:
    Is it outmoded to expect from the 'resisters' in the 'blue states', who, as Adam Shatz suggests, may now be fantasizing about a coup d'état or other violent action against their lawfully elected president, that they should just wait in the traditional way for the opportunity to dump Trump at the next presidential election?

    • 23 February 2017 at 8:04pm
      John Cowan says: @ Coldish
      It depends what you mean by "wait". In the sense of "not agitating and organizing", then waiting is inappropriate to expect. If you mean "not engaging in armed revolt or other extra-constitutional activity", then yes, we can wait.

  • 14 February 2017 at 6:55pm
    jcscott says:
    How we get rid of Trump is at least as important as whether we get rid of him. The best would be a progressive landslide election in 2020 repudiating 4 years of reaction and borne to victory by massive civic mobilization and a reformed democratic party. Second best--way behind--would be impeachment--it's not far fetched that Trump will manage something impeachable given his history. Third best, nervous breakdown. Second and third possibilities leave Pence and reactionary cabinet in place, alas. Worst, the very worst would be assassination paving the way for martial law and worse: real "fascism with American characteristics"

    • 14 February 2017 at 9:55pm
      Stu Bry says: @ jcscott
      Trump is already campaigning for 2020.

      The travel ban has no security benefits and I suspect it's primary function is as a driver of further polarization, especially incresing the dissonance between media discourse and the discourse of the mejority of the electorate.

      Opposition or resistance to ever act, order or tweet of Trump will be counter productive. If he controls the narrative for four years the election will be fought on his terms and he will win. The Dems have to put their own house in order and find the correct issues to fight on.

  • 14 February 2017 at 7:14pm
    Remonstrater says:
    In my view, one of the most problematic words in Shatz's highly problematic musings on eliminating President Trump consists of just two letters, namely "us", as in the phrase "the dangerous fantasy that the deep state might rescue us...". Right here, in a highly condensed form, we have all the smug assumptions of Shatz and his left-liberal, globalised, rootless, cosmopolitan caste. Just ask yourself whom this "us" - and by implication the "we" behind it - is supposed to designate.

  • 14 February 2017 at 7:29pm says:
    JFK obviously feeds this fantasy that the 'deep state' simply has to press a button to get rid of an unwanted - or rogue - president. A most unlikely explanation. More probable is the deep state responding to Trump over a period of time, seeking to rein him in, if they feel the need to. They may also prefer to manipulate him. Perhaps a warning shot has already been fired with the 'resignation' of Gen. Flynn. Comparisons with Egypt seem fatuous to me.

  • 14 February 2017 at 8:14pm
    scearfo says:
    'Where, he asked in emails is .. . Lee Harvey Oswald, when you needed him?' This from a man who purportedly is convinced of the existence of the "deep state." Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

    • 14 February 2017 at 9:23pm
      Tanvyeboyo says: @ scearfo
      I expect Adam thinks of LHO as an instrument of the Deep State involving Hoover's FBI, the Mob, Jack Ruby, Officer Tippet and maybe even LBJ. I'm lfiting this from my distant memories of Ellroy's excellent and still under-rated American Tabloid intro to his Underworld USA trilogy.
      I think the Deep State exists in lots of places and not just in Turkey. In Turkey, the recent coup was fomented by Gülenists, former allies of Erdogan's AKP against the old, militarist, secularist Kemalists. Erdogan has now turned on the Gülenists and will probably blitz the Kemalists later, if they dont get him first... America might be more like Turkey than we think with the big US military-industrial complex, currently out of favour as Rockefeller's old Standard Oil (now Exxon-Mobil) makes a surprising comeback.

  • 14 February 2017 at 9:18pm
    Gertrude says:
    Surely there is one simple and powerful reason above all others why assassination would be a terrible idea ( however desirable in some lights): martyrdom. Those who already support him would be joined by millions of others who until that point didn't realise what a decent dude he was really, underneath. A president so cool he says dude!

    No please not

  • 14 February 2017 at 9:44pm
    Stu Bry says:
    We are now seeing a situation where people who espouse essentially liberal values have come to see electoral results which go against their wishes as invalid. 2016 brought us Trump and Brexit and many people publicly hoping for the results to be ignored or subverted without seemingly any thought for the long term political consequences.

    This reaction is similar to the backlash we have recently seen in other nations when electoral results go against those who control a nation's wealth. Egypt and Thailand are the two most egregious of democracy being discarded due to the 'wrong' result. We have also seen US sponsored resistance to populist movements in Venezuela and Honduras and judicial rebellion in Brazil. The Party of Regions were deposed in Ukraine with little regard for those who elected them. The reasons behind the coup in Turkey are as clear as mud but Erdogan ironically - along with Putin and the Iranian regime - has more support amongst his electorate than any of his liberal critics.

    The question must be asked, can democracy survive neoliberalism?

    • 14 February 2017 at 10:07pm
      Unanimus says: @ Stu Bry
      No, Democracy is already dead. The question that should be put forward now is: Can Democracy be ever restored now?
      My answer is hardly, if at all.People now are absolutely powerless. I believe that these Demos, are too often orchestrated by the very people who they pretend to protest against.

    • 14 February 2017 at 11:09pm
      kadinsky says: @ Stu Bry
      "America is no longer a functioning democracy. It is a corporate oligarchy"
      - President Jimmy Carter, Aug 2015

    • 15 February 2017 at 12:34pm
      Edward Weldon says: @ Unanimus
      Yes. After 20 years of generously exporting goodness and democracy & truth to evil Dictatorships worldwide, the US elects itself its very own Despot & Tyrant as President. Bravo!

    • 15 February 2017 at 12:57pm
      Edward Weldon says: @ Unanimus
      Im still a little confused about who voted him in though. Reading the (non US)media before and after the election one is left with the impression that every body simply loathes him with venom. Never once heard a Trump supporter explaining their reasons. Seems sound democratic advice. The Media have, and continue to let themselves down.

    • 15 February 2017 at 3:20pm
      Stu Bry says: @ Edward Weldon

      An excellent article which investigates the motivations of Trump voters in the rust belt.

      His coalition is much wider than that though and encompasses all the various tribes of American conservatism who are currently being rewarded with the most right wing government in over a century.

    • 16 February 2017 at 8:13pm
      joseterrell says: @ Edward Weldon
      watch an american football game on tv and scan the paying audience; i imagine 75-95% of them voted for trump.

  • 14 February 2017 at 11:23pm
    apemantus says:
    Trump's supposed election insult to the "deep state" is overstated.

    It mistakes the deep state as a kind of national singularity rather than an accretion of business and special interests (sometimes antithetic) which shape policy independent of the electoral dog and pony show.

    Eisenhower's seminal US deep state categorization of the military-industrial complex is unperturbed. In this case, the stock market is the best barometer of deep state satisfaction. The market has gone up and military stocks have soared.

    There are of course specific business interests which deplore Trump's ascendancy but they are the minority. Trump's ratbag of appointees: moguls, bankers, climate destroyers and deregulators all serve the deep state just fine, thank you.

  • 14 February 2017 at 11:43pm
    Chrisdf says:
    This is a dreadfully overwrought (I might even say hysterical) article. Substantial checks and balance exist in the US constitution to limit the personal power of the President,while the early days of the current incumbent anyway show little signs of irresistible corporatism, more of chaos and incompetence. Rather than fantasies of assassination or deep-state coups, better to study what those checks and balances might be and how they are meant to work. And can we remember that at least the US electorate has a chance to change its mind in four years time, while the Brexit idiocy has plunged the UK irreversibly into an uncertain future for which no contingency planning has taken place?

    • 15 February 2017 at 10:31am
      whisperit says: @ Chrisdf
      I guess this position is based on the belief that the US polity is basically healthy, and that a return to Democratic neoliberalism in four years' time is the both feasible and acceptable.

      I would challenge both those assumptions. Firstly, although Trump's first actions have been cack-handed and trivial, he (and more importantly, the power blocs behind him) is dedicated to building a significantly less liberal hegemony, both at home and abroad. They are deliberately attacking the very "checks and balances" that you place your hopes in. Left to them, the US of 2020 will be a significantly different place to that of today.

      Secondly, the election of Trump demonstrated that people who have been at the sharp end of US neoliberalism at home did not want to settle for "more of the same but with a human face" (which Hillary represented). Abroad, the view that alpan expresses in the first reply to this article has been growing. Even beyond the specific foreign policy actions - the drone strikes, the continued support for Zionism etc - the US has not adequately addressed the universal threats of climate change and environmental destruction.

      Trump is a barbarian. But, as Slovoj Zizek has argued, maybe his election was the only way of posing the crisis of neoliberalism in a sharp enough form to provoke the kind of change that the world now needs. But it demands action now.

  • 15 February 2017 at 10:12am
    zaisser says:
    The great irony here, in Trump's case, which the author never mentions, is that Trump has made EXCESSIVE and consistent noise about normalizing relations with the 'deepstate's' main imagined/necessary nemesis, Russia. He has also expressed his views (to Bill O'Reilly and others) that he was always opposed to the invasion of Iraq, and that a lot of people died there. So, would it not be ironic indeed if he and Putin ended up working together to stabilize the mess in the Middle East that began with Bush and was continued by Obama, Clinton and Kerry? Yes, once again, working against the interest of the Pentagon, the military weapons industries, the war-mongering neo-cons like McCain: i.e. THE DEEP STATE.

    • 15 February 2017 at 10:14am
      zaisser says: @ zaisser
      A followup: so WHY would liberal Americans be fantasizing about a dead Trump if he actually worked against the interests of the deep state, for global stability?

  • 15 February 2017 at 10:42am
    Tanvyeboyo says:
    I am definitely a fan of Adam Schatz. This piece has drawn a lot of ire and that is, for the main part, understandable. It feels a bit imbalanced. But let’s not, even in gunned-up America, shoot the messenger. I expect he is right when he says: “I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what these fantasies mean …. and how we might use them (other than for the obvious purpose, which would only be a gift to the administration). My hunch is that they express, above all, a sense not only of horror, but of impotence. The ‘resistance’, as the mobilisation against Trump has become known, as if we had all taken to the maquis rather than our smart phones, is gratifying, even encouraging, but it isn’t enough, and no matter how widespread and determined, it cannot, on its own, eject Trump and Bannon from power…… There is no inherent harm in fantasising.”
    It sure ain’t enough. However, as Joe Hill might say: ‘Don’t fantasise, organise’.
    I’m old enough to remember how impotent the Anti-Vietnam War movement felt for long. Two years after the Kent State shootings the US Air Force (John McCain and friends) were still blanket bombing Hanoi at Christmas 1972. But within 2 more years the war was over and Nixon had been chased from office. First thing the ‘resistance’ needs to determine is whether the Democratic Party can be recaptured from the Obamas, Rahm Emmanuels and Clintons. Probably not. But they need to deal with the issue and move on to organise on grass roots basis. I believe in the ‘I’m their leader, I’d better follow them…’ school of political activism. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man/woman/TG person’. The Deep State is out there but Trump has divided it. Hillary was their majority candidate, but 48% of the Joe and Joelene Sixpacks went off message in just the right number of states. American Civil Society (the politicised parts) is deeply divided but it’s not as simple as the numbers of slave states and free states from 1789 to 1860. I’m not sure how divided the Deep State elements are. The fossil fuel people seem to have little in common with the West Coast new economy or even the military-industrial complex. Someone quoted Jimmy Carter saying the US is an oligarchic state. So is Trump a sort of Yeltsin, is there a smarter Mikhail Khodorkovsky out there, or a Putin? Flynn is gone so it’s not him. While the Deep State factions work on casting, it’s time to get out in the streets and organize. This can be women-led thing, atonement for Hillary, and gals are less prone to fantasize than guys. If good, old-groper Donald hasn’t woken up that 51%, then I have no idea what it takes. But when they get mad, they stay mad. Elizabeth Warren may be the new Statue of Liberty. Before the new can be born, the old must die. The defeat of Hillary and the miserable coterie of GOP primary hopefuls is a sort of dying. It’s a start.

  • 15 February 2017 at 10:43am
    Delaide says:
    The sangfroid exhibited by many commenters, when they argue that Trump's election is at least a break from neoliberal rule or a slap down to American exceptionalism, may be misplaced. His appalling personal qualities aside, I don't see a coherent agenda in much of what Trump says. He won't make Mexico pay for a wall (I doubt that there will be a wall), he won't introduce a coherent replacement for Obamacare, he won't build infrastructure, he won't make more than token efforts to bring back manufacturing jobs, he won't 'drain the swamp' etc. He was a Republican, then a Democrat, now a Republican. The only thing that drives him is his ego and, especially with the "resistance", I can't see his ego surviving his first term. Should he get to the mid-term elections then I see the Republicans bringing him down - if Trump was a Democrat the impeachment processes would have already started. So then we'll have Pence, and the fun will really begin. And anyone enjoying a moment of schadenfreude at the thought of the collapse of American democracy in this way might rue the day that HRC was not elected. I understand Adam Shatz's fantasy.

    • 15 February 2017 at 3:35pm
      Stu Bry says: @ Delaide
      The midterms won't be that important.

      There are only two realistic Senate seats which can go from red to blue (Arizona and Nevada) which would still leave the GOP in control.

      The House of Representatives is so deeply gerrymandered that it is almost impossible for Democrats to win a majority.

      There may be an up swell of political anger but there will no electoral battle field for it to fight on.

    • 15 February 2017 at 9:44pm
      Delaide says: @ Stu Bry
      You may be right. However Trump is such an outrageous, ludicrous President that some of his supporters, especially when they realise he hasn't brought back jobs, built the wall etc, may not be able to bring themselves to vote for him. And surely Democrats will be more motivated to turn out. If polls predict a swing large enough to unseat many Republicans, and possibly put the House under threat, that may be enough for the Republican hierarchy, who don't like Trump, to act. Assuming Trump lasts that long.

  • 15 February 2017 at 12:13pm
    patmcclung says:
    Learn from some true voices that are explaining to the nature of the problem we all desperately confront in the face of neo-liberalism. You can start with UC Berkeley Professor Wendy Brown, who wrote in the December, 2016 edition of Art Forum ( published one week before Trump was elected).

    "“WE KNOW THIS might carry us over a cliff, but fuck it. Compared with my life? Let’s blow it all up and see what’s left.”

    That seems to be the impulse motivating some Trump and some Brexit supporters alike. It’s apocalyptic populism: “We know it might lead to economic collapse, political peril, even nuclear war, but that’s better than the humiliation and impotence we face now.”

    Of course Professor Brown's prophetic article was published a week before the US elections. Neither she, nor Donald Trump. nor Hillary Clinton believed that Trump could be elected. But he was. By the apocalyptic populists.

    The problem is humiliation and impotence, not Donald Trump. And so, what will the "Deep State" do about the problem of Donald Trump? They will attempt to control him. Already very successful with the resignation of Michael Flynn as NSC adisor. If they can't control him, they will impeach him. Learn to say, "President Pence". But, none of this will solve the problem of humiliation and impotence among the apocalyptic populists of this world.

    • 15 February 2017 at 11:08pm
      Delaide says: @ patmcclung
      “WE KNOW THIS might carry us over a cliff, but fuck it. Compared with my life? Let’s blow it all up and see what’s left.” Reminds me a cartoon, I think in the New Yorker. Two men observing a bull emerge from a shattered china shop: "Well, that didn't work."

  • 15 February 2017 at 1:47pm
    Jeremy Bernstein says:
    My concern is that he nay not be mentally stable. He acts like a spoiled five year old throwing a temper tantrum when anyone says no. This would make a good Kubrick movie but he actually has his finger on the nuclear button.

  • 15 February 2017 at 3:36pm says:
    Adam Shatz says the Hegemon can be removed from power either by impeachment or by death. There is a third possibility: he will resign under the weight of incriminating evidence coming out of intelligence agencies, foreign and domestic. Flynn's resignation offers a preview of the coming attractions.

    • 15 February 2017 at 10:07pm says: @
      Given the adversarial relationship between Trump and his spooks, one can reasonably expect to see a steady trickle of kompromat timed and tailored to inflict maximum damage.

    • 23 February 2017 at 8:09pm
      John Cowan says: @
      Trump will never resign. He sees himself as an elected king, and his father told him he could either be a king or a loser. Would the Queen resign, no matter what scandal broke? (Yes, I know about Edward VIII. That was then, this is now.)

  • 15 February 2017 at 9:18pm
    trishjw says:
    If you keep watch of the chaotic actions being done by Trump, he may just shoot himself and his cabinet in the foot(feet) and save us the trouble of assassinating him. He'll do something totally illegal and end up being impeached or forced to resign like Nixon did. Bad cabinet members, illegal executive orders on hold, mixing of business with politics illegally,allowing the public to hear phone calls to other national leaders( Kim of Korea) etc etc are just the start in the first 3 weeks of his presidency. NSA head forced to resigned for having discussed foreign policy with Russian leaders as a civilian which has been illegal since 1799. His actions and inactions have been good fodder for the media of all sorts and rough cause for the Republicans that wish to rule but don't wish to criticize Trump, yet find they have to to appear relevant. Keep in touch with the media!! Trump may tumble like Humpty Dumpty!!

  • 16 February 2017 at 8:09pm
    joseterrell says:
    re: "‘He will have to be removed from power by the deep state, or be assassinated.’
    Laxminarayan’s faith in the power, if not the wisdom, of the American deep state has declined since the election.":
    well, don't look now but the coup has seemingly begun (it will take some time but it appears to be underway). People from the intelligence community (IC) have leaked alleged transcripts of the NSA's intercepts of Flynn's alleged phone discussions with Russian diplomat(s). Flynn has fallen and calls for Trump's removal are echoing louder than rifle shots. (and all this has occurred without anyone of note, ie., in possession of non partisan trustworthiness, actually having read the transcripts. People in the IC are allegedly saying on Twitter that the NSA has enough to put Trump away (in prison) for life. In short, Laxminarayan’s faith in the power and the wisdom of the American deep state is well placed. lol

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