From Republic.ru, Jan. 14, 2021, complete text:
The events in Washington have a deeper meaning that it may seem at first glance. Of course, they are a bellwether of the current state of American society (most likely, a state close to civil war) and a sign of a serious crisis of democratic institutions, both for the US and the “Western” world as a whole. [They also signal] the impasse that the two dominant US political parties have found themselves in. But in addition, the storming of the Capitol has become a sort of litmus test for what has euphemistically been called “populism” over the past decade. Apparently, there is no such thing as just populism; rather, it’s the revival of an ideology that can be classified as “nationalism-lite” – something that went by an entirely different name in the 20th century.
The storming of the Capitol is most likely not the end of the drama, but the beginning. Its main consequence could be the radicalization of the Biden administration’s leftist agenda. Hopes that the new president could carry out a balanced centrist policy are fading before our very eyes. Centrism is incompatible with the witch hunt against Trump supporters. The Democrats’ control of the Senate, shaky as it may be, will only drive that radicalization. This means that there will be a “response from the right” on the pendulum principle.
With some caution, I would suggest that the existing problem was not created by Trump, and won’t go away with his departure. The historic fork in the road that has emerged since the failed insurgency will decide whether the right-wing movement will continue to be associated with Trump, or whether that stage of its development is over. The initial impressions of the situation suggest that the divorce between Trumpism and the right-wing movement has already begun, and stems directly from the failure of Trump’s “blitzkrieg.” In any case, Trump’s future relationship with [the right-wing movement] is one of the most intriguing aspects of the current US agenda.
The actions of the Democrats and the media outlets sympathetic to them show that they are inclined to be guided largely by emotions instead of common sense. But while their desire for “deferred revenge” against Trump for all the humiliations [they suffered] is one of the main motives when making immediate political decisions, paradoxically the Democrats are right – the events on Capitol Hill really were a coup and an attempt to violently hang on to power.
Trump as Peter.
Incidentally, the failure of that attempt does not mean that the battle is over and there won’t be other attempts to keep Trump in the White House. According to informed White House “sources” who are jumping ship after the failed putsch, Trump was overcome with delight from the picture he saw on television of the rampage at the Capitol, and could not understand why everyone else watching the spectacle with him did not share his childlike enthusiasm. A clear plan existed in at least one head – Trump’s – and it seemed quite realistic to him. The throng would attack Congress and prevent the House of Representatives from convening and confirming the election results until Jan. 20, after which Vice-President Pence would declare Trump president for another term. All this was supposed to be accompanied with armed protests by Trump supporters across the country, who would hold the local authorities in fear and tension. At the same time, Trump’s Republican adepts in the House and Senate would carry out subversive activities from within, preventing lawmakers from meeting elsewhere [to confirm the election results]. A Trump-esque utopia.
But upon closer inspection, [this vision] is not that far-fetched. We just need to once again get used to the fact that a new era is dawning, where the inconceivable becomes completely conceivable. This time, the mechanisms that were designed specifically for such a case and lay dormant for over 200 years turned out to be stronger than the insurgents. More specifically, the insurgents turned out to be weaker than those mechanisms, but that does not mean this will always be the case. The man and the team at the head of a movement euphemistically called “populist” turned out to be unprepared to follow this movement to the end. Perhaps that was the most dramatic part of the entire insurgency.
In a way, Trump repeated the well-known story of Peter from the Gospel, renouncing his movement thrice in one day. Despite his infantile ecstasy over what was happening, when faced with the possibility of criminal prosecution for calls to violence, [Trump] first reluctantly called on his supporters to leave the building, thanking them for their patriotic sentiment, then released an incoherent condemnation of the violent actions via his spokesperson. Finally, after a direct appeal by Biden, he openly renounced the storming and condemned it in his response video message. I think that is what ended the uprising. Had Trump stuck to his guns, perhaps we would be discussing an entirely different outcome today and living in a different reality.
Inching toward neofascism.
But if the movement does not equal Trump, then what does it equal? Perhaps these days have conclusively shown that the “post-Potsdam world” is over. Democracy has ceased to be a beacon for generations to come – not only in the East, but in the West. On the contrary, over the past 20 years, the West has seen the emergence and maturation of an antidemocratic movement that questions the entire set of “commonly accepted” or “universal” democratic norms and values. This movement was largely a response to the real problems and imbalances that Western societies encountered, and which have only grown of late. Even though these movements prefer to call themselves populist, they are essentially neofascist, and are generally moving in the same direction as their predecessors 100 years ago.
Contemporary populism has a very distinct and fairly recognizable ideological profile. First, today’s populism is openly antiliberal and antidemocratic. It does not feel any trepidation about democratic institutions, and is prepared to cast them aside at the first opportunity for the sake of political expediency. Left-wing liberals are its most bitter “natural” enemies. Second, it’s elitist in the sense that it does not revere equality, especially when it comes to equality before the law. In this sense, the Orwellian cliché about pigs [that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” – Trans.] is its unofficial political slogan. Third, while being essentially snobbish and elitist, it entices the masses with socialist demagoguery, simply coopting the left’s social agenda and promoting right-wing ideas by sprinkling them liberally with leftist rhetoric. Fourth, one way or another, it eventually stoops to justifying violence –at both the state and nonstate levels. It’s only natural [for neofascism] to beat good ideas into people’s heads with the help of a few tough guys, preferably armed with Colts. We all know what this bears the earmarks of, but are often embarrassed to say it out loud.
The whole situation looks very rotten indeed and vaguely resembles the struggle between Nazis and Communists in the dying Weimar Republic, if only because the defeat of one force in no way means that the victory of the other will look any different. The first steps taken by the Democrats and their allies are alarming: These are fairly harsh calls for revenge, which only deepen the split [in society]. A perfect example is a call by Forbes to boycott any companies that hire former Trump team members, especially members of his communications team. This resembles McCarthyism in reverse. And it’s hardly the only example.
The final bullet.
But there are differences, too. Thanks to Trump, so far everything looks fairly vegetarian and tacky. A century ago, fascism was a genuine movement against the establishment. Today, it has been coopted by the establishment’s outcasts, who are its most unprincipled and mercantile members. Basically, that is how Trump, [British Prime Minister Boris] Johnson and many of their less prominent clones appeared. They noticed a trend and decided to join a movement completely foreign to them. The storming of the Capitol became a moment of truth for Trump. He could have led the uprising, becoming a politician. History knows no subjunctives, but I am not prepared to say that he stood no chance. But he remained a businessman, and when he sensed the market getting shaky, he quickly cashed in his shares.
Now, in my opinion, the biggest political intrigue in Washington is not the impeachment, since it won’t change much. Torn away from his movement, Trump will never get elected to anything again. However, an attempt to jail him would be completely politically counterproductive, since it would only further split America. The main question is whether Trump has broken away from the right-wing movement for good, or whether he’ll once again try to lead it.
Trump still has a final bullet left – the right to a pardon, which is what outgoing presidents usually use to send a certain political signal to future generations. For instance, [former president Barack] Obama pardoned a servicemember who leaked information to [Julian] Assange. Trump, of course, already managed to shoot off a whole round [of pardons], getting his friends out of prison and using this power so broadly that many are starting to suspect that he’s doing it for money. But he still has a few days left, and could make some life-changing decisions.
Theoretically, Trump could preemptively pardon himself and his family (something that is being widely discussed). No one has ever done this, but there is no rule directly prohibiting it. This would be a very Trump thing to do. But he could also go a different route and pardon “the shaman” and others arrested for storming the Capitol. We will see which option he chooses in the very near future, and this will largely determine whether Trump will remain the face of US neofascism, or whether that movement will look for a new symbol. One thing is for certain – this movement is not going away.