At some point during the presidential election, I read Achille Mbembe’s article “Necropolitics” on defining sovereignty as dictating who can be killed. Russia’s manipulation of the campaign had yet to be raised with any serious credibility except potential blackmail from watersports. Some computer scientists put forward the possibility of tampering with voting machines, but that had been dismissed. Early on, when the Trump agenda was “The Wall” and he increased the ICE agenda, the connection to Necropolitics was clear. We already have obvious ghettos, and with ICE stomping through to deport “illegal immigrants,” these ghettos start to resemble original ghettos. The Wall’s analogs in symbol, policy, and practice to “vertical sovereignty” and late modern colonialism are chilling. The same for prisons.
Early on, between the election and the inauguration, a friend stated that the military would disobey Trump in the case of “pushing the button” or any other outlandish request, especially if he did not follow the rule of law. That was so long ago. But those speculations are irrelevant because Trump has his own army. Moreover, Trump’s personal army plays into a larger goal of building an authoritarian government.
Here’s the thing:
1. Trump beefed up ICE – Extra-judicial forces that don’t require the rule of law in states of exception.
2. Police are militarized and states and cities are blackmailed to support ICE and enforce travel bans and extradition / immigration policies.
That equates to a military that doesn’t need upper level military infrastructure or a Commander-in-Chief. It happened almost immediately.
Here’s another thing:
1. Early on, Trump’s silly paranoid rhetoric spread rumors about Obama’s Shadow Government. The rumor provoked a lot of eye rolling particularly among the people who thought Trump would never win the election.
2. Perhaps this rhetoric was preemptive. After all, the Shadow Government proved to be true. The public is primed to believe the FBI’s “Russia Witch Hunt” has a partisan agenda and a well-planned conspiracy to disable Trump.
Crazy. What kind of world do we live in when folks believe the FBI our enemy and the Russian government our friend? Using Russian spies instead of FBI spies doesn’t necessarily make us closer to a necropolitical state, but having the power to grossly circumvent constitutional constraints does.
And another thing:
1. Voting crazies. The goal of voter suppression created paranoia about voter fraud. This was a Republican strategy long before Russian interference, but it provided an easy way to de-legitimize the election if necessary, which was Putin’s supposed goal.
2. Trump lost the popular vote, so fraud validates his win and fraud soothes the narcissist’s ego. But it also is sets the scene for “crazymaking” over tampering and its origin. It is easier to dismiss “this voter fraud election tampering thing” as Trump Crazy Times than actual tampering.
The tactic may have backfired, but half the country thinks it’s a witch hunt and a waste of time. Abridging elections is scary. The crazymaking is scarier because we move toward a permanent state of exception and people’s bodies can be marshaled more easily toward mob violence. (Charlottesville says I’m not catastrophizing.) Just the language of witchhunt is disturbing.
And the last thing, which is on “us”:
Initially people said we shouldn’t normalize Trump, or the Trump administration. It’s almost a year since the inauguration, and every day is a new shock. Shock is the new normal, until we get “Trump fatigue.” We try and try with (1) marches and rallies – which are for internal spirit; and (2) petitions and phone calls – which are directed toward a stacked, neoliberal legislative body. The strategies are old school and we need something different. In the mean time, long-vacant judicial seats are being filled with people who are less competent than Clarence Thomas. Savior politicians such as Jones are disappointments. More and more opportunities for short-term and long-term resistance are cock-blocked. And the left keeps eating itself from the inside out.
The left needs some better angels.