Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Trump's Pinochet Moment ?

 Something which occurred to me in light of the American Presidential electoral results ... is that Trump is having a Pinochet moment. Now I *don't* mean that he's having dissidents thrown out of helicopters (much, I am sure, to the chagrin of some of his supporters at present). But rather - that what has happened this past week or so has been akin to the 1988 Chilean vote that was quite literally a referendum on Pinochet.

Now, that vote is interesting - because it seems that Pinochet thought he would win, fairly handily; and so did not take the ordinary steps afore its occurrence to suppress, marginalize, and otherwise constrain his opponents - nor to overtly 'rig' the vote so that he would win by default.

Instead, he basically allowed both sides (his own, and the 'No' campaign) to have something which, while it was not exactly a 'level' playing field for various reasons (including the rather ingenious use of 'false front' organizations to draw votes from the 'No' side into effective 'protest-vote' third options .. Shades of Kanye, perhaps?), was nevertheless the most 'open' arena which Chile had witnessed for his entire reign.

And was promptly surprised when a) the 'No' campaign turned out to be better at actually campaigning and producing decent campaign material than his own side ; b) that even after "all he had done for them", a majority of Chileans voted to reject him regardless.

Now, the parallels with Trump ought be obvious at this point. Insofar as Trump did not really 'rig' the election (it is an open question whether he actually could have; standard voter suppression etc. of course excepted) - but rather was genuinely surprised to find that a) his opponents actually *were* reasonably competent at campaigning and outreach (rather than 'Sleepy', one supposes); b) a majority of Americans actually weren't that keen on letting him have another four years in office despite "all he had done for them". [the fact that it's "all he had done *to* them" from the view of the Biden vote is, perhaps, not something he'd considered]

This is also - for now - why Trump has not been actively deserving of many of the tropes around playing 14th dimensional underwater strip billiards backgammon .. er .. chess, in pursuit of a clandestinely secured conspiratorial victory which ends democracy in America.

Because it's simply not true. If it WERE, he wouldn't have lost last week's election - likely either in popular vote terms or in tentative electoral college projections.

Instead, he was a man who had bought into his own self-proclaimed narrative - and took at face value (rather than mask value) what his own senses and ego were telling him when he found himself amidst stadia and airports filled with his own cheering supporters (ignoring the obvious 'selection bias' inherent in the fact these people had been bussed to the venue by his campaign after opting-in by already being well-disposed towards him). Namely, that this was America, and what America *overwhelmingly* wanted was more of him for another four years; not another guy in his 70s and a simultaneously ultra-hard-line police state but somehow California ultra-liberal former prosecutor.

Now, buying into your own narrative is a pretty dangerous thing to do in perilous circumstances - as it opens up the possibility that you basically stop engaging seriously with competing perspectives and perceived-unfavourable incoming data-streams. Which appears to be what Trump then did.

And to be fair, he may have had a bit of a point: the differential between Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump on Election Night has not been anywhere near as dire as some polling earlier appeared to predict.

However, none of this changes the fact that the result hasn't gone Trump's way - and he's now left scrambling to try and either make a dignified exit, or dig in for Home Alone: White House Edition.

Which, as far as he's concerned, may well prove to be an *entirely* false notion of choice.

I don't know if I place full credence in the material alleged in a recent Vanity Fair article, that Trump has reportedly declared he'll literally have to be dragged out kicking and screaming. But in a metaphorical sense - this seems somewhat apt. Various Republicans have, after all, recently started openly urging for states to intervene with their Electoral College delegations so as to provide Trump with the votes he needs there that he could not come up with on the ground; and the Court challenges against those votes in key battleground states are also gearing up apace.

The recent - as in, over the past 36 or so hours - spate of firings of civilian leadership and oversight personnel from the Department of Defence, Pentagon, and intelligence services in order to have them replaced by Trump loyalists, is also interesting for obvious reasons.

However, in the hopefully unlikely event that Trump *does* endeavour to more seriously pursue the Pinochet course of action in 1988 - that is to say, calls in various Generals and other such power-havers and asks for, in effect, the powers to ignore the election result ...

... the fate which befell Pinochet then may prove to be instructive: the Generals, even in a military junta, balked at the request and told Pinochet bluntly that his time was up.

Although this is 2020; and even though it would be intriguing to think that American spooks and soldiers had some sort of unflinching loyalty to constitutional governance and democratic norms ... well ... we'll just have to see what happens, won't we.

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