Sunday, January 22, 2017

'Really Unpredictable' or ...Unpredictable? Really?

Note: this was written Jan. 19 with minor update to add closing line.

In As Trump Era Arrives a Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World Steven Erlanger recently wrote that "Mr. Trump's unpredictability is perhaps his most predictable characteristic." That's a catchy line, but false. In his political campaigns, like business before that, Mr. Trump's behavior has been incredibly consistent, given the enormous differences between those two realms. He has treated anyone outside his most inner circle of family and loyalists as nothing but pawns. He shows no sense of moral imperative of any kind whatsoever. Systems, norms, and processes exist only to be exploited. Anyone who dares to criticize him is immediately attacked on an immediate ad hominem basis. He celebrates strength, measured solely on the basis of winning at any cost and ridicules compromise as weakness. He hides his lack of expertise, even the most basic knowledge with his boorish behavior and ridicule of opponents. He is about to take office with a majority having voted against him with horror at the prospect of his presidency and an additional possibly significant number having voted for him with revulsion. No person in the history of the republic has won election with so many opposed to and horrified by his ascension to office or with so many reasons for believing the republic is in peril. And so on.
When so many fear so much, one wonders if the signs of an imminent downward slide are often so apparent. What do the warnings look like?
The NYT front page headlines and stories of March 22, 1933 provide clues.

"Berlin inquiry ordered. Washington responds to plea of American Jewish Congress. Emphasizes anxiety here. State Department calls on consuls to report on Nazi mistreatment of Jews. Haven for some is seen. Rabbi Wise urges removal of immigration curb barring relatives of citizens."

"Reich to put Nazi Swastika on Black-White-Red as flag."

"Hitler denies war guilt. Says he wants peace, but will render harmless any who would harm nation."

"Christian leaders protest Hitler. Smith, Davis, Manning among 35 voicing profound dismay for attacks on Jews. More meetings planned. 20,000 expected at Garden Monday."

But Hitler had other ideas. From the NYT front page:

"The new Reichstag was consecrated in the Garrison Church in Potsdam today and with this ceremony the dustbin received the remnants of the Weimar democracy. In its place a new structure is being reared in Germany. Just what it will be like when it is finished no one can yet say,[BOLD added] but the circumstances that its builders chose Potsdam for laying the cornerstone has an unmistakable meaning. Potsdam, long associated with the Hohenzollern monarchy, because it is spiritually the diametrically opposite of Weimar, and the Garrison Church was designated because it is the core of the Potsdam spirit."

And so it goes. Out with the old regime. Out with the 'old' ways...the losing ways.

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