This is your irregular reminder that US politics is continuing its descent into possible autocracy.
If you think it’s healthy for the US to have an administration that has shown little respect for factual reporting in the past, was voted into power through an election that some if not all of the US intel community thinks has had significant Russian interference, and names oil executives to Cabinet positions like Secretary of bloody State—well, I don’t know what to tell you.
Based on the actions of the transition team, regardless of motives or competency, it seems clear that the incoming administration must be kept in check. But by whom? Many Republicans, though not all, seem pretty willing to play along. Even the technocrats seem all too happy to cooperate (glaring severely at you, Thiel). It will take a titanic effort of combined internal pressure (from ordinary people, progressive organisations, and whatever credible remains of the press and political establishment on the left) and external pressure (from the international community at large, or at least the parts that still have a chance against their own far-right movements) to steer everyone away from the darkest timeline. It is possible, but it will not be easy.
Still, there’s a chance.
And no, we can’t start calling this the darkest timeline when the new President-elect hasn’t even taken office yet. It’s (1) premature; (b) somehow simultaneously the opposite of premature if you’re putting the timeline’s branching point at the 2016 election, which would ignore the undercurrents in US politics and society that have been coalescing for at least the past decade if not the past half-century and have led to this point; and (iii) only going to cause more despair down the line when, somehow, it gets worse. And, well, one of the key reasons that the US even got to this point is severe underestimation of just how worse everything could get. The incoming administration is one of such unpredictability and such uncertainty that the outcomes really could range from unprecedented prosperity (with severe disparities, but nonetheless) to outright nuclear war and apocalypse.
Maybe you’d actually prefer to see the world end than face four to eight years of the new administration. That’s probably the same impulse that continues to motivate people trying to predict the end of the world. When you see the world as you know it crumbling to pieces, it’s a natural impulse to just fall into despair and jump to ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’—the key word being ‘everyone’, not just you or me. But the world isn’t run by a Game Master at wit’s end, and the world just doesn’t end like that.
And yes, the sun coming up and the world still spinning … not exactly a very high bar for the continuation of human civilisation. But it’s a start.
So: keep an eye on credible news. Keep an eye on the transition. Keep an eye on the ‘autocrometer’ (the super-handy autocracy-tracking spreadsheet, via Paul and Storm).
But don’t get roped into believing stories without credible support, just because they either back up your internal picture of the world or make the actual picture seem just a little less horrifying. Don’t pay undue attention to ‘potential’ picks when there are plenty of actual picks to be outraged about. And while it’s healthy to take time to process the madness, don’t stay paralysed. Try to carry on with whatever parts of your life are still normal, or get mad about the parts of your life that shouldn’t be normal and take vigorous action—but for god’s sake, don’t stop living.
Because this is not the end.