by Shelt Garner
The thing about what’s going on in the United States right now is huge, tectonic forces of history are rushing over us as individuals and it’s difficult for us to process what’s going on. Because what’s going on is so huge, the average person can’t see the big picture.
I’m not saying I have any revealed truth, but I am pretty good at abstract thought — and I think about stuff like this all the time — so I like to think I have a better bead on what’s going on than some.
It’s kind of surreal that the most powerful, wealthiest nation on the globe is on the cusp of either turning into an autocracy or having a civil war that will destroy it. But let’s talk about the first option, autocracy.
The conservative Traditionalists in my family have varying degrees of interest in the MAGA New Right. On a personal level, they want MAGA without Trump. They generally agree with the MAGA New Right vision, but they struggle to in good faith to defend the “mean tweets” element of it all. And, truth be told, I would even go so far as to suggest that the only reason why they are all willing to buy into the MAGA New Right’s autocratic fascism is they just don’t see any other viable options.
They’re just traditional conservatives who are deathly afraid of “woke cancel culture” in the sense that they’re on edge that some slip of the tongue in public will be recorded, go viral and ruin their lives.
And the leadership of the Republican party knows this very well, so that’s all they talk about. So much so that most of their public statements sound like gibberish to anyone who doesn’t watch Fox News primetime. Any ambitious Republican worth their salt wants to squeeze in “woke,” “critical race theory” and “cancel culture” into any public statement so it might catch the attention of a Fox News producer.
They know what they’re doing, but the net effect is to make them sound like idiots to anyone who isn’t a MAGA New Right person.
But back to the issue at hand. Autocracy.
The United States is an anocracy at the moment. This means we’re not really a democracy and we’re not really an autocracy. And being in this in between politically is a very, very unstable situation. A nation being an anocracy is one of the necessary conditions for civil war, according to experts like Barbara Walter. At the moment, it seems the United States is going to slip peacefully into autocracy.
Trump will run and win in 2024 and we will find ourselves all sitting around waiting for whomever is his veep to become president and, as such, our first true autocrat.
And my Traditionalist relatives will, at first at least, be extremely blase about this new state of affairs. All they will know is their seething rage over the possibility of being “canceled” by “woke culture” is being validated by the new Republican administration.
They will be quite content with the new autocratic policies that President Pompeo or Hawley or Cotton or DeSantis implements. It’s not affecting them in any personal, direct way and their concerns about “woke” culture are being taken seriously, so what’s the problem?
And then there’s me.
I freely admit that, as the late Annie Shapiro said, I’m a “delugional jerk with a good heart.” In short, I can come across as something of a crank. I don’t know what the rules are and I’ve had the luxury of being a round peg in a square hole within the context of a wealthy Western democracy. (Or wealthy constitutional democratic republic if you want to get all MAGA New Right technical about things.)
And should the United States slide into a new political era were we grow more and more autocratic over the years, I’m in trouble. Deep trouble. I’m a loudmouth and refuse to bend a knee to injustice. As such, maybe not immediately, but eventually there will come a point, say, sometime in the 2030s when I may very well simply vanish.
And THEN that will be when the Traditionalist in my family will take notice. That’s it. That’s their red line — ME. That’s why I’ve given up talking about politics with my relatives. They’re great and I love them, but if they wait until I’m in ICE custody because I got drunk and called President Pompeo a fat fuck, well, lulz, maybe they could have done something different as autocracy was taking over the country?
This is the point where I wonder if this just more of my usual “hysterical doom shit.” I just don’t think so. I don’t think it’s “hysterical doom shit” to take the thought leaders of the MAGA New Right at face value. They crave autocracy. They love Russia and long to turn the United States into an autocratic white Christian ethno state of blood and soil.
I know myself well enough to know that while I hate conflict and violence, I take the abstract very seriously. And fuck if I’m going to shut up in deference to our new autocrat. Fuck that and fuck him.