1619 and Hard Choices

The thing I think most about when I think about slavery is the hard choices that people faced, and the many failures and successes they had in thought and action that contributed to history arriving to us as it did. The best histories draw out those choices, and they remind us of our own challenges on issues like climate change or having a generally horrible president.

Consider, for example, the southern tradesman who made farm equipment. Maybe he believed in abolition, believed slavery a grave and indecent institution, and yet he was powerless (in his mind) to stop it. He had choices. He could speak out against it to all who could hear, mostly his customers, losing their business. He could move north or west or overseas, giving up all he had worked for and risking his family’s future. He could do the little things, trying to raise the issue indirectly through microaggressions against the institution.

There were plenty who did all of them, and more who ignored their call, and others still who did worse. One tell that’s worth noting is that those die-hard slavers bothered to make arguments about the intellect of the enslaved and other pseudoscientific endeavors in that vein. That’s a good sign they knew everything was not right. Nobody bothers to excuse the digging of dirt, for nobody is afraid that the dirt is capable of offense. But those who went through major efforts to distinguish and codify the condition of the enslaved Africans seemed often in doing so to admit their guilt.


Today’s hard choices are often on the backs of Republicans who are faced with the institution of Trumpism. The stakes are not now as high as with slavery, at least in terms of numbers, but they are more dear to us in that they are real to us today. And the same options avail the average Republican as then. And the same excuses bubble in their minds, that their livelihood depends upon them going along with the wickedness. Or that they would risk too much for not themselves but for their family. Or that they are merely powerless, too insignificant and too busy.

And today’s hard choices are on all our backs, with climate change. That we do not and cannot decipher the choice between metal straws and paper straws and maybe we should all just carry around funnels and pour liquids in our mouths that way. Or that we need the SUV rather than something more efficient, because roads are dangerous. Or we need the SUV to show we’re not sissies into that green revolution shite.


That’s where I come to mostly when I think about slavery. The stain on the fabric of society that it represented, and how we have our own stains today, most of which are not as directly evil, but still significant and still we face the same sorts of difficulties in navigating them, which acts to slow our ability to wash clean our body and act surely for our own and our children’s betterment.

How Trumpism Dies.

There are several ways that Trumpism may die. It may die quickly.

The quick death of Trumpism relies upon some major defeat or otherwise loss of momentum or coherency (of the movement; it has never been coherent in policy or otherwise). A crushing 2020 election, or a sudden reversal of support from the business world, an economic fall, or a major and striking policy blunder, domestic or foreign.

Some of the above features exist in fetal form. The weighing strains upon the farming communities, the lack of planning or strategy in foreign matters, the aging growth cycle with many signs of distress, the historic low approval ratings for the party leader. . .

In the quick death scenario, the result hearkens back to the latter days of George W. Bush’s second term, whereupon the public generally was tired of him (even before the economy faltered in earnest). The people are simply not in the mood to entertain the president further, at that point, and they are merely tolerant of his continuance to the end of his term. In this case, a majority have been weary from the get-go, so the death relies on removal of the life-support system that is the Trumpist base.

The fulcrum of Trumpism is Trump the myth or man. There are occasional rumblings of certain factions of his base that he’s not enough of a hard-ass on whatever issue. But they don’t break through any more than the normal, mainstream criticisms. The majority of Trump supporters aren’t supporting a policy. They are merely supporting the face.

Trump is a shiny object, as-seen-on-TV. He’s a catchy tune. Trump is retro, man. He took the old shtick of the bygone politicians of early ages and repackaged them for the modern rube. He’s a hula hoop. Back during that craze, if people found out that those hoops were somehow undermining democracy, do you really think that people who fell for the gimmick would have stopped swinging their torsos? Hell no. You’d have to pry them from their cold, dead hips.

Er. . . But, taken hypothetically that Trumpism dodges all of those factors and there is not a quick death. Trump is reelected for a second bite at the apple that he does not deserve, his first one having already revealed the rot not in the fruit but in the man biting it. The quick death scenario is forestalled but only temporarily. It is still a perfectly plausible event to occur after the postponement.

Indeed, the idea of Trumpism surviving Trump would be contrary to the modern habit of our politics, in which each new quadrennial election brings a revision of one or both major parties. So the question of survival beyond a quick death practically reverses the question. What would it take for Trumpism to survive beyond Trump?

For one, it would require coherence. There would have to be more than a madman’s tweets to sustain it beyond the end of Trump’s tenure. There would have to be adherents who understand that underlying policy and are prepared to defend it, rather than merely covering for their bumbling and cantankerous leader. The weight would have to transfer to a new fulcrum and away from Trump himself. Which makes it all the less likely, as they do not have enough coordination in the organizations at work that can develop such a policy background. And even if they did, Trump would never stand to be anything but the center of gravity of his weird little world.

Short of that transference, there would need be an heir-apparent, some personality akin to Trump that would be available to take up the chicken bucket. Thus far, there are a number of celebrity figures of that dungeon of the political and entertainment world, but none have shown the kind of appeal that Trump has. Which, I admit, gives Trump a certain amount of credit for being better than most at a certain kind of act.

Trump developed his celebrity rich kid status over decades, and he spent all of that credit to get where he is today. Even if he gave another the Trump endorsement, could somehow stand to let the spotlight shift, it’s not clear it would do them much good without the very particular set of attributes that allowed fools to latch onto Trump.

More likely is the kind of schism seen in major religions and countries that do not hold elections—a war of succession. And that is the second way that Trumpism may die. It may happen even if the death is quick, and it may be among the reasons that all the Republicans are sticking to Trump—they want to be ready to pick sides in the aftermath, not losing any positioning.

But schisms are generally reserved for when the resulting factions are the only options. In a Trumpist schism, there would still be some kind of regular Republican party, there would be the Democrats, plus at least two Trumpists trying to claim the chicken buckets mantle. And while Trump could try to rally the followers to one of them, he’s likely to fail. He will no longer be the magic-maker for those fools, and they will have their own opinions of who the new one should be.

(But I really don’t see Trump handing over the chicken bucket. Maybe for the right price, but even then he’s known to do a slack job and to be ready to slander those whom he ostensibly seeks to boost (see several examples in Republican candidates he endorsed in special elections since 2016).)


Trumpism will die, I have no doubt, because it is entirely propped up by Trump. The followers don’t really have any belief beyond liking Trump. There’s nothing to keep it going now that the scam has gotten him paid, and even if he wanted to, he won’t have an endgame other than selling straws and dreck (but maybe he gets to put his name on a tall building in Moscow, Russian Federation).

On the other hand, many of the ideas that Trump employs, which are not Trumpism but rebranded constructs of the Republican party, will not die so swiftly. They will only be solved when all people feel secure, that they will have a place in society and an equal status independent of their employment or other acquired characteristics. That day is yet to be scheduled, but one supposes it will come.