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Why Washington D.C. Compulsively Lies About Donald Trump

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21.10.2019

When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. I grew up in an isolated and not especially large town, but it did have one comic book and baseball card shop that I spent a lot of time in, salivating over the Mark McGwire rookie card in the display case. I couldn’t afford it — it was worth maybe $5 at the time — so I would usually just buy a pack of Topps or Donruss cards for 50 cents and hope I got lucky in what I found. Obviously, I didn’t get as lucky finding the cards for my favorite players as I would have liked.

Then one day, a friend of mine threw open the back door of the shop looking for a bathroom. He found an employee in the back with a table full of baseball card packages and a candle. In those days, some packs still came wrapped in wax paper.

The employee of the store was carefully opening up the packs, shuffling through the cards, and taking out the valuable cards. He was using the wax from the candle to reseal the wax paper, and then sold them to unsuspecting kids like us. I was growing up fast, and already on the verge of trading my sports and comics hobbies for musical obsessions, but you can imagine that this soured me a bit on baseball card collecting.

As political allegories go, this is a bit of a Rorschach test. Who do you think Donald Trump is in this story? The guy enriching himself behind closed doors? Or the impetuous young kid who flings open the door and exposes the corruption?

Not that there isn’t a case to be made for Trump as a swindler — my sincere apologies to Trump University students — but that’s a bit obvious and there is no shortage of people screaming “Emoluments!” into the Twitter void. How Trump’s supporters see his role in exposing America’s political corruption is a much more interesting question and could go a long way toward explaining how a potential impeachment plays out.

For some time, I have been trying to articulate a specific idea about how various elites and institutions cover for the political class and how the Trump-era “resistence” was the antithesis of this. Then a very smart friend of mine, thinking along nearly identical lines, blurted this out over email:

I think the world generally, and the world of the powerful in particular, is far less lucid and more incoherent than most assume. The main difference between Trump and his predecessors is that the professional class / deep state / neoliberal order / whatever-you-want-to-call-it is fluent in a language that imposes a kind of regulative fiction on that chaos. Their fluency gives them gives them a patina of legitimacy and not a little power over the less fluent, which comforts some normies but also drives conspiratorial thinking. Trump and a lot of the people around him lack this fluency and have no interest in cultivating it.

For what it’s worth, the phrase “regulative fiction” is borrowed from Nietzsche, or at least his translator.

I think this desperate need to maintain the regulative fiction in Washington is the whole ballgame for understanding what is going on with the Trump administration. For a very long time before Trump, the “regulative fiction” was getting very, very discordant with reality. Certainly, the WMD issue and poorly planned wars in the Bush administration soured even conservative voters. And then the Obama administration happened and things got a........

© The Federalist