This post is about US politics. I don't know a lot about US politics, and I'd like to apologise in advance to any American readers for whom this is either wrong, or obvious-and-patronising. In either case, I would be grateful to be told of it.
There's an old saying that one should never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence. In politics, I like to add a second line to say that one should never ascribe to Grand Secret Masterplans what can be explained by shortsighted opportunism. In general, these razors have served me well. They explain most of British politics most of the time, including Brexit.
I'm not entirely sure that these rules apply to what's happening in the US at the moment. There may well be malice in much of what Trump does, but more importantly I'm not sure that there isn't an undisclosed agenda in play. I don't think that Trump himself has much intent beyond the obvious (that is, Winning, as he sees it, and perhaps doing what he sees as a good job of running things). But many of his team are much bigger sharks than him, and in Bannon and perhaps others, there may be something more sinister. Trump's a delegator - he's said so himself - so his lieutenants matter.
I'd been half-expecting the moral panic over "fake news" to morph into Something Must Be Done, leading to the administration gaining influence over the press. But the time for that has passed, for now, and at the moment it's probably still far enough from the Overton window of constitutional acceptability to be contemplated.
I'd be interested to know how the bans on certain nationalities entering the US has played with the US public in general. Obviously my bubble is overwhelmingly opposed to it, but that doesn't tell me anything. Equally obviously there will be vocal people on the internet who are just as strongly in favour, but without some numbers on this - on what proportion of the populace are for or against - there isn't much actual information. I'm curious as to whether this move backfired, or whether it's seen as a success by a majority of the Trump fan-base. Either way, two things have come out of it:
Firstly, this article
. Twitter has mostly been focussing on "the border authority said that those with green cards wouldn't be affected, then Bannon and Miller overruled them", but the broader story here appears to be the administration refusing to consult affected experts. In other words, a group of rulers with no experience in politics or government is refusing advice from those whose job it will be to carry out the orders. This causes chaos and confusion, but also means that they will cause horrible side-effects unintentionally
Secondly, the changes to the composition of the National Security Council
. This hasn't had a huge amount of attention, since it was announced when everybody was looking at the airports, but from my position of ignorance regarding how US government works, it feels significant - the career military and intelligence experts have lost their permanent seats at the table, and Steve Bannon has gained one. This feels like it's a consolidation of power by Bannon, and strikes me as one of those moves that could turn out to be unimportant or could feature in a "one of the early moves was..." sentence in the history classes of the future.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember, in a big-picture sense, is that the new administration are not
playing by the rules. US politics was dirty before, in that those involved would exploit the letter of the rules in unintended ways... but most of the politicians were lawyers, and rather like the kind of board gamers who are no fun to play with they would exploit the hell out of loopholes, and try to change laws to suit, but regard the laws themselves as sacrosanct. Trump and his boys are not
lawyers, and are quite happy to do whatever they can get away with.
Here are three stories that I don't feel well-placed to judge the importance of, either because I don't understand America enough or which I think the (un)importance of will only become clear in hindsight:
- A theory as to why Trump registered as a candidate for the next election on the day of his inauguration, which is not usual behavior (the whole thread up to this tweet)
- The Department for Homeland Security appears to be ignoring an order from a federal judge, which had granted an emergency stay against some aspects of Trump's order
- States openly using their own (legal) resources to oppose the federal government
that this is all down to the inexperienced flailings of some horrible people. I hope that there is no higher-level strategy with obvious analogies from history. I'm not yet ready to conclude that we're watching the early stages of an authoritarian takeover, but neither am I prepared to dismiss the possibility.
 if one accepts that Tories are not necessarily panto evil - that's the topic of another post, one that I've been trying to work out how to write for a few years
 My instinct is that he's actually a delegator until he decides to micromanage something. This probably makes him a nightmare to work for as a businessman, but is less relevant in the current context.
EDIT: This article
pulls together the things that I had spotted and a few others, and concludes that this could be a trial run for a coup. It's paranoid, of course - it adds approximately 2, and approximately 2, and approximately 2, and gets exactly
6 for the worst possible interpretation - but it's worth remembering that paranoid people are not necessarily wrong.
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