Institutional Arson

As I have noted previously, Michael Gerson is one of the very few principled conservative Republicans who have not traded in their ethics (to the extent they had them) for partisanship advantage in the Trump era.

I have become a semi-regular reader of Gerson’s columns, not because I necessarily agree with his policy preferences (in many, if not most cases, I don’t), but because he is intellectually  consistent and honest, and his opinions are for that reason worth considering.

In an otherwise unremarkable recent column for the Washington Post, Gerson used a phrase that struck me. The column itself addressed the all-too-obvious GOP effort to delegitimize Robert Muller and his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

This quote will convey Gerson’s general approach to that issue–an approach with which I agree wholeheartedly:

Some of Trump’s defenders are claiming, in effect, that the FBI is engaged in a “coup d’etat” (the words of Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz) — a politically motivated attempt to reverse the results of the 2016 election. Their evidence? That some senior investigators donated to Democrats, supported Hillary Clinton and called Trump an “idiot.”

If that last charge were considered a disqualification, we would have the political equivalent of the Rapture (including, apparently, some of the Cabinet).

It was the sentence immediately following this quote that struck me:

Trump Republicans are willing to smear a man of genuine integrity, and undermine confidence in federal law enforcement, for reasons they must know are thin to the point of transparency. This is beyond cynicism. It is institutional arson.

Institutional arson.

That is a perfect description of the current administration’s approach to governing– although, even as I was typing the words “approach to governing,” I realized how misleading that phrase is; it gives Trump and his merry band of vandals far too much credit. Trump is interested in exercising power–and clearly uninterested in governing.

Gerson is certainly  correct when he asserts that the strategy employed by Trump supporters against any institution (the courts, the media, law enforcement) that threatens to expose the administration’s deception and corruption is profoundly anti-conservative.

Genuine conservatives have a point when they claim that Trump voters were not conservatives as we have long understood that term. As data has emerged about the motives of those voters, it appears that racial resentment, coupled with disdain for the enterprise of government and general anger at the “way things are going” fueled a desire to elect someone who would “blow it all up.”

If voters wanted to “blow it all up,” they voted for the right candidate. The only consistent thread in this erratic and ignorant Presidency has been Trump’s obsession with overturning anything his predecessor did. If destroying Obama’s legacy requires damaging the institutions of government, or snatching healthcare away from millions of Americans, or trashing America’s image abroad –well, that’s okay with Trump. No wonder people have dubbed him Agent Orange.

As Gerson noted,

Other presidents would be restrained by the prospect of social division and political chaos. For Trump, these may be incentives. He seems to thrive in bedlam. But the anarchy that sustains him damages the institutions around him — a cost for which he cares nothing.

If history and sociology teach us anything, it’s that anarchy doesn’t work. Institutions–even flawed ones– are vitally important to social stability, and they are a lot easier to destroy than to rebuild.

Ironically, the people who voted for institutional arson are the most likely to get burned.


  1. “Institutional arson” is the right phrase to use to describe what the Republicans are doing to the government… with emphases on arson.

    They are not dismantling; they are not ripping apart; they are not remodeling; they are burning it all down. And unlike dismantling, ripping, and remodeling, with arson you have nothing left with which to rebuild just ashes.

    Anyone out there who believes that after we vote Trump and the Republicans out of office all we have to do is re-enact a lot of laws is in for a real disappointment.

  2. It’s the same mentality going back to the Civil War. Why did poor whites fight in a battle over slavery when they had nothing to gain? Their hate and fear overrode rational thinking.

    As long as they can oppress another class of people, by God…

    Trump gets his “governing cues” from Pence who is a Koch puppet. The Libertarians were first behind the Tea Party and now call themselves Patriots and Americans for Prosperity.

    And you are correct, their main goal is to eliminate the federal government or government regulations and ensure laws made reflect advantages to themselves and their like-minded corporate brethren.

    What we see playing out at the federal level has already played out in many red states like Indiana. IDEM is now the most corrupt organization in the state. We are a top five polluter with four super burning coal plants. Three more than any other state.

    The Koch’s themselves spend $1 billion a year on political ventures. Idiots on MSNBC talk about Russia influencing our election because they spent $100 thousand. LOL

    Lots have been written about the Koch’s. But the Mercer’s are even to the right of them! The Mercer family bankrolls Bannon’s media outlets.

    If we had real journalists doing the work of the free press, we’d have this info in the public realm already but they’re not allowed to talk about the Donor Class. Just in passing.

    The Koch’s want to eliminate the government and politicians so the free market can run everything. No more casting ballots. You’ll use your dollar instead.

    This is why the Koch’s are spending so much on universities across the country. Last I checked, they were funding over 150. Who’s been slowly cutting back funding to universities over the years? Do you think this was a coincidence?


    What cracks me up is our media is distracting “democratic loyalists” with fears of Russian influence while they ignore who controls our state and now federal government. As if we have a democracy, to begin with. 😉

  3. “Trump Republicans are willing to smear a man of genuine integrity, and undermine confidence in federal law enforcement, for reasons they must know are thin to the point of transparency. This is beyond cynicism. It is institutional arson.”

    It was neither Robert Mueller nor James Comey who made the tight connection between Donald Trump, Vladimer Putin and the Russian government; it was Trump’s own big mouth before, during and after the presidential campaign which put it in the forefront. The Trump Republicans appear to have chosen him BECAUSE OF – not in spite of – Trump’s oft repeated glorification of Putin and the Russian government which continues today with his blatant contacts with Putin, the only major world leader he has not insulted and alienated with this big mouth.

    “Ironically, the people who voted for institutional arson are the most likely to get burned.”

    This true comment fits in with, “What goes around, comes around.” and, “No one has more fear of being robbed than a thief.” But’ cam we survive Trump until these truisms become our national truth?

  4. Dear Ms. Kennedy,
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year!
    Let’s hope this person and all his lackeys are finally just STOPPED.
    But let’s also think of one another this New Year; not one of us is in this mess alone.
    Best to you and yours!
    Long live the United States of America!
    Down with the CHEETO!!!

  5. November 2018 is the date American voters in huge numbers will cast their secret ballots to oust the dastardly craven train-wreck congressional Republicans.
    The exodus will usher in a new era of patriots who will begin the national healing of political wounds inflicted by the GOP.

  6. Addendum to my last comment. Anarchy is the best way to describe what is going on. The Visigoths are at the gate and Nero is fiddling, or golfing.

  7. Maybe the best news we have gotten this year happened in Virginia. We’re still waiting the outcome of the last race for the House of Delegates there, but whatever the outcome we need to consider what happened. For the first time in years, nearly every race was contested, not just by old pols, but by regular people who decided they had to engage in the political process. The really good news is that so many of them won.

  8. “November 2018 is the date American voters in huge numbers will cast their secret ballots to oust the dastardly craven train-wreck congressional Republicans.”

    Pat; I have never and will never believe our ballots are secret from the government, why else would some factions require oaths of loyalty if they have no way to know the oath has been “honored”. I was required to raise my hand and swear, under God, and sign a loyalty oath document to the Republican party and to support and vote for Richard Nixon, under Mayor Lugar to be allowed to work for local government. I was forced to “donate” 2% of my $64 weekly paycheck at the end of every payday – in cash. In 2016 I was observed by a poll worker, maybe because I was known in the neighborhood to be 79, deaf and disabled – or known to plant “Pence Must Go” and “Bernie Sanders for President” yard signs in the middle of a forest of “Trump” yard signs. Once I had circled the straight Democratic ticket the poll worker took me by the arm and led me to a ballot machine which rejected my ballot. She was upset that I inserted it the second time before she could stop me; it was again rejected. She took my arm again but before leading me to a second ballot machine she told the man in line behind me not to insert his ballot till she returned. The second machine accepted my ballot and she quickly steered me toward the exit. I had always noticed the ballot machine assigned my ballot a number; a count of voters or identification? I have never felt secure that my 2016 ballot was accepted and counted and will never know. I have never and will never believe our ballots are secret from this government. Especially this current government; the “second coming” of fraud, graft, greed, lies and open criminal activities.

  9. Sometimes the bunny hop works. If this big step back angers and mobilizes the majority of voters to throw out the Trumpistas with all their disastrous capitalism, maybe we can get a strong EPA, minimum wage, single payor health care. And we may keep the majority of voters involved, spurred by the Trumpistas institutional arson, long enough to rebuild the disaster being created.
    Many hurdles here, including putting together a voter bloc that isn’t divided, particularly over social issues. Also, how does one grab some of the news cycle away from a master grabber? Now that the FCC is letting the Sinclair group (rivaling the Koch’s and Mercer’s) buy more than one radio or tv station in a market, advertising is a major hurdle.
    What do folks think of the billionaire Tom Steyer’s efforts to lead impeachment efforts? Is that the way to get the voter bloc together needed for the common good? Better would be to label and market the bundle of ideas the majority of us agree on. I believe marketing the bundle of ideas favored, is a major tool that cannot be ignored.

  10. Todd your comment of: >> The Koch’s themselves spend $1 billion a year on political ventures. Idiots on MSNBC talk about Russia influencing our election because they spent $100 thousand. <<

    This comment is right on target. CNN and MSNBC have spent the past year spinning their conspiracy hypothesis 24/7/365. You are correct the press avoids like the plague connecting the dots that the Oligarchs here in the USA control the selection and election process. The Trumpet is the ugly visible face of the Oligarchs. However, the Trumpet is a useful tool to achieving the goal of Greater Steroid Corporatism.

  11. Institutional arson, in this case, is a smart person’s way of describing the acceleration of the coup coming from right-wing extremists. One must read the 1971 Lewis Powell memo to his pals at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to see the genesis of this coup. In that “memo” Powell calls out to all of corporate/banking America to fund what Gerson describes and Dr. Kennedy expands on today.

    For the oligarchs, the so-called “Libertarians” and all right-wing extremists, this is their mission in life, their quest: To destroy democracy for the sake of the free markets. Their golden calf is Milton Friedman’s “Supply-side” economic theory, a theory that has proven to be an abject failure in practice. No wonder Republicans keep trotting it out to placate their donors.

    Yes, there will be much repair to be done when the Trump-ites are either jailed or removed from office and the Republicans voted out of Congress, state houses and the White House.

    Hell, even little Willie would have to agree with that.

  12. This piece sums it all up. The folks that voted for Trump, or at least some of them, wanted to bring down a government that they felt wasn’t responsive to their needs. Granted that we all feel that way sometimes, but the creature they elected is going to do just that and in doing so rip this country to pieces in the process. They’ll get their wish if he and his equally complicit GOP Congress aren’t stopped but they are very likely going to have the most severe case of buyers remorse in the history of mankind.

    If they think that they’re on the short end of the stick now, just wait and see what that will really look like for them and, unfortunately, the rest of us. Through the miracle of popular suffrage we will have destroyed ourselves.

  13. I want to echo Manuel sentiment of thinking of one another. I look forward to reading Ms. Kennedy daily and the intelligent comments of other readers. It’s a pleasant reprieve and I am grateful to all of you.

  14. The propaganda effort behind all of this is about as diabolical as writers of fiction could conceive. In fact it’s a conspiracy that rivals the conspiracy theories that are woven into the trails of public lies decades long.

    Will Mueller unravel all of it? I’m pretty sure that history will and he will be the first chapter.

    The truth I’m betting will be as awful as the speculation here has been. The rational public seems content to explain it as the gang who couldn’t shoot straight but I’m afraid that the truth will be much more sinister than that. Much more organized. Much greedier.

    Fate seems to dispense the right people at the right time. Mueller is a good example. Smarter and even more methodical than the perpetrators and just as relentless.

    I have always had the belief that WWII ended the way it did because success blows impossibly large egos up. Hitler got to the point where he believed his own propaganda and felt invincible.

    There are bridges too far and this administration’s wealth redistribution bill may prove to be the beginning of the unraveling.

    To the barricades.

  15. Well Vernon,despite your need and reliance upon the curmudgeonly Don Rickles schtick to mask your many personal insecurities,I do agree with your post.

  16. if im tossing a little fire here,may be it, as ive written here before, the present republicans look more and more like the brown shirts of 1933. agent oranges firing of all HIV/AIDS white house staff, sends a more direct message to the people.we, the white house,dont care, we want you, anyone whos sick,anyhere,any how,people who are old, born with defects,defy our reasoning,and speak against us,just get out or die…. how much more of a statement is underline in his actions in the past,decade. im sure William shirer,s book , rise and fall of the third reich, is now in our modern times,and here at home,today…hitler,seem to have bred a real follower in the white house. was it true,that trump,did keep a book of hitlers speaches next to his bed? must have been a audio,so he didnt miss a word while sleeping too.. we see our nation being told, to single out the undesirables,and jail em.or gas em. and the ignorant still persists hes a god…

  17. Willie,

    When you produce your psychology degree, or any degree for that matter, then people will listen to you. Meanwhile, you’re just another troll without a clue. I never related to Don Rickles. YOU are his bitch.

  18. William and Vernon,

    You are both getting close to the line. I do not want to block commenters, nor do I intend to screen for particular viewpoints, but I do insist on civility. Substantive disputes are fine; name calling and insults are not.

  19. Sheila; oh how I wish you had the authority to issue the same words to Trump. “What A Wonderful World This Would Be”

    Thank you; I often need that reminder myself and have deleted comments. Our situation today doesn’t encourage thinking before speaking – or typing – what is actually in our mind at times.

  20. I don’t think I’m anywhere near the line. I will no longer post. The time spent here has been enlightening for myself. Cheers.

  21. well, without commenting on the good and bad sides of President Trump (I of course voted for Gov. Gary Johnson, the best of the 3 candidates for President) there is a nice article in the current? issue of Bloomberg Business Week about Gov. Mitch Daniels of Purdue, who is revitalizing higher education in Indiana, and was seriously considered as an excellent Republican candidate for president until his wife flaked out. Maybe Governors do make the best candidates for President? Perhaps there is hope for Mike Pence, or perhaps Daniel’s is still a viable prospect? AND from Indiana AND Syria.

  22. Sheila,

    Thanks for the reminder. Nobody likes being attacked ad hominem, and I am one of those. Where I learned to survive, one didn’t give in to such things. This is the only time someone on your blog has called me out so irresponsibly and I will comply with your wishes and your decorum.

    I WILL continue to contribute, because good friends of mine put me onto your blog. It is a very good, fair and intelligent blog with many excellent contributions every day. I want to continue to be part of that group.

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