The Zero Sum: Math and Politics in the Age of Trump

Trump is the visible godhead of a 60-year old reactionary / revolutionary political movement, funded by conservative businessmen such as Charles Koch, and animated by the unsentimental Leninist belief that politics is entirely a zero-sum, territorial game. Indeed, one of the precepts of Koch Conservatism (as Steve Bannon also believes and has stated) is that politics is war.

By this measure, we can understand the demographic stacking of the Trump Administration with old, male, European-Americans as evidence of the political talents harnessed, prepped, and unleashed by this political movement. Those within the demographic groups left behind will not, ever, be able to successfully engage the “Trumpist” movement until they expose, analyze, adopt, and adapt the political strategies and tactics perfected by Koch Conservatism, as embellished and applied to governing / ruling by Steve Bannon.

 

The Zero Sum

The zero-sum part matters. Trump is the visible godhead of a 60-year old reactionary / revolutionary political movement, funded by conservative businessmen such as Charles Koch, and animated by the unsentimental Leninist belief that politics is entirely a zero-sum, territorial game. Indeed, one of the precepts of Koch Conservatism (as Steve Bannon also believes and has stated) is that politics is war.

By this measure, we can understand the demographic stacking of the Trump Administration with old, male, European-Americans as evidence of the political talents harnessed, prepped, and unleashed by this political movement.

Demographic groups left behind will not, ever, be able to successfully engage the “Trumpist” movement until they expose, analyze, adopt, and adapt the political strategies and tactics perfected by Koch Conservatism.

  • where is the math
  • psychology of the zero sum
  • politics a game – a zero sum game – that’s what makes it fun – clear losers and winners – idea of everyone winning, or winning / positive outcomes more prevalent over time than losing / negative outcomes is not fun
  • history of the zero sum
  • fences / boundaries / borders
  • demography of the zero sum – rural / urban divide
  • but really those who occupy an environment and condition of emotional immediacy – elites = those who plan, who have means to consider long term; who perceive the world more or less objectively
  • violence / physicality / police / border patrol
  • the zero sum media – Breitbart / Infowars / Fox – striking how assaultive these sites are visually – not whether people have interesting things to say – do you agree with me – the shibboleth – the tribe – the code words
  • advertising and politics – psychometrics
  • kleptocracy
  • cynicism and contempt
  • violence / war / purifying / regeneration through violence (Bannon War obsession – Daily Beast)
  • Stephen Miller –
  • Border Patrol Union – fascism and police – (America’s Deportation Agents Love Trump’s Ban and Rely on Breitbart for Their News) – Trump’s executive order spurs Facebook and Twitter checks at the border
  • Bannon and hobbits
  • Christianity and Islam – war against Islam – issue of assimilation (Trump’s Immigration Order Is Just the Opening Salvo in Steve Bannon’s War Against Islam) – Bannon, Miller, Flynn – provocation
  • Bannon not all that – no one is
  • but has everyone playing defense – need to go on offense
  • the hammer and the nail – the end times –
  • how do we know evil – the evil in our hearts – but those who only see it in others the tinder through which evil burns
  • Steve Bannon, Charles Martel, Black Jack Pershing – pig’s blood
  • military / force mystique -militarization of police

Shun

In October, David Letterman, who has known Donald Trump for more than 30 years, warned us. Trump is a “damaged human being,” he said. And, given his inability to self-correct for the damage, Trump is a person to be shunned.

Shunning’s only modern analogue might be unfriending or blocking someone on Facebook or Twitter, and to be sure, given Trump’s unbounded hunger for attention, simply ignoring and refusing to acknowledge his Twitter spasms, might eventually give him pause.

But we know that won’t happen, and in any case, the Twitter Tune-Out strategy misses the point of shunning, which is to establish boundaries that clearly communicate that one’s behavior makes them unfit for society.

Ideally, the shunned will experience shame, the condition of moral inversion in which one’s depraved soul is on display for all to see. Shame is a form of social death, and for those who become its object, shunning and isolation is an appropriate outcome.

Casting Trump, and perhaps some of his followers, into the wilderness to fend for themselves, has its appeal. We can be sure it would make for terrific reality television.

In a way, we can imagine the idea of Trump in the Wilderness as a more punitive, but also more socially appropriate, counterpart to the techbro / hedge fund fantasy of escape from a dying civilization. Maybe a bit like the stranding of Archer villain, Barry Dylan, in space at the end of the 3rd Season.

 

Blowtorch and Candle

 

At the end of her speech at the Woman’s March, Madonna voiced an impolitic urge to blow up the White House. She was angry, but this was not the concerning remark. Madonna went on to reference W.H. Auden’s statement, on the eve of World War II, that we must love one another or die.

 

Unfairly or not, that liberal piety- we must love one another or die – may be what unmoors us. Love certainly matters in fighting hate, and may be especially important in preserving some light in our lives when darkness descends (as it surely has). Love must be part of the long game. But in the short run, love will do little to help us.

 

For this reason, Madonna was also correct to recognize and give voice to righteous anger. Because without anger to steel us, institutionalized hate will attack and consume love the way a blowtorch attacks a candle.

 

Security Snowflakes

 

Risk perceptions are relative, I suppose. Emotionally volatile Trump supporters have anchored themselves to a dark, dystopian vision of their world shadowed by (non-white) predators and (non-white, non-Christian) terrorists. They don’t care whether there is any basis in reality to their primal (and really quite child-like and “snowflake”-like fears). The “terror” they experience is truly in their minds, not walking their streets.

 

Trump and his ship of fools certainly seem like a bunch of scaredy-cats given the actual incidence of violence, terror, and mayhem in the United States in comparisons to other parts of the world. There are many ways to parse this reality, but here are two good visuals from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland. The first is a terrorism heat-map covering the years from 1970-2015. The second is a terrorism heat-map focusing just on global terrorist activity in 2015.

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