According to the White House's press secretary, Sean Spicer, America has already begun its slip into the abysmal slope of a yawning dictatorship.
Roughly two months ago, Spicer mused that full media access to the office of the U.S. presidency is "what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship." Spicer defended the Trump campaign's barring of certain media outlets from access, while pointedly noting: "Look, there’s a big difference between a campaign where it is a private venue using private funds and a government entity. I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something you can’t ban an entity from."
But, of course, "you can." And Spicer has.
His boss, meanwhile, at CPAC, lectured the nation that the press "shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name." Observes the NY Times, one of Spicer's banned media outlets: Trump's "comments came shortly after his own aides had held a briefing for the White House press pool on the condition of anonymity." Such is the sick, twisted, ad hoc logic of a dictatorial regime.
Added Trump in somewhat martial language, the press is "the enemy of the people." He went on. "We’re going to do something about it." They did — and with more to come, no doubt.
In his artificially constructed war against the press, Trump's end game is both vastly perplexing and stupendously obvious. He's a minority-elected president with a base destined to dwindle, as his administration's incompetence becomes apparent to the minority's periphery (all, that is, but Trump's hardcore base). Some observers have speculated that Trump's incompetence will in fact never become apparent to the fringe's fringe, because of the right's infamous bubble, "epistemic closure" and echo chambers. It should be noted with indefatigable persistence, however, that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh et al — the echo chamber's usual suspects — do not possess 63 million (Trump's 2016 tally) viewers and listeners. Thus in time — six months, 12 or 18 — Trump's electoral base will narrow to its more natural order: perhaps the high 30-percent range, approximately 10 points lower than the 46 with which he was elected.
Hence the stupendously obvious. Having rejected moderation (and anything close to a national consensus) as a governing principle, Trump must maintain flamboyant levels of hysteria among his minority base. The press is the enemy, as are — and this is the more critical point — all those who credit the press with credibility. The president will rule as a besieged dictator would — a ruler necessarily antagonistic to the majority. From a democratic perspective, a philosophical and profoundly anti-democratic perversity is well on its way to defining the Trump administration.
And yet therein lies the vast perplexity of his end game. Trump's heated intensification of a minority power base is doomed as both a governing principle and reelection proposition. It will, as well, alienate his tentative congressional allies. Trump is deliberately closing off all supportive avenues, except that of the 30-some-odd percent. One suspects that Trump's pathological narcissism has him convinced that the nation will come around to his dictatorial approach to governance — but that, as any conscientious survey of the American political tradition would suggest, is, indisputably, an absolute dead end.
Our perplexity is resolved, then, only by this singular proposition: Donald Trump is barking mad — utterly, even psychotically out of touch with political reality.