5 min read

An Atlas of Collapse: Authoritarianism in the US

An Atlas of Collapse: Authoritarianism in the US

It's possible, I guess, that a few liberals subscribe to this newsletter. If that's true, then this letter in particular is either going to make you unsubscribe or stop being a liberal. I suppose you could power through, but that seems unlikely and, frankly, kind of weird. Let's hope the latter occurs, though.

The reason it's weird is because Joe Biden, current President of the United States, is an authoritarian, and the United States as a country is, too. Now, before anyone finger-wags or hems and haws or whatever other gestures of nitpicking, yes, I'm being a little loose with the dictionary definition. However, when we're discussing such a potent subject, I think I'm allowed a little grace. (Also consider that first drafts of this letter just outright called Joe a fascist). Anyway, I don't care what a poli-sci major has to say about the inaccuracy of my claims. You understand the spirit.

Consider the following:

-The majority of Americans oppose Israel's genocide of Palestinians. This is a full, outright majority, with only 33% actually supporting Israel. Despite this, our government, with Biden very much at the forefront, continue to send arms and support to Israel, contrary to the will of the people.

-Biden has repeatedly gone around his own government in order to fund this genocide. Not that I consider the government to be any kind of arbiter of righteousness, this is indicative of the kind of centralization of power in the executive branch that has been going on for some time. This will only accelerate when Trump returns to the White House.

-Biden has repeatedly called for and given more funding to police. As cops across the country brutalize the communities they are supposed to protect, Biden's administration is calling for money for 100,000 more cops to be put on the streets. This announcement was released a day after Biden, speaking on the pro-Palestinian university encampments, stated that "order must prevail." I shouldn't need to tell you that police don't preserve order, but I will: police don't preserve order. They preserve the status quo and protect the property of the 1%.

The Authoritarian Center

It should come as no surprise to most of you that when Biden came into office he was not bringing a leftward swing with him. The Overton window has been pushed far to the right, such that while Biden may wear the mask of a sensibly centrist democrat, he is, in fact, probably somewhere to the right of your dad and cozy with Ronald Reagan. He is a huge proponent of the police, of severe anti-crime legislation, and a fervent Zionist. While Biden's time in the White House is almost certainly coming to an end, he has done more than enough damage to our nation and to the globe in these interminable four years.

His legacy doesn't end with his eviction, either. There is still a core of support in liberals for just this sort of president: one who will do everything a cartoon villain like Trump will, just with a certain veneer of civility. For these people, our last three Dem presidents are essentially faultless, despite the party, since Clinton, descending into a kind of aping of Republican talking points. Despite Obama's unprecedented (at the time) drone strike programs, Clinton's help in creating NAFTA, Biden's full-throated participation in genocide. And if you think I'm wrong, ask them how they would feel about a Hilary Clinton presidency–they'll start foaming at the mouth over the possibility, though she has proven to be as hawkish as any of them.

This mini-movement, not nearly so headline-grabbable as far right radicalism, is a kind of radical movement in itself. Radical centrism, as oxymoronic as that might sound, and perhaps as good as that might sound in the face of the bullshit we've been dealing with, is not a solution to our problems. It's my guess that, while I don't expect this movement to actually have any success versus the GOP in the short term, is going to walk hand-in-hand with them toward the right and away from any semblance of the former ideals we had in this country. It's a movement that idolizes, much like the far right, authority, albeit one that we would generally find more palatable.

If you imagine, for a moment, that Trump did not pose a real threat to Biden's next term–but enough of one to scare-monger–then you would see in this coming election a rush of liberals around Biden as a supposed champion of a strong America, one capable of defending our supposed allies abroad from threats of "terrorism" and, funnily enough, dictators. You would see these people rally around a socially-liberal America First agenda, one that quickly embraces eco-fascism at our borders while assuring us that Black and brown lives matter. Funding would continue to thin for all programs except the police and military, and perhaps some paltry attempts at climate reform. But it wouldn't work. All that you'd have is a velvet-gloved authoritarian regime, ensuring that, at best, everyone has the equal right to work for Amazon water rations–but no right to protest.

This may sound like comical conjecture–and to some extent, I'll admit, it is. Whiteness gives us that room to breathe and laugh about this. But it's not conjecture for the students being arrested for protesting a genocide. It's not conjecture for the activists in Atlanta fighting against the flagship Cop City, being charged under RICO for organizing bail funds. It's not conjecture, most importantly, for the thousands of Gazans dead under American bombs, nor the survivors fighting for their lives against a government bent on ethnic cleansing and colonialism under the aegis of the United States. Antony Blinken has threatened the UN with ending support for the World Food Program should Palestine be recognized as a state, for chrissake.

Consider, too, that well after the drafting of this letter but before its posting, Biden signed an executive order throttling asylum and, under certain conditions, shutting down the border entirely. This is a Trumpian order, pure and simple, and liberals are for it. That's the kind of authoritarianism I'm talking about. It's a veneer of sympathy hiding a dropping boot.

The Future of Fascism

This is the trouble: the United States will become more authoritarian. I think that's inescapable. Our future is fascist. Whether it's outright fascism–real, goose-stepping fascism–or the kind of fascism that mostly allows for the death and subjugation of people outside of the United States–I can't say for sure. Most likely, it will be something closer to the latter but trending toward an ever-narrowing patch of free grass for us here. There's a well-known theory called Foucault's Boomerang, which states that whatever empires do abroad, they ultimately do to their own citizens. It has consistently come true.

And this is, of course, all theoretical. Without Trump dropping dead–because the legal system is not going to be our savior–he is going to win. And so we've got more to discuss on the righthand side of the devil. We'll continue this discussion next week, because we haven't really delved into the collapse part of this, and Trump's return will certainly push us closer to that edge.