As the House marches, seemingly inexorably, toward impeaching Donald Trump, the administration is in full-bore Cult of Personality mode. Examples? Trump’s press secretary touting “the genius of our great president”; the White House trying to bar federal agencies from subscribing to The New York Times and The Washington Post because of their critical reporting on Trump; and the Justice Department, after months of badgering from Trump, launching a criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia inquiry, thus further weaponizing the most powerful domestic department in the federal government.
This is, of course, partly the routine Noise thrown up by these masters of distraction, but it’s also a Signal that all the accepted political rules are being ripped up and replaced by a march toward autocracy and a Jim Jones–style leadership cult. The weaker Trump’s political position gets, the more intense the fanatical devotion of his remaining loyalists. There are a lot of Signals out there that if he goes down, his most extremist followers will respond with violence. Witness Florida pastor Rick Wiles’s extraordinarily inflammatory comments last week about Trump supporters hunting down his opponents.
This fetid administration isn’t about to go silently into the night. It might not be getting much legislation passed, but almost every day it issues new rules that will do serious damage. Examples from just the past week:
- The Justice Department issued a rule designed to allow the attorney general to order the Department of Homeland Security to conduct wholesale, and involuntary, DNA collection from detained immigrants.
- The administration imposed yet another dilution of endangered species protections when it failed to put in place timely protections for nearly four dozen endangered species.
Of course, even in the Cult of Trump era, the Signal doesn’t always emanate from DC. California is experiencing another autumn fire calamity, triggered by a bone-dry October and fiercely strong windstorms. This tragedy is now generating a full-bore political crisis. The state’s electricity grid is dangerously vulnerable, and millions are being subjected to prolonged blackouts. At the same time, other issues are also testing public patience: The state’s average gas price is more than a dollar a gallon higher than elsewhere in the country, prompting the governor to order an investigation into price fixing; and the homelessness crisis is escalating by leaps and bounds. Democrats have built up huge political capital in the Golden State over the past decade, but if these problems aren’t tackled head-on, the state’s electorate could turn on their leaders.
Meanwhile, in the face of a declared state of emergency, an evening curfew, and the presence of the military on the streets, more than a million Chileans demonstrated in Santiago this past Friday against economic inequality.
That’s all part of this week’s Signal. And one more example of Noise? The extraordinary sound of a stadium full of baseball fans booing Donald J. Trump at the World Series.