Thursday, January 21, 2021

Is Trump a "Total Failure" for the Proud Boys?

Those who believed Trump's revolutionary syllogism, and who acted on it by joining the Capitol Hill insurrection, now look like fools.

During the election campaign, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, offered to serve as Trump's private militia.  In one of the presidential debates, Trump encouraged them by telling them to "stand back and stand by."  After the election, the Proud Boys supported his "Stop the Steal" movement by joining protest rallies where they often became violent.  They posted messages saying: "Hail Emperor Trump."  When his lawsuits for overturning the election failed, they called for him to declare martial law and lead them in a second civil war.  When he called for the storming of the U.S. Capitol, they answered the call; and over 100 of them have been arrested for their violence in the Capitol building.

But now the Proud Boys say that Trump has been a "total failure."  (Many of the other far-right groups--such as the Oath Keepers, America First, and the Three Percenters--are saying the same thing.)  Trump failed to lead the march on the Capitol as he promised on the morning of January 6.  He condemned their insurrectionary violence.  He refused to pardon those who have been arrested.  And rather than declaring martial law to prevent Biden from taking office, Trump meekly walked out of the White House and flew to Florida.

There are two possible explanations for this.  Either Trump did not believe his revolutionary syllogism, because he did not really believe the election was stolen from him; or he did believe it, but he lacked the courage to become a military dictator.  Nicholas Fuentes, the leader of America First, has said that Trump proved to be "very weak and flaccid."

In either case, we can say that Trump's illiberal populism has failed, and liberal democracy has prevailed.  I see this as vindicating the end-of-history argument:  the progress of the Liberal Enlightenment can be slowed, but it cannot be stopped, because it satisfies the deepest human desires.


Anonymous said...

Larry, what is the position of the people at the Claremont Institute on whether or not Biden stole the election from Trump? And what is their position on the Capital Building riot, both who caused it and how legitimate or harmful it was?

Larry Arnhart said...

The Claremont Institute has sponsored the work of John Eastman, and so I assume they agree with his arguments supporting Trump's lawsuits claiming that the election was fraudulent or unconstitutional or both. Eastman has emphasized the constitutional power of the state legislatures in determining the "manner" of choosing presidential electors, and he argues that in many states the electoral procedures violated state election law.

Some of the essays posted at Claremont's "American Mind" blog suggest that they support the position taken by Senators Cruz and Hawley--condemning the Capitol Hill rioting but endorsing the idea that there should have been more congressional debate over whether the presidential election was fair.

More generally, the Claremont Institute has embraced Trump as the leader of the "conservative populist movement." Whether that is a prudent decision is the big question.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. Do the Claremont people have any explanation for why all the court cases failed?

--Les Brunswick

Larry Arnhart said...

As far as I know, they have offered no explanation for the failure of the Trump lawsuits.

I should say that John Eastman's legal brief for Trump does make one plausible argument. In the Bush v. Gore opinion of 2000, Justice Rehnquist argued that Florida court orders dictating recount procedures violated the constitutional clause giving state legislatures the exclusive power to set the terms for selecting electors: "Each State shall appoint in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." (Art. II, sec. 1). In 2020, because of the Covid pandemic, some secretaries of state, state courts, or election boards changed some voting rules to make it easier for people to cast absentee ballots. Eastman and other Trump lawyers said that this was unconstitutional because it changed the election laws enacted by the state legislatures. Consequently, the lawyers argued, the elections in those states where this occurred should be overturned by the courts, and the (Republican controlled) state legislatures should be free to select Trump electors, although Biden electors had won the popular vote.

There are two problems with this argument, however. First, it does not claim that there was any fraudulent voting, and thus it contradicts Trump's claim of vote fraud.

The second problem is that few judges would assert the power to overturn the outcome of a presidential election, certified by the states, where there is no evidence of fraudulent voting.

Anonymous said...

Ok, thanks for the response.

--Les Brunswick