What I Said

The CNN is literally fundraising for the Trump campaign:

Yes, they must be totally terrified of him getting elected to give him this amount of free air time and placing the chyron so that the donation number is highlighted.

Personalities Matter

I went to evaluate graduate student presentations today, and the presentation on the order of adjectives in a sentence (e.g. do you say “a red tasty fish” or “a tasty red fish”?) that I thought I’d find the most boring was actually the best of all. The grad student who did this research is so in love with his topic and is delivering it with such verve and joy that he had a small crowd next to his project at all times. There were projects that featured a small robot invented by a grad student, there was woodworking, really good art, all sorts of things. But people were mesmerized by the adjectives because the personality of the presenter was so big.

By the way, the mystery of the grad student whose research praises the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact has been revealed. Guess who she’s been rooming with for the past year? Yes, my Russian instructor. She says speaking to the Russian really helped her clarify her prospective on the evils of Baltic nationalisms.

A Source of Legitimacy

Every form of power seeks legitimacy. There needs to be something that justifies the rule in the eyes of the ruled. The worst, bloodiest dictators make very sure they give something valuable to the people. They seek consent.

Franco stayed in power for 36 years because under his rule people’s standard of living soared. That’s where he derived his legitimacy. This economic miracle was created by the US, of course, but Franco made the US want to do it.

Pinochet made Chile the best functioning economy in South America, so for a while Chileans put up with the dead, the tortured, and the disappeared.

Stalin made “life better and more fun” (it’s a famous quote). He really did. There was a dramatic improvement in the standard of living. That was the source of his legitimacy.

No dictatorship survives on terror alone. There’s always an enthusiastic consent on the part of the people. Of course, the terror makes people more eager to grant consent but there still needs to be something they are getting out of it.

Putin is no Stalin or even Pinochet. There are no concentration camps, no mass torture, no blood-soaked stadiums, no Tontons Macoutes, no dead bodies strewn around every morning to keep the populace terrorized. So what’s his source of legitimacy? If even Stalin or Hitler with their hardcore repressive apparatuses needed to give something – a lot, actually – to remain legitimate, what does Putin give his people? There’s no improvement in the standard of living. Nothing remotely like what Franco, Stalin, or Pinochet gave their people. (Or, on the positive side of the political equation, what FDR gave Americans with the New Deal or Adenauer to post-war Germans).

So what are the Russians getting out of it? They are eagerly running off to die by the hundreds of thousands. It’s been decades since US presidents were able to give anything to the American people remotely worth this kind of dedication. Even Stalin didn’t immediately manage to get his people to sign on like this during WWII.

Look at it from the point of view of legitimacy of power, and things become very clear.

Truly American

It is at times like these that I most acutely feel that I’ll never truly become an American. I just can’t comprehend why this Trump-related drama number five million isn’t insanely boring. It’s so repetitive. Everybody on either side has already said exactly what they are saying now on a gabizillion previous Trump-related occasions.

Why is being stuck in this loop a good use of one’s time? It can’t be entertaining because it’s always the same. It can’t be instructive or edifying. It’s a time and energy drain with no reward. Even the second round of the academic Hunger Games I’m participating in today is more useful. At least, I can try to save a job. Keep the lab open. Get my students their free tutor back. And the people who squandered their energy on this ridiculous Trump drama won’t be able to fight as hard.

OK, I think I just answered my own question. Never mind.