The butterfly revolution
In early 2022, the Trump machine has become a kind of weird regime in exile. Is this strange organism learning? Maybe sort of, though so are its enemies.
Item: in brazen defiance of the historic precedent of US v Humphrey’s Executor (1935), Trump recently called for the White House to be able to fire anyone in the so-called “executive branch.” Such ignorance of black-letter law is not unknown in the man! Trump may never even have heard of the Administrative Procedure Act (1946). And—is it that far from anyone to everyone? Hm.
Already, the voter can have no doubt that such holy and venerated parchments will, if a new Trump administration rears its ugly head, be utterly ravaged and spoiled like a sandcastle sacked by a dog—if Trump in 2024, once elected, can then get his ugly way.
If not, of course, the paperwork will remain unchallenged, and the institutions that rule by these ancient promises will be unharmed. If the status quo is what you’re into, you’ll be popping the champagne!
Will the next Trump administration truly be able to drain the swamp—will it have, once elected, the powers of FDR or more? Or the powers of Julius Caesar—which is more like what he needs? Or the powers of President Camacho—which was about the power the Deep State let “President” Trump get his hands on the first time around?
It is hard to know. But one sure way to not be powerful is to—never be ready for power. Another way is to never try to take power.
Let us imagine a fantasy world into which we could convert the Trump operation, as it is in early 2022, into a truly effective machine for both taking and using power.
Why this is safe
It is important to understand that this is not going to happen—for one reason. Donald J. Trump is not the “Trump” in the story. He is who he is. His capacities are what they are. Of course man must always know hope, but I actually knew the first Trump administration would be a farce once I realized one thing—he wasn’t selling his hotels.
Here is the most important right-wing American politician since Richard Nixon—and dude isn’t even all in. Indeed you get the sense that he recognizes that the Presidency is a kind of decorative honor, like the throne of England, which would actually promote his hospitality and other businesses (licensees, really). Imagine staying in a Windsor branded hotel! The Trump brand, he must have dreamed, could be as strong as that.
Given that the Presidency has actually totally trashed Trump’s brand, he has probably given up on this one. But you never know. The fellow has certainly drunk deeply at the well of the power of positive thinking—which has served him well, up to a point. Alas, Trump 2024, if he wins, will be nothing but another expression of the Peter Principle. Liberals do not need to fear him. Reactionaries can give up all their useless hopes.
Therefore, this document is safe—Trump will never do anything like this. Whew! But I won’t disguise my belief that someone should. Someone worthy of the task, of course.
An optimistic framing of one Trumpian future
Trump did a great job! He made America great again! But his enemies have gotten stronger, too. Well—America was always great. But now, starting in 2025, we’re going to make America insanely great. And there’s only one way you can do that.
We’ve got to risk a full power start—a full reboot of the USG. We can only do this by giving absolute sovereignty to a single organization—with roughly the powers that the Allied occupation authorities held in Japan and Germany in the fall of 1945. This level of centralized emergency power worked to refound a nation then, for them. So it should work now, for us.
What Trump is going to do is to build this regime-in-exile or occupation authority as a private and (needless to say) peaceful institution—a larva. By winning a Presidential election, he will then install it in office.
Metamorphosing into a beautiful butterfly, this larva will perform the feat that eluded Trump’s first regime—turning office into power. As soon as it takes symbolic power, the butterfly will be ready, willing and able to take actual power—to actually make America great again. You have seen nothing—nothing.
Doing this will require powers in the Presidency that have not been seen in the lives of those now living. It will be a kind of restoration of the historic office. It will, in fact, require the executive powers of Washington, Lincoln and FDR—or even more.
These three Presidents, and to some extent a few more, were almost true CEOs of the executive branch. Their monarchical regimes then decayed into oligarchies, each of which was rebooted by the next monarchy. By the clock, we are about due for another.
Trump in 2017 took office; he took about 0.01% of power. If Trump in 2021 wants to have more than 0.001% of power—his enemies have gotten stronger, too—the only way he can do it is to take 100%. To take it all at once—completely legally.
Again, the real Donald J. Trump would never have the guts to even think of doing this. (And he’s just too old.) So it’s safe to use him as a picturesque example.
The regime in internal exile
What we’re going to do is turn the Trump entourage into a regime in internal exile.
While in exile, this regime will be a larva—a harmless caterpillar. Once duly elected, in office it will not just caper in front of the cameras (in fact, it will not talk at all to the legacy press)—it will spread its wings, and become a beautiful governing butterfly.
Trump himself will not be the brain of this butterfly. He will not be the CEO. He will be the chairman of the board—he will select the CEO (an experienced executive). This process, which obviously has to be televised, will be complete by his inauguration—at which the transition to the next regime will start immediately.
For Trump, being President will be exactly like it was—all the photo-ops and more—without any papers to sign, “decisions” to “make,” etc. The CEO he picks will run the executive branch without any interference from the Congress or courts, probably also taking over state and local governments. Most existing important institutions, public and private, will be shut down and replaced with new and efficient systems. Trump will be monitoring this CEO’s performance, again on TV, and can fire him if need be.
But rebooting America is the easy part. The hard part is the path from egg to larva to imago. We can dream about the butterfly as much as we like, but it lives most of its life as an ugly brown grub. Let us now design this insect.
The strategy of the regime in internal exile is to legally construct an alternate regime. In a country that abstractly recognizes the principle of popular sovereignty, the people have the right to replace the current regime with this alternate regime, and can choose to do so in one step, at one time. The caterpillar can live as long as it likes; it will only become a butterfly once.
Three principles must characterize the alternate regime: unity, excellence, and energy. These character traits will be seen in both the larva and the adult.
The alternate regime must not be sectarian. In and out of power, it must appeal to all populations in the country. In a divided country, its policy is first and foremost one of national unity, and its first deliverable is peace in all civil wars—race wars, class wars, gender wars and culture wars—hot civil wars and cold civil wars—all over, forever.
This is the most important thing you are voting for when you vote for the butterfly revolution: peace. No one steps on anyone’s toes and no one kicks anyone.
In power, the new regime gives every population the right to live its own way of life by its own rules, inasmuch as this does not impose externalities on other populations, and also to transmit its folkways to the next generation without hindrance or penalty. Out of power, the new regime recruits every population into its institutions.
The superiority of the alternate regime must be clear in every field in which its hand appears. Like the CPUSA in the 1930s, the alternate regime, as an unimportant grub, must work toward a presence in every important or prestigious field of endeavor. The networks and institutions it builds in this field must be suited to regulate it. They must feel the right, only because of their own excellence, to rule.
As a butterfly, the new regime’s authority in every field will be inescapable. Since no field today is independent of power, old power can only be displaced by new power. If this new power has the local excellence to be a credible authority in the field, the field will transition to this new authority smoothly. If there is no superiority, fragments of the old regime, sustained by their own superiority, will remain and fester.
The energy of the alternate regime must be unlimited. In power, it must be ready to reorganize all of public life—to change America as much as Atatürk changed Turkey.
Out of power, it must be ready to capture as many offices as possible, and coordinate these offices as closely as possible. It seeks not only the maximum number of voters, but also the maximum engagement of these voters, and the maximum control over the maximum number of public offices.
Its central power over these offices is complete. They belong not to their nominal occupants, but to the party that put them there. Any deviation from party discipline will unelect them at the next election.
Maximizing these indicators will eventually allow it to take power with the maximum possible legitimacy. Every new regime is in the best shape if it begins by winning the power tournament of the old regime—if possible, at the deepest, most holy level. Then by definition the old regime then cannot compete with it on either playing field: the old one, or the new one.
On taking power
Any seizure of power must appeal to old and deep fundamental laws and principles, cutting through the Gordian knot of younger parchments—like Humphrey’s Executor, in which an anti-New Deal court was trying to snipe at FDR. It is possible to take a perverse interest in the political roots of this kind of case law. But it doesn’t matter.
The true law of the land is that the President is the chief executive of the executive branch. This has a plain English meaning which has not changed in 250 years. Trump knows what it means to be a CEO. So do his voters and his staff. In office, they will behave as if the Constitution meant what it clearly says. Too bad about the haters!
Congress may pass any bill it likes. The courts may have any opinion they like. It is the job of the executive branch, as a coequal branch of government, to respect these bills and opinions. But respecting the legislative and judicial branches is not the executive’s only job; nor does the Constitution say it is. If the voters feel that the President they elected has done a poor job, let them vote him out. He is accountable to them, and no one else. We call this “representative democracy.”
If the institutions deny the President the Constitutional position he has legally won in the election, the voters will have to act directly. Trump will call his people into the streets—not at the end of his term, when he is most powerless; at the start, when he is most powerful. No one wants to see this nuclear option happen. Preparing for it and demonstrating the capacity to execute it will prevent it from having to happen.
The task of the regime in exile is to give the voters the ability to send the message that they want a regime change, and have that message take effect. Anyone who does not believe the American voter has the right to elect a regime change does not believe in democracy.
Anatomy of the larva
Here is a tentative outline of the process and organization of a larval new regime. The anatomy of this caterpillar has three aspects: voters, politicians, and staffers.