Being subject to Voldemort

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Donald Trump is likely to destroy American democracy while leaving the nation in ruins and the world in flames, and let’s further assume that all of these are bad things. (I don’ t think the situation is quite as hopeful as that, but I’m not particularly interested in arguing about any of these assumptions in this post.) What should the Church do about it? What should you do about it? If we look back at the experience of the mercifully foreshortened twentieth century, I think the answer to the first question is that the Church must find a way to carry out its mission in whatever political circumstances it finds itself. The answer to the second question is: nobody knows.

“There is work to be done,” he said. “Molly … am I right in thinking that I can count on you and Arthur?”

“Of course you can” said Mrs Weasley. She was white to the lips, but she looked resolute […]

“Then I need to send a message to him,” said Dumbledore. “All those that we can persuade of the truth must be notified immediately, and Arthur is well placed to contact those at the Ministry who are not as short-sighted as Cornelius.”

As for the Church, it has its missions: Keep its missionaries active in as many nations as possible. Keep its temples operating. Keep its wards and branches functioning. Aid the poor and be a light to the world. All of those missions are easier to fulfill by maintaining good relations with the governments that control the countries where it operates. Snubbing a new president on his first day in office seems like a poor way to advance the missions of the Church. There are judicial seats and other offices awaiting appointees, and the Church could certainly find itself in a better position if those who are sympathetic to the Church’s needs are taken into consideration. The more controversial that performing at the Inauguration becomes, the more potential goodwill the Church may reap with a quick rendition of “My Country, ‘tis of Thee.” The Church must also minister to members who are pleased with the election result, and surely the Church has no interest in snubbing them. (It’s understandable that church members who are displeased with the election outcome are upset and concerned – see democracy’s ruin and the world in flames above – and it would be helpful for the Church to send a reassuring sign to those members that it values them and understands their worries.) The Church strongly supports American constitutional democracy, of course. The future may look bleak, but it is not foreordained. I don’t know if sending the choir to the Inauguration will make the outcome better or worse, but if someone thinks it might help, it’s worth a try.

“Minerva,” said Dumbledore, turning to Professor McGonagall, “I want to see Hagrid in my office as soon as possible. Also – if she will consent to come – Madame Maxime.”

Professor McGonagall nodded, and left without a word.

But do not forget: the Church has its missions. It has been commissioned by the highest authority to fulfill them, and it is a mistake to think that the Church can or should endanger its missions for the sake of protesting a tyrant’s election. If you think Trump is bad enough that you must protest his inauguration, then you should consider all the ramifications of just how bad he may yet become.

“Poppy,” Dumbledore said to Madam Pomfrey, “would you be very kind, and go down to Professor Moody’s office, where I think you will find a house-elf called Winky in considerable distress? Do what you can for her, and take her back to the kitchens. I think Dobby will look after her for us.”

The next thing you have to remember is that no one knows how long the current state of affairs will last: one year, four years, twelve years, a thousand years. There’s a tempting teleological fallacy that says, The Church will look bad for not protesting after all this is done. But that assumes that what comes after Trump will be a return to the norms of liberal democracy. A variant of this says, The Church is harming its international reputation by not protesting. But the number of liberal democracies outside the U.S. appears to be declining, and it’s anyone’s guess how many will be left twelve months from now.

“Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher – the old crowd.” […]

Sirius grasped his hand briefly, nodded to Dumbledore, transformed again into the black dog, and ran the length of the room to the door, whose handle he turned with a paw. Then he was gone.

And finally, you have to remember that no one knows the right strategy for dealing with a tyrant. The leaders of nations and important organizations tried many different approaches to dealing with dictators during the twentieth century, and none of them worked perfectly. It’s easy to denounce engagement as collusion when you don’t count the cost, for yourself or others, of snubbing a tyrant. I do hope some committee of Seventies and Apostles is taking a hard look at the twentieth century and making a list of things the Church might do and things it will not do under any circumstances, making a list of hills to retreat from and hills worth dying on.

“Severus,” said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, “you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready … if you are prepared …”

“I am,” said Snape.

As for what you should do? I have no idea. Do whatever you think is most productive. (Personally, though, I find it counterproductive to pressure the Church to do your protesting for you; if you want to make a statement, get off your couch and do your own protesting. If you’re looking for something to do, Michael Moore and some Democratic congressional aides have published action plans. Do note, however, that neither of those plans includes Twitter-shame the Mormon Tabernacle Choir into skipping the inauguration.) Whatever it is you choose, I am quite certain that sniping at each other is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Maybe you think a protest march will make things better. March onward! Maybe the right approach is to remind people of the nation’s democratic heritage through patriotic songs. Sing out! Maybe you think the best approach is to resign in protest. You go, sister! Someone else might try healing the rift between left and right through music. Play on! Another might decide that a government that includes capable and principled people will do more good or less harm than a government that includes only lackeys and scoundrels. Throw your hat into the ring! Some people might take a lesson from the twentieth century and head for the border while they still can. I won’t stop you. Some people will go off-grid, and others will live lives of defiant normality. Maybe some of those strategies will have a positive effect.

As a wise man once said:

“You are on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us.”

53 comments for “Being subject to Voldemort

  1. Ardis
    January 18, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I’ve never read Harry Potter, so I really hope there is a subtext to the subtext, because I really despise the “kiss up to a tyrant so maybe he won’t kill you” text of the main text.

  2. January 18, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Ardis, that doesn’t seem like a charitable reading, or a charitable comment. Also, your reading of the post is incorrect. Try again. And then go read Harry Potter.

  3. Ardis
    January 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Let’s see …

    Trump is a tyrant. But the Church has a mission to fill. Nobody really knows how to deal effectively with a tyrant. So we should go along to get along.

    Ignoring the Harry Potter references, which I’ve admitted I don’t understand, I don’t see any more charitable reading. Enlighten me.

  4. anitawells
    January 18, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    @Ardis The Harry Potter canon is what gives hope in this bleak time watching Gadianton robbers take over the U.S. government. I highly recommend reading the series as an act of defiance, faith, and entertaining humor. Spoiler alert–the Ministry is defeated by a small group of loyal activists.

  5. Clark Goble
    January 18, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    The Church managed to survive during the outright attacks on it under Buchanan onward for a few years and then again under Grover Cleveland in the 1890’s. I’m sure it can survive Trump.

    Honestly I worry more than a little at all the hyperbole. Trump is a real danger but the overreaction to every little thing in my opinion makes it harder to deal with him rather than easier. My guess is he’ll be closer to a Nixon or Berlusconi than the tyrants heated rhetoric makes him out to be.

    But avoiding that tangent I know you don’t want to get down, the reality is that even if you think him a tyrant until there’s pretty firm evidence that he is a tyrant any action you take will alienate many people making your own position less powerful. I think you can position yourself so you have influence when he does reveal himself. (Again going by your assumptions which I’m a bit dubious on) But of course there are lots of different ways to position yourself not all of which would be apparent right now.

    Put a different way, is it possible to prepare for the worst without it being obvious to people now? To my eyes what people really want isn’t preparation for when things get bad but signaling in the press right now that you agree with worst case scenarios. There’s a valuable place for signaling. I’m just not sure today is the time. (In the primaries was a great time of course)

    I do think this a great post though. One thing I note is how much criticism there is of people who decide the best thing is different than what they thought was best. The room for pluralism in our democracy is fast shrinking and not just from Trump supporters.

  6. Bryan
    January 18, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I work in HR. Too often, I see supervisors get wrapped around the axle trying to play whack-a-mole with every individual thing an employee can/might do wrong. I redirect them to focus on accomplishing the mission and that becomes the measuring stick by which future successes and failures are measured. I also have people come to my office wanting to put things “on the record” because they fear some future negative action. I redirect them the same way as their supervisors…everything is measured by the mission or we’ve lost ourselves.

    The way I read the post–and the Potter books–is that by living our mission and ideals, should we come under threat from any angle, the only evidence against us will be that we pursued our own mission with vigor and dignity because we believed it was the right thing to do. Having done that, earthly powers be damned, the Lord will continue to move his work forward through his faithful servants and it will not be thwarted.

    So it’s just like it’s always been–prepare for the worst, hope and pray for the best and carry on.

  7. Clark Goble
    January 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Fantastic comment Bryan.

  8. lemuel
    January 18, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I worry that Trump will be like 9/11–9/11 itself was bad, but the reaction to 9/11 was more destructive than 9/11.

  9. Dan Lewis
    January 18, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    “Do note, however, that neither of those plans includes Twitter-shame the Mormon Tabernacle Choir into skipping the inauguration.”

    The post was good except for this swipe at people criticizing the MoTab for singing at the inauguration. Count me among the critics. By the MoTab accepting invitations to sing at inaugurations, it is allowing itself to become politicized. These invitations are basically rewards for Utah’s vote for the winning party. Accepting them is a political act. Declining them would be apolitical. And that is what the LDS church should be, which you appear to favor in your post. But your thinking is backwards on the MoTab issue.

  10. Garion
    January 18, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    “Accepting them is a political act. Declining them would be apolitical.”

    No… declining them would be a political act that you agree with. It’s still political. And many people are using their declination as a political protest. Either way it’s political. One is just more palatable to you.

  11. Mortimer
    January 18, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Interesting post. A few reactions.

    1. Who said the church’s *main* mission was to simply survive and multiply (exist and expand)? Yes, we are to care for the church and spread the gospel, but we could say that testifying of truth and living righteously are higher priorities. Frankly, sea slugs live to survive and procreate. If we fail to stand up for our values, we are no better than any other creature in the animal kingdom and certainly not Americans, or the church of the holy priesthood. If we simply survive and multiply without standing up for good when all it takes for evil to prevail is for good man/women to do nothing, what was the point? We are procrastinating our values to future generations without living them. To me, that nullifies them. Jesus’ could have lived a careful life, never rocking the boat with his political or religious leaders. He would have lived, or lived a longer life. So many p/Prophets over the millennia have similarly stood up for truth, for values, for righteousness in their day, fully knowing what the consequences would be (death, torture, exile, ridicule, extinction, etc.). Why are we living in careful consideration of the socio-political consequences instead of living for what’s right?

    2. Which brings us to the strategy of appeasement. You’re essentially recommending the church fully embrace appeasement at all costs necessary to survive and expand. There has been much written on the pitfalls of appeasement as a strategy for groups dealing with aggressors- especially post WWII. Summed up, it doesn’t work. Bad idea both theoretically and strategically.

    3. You mentioned the harmlessness of “a quick rendition of America the Beautiful” as if it were nothing, a mere trifle, a little ditty that no one cares about. To you, music is fluff, nothing. I couldn’t disagree more.

    Music needs no translator
    Elicits thoughts and ideas indescribable with mere words
    Captures all sides of the brain
    With or without our consent affects every system in our body
    Physically snaps and collapses bridges and crumbles walls
    Drive men crazy
    Brings men to God
    Transports the listener into the mind of the composer/performer
    Direct connection with the universe and with God.

    It.is.a.prayer.

    I contest that the MoTab’s performance is more of an endorsement for the new administration than if we had given 1000 talks on inauguration day in our suits and ties. No, this isn’t a little ditty, this is our most powerful symbol and our most sacred selves, lying to the people by singing a happy song to divert eyes or normalize the crisis of a megalomaniac more interested in dirty under-handed money-grabs and power than democracy. People who trivialize the MoTab’s performance greatly underestimate the role and power of music in history and the importance of symbolic leadership. They would be the first people to say that Nelson Mandella just liked watching soccer, that soccer wasn’t part of the Apartheid. After all, it was just a little game.

    4. The church has no real reason to die on this hill. Why not? According to our doctrine, this is a special land, and our country – this very democracy- was inspired and is essential for the church. This country has the blood of many of my family and ancestors for that very purpose, but now- at a time of impending threat, we decide that is doesn’t really matter after all? I applaud you for asking the question- what are the hills worth standing on? Dying on? Thank you for asking the question. In answering it for myself, I have concluded that I don’t have respect for people who, like the Malfoys in HP, are more interested in self-preservation than standing on a hill. I’m not sure that we are Zion- of one heart, if we don’t stand on the same hill, most especially in matters like this. In HP terms, are you in or out of Dumbledore’s Army and/or the Order of the Phoenix?

    5. I completely agree that arguing with each other is the wrong strategy. Yet wouldn’t it be expected that at a time of world-wide turmoil, without leadership there would be disagreement?

    6. “Unless a few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for the rest of us”. Amen. Unfortunately we’re more than a few – many million, we’re not standing (we’re ducking) and we’re not united.

  12. January 18, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    The MoTab was damned either way. Accept, you’re for Trump. Reject, you’re anti-Trump. But Marie Osmond, the Piano Guys…they had a choice. Personally, I wish they would have considered the man as much as the office and rejected the invitation, but that’s just my opinion, because outside of his politics, which are schizoid at best, he’s a repulsive human. I get the whole “Support the office, not the man” argument. I just disagree with it.

    The Church turned a blind eye to Hubener in Nazi Germany. My guess is the Church would stay as neutral as Switzerland. I don’t see the Church doing anything that threatens their comfortable status among the world leaders. Go against Trump? Missionaries out of Russia.

    Some think Trump is the end of civilization. Some think he’s here to save the constitution (that’s hanging by a thread, apparently). It’s not that simple, though I wish he’d quit talking about nuclear warheads as if they’re his playthings.

  13. Clark Goble
    January 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    There’s a big gap between appeasement and causing a stink.

  14. January 18, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Clark, it’s either excessive hyperbole or lack of imagination. Hopefully you’re right.

    Dan Lewis, as pointed out, it would have been political either way. I don’t think the Church should be apolitical, though. One way or the other, it has been involved in politics almost from the beginning. The question is rather what kind of political engagement will best allow the Church to move forward with its missions, but that’s a difficult question to get consistently right.

    Mortimer, 1) I didn’t say it’s main mission was to survive, but rather to spread the Gospel, redeem the dead, perfect the saints, aid the poor, and be a light to the world. I don’t see how refusing to sing at the Inauguration is going to help any of those, although it’s a debatable point. 2) I think “appeasement” is misused for non-state, non-governmental actors, and I think the framework of “appeasement – forcible resistance” is too simplistic. For one, no one knew how things would turn out with any of the century’s dictators, and usually the Church was well served by building connections and cordial relations. 3) For an ambiguous sign like singing a song, it’s a mistake to interpret it in the most negative light. Maybe that’s what you get out of it, but I doubt many people will understand it that way. There will be as many different interpretations as there are viewers. 4) Indeed, singing at the Inauguration is not the hill to die on. One makes conciliatory gestures at the beginning of a new administration, even when one has little hope that reason will prevail. (And do remember that each member of the Order had a very different role to play, even if they were all aiming for the same goal. Even Narcissa Malfoy, hardly a member of the Order, had a role to play at the end.)

    Darren Bush, Hübener had been arrested by the time his branch knew about him. Also, you may be overestimating the Church’s status among world leaders. Often enough, it’s all the Church can do to keep missionaries working in some places, including Switzerland. And beyond the missionaries, what of the members of the Church in Russia? I’m prepared to put up with a patriotic song if there’s any chance that it will improve their situation. I do agree with you about the unhealthy fascination with nuclear weapons, though.

  15. ji
    January 18, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Anyone in favor of our republic will sustain Mr. Trump as the president. He won the election fair and square, in fair and free elections in the several states. Those who will not respect the election results and work to de-legitimize the President-elect are the real threats to our republic. The process is more important than the outcome.

    I’m not an enthusiastic fan of Mr. Trump, but I love our republic. We’ll have another election in four years. Be patient. Sustain the new president. Latter-day Saints are supposed to understand what sustaining means.

  16. curtispew
    January 18, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I decided when he first started running that I would not vote for Trump, and I didn’t.
    But referring to Trump as a tyrant is factually incorrect. First of all, he isn’t even in office yet! Furthermore, many provisions of the Constitution were explicitly framed to prevent any president from becoming a tyrant. While the force of many of these provisions has been weakened over the past century or so, they should still be robust enough to prevent actual tyranny. Calling him a tyrant before he’s had a chance to do more than talk will tend to delegitimize his critics more than him.
    The Church does not promote or condemn parties or individual politicians, but it will take a stand on policies when they have strong moral implications. And while as individuals in a partisan representative system we have to deal with parties and people, we’d have a healthier political climate if more attention were paid to policy and less to personalities.

  17. Loursat
    January 18, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    ji’s comment illustrates how our preoccupation with the inspired nature of the U. S. Constitution has confused many Mormons’ understanding of politics. In the Church, we should sustain our leaders in their callings. In politics, we should sustain the rule of law. Those are two very different things.

    We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

    Our obligation to sustain the rule of law does not mean that we must sustain Trump in his incompetence and his destructiveness. It means quite the opposite, in fact. If we believe in the inspired nature of a democratic system, then we have all the more obligation to exercise our rights in defense of that democracy.

    The OP is obscure, but I prefer to read it as acknowledging the need for maquisards when circumstances require. None of us want things to come to that. Such dire straits are less likely if we invigorate—right now—our great traditions of democratic opposition and rubbish this talk of the need to “sustain” Trump.

  18. ji
    January 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    I loved our republic and its constitution before I was a Latter-day Saint.

    Loursat, would you favor a coup d’etat to prevent Mr. Trump from becoming president? Using your words, let’s be subject to Mr. Trump and obey and honor the law. Under the law, Mr. Trump won fair and square, in free and fair elections in the several states (and the federal district). He deserves our sustaining support (note: sustaining support need not mean agreement with all of his policy decisions — one can sustain him as president and still disagree on policy decisions).

  19. Loursat
    January 18, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    ji, I quoted the Twelfth Article of Faith. It does not say we should be subject to Trump and obey the law. It says we believe in being subject to presidents and rulers to the extent that it is consistent with sustaining the law. Our obligation is to the law–never to government officials. No official deserves our “sustaining support” when that official is undermining our system.

    There is a vast difference between a coup d’etat and vigorous opposition. There is also a crucial difference between observing decorum and giving deference. If we don’t understand those distinctions, democracy won’t work. You encourage us to be “patient.” and wait for the next election. No. Future elections will only work properly if we strengthen the foundation for them by our diligent opposition now.

    And one more thing: the process is never more important than the outcome. We protect the process only because of our belief that it leads to better outcomes. Too many Americans have idolized the process and thus blinded themselves to the shortcomings of our system. All systems can and must be improved if they are to survive. The measure of our goodness as a people is always in the outcomes.

  20. January 18, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    I love the Potter quotes. The rest of it is a muggle-mix. Meanwhile, I think Obama and Clinton were very destructive and tyrannical to the rule of law. Horrifically so. Laughably embarrassingly so. Trump? Probably, but we live in a fundamentalist age of tyrants. The only thing Trump lacks is the right rhetoric. Let’s see what he does first.

  21. January 18, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I should mention that in our house it is called “Harry Potter–another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

  22. lemuel
    January 18, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the Ministry, and by extension, the Minister himself. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty.

  23. Mortimer
    January 18, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Jonathan Green,
    1) I should have given you more credit for listing more focus areas for the church. At the same time, the big concern seems to be prioritizing or watching out for existing wards/stakes and continuing missionary work (surviving and reproducing). I agree with Bryan, do what is right let the consequence follow- earthly powers be damned, the Lord will not be thwarted.

    2) Appeasement has been translated into several areas outside of governmental relations -even reaching into bullying research and counseling for victims of domestic violence. We can arguably apply the macro concepts in many circumstances.

    3) Most apolitical LDS people I know see the Mitab’s performance as clear support of our new republican president. All my non-LDS friends see this as a clear endorsement. You really have to put yourself in an apologetic place and so some fancy mental gymnastics to think otherwise. Ockham’s razor-the church is republican, they sing for republicans, they are supporting this republican. I am going to agree to disagree on the power of music and the symbolism of our backflips to help.

    4) By all means be diplomatic, but don’t blaspheme the sacred in the process. I also wonder where this “conciliation” was for Clinton, or the Obama. This isn’t just about who asked who to sing, but our disparate teception of different administrations in public display or lack thereof.

    Mmmm, although Narcissa did help (in the very end after many deaths), it doesn’t seem like she sets the bar we should aspire to. Shoot for the stars, not the pile of manure.

    – As to the church in Russia, I’ve been there, spent time there. The church has been in force in post-Soviet countries for almost 30 years now. There are places where the church is strong- stakes and established wards. If they had to carry on without us in an East German way, they have enough native RMs and anchors to do it. Expelling the missionaries or suppressing the wards would be as successful in quashing the church there as creating a martyr of Joseph.

  24. Zack Gubler
    January 18, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Clark — We might only think such criticism is hyperbolic because the vision of authoritarianism that prevails in the public imagination is itself an exaggeration. So, it’s easier to say, “that’s crazy, we’re not living in an authoritarian society.” In reality, everyday authoritarianism is “boring and tolerable.” See https://tompepinsky.com/2017/01/06/everyday-authoritarianism-is-boring-and-tolerable/. I agree that it might be a tad early to claim the sky is falling, but only a tad. The signs are certainly not good.

  25. [email protected]
    January 19, 2017 at 10:10 am

    One could also see the performance of the Choir as providing a contrast at the inauguration. When the Choir sings, most people feel the Spirit, even if they cannot recognize it as such. During an inaugural address, feeling the Spirit is less likely, so the contrast may be helpful to those individuals watching the inauguration, looking for “something better”. We cannot elect the “solution” to the problems faced by our nation; that will be found thru our repentance as individuals. Bottom up, not top down.

  26. Tim
    January 19, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Excellent link, Zack: “But actually, you usually learn that you are no longer living in a democracy not because The Government Is Taking Away Your Rights, or passing laws that you oppose, or because there is a coup or a quisling. You know that you are no longer living in a democracy because the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change.”

    Trump’s election is evidence we don’t live in an authoritarian nation. Let’s keep an eye out to see if that changes.

    If you look at 2008 from the far right’s perspective, Being Subject to Voldemort could have been said of Obama. Probably was. 8 years later, yes there have been many executive orders bypassing democratic ideals of decision-making, and now the pendulum has swung and there will still be food in the stores and light when you flip the switch.

    Recall that when E.T. Benson became president, many worried he would spout John Bircher rhetoric during conference. Seems to me being in the office had an effect on that. I wonder if the same will happen when the new president takes office. Perhaps the weight of the responsibility will sober him. Or not, we’ll see.

  27. Clark
    January 19, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Zack, the hyperbole isn’t the fear of authoritarianism but how it is manifest in what they criticize. Yesterday’s pretty embarrassing stories from both the Washington Post and especially New York Times on Rick Perry are a great example. Worse when you are saying someone is unqualified because they pray or claim (falsely and with no evidence) that Perry didn’t know what DoE did you’re in hyperbole territory. Worse this isn’t just some activist, where you expect that sort of thing but in prestigious journalism. Worse even than that was how these stories (and numerous ones like it) get passed along by people who really ought know better. The effect of course is that the people crying about fake news the most are undermining legitimate news and leading people to put it all on an equal playing field. The hyperbole helps Trump. If you fear authoritarianism then these people seem more concerned to signal their feelings rather than facts and end up helping what they fear.

    It’s sort of like they’re taking the worst mistakes of the GOP under Obama with things like Libya or the IRS and them amping it up to 11.

  28. Wally
    January 19, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I’m not sure how much slack we should give Trump. Let’s face it, he ran as a fascist. Look up the word. This isn’t hyperbole. Authoritarian? Check. Hypernationalist? Check. Racist? Check. The list is longer, but I’ll spare you.

    The comparison of Trump to Hitler may be unfair. We don’t know yet. With nuclear weapons on the table, Hitler may actually come out ahead in this comparison. As always, time will tell. But we can certainly learn something from Hitler’s rise to power in 1930s Germany. Trump’s dismissal of a free press and his blatant propaganda (that many of his followers lap up like gravy) is concerning. He has found a way to make people believe the worst kind of nonsense. This is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Listening to Kellyanne Conway certainly brings echoes of the best efforts of Joseph Goebbels. Trump’s uncanny ability to make people mistrust facts and good journalism and believe garbage is frightening. And once Trump is actually in control of the military and the intelligence community, it’s scary to think what a few well-placed leaders who think like he does could do to any sort of organized opposition or any foreign countries that don’t bow to him. Hitler took a broken economy and made it a well-oiled machine—but through a massive military buildup. Consider what Trump has promised in this regard. Yes, America has a long and proud tradition of democratic institutions, but history has shown how easily these institutions can be corrupted or pulled down by a cagey dictator.

    The Church survived in Nazi Germany, by going along and in some cases by actively supporting the Führer, but it didn’t come out smelling like a rose in the long run, except for a few dissidents like Helmuth Hübener.

    My best hope at present is that Trump is merely an incompetent fraud. He doesn’t appear to understand any nuances on any issue, even to the point of repeatedly frustrating the Republicans who do, and he seems to have little interest in anything beyond his own ego, but it is surprising how much damage an incompetent, egotistic fraud can do. If the cabinet he is putting together is any indication, democracy is in for a rocky ride.

  29. Clark Goble
    January 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Wally, Trump seems less fascist by that standard than the typically praised FDR. Even more so Wilson fits the bill although he’s finally come under criticism from the left for some of those tendencies.

    Don’t get me wrong. I worry a lot about Trump. My greatest worry is that he’s destroying conservatism. But he’s pretty much a typical pre-war Presidential figure IMO. Not that returning to the politics of the pre-war era let alone the 19th century is something I want. Far from it. Worse yet is that the press seems to be returning to that model as well. It’s deeply depressing even if perhaps not worth the hyperbole given it.

  30. Clark Goble
    January 19, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    To the MoTab issue, whether one thinks they should have accepted the request (I think they should have given they have done so for other Presidents) they are being elevated to an unfortunate place by singing between Trump’s and Pence’s being sworn in. Hard to imagine a more prominent place.

  31. Professor Lockhart
    January 19, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Ten thousand dollar bet Trump interns less and kills less than FDR. Who’d take me up on it?

  32. whizzbang
    January 19, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    I live in Canada so If see smoke coming from the south you are all welcome to come up here! We got extra blankets, pillows, Pepto Bismol and I just went to Costco for popcorn so we got stuff, plus we need people to staff our Temple!

  33. Mars
    January 19, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Zack, a lie doesn’t become the truth because you put “let’s face it” in front of it.

  34. January 20, 2017 at 7:09 am

    The Harry Potter canon gives hope? It’s fiction. Inspiration, maybe. But hope?

    I pray we have better sources for hope than that.

  35. Half Canadian
    January 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    My biggest fear, for now, are those who are convinced that Trump is the next Hitler. “Would you kill Hitler before he could start WWII? If so, why aren’t you trying to kill Trump?”

    That line of thinking, and the justifications that it involves, can cause a lot of grief. Trump is a blowhard, a secular materialist. But that latter half isn’t too far removed from Obama or Clinton. That’s where our culture is. I don’t like that, but that isn’t the fault of politics. It’s the fault of our society as a whole. The fact that Trump is a populist, a nationalist, that just doesn’t scare me. He’s more Teddy Roosevelt than Hitler, and that man’s face is on Mount Rushmore. I’m sure we can survive this.

    People need to calm down. Histrionics are not going to improve things, and they aren’t going to lead to you being taken seriously by Trump supporters (whom you, supposedly, want to persuade).

    Whizzbang, thanks for the offer. I wouldn’t mind coming back home (I married an American).

  36. Clark Goble
    January 20, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Lots of things to fear. There are always periods of bad governance. Right now we fear that Trump will usher in bad governance. But Canada’s had it’s share. (Sorry, I lived through the era of the elder Trudeau and read with worry what’s going on in Alberta at the moment) I hope Trump won’t be as bad as I fear he might. He seems a kind of combination of Jackson and Nixon. Yet who knows, his very desire to make deals and be liked might mean he does some good things. For all of Nixons many problems (and Trump will have to do a lot to rise to Nixon’s level of badness) a lot of great things got done by Nixon.

  37. Zack Gubler
    January 21, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Mars — I think you’re responding to Wally. I never said “let’s face it.” Tim, my point wasn’t that we are currently living under an authoritarian regime. Rather, I was responding to Clark’s entreaties to avoid hyperbole by pointing out that it’s possible to live under an authoritarian regime without realizing that one’s day-to-day life has changed significantly and so vigilance would seem to be advisable. And Clark, if by hyperbole, you mean we should be careful about what we get worked up about, I certainly agree. Rick Perry would not be my high on my list of things to get worked up about.

  38. Chadwick
    January 21, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Lemuel FTW!

    While we may not all have the courage to stand up to Voldemort himself, may we at least have the courage to stand up to the Dolores Umbridge’s in our lives.

  39. Mars
    January 21, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    My bad, Zack. Wally, that was meant for you.

    Zack, though, now that you mention it, many of the features of quiet authoritarianism have been around since the end of 2001. Remember going all the way to the terminal to see someone off? Tip of the iceberg. Americans get disappeared. Not many and it won’t happen to us, but it’s been happening for fifteen years. I’m far more concerned about the growing power of the bureaucracy than about anything specific Trump will do, especially since they’re natural enemies, and destroying the deep state will be Trump’s ratings bread and butter for a long time.

    We were subject to Voldemort the moment USA PATRIOT passed. Electing a scary president didn’t change that.

  40. jill
    January 21, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Trump doesn’t have an ideology but Steve Bannon does with the alt-right–and he drives Trump.
    Half Canadian–we now have a Nazi in the White House–no histrionics necessary.

  41. Mars
    January 22, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Jill, I hope I can ease your mind a little by helping you unpack your terms. What does the “alt” in alt-right stand for? Alternative. It means non-mainstream right-wing. This, in our current political climate, does include national socialists, but the paleocons, neoreactionaries, civic nationalists, Christian Dominionists, anarcho-capitalists and Brazilian monarchists typically find better uses for their energy than rushing to condemn anyone who wants to roleplay as a member of a seventy-years-dead German political party. Steve Bannon allowed his news site to cater to the alternative right – by which he meant just the nationalists, the ones who like the status quo but with less immigration.

    Unfortunately, unscrupulous news agencies allowed opinion pieces to run saying things like “alt-right? Just call them neo-nazis because that’s what they are,” which a gross oversimplification and an old-fashioned lie. You seem to have picked up on that line, which has caused you distress. There are no Nazis in the White House.

  42. January 22, 2017 at 10:22 am

    That’s setting the bar about as low as it can go, Mars. No staffers have personally sworn allegiance to Adolf Hitler, but instead they represent a broad spectrum of contemporary fascism? That’s just swell.

  43. Tim
    January 22, 2017 at 11:16 am

    “We now have a Nazi in the White House” –sounds like the very definition of histrionics. Or a sequel to the Manchurian Candidate.

    Such rhetoric discredits you and those who think similarly. If your rhetoric is a rope with which you’re trying to pull people towards your view, you’ve pulled too hard. You break the rope, and now people ignore you. Most people had a similar reaction to the “Obama is a Muslim” crowd.

  44. Mars
    January 22, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Jonathan, I’m having a hard time following your thinking when you call anarchists, paleoconservatives, and civic nationalists fascists. How do you define that word?

  45. January 22, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Mars, you’re arguing that Jill has misunderstood the situation, and that if she had more facts and used more precise language, her concerns would go away. What I’m trying to suggest is that many people who understand the situation quite well are extremely alarmed and don’t see this as simply post-2001 business as usual, enough so that splitting hairs over labels seems to be missing the basic problem. Telling us that Bannon isn’t a Nazi, he’s really just an anti-immigrant nationalist, is not going to calm people’s fears.

  46. Mars
    January 22, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Jonathan, I want you to understand this absolutely clearly:
    Anti-immigrant nationalists aren’t Nazis.
    Being opposed to open borders does not make you a Nazi.
    Being opposed to free trade does not make you a Nazi.
    Being opposed to amnesty does not make you a Nazi.
    It makes you an individual with opinions not shared by Jonathan Green.
    There is nothing to be afraid of.

  47. Anonforthis
    January 22, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    “There is nothing to be afraid of.”

    Unless, you know, you’re an immigrant or seeking amnesty. Plenty of people I know are, including a young RM who will be executed by her government if she is forced to return to her home country. With Trump in the White House and Bannon and others like him as his advisers, there absolutely is something to be afraid of.

  48. Mars
    January 22, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    And she can’t apply for asylum, here or in another country? There’s just no way to let her live without setting at defiance the laws of the land? You’re losing the thread of the conversation, anon. We’ve gone from “literal nazi” to “as good as a nazi” to “bad for some fringe cases if they don’t know what asylum seeking is.” Is anyone going to acknowledge that? Twisting through the argument, deftly dropping points when they’re discredited to throw up more? I could do that too but I won’t. There are no Nazis in the White House. Will someone admit they’re wrong?

  49. January 23, 2017 at 1:08 am

    Sure, Mars, I’m happy to admit I’m wrong. I’m not tied to any particular terminology. If you say that the alt-right only partially overlaps with fascism, and doesn’t include any actual Nazis, I’ll take your word for it.

    Here’s your challenge: try to understand why a lot of people have been and continue to be absolutely terrified of what the election portends, people who are well informed and not given to flights of fancy but are deeply frightened by their new president. Maybe everything will turn out fine and you’ll get a good laugh at the hysteria. I truly hope so. But if things turn out badly, you’ll have to choose either to support Voldemort or to cooperate with people who use imprecise language to describe Voldemort.

  50. Mars
    January 23, 2017 at 3:15 am

    What you don’t understand is that many people who understand the situation quite well are overjoyed, people who are well-informed and not given to flights of fancy but are deeply satisfied by their new president.

    Let me try for an ideological Turing test. To see if I understand your position, I am going to act as if I were opposed to President Trump from a centrist/compassionate conservative viewpoint, which is generally a safe guess for the ideology of internet LDS. If I mess up the quote function, just… act like it’s quoted. I’m not too familiar with WordPress.

    When I heard that Donald Trump was running for president, my first reaction was laughter. The Republican primary pool usually has at least one or two candidates who are only running to promote their pet cause or to drop out and sell their books, but this man was an exaggeration even of that. I was dimly aware of his reputation as the epitome of tasteless wealth, and in his ineffective championship of the birther movement. My candidates all seemed to be long shots, as usual, but at least they weren’t Trump. I checked on my guys, shared their videos, and didn’t look at the Man on the Golden Escalator.

    Not until I had to. He was if nothing else a born entertainer, and though his constant gaffes stopped being amusing after about his five millionth he kept at it, with no sign of dropping out. Worse, his attitudes seemed to draw from outre opinions all over the political spectrum, with no sign of reflection as he contradicted himself. If he believed any of these things, he was ignorant. If he didn’t believe these things, he was insincere. And nobody could believe all of those things.

    The laughter stopped, though, when he suggested a Muslim ban. How could I, a member of an often-persecuted religious minority (that follows a prophet, starts with the letter M, and has a reputation for polygamy, even) stand for someone in power – by this point he had a lot of power, with constant media attention and huge crowds – calling for renewed religious persecution? We were working so hard. We were almost there, and he wants to throw it away. Now, at this point I believed there was no chance he would be nominated, let alone elected, but I feared for innocent Muslims thrown in the face of, if not violence, dirty looks and unkind words from Trump’s followers.

    Then he went after Judge Curiel. The man who judges me, declares Trump, cannot be Mexican or of the blood of the Mexicans. Does Trump think Curiel’s heritage will erase his experience? Does he have something to hide, and is grasping at straws to delegitimize his opposition? Again, I don’t know which is worse, but I have an uncomfortable, creeping feeling that they’re both true.

    The rest is history. We couldn’t do anything. I heard about violence at Trump rallies. I was told by the new converted faithful of the red hat that it was all against Trump, that his poor neglected followers were the persecuted, the bullied ones, but I couldn’t help but think about the time I struck back against a bully, yes, before he struck first, and how I felt then. I was told that Trump was making a sale, setting a position beyond the pale so as to negotiate, but I wasn’t looking for a salesman-in-chief, especially one who might set a new position beyond a new pale. Oh, and then he won the nomination, and that’s when it REALLY got bad.

    So here we have him, President Trump, with a cowed Republican Congress ready to rubber-stamp his will, with a crowd of rabid supremacists baying at his heels, with practically every woman in the country marching on Washington, and I’m told there’s nothing to be afraid of. Oh, they aren’t LITERAL Nazis. WHO CARES IF THEY’RE LITERAL NAZIS? Why are we having this discussion in the first place? Couldn’t we have elected a president the supremacists, you know, DON’T like? Couldn’t we have had a race where we talked about real issues, not dreams and grievances? We don’t know what’s coming out of Trump’s pen in the years to come, but we know what’s come out of his mouth. If it’s the same thing, God help us all. If it’s something else, couldn’t we have, you know, elected an honest man?

    How am I doing?

  51. ji
    January 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

    It is untrue (in this case), unproductive, and uncharitable to refer to one’s political opponent as a Nazi.

    The new president was elected fair and square, in fair and open elections in the several States and federal district. We’ll have another election in four years. Be patient.

    Our republic is a system of checks and balances. The legislative branch may choose not to pass the laws that the fear-mongerers are afraid of, and even if so, the judicial branch might not let those laws stand. Those branches of government are strong enough to do their jobs, and the new president will respect that. I want our republic to succeed — therefore, I have to hope the haters and other discontenteds do not win in their effort to de-legitimize the new president or undermine the election result. I hope they will sustain him in his office and sustain our republic — I hope they will forgive any alleged or real trespasses — I hope they will pray for him. Echoing a great former president, I hope the better angels of our nature will prevail (1st inaugural address) and that we will have charity for all and malice towards none (second inaugural address).

    We’ll have another election in four years. That’s part of the beauty of our republic. May God bless America.

    And may the new president turn off his Twitter account and learn how to govern.

  52. Mars
    January 23, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Look, everybody hyperventilating needs to read this again. There are legit reasons to oppose Trump, so oppose him on those grounds, not because he’s an evil sorceror.

  53. Randy Claywell
    March 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I see quite a few liberals have commented.
    The lament for the decline of liberal democracies is upsetting. To see the true results of liberalism in politics one has only to look at the socialist riots starting after the election; krystal nacht! I don’t remenber rioting in the streets when Obama was twice elected. The attitude of the conservatives was that we had a constitutional election and that we lost. The last time that I looked America is not any type of democracy but is a republic. To see socialistic democracy in action I refer you to the riots, the cries to overthrow a legitimate election, the calls for Trump’s assassination, the calls for open, armed, treason. These are the actions of your liberals.
    Someone commented on petitions to stop the MTC from performing for the inauguration, stating that this is more an international church now. What I missed was when did the Church stop being run by Jesus through his Prophet and became run by petition?
    It’s my understanding that when Jesus said that the Constitution and the United States were inspired, the many prophets and other church leaders who have refered to America as a gift , and a light for the world…maybe he and they meant it.
    If the Church and the gospel have become too strict…it wasn’t God who changed.

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