To read the rhetorical evolution of Andy Divine’s latest essay, is to witness the flowering of his particular variety of political hysteria. It begins with Shakespeare’s Richard III via Stephen Greenblatt’s ‘Tyrant’, and ‘a performance by Antony Sher of Richard decades ago’* with aid from Plato and Aristotle, on the notion that tyranny is ‘wrapped up in the darker folds of the human soul, individual and collective.’
What follows is a long exegesis of Shakespeare’s play and this conclusion about the Tyrant drawn from Mr. Greenblatt: But he has one key skill, Greenblatt notes, the ability to lie shamelessly. This followed by more of his narration about the play. His long description of the play interrupted by this insight : Denial. Avoidance. Distraction. Willful ignorance. These are all essential to enabling a tyrant’s rise. He then continues his exposition of the drama, the rhetorical frame in all its highfalutin melodrama has been set, Mr. Divine need only supply the vulgar dramaturgy that is his trademark. Note the sentence I’ve rendered in bold font!
This is what we’ve been dealing with in the figure of Donald Trump now for five years, and it is absurd to believe that a duly conducted election is going to end it. I know, I know. I’m hysterical and over-the-top and a victim of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Trump is simply too incompetent and too lazy to be an actual tyrant, I’m constantly scolded. He’s just baiting me again. And so on. But what I think this otherwise salient critique misses is that tyranny is not, in its essence, about the authoritarian and administrative skills required to run a country effectively for a long time. Tyrants, after all, are often terrible at this. It is rather about a mindset, as the ancient philosophers understood, with obvious political consequences. It’s a pathology. It requires no expertise in anything other than itself.
Andy then lets Barton Gellman do all the paranoid speculation, that he reports on, to his readers:
If you haven’t, read Gellman’s piece closely. It seems inevitable to me that, unless it’s a Biden landslide, Trump will declare himself the winner on election night, regardless of the actual results. Because most mail-in ballots will take more time to count, and several swing states have not changed their laws to allow for counting before election day, and mail-ins are easily challenged, it is quite likely that much of Biden’s vote will remain uncounted or contested — and could remain so for a long time. And after declaring victory within hours of polls closing, Trump will follow the script he used for Florida in 2018: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” he tweeted, making shit up as usual. “An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
Andy was/is one of the army of The Midwives of Trump, the historical evidence:
Race, Genes and I.Q. — An Apologia
The case for conservative multiculturalism
Click to access andrew-sullivan-i-was-wrong.pdf
On Jonathan Haidt’s and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind
Andy’s political hysteria is a product of his bad faith, to engage in a bit of armchair psychology, that is popular with the corporate political technocrats. That Trump is Richard III, is abandoned in favor of his usual screeching. The literary frame is abandoned, as not quite serviceable, to the personal affront that Trump directs to Andy himself. Call this what it is a toxic narcissism!
*I recall seeing an Omnibus television program, in the early 1950’s, the movie of Richard III, as performed by Laurence Olivier, when I was seven or eight years of age. Richard scared my younger self, but it was considered to be a necessary part of a ‘cultural enrichment’ of another Age.