Trump: the stochastic president?
A first look at Michael Wolff’s account of Trump’s actions on 6 January
The historian Timothy Mason once described the Nazi regime as “politics without administration”. For Hitler’s inner circle, he wrote, the traits of systemisation, regularity, and calculability in government were seen as limiting their ability to wield power.
The regime “characteristically produced both non-policies or evasions… or sudden and drastic decisions in the government machine”. By the end, the Third Reich disintegrated into an aggregation of unco-ordinated task forces and political responsibility became “increasingly blurred”. (1)
Reading Michael Wolff’s account of Trump’s role in the insurrection of 6 January 2021, published yesterday by New York Magazine, we are immediately plunged back into the historians’ war over “function versus intention”, only now with an incontinent man-baby as the Führer, and a gaggle of incels and Shamanists as the stormtroopers.
Wolff specialises in a curious form of insider journalism. He spills the beans about detail but more significant beans seem to be with-held. Given a ringside seat at a key moment of history, he’s never quite able to capture the the actual history, only fragmentary sentences and gestures.
But the picture he paints of Trump on 6 January, even if only partially accurate, is enough to draw conclusions about the former President’s role in the storming of the Capitol.
As evidenced by Wolff, Trump intended something alright: to force VP Mike Pence to refuse to ratify the results of the Electoral College, which went before Congress on that afternoon. But the function of Trump’s action was to produce a different event: the storming of the legislature, which because of his subsequent inaction — indeed detachment from reality — then became a serious security crisis for the Federal State, and led to the ignominious collapse of the coup attempt.
Let’s summarise the evidence Wolff provides, in an excerpt from his upcoming book Landslide.
- Between 18 December…