A Project on Authoritarian Thought
Done entirely on Substack
Cherry wood peeking through resin on the table I am building.
I was working on this table this morning, when a clamor broke out on the windowsill above my head. The clamor, it turned out, was a crow attacking the nest of a nesting pair of morning doves. The result of the clamor was that a baby morning dove fell out of the nest—and onto my work on the table. I was momentarily startled, but not so startled as was the poor baby bird, who was stunned for some time, though apparently unhurt—at least to my eyes.
Not knowing how best to be of help, I continued sanding my table and the baby bird watched placidly, not knowing how to tell me what it needed. Eventually, I decided the baby bird would be best off in my tomato beds, which have some fencing around them that I hoped would protect the baby from neighborhood mammals. So I got the baby bird into a dustpan and placed it in the soil. I filled the dustpan with water in case it got thirsty. The baby bird quickly scurried under a bush, where I lost track of it. Later in the morning, I was pleased to see that its parents seemed to be in the tomato bed too—I assume feeding and guarding the baby.
I will see if I can learn more about its fate tomorrow.
In the meantime, it is today’s #BeastOfTheDay.
I have decided to do a project on American authoritarian thought—and to do it right here on Substack. I would say I am planning to write a book on the subject, but my idea is actually a great deal more nascent than that. Maybe the project will turn out to be a book. Maybe it won’t. Maybe there’s something cohesive and interesting here. Maybe there’s not. I don’t quite know what I’m doing yet, and I’m inviting you to not know what you’re doing with me as I try to do it.
The only thing I know I am doing is reading about the history of authoritarian ideas in modern American and European history, with an eye towards identifying the intellectual roots of contemporary American right-wing ideology. I’ve decided to this reading in semi-public.
Specifically, I’m interested the question of the intellectual roots of Trumpism. When I say “roots” here, I don’t mean to trace the political lineage of Trump’s brand of American politics, which clearly owes a debt to the George Wallaces and the Pat Buchanans of the world. Others, Jon Rauch most notably, have done this, and they’ve done it well. And the history of politics isn’t really my thing anyway. Nor do I mean to mine Trump’s own thought for meaning in a fashion that would give his blathering too much credit. I have spent far too much time in Trump’s head the past few years. I’m not interested in spending any more.
My interest, rather, is in the intellectual history of the ideological themes into which he has tapped: where these ideas really come from and why they have remained so persistent over time. I’m looking, in short, for the Ur-text of Trumpism.
I plan to do this research, to the maximum extent possible, in the plain view of, and in dialogue with, #DogShirtDaily’s paid subscribers.