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What authoritarians see

This photo, which I assume is an official White House photo, is historic. We’re going to see it for the rest of our lives, in documentaries about Donald Trump’s impeachment and how we almost lost the American republic to a gang of tawdry, slow-witted, money-grubbing little boys who grew up mean and twisted. Nancy Pelosi’s role as the heroine in this drama is now a given.

As you probably know from yesterday’s news, the photo first became public when Trump tweeted it, with the caption โ€œNervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!โ€

Pelosi immediately made it her Twitter header photo, and the photo went viral.

Molly Roberts has a good column in this morning’s Washington Post, The Nancy Pelosi photo is a Rorschach test for an America cleaved into two. Molly Roberts is exactly right. What authoritarians like Trump and Trump supporters see in the photo is entirely different from what we liberals see.

Shortly after Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer walked out of the meeting, Pelosi held a press conference in which she talked about what happened in the meeting. (There’s a video clip from the press conference with Molly Roberts’ column.) Pelosi said, “At that moment, I was probably saying, ‘All roads lead to Putin.'”

To authoritarians, Trump is the Big Man. He is the bully-in-chief, their little God figure who belittles and pushes around all the people that right-wing authoritarians don’t like. He makes little dime-a-dozen authoritarians everywhere believe that he’s making them great again. To authoritarians, the very idea that a woman, any woman, would loom over Donald Trump at the White House cabinet table and tell the Big Man to his face that he is a traitor to the United States of America is highly offensive. If a woman like Nancy Pelosi is not supportive of Donald Trump, then she is supposed to be afraid of him. That’s the way things are supposed to work in the authoritarian utopia that we’re all expected to live in once all those feckless little authoritarians have made America great again.

On the other hand, we liberals don’t give a damn about authority and power. When authority is wrong and wicked, we stand up and say stick it up your nose. When power is corrupt and tells lies, we speak truth to it. Finger-wagging is optional, but standing up to deliver truth to power is essential. It’s the finger-wagging, though, that makes this photo so historic. Trump is being told just how little he really is. Notice how the old men to Trump’s right are hanging their heads, under the bust of Ben Franklin. The photo is perfect. It’s astonishing that an authoritarian mind such as Trump’s can think that the photo makes him look good and Nancy Pelosi look bad.

It wouldn’t hurt to keep in mind that Nancy Pelosi isn’t just anybody. She’s a very rich woman from San Francisco, and right now she is not only the most powerful woman in the country, she’s also the most powerful person in the country (and she knows it). She is third in line to the presidency as the law closes in on both Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Part of what the photo reveals is that the tables have turned. Trump’s weakness and bluster are exposed. Trump is already defeated, though the process for getting him out of the White House and off to prison will take a while longer.

Once Trump is gone, several million of his adoring followers are still going to be with us. It remains to be seen whether right-wing propaganda will try to find a new Trump and keep Trumpsters enraged or whether it will try to win them over to an old and boring standby such as Mitt Romney and a saner kind of politics. If the Republican Party should decide that yet more rage and division best serve its purposes, then we’re going to have millions of Trumpsters in our faces, their gloating turned to fury, some of them wanting civil war. Nancy Pelosi is setting an example. The law and the Constitution are on our side. We do not report to Vladimir Putin. We don’t have to take that sitting down.


  1. frigast wrote:

    Yes, the thickset males on the right side of the table seems to search their mind for a way out if/when Trump falls – but how come 4 from the left side of the table all are having a hand up to their mouth/cheek ??

    Friday, October 18, 2019 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Frigast: Good question! I can positively identify only the person to Pelosi’s immediate right. That’s Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator. It’s possible that some of the others on the left side came with Nancy Pelosi, but some research would be required because I don’t immediately recognize the faces.

    Friday, October 18, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  3. frigast wrote:

    Could the hand be there prepared to hide a sudden smile ??

    Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 5:19 am | Permalink
  4. Tom wrote:

    To Nancy’s immediate left and sitting back a bit from the table, maybe pushing away, would be Hoyer. The man with glasses and chin resting on his hand looks like Bob Menendez. On the other side of the table, farthest from Trump is Steve Scalise. Would love to know who the general is. Just waking up this morning and testing my powers of recognition.

    Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink
  5. Tom wrote:

    General Miley is to Trump’s right.

    Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  6. frigast wrote:

    I think it’s Commanding General U.S. Forces, Futures Command John M. Murray – but see for yourself – under ‘list of generals’, present ones are no. 216-227 – and take your pick ๐Ÿ™‚
    The physiognomy of no. 222 could be similar to that on your pic ๐Ÿ™‚

    Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

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