More questions than answers as Donald Trump flags come down

See updates through October 3, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. Flags in front of a house in Clairton, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There are one U.S. flag, two U.S. Army flags, one Confederate battle flag, and, less visibly behind a utility pole, a Betsy Ross flag. Photograph by author, April 29, 2020.

So, as I’m driving around southwestern Pennsylvania, I’m noticing a lot fewer signs and flags in support of Donald Trump.

The ubiquitous Confederate flags in the area almost entirely came down after the January 6 coup attempt. There are still a few up, but they’ve become rare. Read more

It is now even more urgently orange jumpsuit time

See updates through September 19, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. Donald Trump, depicted in an orange jumpsuit, reportedly by the Drudge, via Mediaite,[1] fair use.

I suppose I should not be surprised that the story of Donald Trump’s absconding with records that properly belong with the National Archives and Records Administration[2] is taking a darker turn. Read more

  1. [1]Alex Griffing, “Drudge Puts Trump in an Orange Jumpsuit as Site Monitors His Potential Indictment,” Mediaite, August 29, 2022, https://www.mediaite.com/news/drudge-puts-trump-in-an-orange-jumpsuit-as-site-monitors-his-potential-indictment/
  2. [2]Jacqueline Alemany et al., “National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/trump-records-mar-a-lago/; Farnoush Amiri, “National Archives: Trump took classified items to Mar-a-Lago,” Associated Press, February 19, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-national-security-9c1f6dca7e3e8073ee029604c8253a5c; Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search; Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/; Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, “Agents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seized 11 sets of classified documents, court filing shows,” Washington Post, August 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/12/trump-warrant-release/; Devlin Barrett et al., “Mar-a-Lago search appears focused on whether Trump, aides withheld items,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-fbi-search-mar-a-lago/; Devlin Barrett et al., “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say,” Washington Post, August 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/11/garland-trump-mar-a-lago/; Igor Derysh, “‘Lawyers are giggling’: Legal experts scratch their heads at Trump’s ‘very strange’ new DOJ lawsuit,” Salon, August 23, 2022, https://www.salon.com/2022/08/23/lawyers-are-giggling-legal-experts-scratch-their-heads-at-trumps-very-strange-new-doj/; Matt Ford, “Trump’s Republican Defenders Inexplicably Forgot To Expect the Worst,” New Republic, August 16, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/167422/gop-response-mar-a-lago-search; Lauren Gambino, “Judge to consider unsealing Trump search affidavit as legal worries mount,” Guardian, August 16, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/aug/16/donald-trump-search-affidavit-legal-cases; Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha, “Merrick Garland Weighed Search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago for Weeks,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/merrick-garland-weighed-search-of-trumps-mar-a-lago-for-weeks-11660601292; Clyde Hughes, “Rep. Greene files articles of impeachment against Attorney General Garland,” United Press International, August 13, 2022, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2022/08/13/-Marjorie-Taylor-Greene-articles-impeachment-Merrick-Garland-Attorney-General/4231660394406/; Julia Ioffe, “Defund… the F.B.I.?” Puck News, August 9, 2022, https://puck.news/defund-the-f-b-i/; Julia Ioffe, “The C.I.A.’s Trump Deja Vu,” Puck News, August 16, 2022, https://puck.news/the-c-i-a-s-trump-deja-vu/; David Klepper, “Trump’s angry words spur warnings of real violence,” Associated Press, August 16, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/ghislaine-maxwell-social-media-donald-trump-mar-a-lago-31741bb13f708ee68b523592623341eb; Erik Larson, “Trump’s ‘Planted Evidence’ Claim Unlikely to Stand Up In Court,” Bloomberg, August 11, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-08-11/trump-s-planted-evidence-claim-unlikely-to-stand-up-in-court; Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha, and Sadie Gurman, “FBI Recovered Eleven Sets of Classified Documents in Trump Search, Inventory Shows,” Washington Post, August 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fbi-recovered-eleven-sets-of-classified-documents-in-trump-search-inventory-shows-11660324501; Arwa Mahdawi, “The Mar-a-Lago search prompts a big question: who snitched?” Guardian, August 13, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/13/mar-a-lago-search-ivanka-trump-week-in-patriarchy; Renato Mariotti, “Espionage Isn’t the Strongest Case Against Trump. It’s Simpler Than That,” Politico, August 14, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/08/14/trump-classified-documents-doj-opinion-00051584; Tara Palmeri, “The Trump Informant Guessing Game: Knives Are Out!” Puck News, August 11, 2022, https://puck.news/the-trump-informant-guessing-game-knives-are-out/; Amber Phillips, “What could the Mar-a-Lago search mean for Trump legally?” Washington Post, August 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/what-is-presidential-records-act-how-did-trump-violate-it/; Jennifer Rubin, “Trump’s risk of indictment for his document snatch just skyrocketed,” Washington Post, August 23, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/23/trump-documents-indictment-risk-skyrocket/; Perry Stein, “Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/garland-trump-raid-politics/; Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, “Trump Tells His Lawyers: Get ‘My’ Top Secret Documents Back,” Rolling Stone, August 23, 2022, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/trump-tells-lawyers-get-my-top-secrets-documents-back-1234580501/; Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney, and Nicholas Wu, “FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations,” Politico, August 12, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/12/search-warrant-shows-trump-under-investigation-for-potential-obstruction-of-justice-espionage-act-violations-00051507; Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6; Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump calls for ‘immediate’ release of Mar-a-Lago warrant,” Associated Press, August 12, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-search-unsealing-the-warrant-5e00a3e6728cd77daa0d2180d078fcb6; Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, “Merrick Garland’s surprise announcement calls the Trump-GOP bluff,” Washington Post, August 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/11/garland-announcement-trump-fbi-bluff/; Marcy Wheeler, “Trump's Timid (Non-Legal) Complaints about Attorney-Client Privilege,” Empty Wheel, August 14, 2022, https://www.emptywheel.net/2022/08/14/trump-claims-the-ssa-receipt-includes-privileged-materials/; Cat Zakrzewski, “Lawmakers demand data about online threats against law enforcement,” Washington Post, August 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/08/19/fbi-social-media-law-enforcement/; Matt Zapotosky et al., “National Archives asks Justice Dept. to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records,” Washington Post, February 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/09/trump-archives-justice-department/

The false dichotomy of mythologies that underlies political polarization

I recently came across Anne Applebaum’s 2018 article in the Atlantic, “A warning from Europe: The worst is yet to come,” in which she describes the politics in Poland as reminiscent of Viktor Orbán’s competitive authoritarian regime in Hungary, posing it in a false dichotomy with meritocratic, cosmopolitan, and capitalist “liberalism.”[1] It’s not ideologically quite a match for white Christian nationalism, as indeed are not structurally similar regimes in Turkey and India, and as indeed would not be a similar regime which might arise in Italy[2] and might have arisen in France.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Anne Applebaum, “A warning from Europe: The worst is yet to come,” Atlantic, October 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/poland-polarization/568324/
  2. [2]Archie Bland, “Italy’s political dysfunction opens the door to a far-right government,” Guardian, August 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/22/first-edition-giorgia-meloni-italy-election
  3. [3]Arthur Goldhammer, “Yes, Be Worried: Marine Le Pen Could Finally Come to Power in France,” New Republic, April 7, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/166041/marine-le-pen-win-president-france-2022-elections

The really, really, really wild wildcards in the 2022 and 2024 elections

It seems Donald Trump’s entourage is perceiving a need for him to lawyer up[1] as the legal ramifications[2] of the search of Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago[3] become more apparent, but

One lawyer told a story from early in Trump’s presidency of his legal team urging him against tweeting about the Mueller probe, only to find he’d tweeted about it before they got to the end of the West Wing driveway. Several people said Trump was nearly impossible to represent and that it would be unclear if they would ever get paid.[4]

Read more

  1. [1]Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “I cannot yet tell you my 2024 forecast was wrong,” Not Housebroken, August 16, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/13/i-cannot-yet-tell-you-my-2024-forecast-was-wrong/
  3. [3]Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6; Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search
  4. [4]Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/

I cannot yet tell you my 2024 forecast was wrong


Fig. 1. “Handmaids protest abortion restrictions at a recent rally,” undated photograph by John O’Connor for the Associated Press, via The Well,[1] fair use.

See updates through September 10, 2022, at end of post.


If there is, hopefully, a scenario in which my 2024 forecast, in which I saw nothing stopping Donald Trump’s return to the presidency and the culmination of a longstanding project to establish what, in jargon, is called a competitive authoritarian regime,[2] might be derailed, it may lie in developments of the last few days, in which Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence was searched[3] and allegedly classified materials were retrieved.[4] While support for Trump appears to have solidified among Republicans,[5] the search warrant indicates that he is under investigation for, among other things, violations of the Espionage Act.[6] Read more

  1. [1]Kate Michael, “Attorneys General Heat Up as Reproductive Rights Cases Take Center Stage,” The Well, February 24, 2022, https://www.thewellnews.com/in-the-states/attorneys-general-heat-up-as-reproductive-rights-cases-take-center-stage/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, July 28, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  3. [3]Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6
  4. [4]Devlin Barrett et al., “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say,” Washington Post, August 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/11/garland-trump-mar-a-lago/; Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, “Agents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seized 11 sets of classified documents, court filing shows,” Washington Post, August 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/12/trump-warrant-release/; Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha, and Sadie Gurman, “FBI Recovered Eleven Sets of Classified Documents in Trump Search, Inventory Shows,” Washington Post, August 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fbi-recovered-eleven-sets-of-classified-documents-in-trump-search-inventory-shows-11660324501
  5. [5]Clyde Hughes, “Rep. Greene files articles of impeachment against Attorney General Garland,” United Press International, August 13, 2022, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2022/08/13/-Marjorie-Taylor-Greene-articles-impeachment-Merrick-Garland-Attorney-General/4231660394406/; Julia Ioffe, “Defund… the F.B.I.?” Puck News, August 9, 2022, https://puck.news/defund-the-f-b-i/; Tina Nguyen, “‘The DeSantasy Is Over,’” Puck News, August 10, 2022, https://puck.news/the-desantasy-is-over/; Steve Peoples, “GOP rallies around Trump following FBI search of his estate,” Associated Press, August 10, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/gop-rallies-around-donald-trump-a0f20a219b1090fd02f529acf744f246
  6. [6]Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney, and Nicholas Wu, “FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations,” Politico, August 12, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/12/search-warrant-shows-trump-under-investigation-for-potential-obstruction-of-justice-espionage-act-violations-00051507

In Alice’s Wonderland, or, rather, its Gilead equivalent, a bluff is not a bluff

See updates through August 14, 2022, at end of post.


Our story today begins with a search. Conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate,[1] apparently for nuclear secrets that should have been turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration when Trump left office,[2] it has provoked the entirely predictable white Christian nationalist outrage[3] and reunified the Republican Party around Trump.[4] Read more

  1. [1]Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search; Devlin Barrett et al., “Mar-a-Lago search appears focused on whether Trump, aides withheld items,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-fbi-search-mar-a-lago/; Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6
  2. [2]Devlin Barrett et al., “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say,” Washington Post, August 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/11/garland-trump-mar-a-lago/
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “Defund… the F.B.I.?” Puck News, August 9, 2022, https://puck.news/defund-the-f-b-i/; Perry Stein, “Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/garland-trump-raid-politics/
  4. [4]Tina Nguyen, “‘The DeSantasy Is Over,’” Puck News, August 10, 2022, https://puck.news/the-desantasy-is-over/; Steve Peoples, “GOP rallies around Trump following FBI search of his estate,” Associated Press, August 10, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/gop-rallies-around-donald-trump-a0f20a219b1090fd02f529acf744f246

A theory of conservative epistemology

See update for August 19, 2022, at end of post.


Honestly, I had not planned on traversing Kansas two days after, as it turned out, voters there rejected a constitutional amendment that would have cleared the way for further abortion restrictions in the state.[1]

The first sign I noticed along Interstate 70 said, “Kill Relativism, Not Babies.” Okay, I thought to myself, how many people will even know what that means? Read more

  1. [1]Annie Gowen and Colby Itkowitz, “Kansans resoundingly reject amendment aimed at restricting abortion rights,” Washington Post, August 3, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/08/02/kansas-abortion-referendum/