Eggs and Omelettes

As I write this, it is getting dark in Washington D. C. There are still pro-Trump rioters inside the Capitol and darkness does odd things to riots.  On all the channels I have watched, the reporters and commentators are asking, “How did it come to this?”  I would like to reflect right now, before it gets dark in Washington, on how it came to this.

I think that Trump [1] is very careful about some things and entirely cavalier about others. The maintenance of his image is what he is most careful about.  There is no telling what a man like this is, but it is clear that he cares about how he seems.  “If you hit him,” said one of his campaign aides in 2016, “he will hit back harder.  He can’t help himself.”  And, of course, if he can’t help himself, he can’t help us.

When you choose a risky course of action, you must always ask how close to the edge you are willing to come.  You must ask what is the likelihood that you will go over that edge.  And you must ask how bad it would be if you did.

There is a perspective on these questions that I have always heard attributed to Lenin.Referring to the bloodshed occasioned by the Bolshevik takeover in Russia, he said, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”  It’s catchy.  It’s easy to repeat.  But it doesn’t say why making an omelette is that important and it doesn’t specify that these eggs are human lives.  So I would translate Lenin’s aphorism as, “The supreme value of the omelette is so great that the sacrifice of the eggs is of no concern at all.”

I began to worry about this during the 2016 campaign when Trump said he might not be willing to recognize the results of a failed election.  He might just take over the government anyway because it was clearly the will of the American people. [2]  He also said that he had friends who were very upset and who believed firmly in the 2nd Amendment.  He came right up to the edge of calling directly for the assassination of Hillary Clinton.

Now come to the present moment in Washington.  It will be dark in fifteen minutes.  Thereare still protesters inside the Capitol.  The protesters are in Washington because Trump told them to come.  I doubt very much that he had in mind the possibility that they would break through the barriers and take a crowbar to the doors, but had some prudent staffer suggested the possibility to him, I think he would say it was a risk he was willing to run.  There is that thing about eggs and omelettes.

So first, I don’t think this is a strategy that Trump is following.  I think he has done what he has needed to do to seem undefeated and unrepentant in public.  Whatever that is, he does it.  He is not thinking of consequent action; he is thinking of blustering.

Second, if he had imagined what possibilities were opened up by bringing together a crowd of protesters who believe the election was fraudulent, he would have said it was worth the risk.  Called upon by President-elect Biden to stand up for order and peace, he reassured his crowd today that the election was, in fact, stolen from them, and that he had, in fact, won by “a landslide.”  Then he told them to go home.  Right.

If a few of his followers, fueled by righteous anger, get out of hand, that is worth the risk.  If he gets to continue to blast and incite, it is worth the risk.  “But Mr. President, what about all those eggs?”

Those eggs are the common property of the American people.  They are a commitment to the peaceful transition of power, to the rule of law, to constitutional democracy, to our image of leadership in a world where democracy is a sometime thing.  Is it really worth the risk to those common values?

Well…how important is the omelette?  To Donald Trump, the omelette is all that matters and his image is the omelette.

It’s dark now in Washington.

[1]  I stopped saying “President Trump,” which has been my practice over the last four years, when he called the Secretary of State in Georgia and instructed him to “find him” another 11,800 votes.

[2]  It is clear, now, that he thinks the people who show up at his rallies are typical of the American people.  He knows what the American people want because he listens to the crowds at the pro-Trump rallies.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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