BOOK REVIEW | "THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVITUDE: DONALD TRUMP'S WASHINGTON AND THE PRICE OF SUBMISSION" BY MARK LEIBOVICH
photo & text by nacrowe
INDIRECT CHARACTERIZATION is an interesting literary technique. it allows you to provide useful information about a subject not through describing it outright, but instead showcasing how said subject affects its environment and all that inhabits it. this technique provides more useful and comprehensive knowledge in understanding the complete arc of narrative.
such is the conceit of current THE ATLANTIC staff writer and former NEW YORK TIMES chief national correspondent MARK LEIBOVICH's recent offering THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVITUDE: DONALD TRUMP'S WASHINGTON AND THE PRICE OF SUBMISSION (PENGUIN PRESS, 2022) which details that story of the 45TH PRESIDENT's not through the man himself, but through the perspective of the devolving GOP ESTABLISHMENT and the HUBRIS, OPPORTUNISM, GREED and FEAR that marked their continued (to this day) undying fealty to this false emperor. it really is quite remarkable how a CULT OF PERSONALITY transformed a political party in such a short amount of time.
growing up a child of the oil industry, my family moved around a bit to countries like NIGERIA and KUWAIT who had longstanding tenuous grasps on DEMOCRATIC VALUES like EQUALITY, JUSTICE and LIBERTY. if you spoke ill publicly of SANI ABACHA or the EMIR then bad stuff happened. this sort of thing i saw again later in life when i work as an secondary english teacher at AMERICAN international schools in both VENEZUELA and MYANMAR. a coworker's uncle in CARACAS literally disappeared after he said something untoward about MADURO on TWITTER and in MANDALAY it was just understood that you didnt go there with taboo subjects like the ROHINGYA genocide, AUNG SAN SUU KYI or other ongoing ethnic conflicts in the north. i say this to just emphasize the fact that i am intimately aware of what it is like to grow up, go to school and even work in these types of AUTHORITARIAN situations where fear of reprisal works its COERCIVE magic on what you say and to whom. as a former PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA, i even saw a country struggling to get a handle on infighting factions corrupting genuine attempts at implementing a more just state of affairs. i know what it feels like to be in a situation where your values are not remotely represented, in practical or even idealized terms, in that of a government. in fact i know what it feels like to survive in an anti-democratic country.
and the UNITED STATES feels like it is getting closer to the latter.
so its quite upsetting that in the UNITED STATES, the literal beacon of democracy that the world looks toward (fairly or unfairly) could have a major party meltdown to outright AUTHORITARIANISM in such quick succession. and what LIEBOVICH presents to the reader over and over again is that the AMBITION for POWER and INFLUENCE or the fear of reprisal and humiliation has led most REPUBLICANS to justify decisions that go against their better judgement. like a meek kid that acquiesces his lunch money to a school bully at recess or a repeatedly abused spouse, these "LEADERS" instead of standing up offer limp CONCESSIONS, JUSTIFICATIONS and ASSURANCES to the public that maintaining the new status quo will work out in the end. that line of thinking has brought our country to the brink of civil war and the end of democracy. it sounds hyperbolic but that risk still stands.
its easy to call these REPUBLICANS COWARDS, CHARLATANS and even ACCOMPLICES to our current state of affairs. i think what LIEBOVICH provides on a steady case by case basis as he makes his way through the narrative of TRUMP's DOOMED presidency is an understanding of the pressures, both internal and external, that led to such SPINELESS, SERVILE behavior. stating these senators, representatives, anchors, governors, white house aids, cabinet members and such by name just riles me up and i dont want to give them anymore exposure. that recognition is what they crave. my hope is that when history is written they will all be lumped together and forgotten about as individuals, instead given a derivative tag that evokes their SUBSERVIENT nature (the new KNOW-NOTHING PARTY).
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVITUDE provided me with an unfortunate new appreciation for the nature of POWER and its predictably coercive affect on humans, even those tasked with upholding our way of life. the most chilling moment is LEIBOVICH's image of TRUMP watching and rewinding his live television feed during the JANUARY 6th INSURRECTION, taking in his warped credo of MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN play out on THE NATIONAL MALL and in the halls of the CAPITOL BUILDING. its still chilling to consider and even more so now that the inevitable next campaign is all but assumed to be announced in short order at the time of writing this.
we are still seemingly very much in peril. TRUMP and his TOADIES are currently advocating for something called SCHEDULE F, that if given power again he would effectively rid the government of civil service workers protections and pave the way for him to replace career civil servants with his own acolytes at will. it is still a scary time. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVITUDE is an informative and helpful book that utilizes a familiar narrative to structure the past and present openly stated motivations for CAPITULATIONS by a whole slew of SYCOPHANTIC REPUBLICANS over the past half decade. its difficult to stomach but most definitely worth reading, especially given the potential AUTHORITARIAN trajectory our country is seemingly headed down.