My original headline for this post was “What would happen to the world were Donald Trump to suddenly die?” I wanted to (and will) explore the “What if…?” possibilities of Trump – a famously unhealthy person with a famously unhealthy diet suddenly succumbing to a lifetime of bad habits and croaking unexpectedly due to natural causes. In other words, what if Trump disappeared personally from the public stage in a way that made it harder for his followers to martyrize him? Would that rob Trump of some of his disruptive potency? Disruption really is the secret to Trump’s dark success. He disrupted the GOP, disrupted our entire political process, disrupted our government, disrupted climate change, the SCOTUS, NATO, the USPS, health care in general, abortion rights specifically, and free and fair elections themselves forever more. No other candidate in the entire history of American politics has been as negatively impactful as Trump.
No one has been more deserving of investigation, prosecution and punishment than Trump. Yet, no one’s investigation,. prosecution and punishment is more likely to cause so much violence. We assume a big part of why Merrick Garland still hasn’t prosecuted Trump is because of what his followers would do. Yeah, sure, aside from Richard Nixon, America has never criminally prosecuted a president in any way (and his resigning because of the threat he’d be impeached and convicted was a political result, not a criminal justice result). The DoJ going after Trump would set some pretty significant precedents.
But, what if Trump suddenly vanished from the picture in a way that even his looniest followers couldn’t say was suspicious? What if Trump went face down in his lunch time taco bowl and checked off the mortal coil?
On the one hand, justice would then never get properly served. Even if we rounded up and prosecuted every single Trumpanista from top to bottom, the fact that Trump would escape prosecution would make justice feel a lot less satisfying. But, I suspect, we could learn to live with that lack of total justice. On the plus side, prosecuting every single political player who benefited from Trumpism would pretty much eliminate the entire Republican Party as a going concern. How key is Trump’s continuing presence to the Republican Party’s ongoing ability to avoid prosecution for overt criminal acts? How key is Trump’s continuing presence to the GOP’s plan to destroy American democracy forever?
Could the Republicans really finish what Donald Trump started without Trump’s physical presence? Are Republicans really as politically dangerous without Trump as an organizing principle around which to corruptly organize? If we take Trump away as their rallying cry, what’s the rallying cry to replace him? Fascism and authoritarianism itself?
It was always hilarious that our punditry (witless as ever) actually entertained the idea that Ivanka or Don, Jr could have political careers in the future. They’re more likely to have careers in the priesthood or at NASA than as president. Ron DeSantis running for president doesn’t have the same threat as Trump because Ron DeSantis, terrible human that he is, is not Trump and will never gin up the Republican base the way Trump did. No other Republican can manipulate the rest of the Republican Party the way Trump can because no other Republican has compromised the entire Republican Party the way Trump has.
Even before the GOP nominated Trump to be POTUS in 2016, they KNEW for a fact that Trump was a grave national security threat because of his relationship with Putin. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it as he entered a meeting of GOP leaders on June 25, 2016, “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” This moment cannot go unexplained or uninvestigated. Understand this moment from the inside and you’ll understand what the last five years have really been about.
You’ll understand why Trump could do whatever he wanted without the GOP reeling him in. You’ll understand Mitch McConnell insisting in September 2016 that if Barack Obama informed the American electorate that Russia was actively working to tip the 2016 election to Trump, that he, McConnell would tell America that Obama was “politicizing the intelligence” in order to help Hillary Clinton win. You’ll understand why Trump has continued to do everything humanly possible to keep his finances private, why Rod Rosenstein ended all counter intelligence investigations into Trump, why Bill Barr lied about the Mueller Report and why there even was an insurrection to begin with.
Take Donald Trump’s fight to the death to obstruct justice out of the conversation and what would happen going forward?
Sure, some of the Republicans would try to keep the bullshit flying but without Trump as the bullshit’s chief inspiration – without Trump himself peddling The Big Lie – The Big Lie will not fly.
Without Trump’s bloated orange presence, a lot of the legal roadblocks would stop immediately. No other defendant will have the criminal capacity (or genetics) to persist at all costs the way Trump will. None of them sits at the nexus of all the corruption the way Trump does,
If Donald Trump were to suddenly vanish, the world would instantly become a better place simply because Donald Trump was no longer in it. Our Trump-loving news media won’t be able to fill the void with any other Republican. That void will become increasingly apparent as the GOP further fragments into small personality cults and violent militia groups. As prosecutions continue, the rudderless Republicans will quickly realize that all the good sentence reduction deals are long gone; they’ll have to fight to the death for scraps. And fight to the death these criminals absolutely will.
That’s the moment we should all be waiting for – the one where the villains of the piece realize the piece is going to end with them all in federal prison. This will happen regardless of whether Trump is here or not. Trump’s presence makes it harder – way harder. But no less essential.
Could we “live with” not getting every last drop of justice we want from this? If it means our democracy survives – and that everyone who aided and abetted Trump gets what they deserve? Hell, yes. It will still beat the living crap out of the alternative.