Pull almost any thread on the various crises crippling America and (as it unravels the sweater that was the greatest experiment ever in human self-government), it will lead you to treason. The ongoing threat to our democracy – the Republican Party’s out-in-the-open embrace of authoritarianism – is an act of treason unto itself. But, the fact is, what set this monster free, what unleashed this treacherous kraken was the Republican Party hitching its wagon to Donald Trump despite KNOWING that Russia owned him. As this blog keeps reminding the world, it’s just a stone cold fact: the GOP leadership is on record knowing that Trump was a national security threat at least a month before nominating him in 2016. The instant GOP leaders like Paul Ryan and (current GOP Leader) Kevin McCarthy agreed to keep their terrible secret a secret – from We The People, from the press – even from the FBI – they formally became traitors.
For socialized creatures like humans, treason is about the highest crime imaginable. We rely upon the security, the health, and the sanctity of the group for our very survival. For our happiness. A democracy takes that reliance on the group and ups the ante: the people administering the group’s needs ARE the People, the members of the group itself. “L’etat c’est nous” might be how Louis XIV would penser of it. We need to trust that the people we’ve entrusted with our quotidian essentials aren’t working against us. Or working for people whose interests conflict with ours.
Why would someone turn on the group like that? We understand the dynamic tension between haves and have-nots within our culture. An awful lot of criminal behavior is just variations on greed. The lopsidedness we all feel – that’s because all the greed is getting squeezed into a smaller and smaller space – fewer haves. Let’s put aside the unfairness of it. Looking to get as much as you can with what ya got – that’s ordinary. It simply doesn’t compare to someone who – whatever issue they have with the group – goes directly to outsiders to find satisfaction.
That’s what Donald Trump has done. I think we can all agree that greed and nothing but motivates Donald Trump. Greed is what gets him out of bed in the morning. Personal enrichment is the only bottom line Trump has or recognizes. He registered as a Democrat in NY not because he embraced the Democratic Party’s values but because Trump, being cynical down to his mitochondria recognized that in order to get anything done in heavily Democratic NY, he had to be a Democrat. The reason he didn’t run for POTUS as a Democrat is because he knew he’d never win the nomination as a Democrat. If he had a shot, it’d be as a Republican.
Businesspeople are businesspeople, public servants are public servants. This, Democrats understand. It’s why Mike Bloomberg thinking he could win the Democratic nomination for president was “Never Gonna Happen!” stupid. Being entirely cynical, Trump knew he could play only to an equally cynical room – the Republican Party. The Never Trumpers in the GOP hate Trump and his methods. They don’t necessarily hate what Trump wants for the wealthy in America.
This is the petard on which the GOP will hoist itself – and, boy, is that gonna hurt!
Think of the “Good Germans” – the ones who disagreed vehemently with Hitler (including what he was doing right in front of them to the Jews) but who didn’t DO anything to change or stop it. At the end of the day, these folks were more German than “good”. Disagreeing was one thing, Actively disagreeing something else entirely. These Germans might call themselves “good”; I doubt their former Jewish neighbors – the ones who died in death camps – would concur. From a Jewish perspective, the pool of “Good Germans” is actually way smaller. It absolutely existed – but it wasn’t a “pool”; more like a puddle, Anyone NOT in that puddle collaborated even if in a small way to all those Jews – and Roma people and gay people and anyone else the Germans chose for execution – ending up in large piles of bodies or as ashes.
Evil isn’t a bond villain, it’s much more banal than that. It’s a bored Nazi guard at a death camp. It’s a Southern American sheriff stopping a Black driver just because they’re Black. It’s handing a shivering Native American a blanket you KNOW is infected with smallpox. It’s personally ordering a Japanese American family out of their home at gun point and sending them to a concentration camp just because they’re Japanese. None of these things had to happen. People did them. They refused to stand in evil’s way. They collaborated with it. They found common purpose with it.
What makes treason so particularly evil is its scope. That’s where the banal turns Bond Villain and evil gets its close up.
[NOTE: the illustration is from The Boston Globe. It’s genius.]