Former Republican Rick Wilson got it so right: everything Trump touches dies. There are no exceptions to that rule.
Like a virus, Donald Trump can’t survive without a host. In our case, us. If he can’t infect us, he can’t reproduce his toxicity in sufficient quantity to survive. The best he can do is infect those around him and make more feckless, corrupt, ugly children.
Trump craves adoration because if he can get you to adore him, he can get you to do anything for him. Including die. Trumpism reproduces inside its adherents, zombifying them until they’re permanently cut off from reason, logic, facts, truth.
Just like that, a Trump follower’s needs are Trump’s needs.
There should never have been a first term of this disease. Take Russia out of the Trump equation and he never runs for office. He’s already broke and living on the street because no one was there to step in and rescue his bankrupt casinos or pay him a tidy $54 million profit on a white elephant house in Florida.
During his first term, Trump finished turning the entirety of the Republican Party into him. Take Lindsey Graham — a man who at one point said out loud that if the Republican Party followed Donald Trump, they’d deserve the certain destruction he’d cause them. Lindsey also said he’d never go along with naming a SCOTUS judge in an election year. I bet, when we finally get him under oath, Lindsey tells a long, complex, sordid tale about how exactly a person gets that corrupt and that vulnerable to corruption.
We don’t need Donald Trump to tell us that story because he’s already told it himself. He’s lived a life of corruption and — staggeringly — gotten away with it.
Our news media can’t seem to remember that Donald Trump is the first president ever to be impeached and then run for re-election — having been impeached for CHEATING in the very election he’s running in. That’s an amazing amount of normalization of stuff that should never be normalized. Then again, our news media oversaw the normalization of “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” and “Both sides are good people” and “15 cases will go to zero” and “fake news” and “our military are all suckers and losers” and on and on and on.
Normalization works exactly like an infection. It’s essential to Trumpism. We are the frog thinking the pool’s a little warmer than usual today — when, in fact, it’s boiling hot and we’re about to be frog soup.
There’s one answer to this: No.
The Republican Party is gambling everything on muscling the majority of Americans into submission. They’re slave masters after all, with a whip in their hand.
Oh, the surprise they’re all in for. We’ve taken the last whipping from them. We’ll have that whip — and rather than just turn it on them, we’ll subject them to the rule of law. They’ll wish we’d used the whip instead.
Finally – a health “care” plan that thinks like Donald Trump does — and “takes care” of people the same way.
The problem with normal health insurance is you end up paying to insure stuff that probably didn’t need insuring. Take your gall bladder. What are the odds that’s going to go bad on you. Hell, you probably don’t even know what your gall bladder does. So, how could you miss it?
With “Trump-Care ‘PICK-AN-ORGAN”, you’re in “full control” of which organs you insure and which you’re willing to gamble on. C’mon — when was the last time you gave a crap about your spleen? Hey — better question: when was the last time your spleen gave a crap about you?
Who wants to pay for health care YOU won’t ever get — or “might not” ever need? Only a schmuck pays for other peoples’ healthcare, amiright?
Think of it THIS WAY: You have lots of organs. What are the chances any will ‘go south’ on you during your lifetime? Your lungs? Probably not — unless you smoke. Your kidneys — You have two — you’re playing with house money. Your heart? Well, okay — that one could be a problem but at TrumpCare, we assume you don’t have a heart so what are we even talking about?
The point is, Trumpanistas are too smart to INSURE organs they don’t need to — or are worth the risk NOT to insure. And that’s why they (and everyone! will love “TrumpCare PICK-AN-ORGAN”!
Odds are nothing will happen to either of em. But you want to play it safe — so we offer options to allow YOU to decide: Insure Neither Lung, One Lung or Both Lungs!
See? Easy! Now, of course, the trick is, if you insure just one? Ya better hope like hell you insured the correct Lung — the one that’s gonna be needing insurance…
LET’S TALK INTESTINES!
If you’re like the average Joe, you have LOTS of this stuff inside ya. You have intestines to spare. In fact, you have so much intestine you even have two kinds (I know — weird, huh?) But do you really need to insure both? Do you really need to insure ‘ALL’ of it?
And what about your APPENDIX? You don’t even use it — hell you haven’t used it in millions of years. Only an idiot insures something he can’t use — amiright?
I KNOW THAT’S MY LIVER BUT WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ‘GREEN’ THING?
The Truth is — Outside of your heart and lungs, your stomach and your anus, you haven’t a clue how any of your plumbing works. You know you HAVE a Liver and you remember somebody lecturing you once about alcoholism while you were passed out in a drunken stupor but that was so long ago.
Be that as it may — This is probably you: “What in hell’s name is that green thing — and please don’t say I have one…!”
Yeah, you have one all right — and it costs a BOMB to insure it — IF you insure it…
YOUR SPLEEN — 1-2-3-ANSWER QUICKLY: ‘WHAT’S IT DO?‘
Not a goddamned clue, amiright (and “The spleen ‘spleens’ ain’t it”)?
Here – we’ll even show you a spleen and point out all its bits. Does THAT help? No?
And you want to insure this WHY?
AND THEN THERE’S THIS ORGAN…
Insuring brains is expensive. In fact, it’s SO expensive, you’d have to be crazy to pay the freight. So why bother.
TrumpCare ‘PICK-AN-ORGAN’: ‘Hey — look at all the money YOU just saved!’
At the same moment a skeptic and a cynic cock their eyebrows in doubt, two very different things happen inside their heads.
The skeptic wants more evidence before passing judgment. The cynic has already made up his mind. In fact, his mind was made up at the start — and he already assumed the very worst. That means all the evidence that the skeptic finds important is meaningless to the cynic.
A skeptical voter wants to hear from both candidates. For them, the devil’s in the details — and so’s their vote. A cynical voter hasn’t read anything more than the headlines. Both sides do it so voting just contributes to the bad behavior. Cynical voters either don’t vote or vote against things, never “for”. It’s not like they have some vision they believe in. They’re empty and nihilistic. They couldn’t care less if the whole structure blew apart. It’s all the same to them.
In their defense, cynics aren’t necessarily responsible for their own cynicism. Plenty of cynical people became that way, acquiring their cynicism like a virus they picked up by going maskless at a Trump campaign rally. Their cynicism bled through their TV screens. A few may have picked it up through the newsprint they were reading. “Both sides do it” is as cynical as bullshit gets. It paints a picture with a brush so broad all one can see is the damned brush.
During Trump’s impeachment and Senate trial (hey, remember that — that Donald Trump was impeached and is the first POTUS ever to run for re-election AFTER BEING IMPEACHED?), our news media leaned heavily on comparisons between what was happening to Trump with what happened to Bill Clinton when he was impeached — for lying about a blow job. See the problem? Yeah, yeah, yeah — impeachment. Both stories have that in common.
But a blow job and acts that scream “TREASON” aren’t quite the same thing. That IS what Trump was impeached over — election fraud in league with a hostile foreign enemy. No blow job in the history of blow jobs could ever equal election fraud never mind treason. Yet, there was our news media essentially saying out loud that one impeachment was exactly equal to the other. They must be equal because “both sides do it”.
Excuse me for being skeptical.
When Republicans work to suppress Democratic voters (they never work to suppress their own of course — and Democrats NEVER work to suppress Republican voters because both sides don’t do that), they’re doing it for an entirely political reason: to get or hold onto power. There’s no policy basis for it. There’s no appealing to those voters as potential Republican voters. There’s the conclusion that those voters will vote against them and therefore they should not be allowed to vote. And if they DO vote, that vote should not be counted. When Democrats, by contrast, react to their votes and voters being suppressed, that is NOT them reacting politically. They’re reacting to their RIGHTS being violated — in other words, A CRIME.
But then our news media equates the vote suppressors (acting politically) with the vote “suppressees” (acting as the victims of a crime). It’s exactly like equating the victim of a mugging with the mugging. If you were there while the mugging was going on, it must be because you were “part of it”. “Both sides do it” understands — correctly — that both sides have a point of view. It misunderstands that a point of view isn’t necessarily legitimate. The bully and the bully’s victim have distinctly different points of view on their interaction. The bully cannot justify his — unless we see bullying and being its victim as equally justified and justifiable.
Remember back when America (and virtually nowhere else) debated the validity of climate science? America’s television news media would put a climate scientist (with facts and data at their fingertips) up against a climate denier (with nothing but their paid-for-by-polluters opinion). This, already, is not an equal fight. We’re pitting facts and reality up against bullshit.
These two people would share a screen split 50-50. In video vocabulary, a 50-50 screen says “these two points of view have equal value”. They could both be true — it’s up to the viewer to make up their mind. But that’s a false premise — because it’s not challenging the non-facts one side presents as legitimate argument. When the cameras roll, the climate scientist will have to spend valuable time trying to convince the TV audience that the bullshit they’re being forced to argue against is bullshit. Then, when the climate denier does the same thing — arguing that the facts are bullshit — the 50-50 of it all comes home to roost. A news show has given credence to nonsense.
A more accurate way to visually present the truth here would be to have the climate scientist filling 99% of the screen (relative to the value of the facts they brought to the studio) while the climate denier fills a few pixels up in the corner of the frame. The audio track would reflect the same balance. Result? We wouldn’t hear the climate denier’s voice — which is as it should be because they are lying and this is how we should think about the acceptable ratio of truth to lying in our discourse.
Cynicism is running rampant in America because, in large part, our news media is so cynical.
That doesn’t reflect reality and it doesn’t reflect who we really are as a nation. Not the majority of us. To be cynical is to think “Yeah, Mexicans ARE rapists”, women should be grabbed by their pussies, it’s okay if we canoodle with Putin and every other despot on earth, hundreds of thousands of Americans dead from the coronavirus is just “how it is”.
Check the law. I think this still applies in most of America. If a guy steals your car, gets caught in it, gets tried & convicted for stealing it — he doesn’t get to keep your car. If he hasn’t already chopped it up for parts, he gives it back.
Because it was never his.
Let’s put this in terms even Trump might comprehend. If the winner of a beauty pageant is found to have cheated, she doesn’t get to keep her crown. Same goes for all the other prizes that went with it. When we strip you of your “win” because you didn’t achieve it legitimately, you don’t get to keep any part of what the actual winner is entitled to.
The same goes for presidents.
As I’ve said here before, the rule of law did not let us down here. We (yet again) let IT down. That’s an important distinction. The rule of law is the only possible arbiter between us. It’s the only way that everyone gets treated equally and fairly. Its one real weakness is it can’t enforce itself. The rule of law relies entirely on us to do the heavy lifting.
It’s time we started building a little moral muscle mass. When we reassert the rule of law as our true guiding principle, the first thing the rule of law will demand we do is punish those who violated it — meaning those who broke it relentlessly during the period when we weren’t enforcing it. Meaning those who broke it with the intent of destroying it.
The rule of law will be clear-eyed. It will see how Donald Trump slowly corrupted the entire Republican Party. How Russia corrupted it. How greed and the fear of rapidly changing demographics corrupted their thinking — especially how their “money” thought.
Based entirely on what’s already been established via actual evidence (hell, just follow Cambridge Analytica’s trail!), we know that Russia hitched its wagon to Republicans and Republicans hitched their wagon to Russia. Money poured into GOP coffers from myriad directions — filtered through Russian emigrees living here whose retirement checks from Mother Russia suddenly doubled or tripled. Lots was laundered through the NRA. Some landed via totally legal PAC donations. Legal, that is, until we peel back the cover on them. If those donations are part of a larger crime? They’re not quite as “legal”.
He didn’t respond “What? Why do you say this, Kev’? What is that based on?” He didn’t frown and say “Geez, somebody get the FBI on the phone. We have a real problem here!”
No, Paul Ryan said “Let’s keep it secret”. It. The thing they all knew was illegal: the very presidential campaign they were all part of.
You don’t have to be a willing participant in treason to be a traitor. Knowing about it is where your problem begins. Suspecting it even. Having a vague suspicion even — and not doing anything. We have to ask “why?” Why did you say or do nothing?
Citizenship, as the rule of law will remind us, has benefits but obligations too. Voting, for instance. But also standing up for the rule of law — enforcing it ourselves as citizens by reporting gross violations when we see them. Don’t want to take your fears to the “proper authorities”? Fine. Take them to the news media. The Fourth Estate is the one job mentioned in the Constitution — as the final check on power. When we excise “both sides do it” from the journalism school curriculum, they too will begin to work as designed.
The news media, more than anyone, has perverted our thinking. In the same way that they accepted “Mexicans are rapists”, they accepted that cheating to win is just another way to win. Here we are — in a presidential race — where one of the candidates is the first sitting POTUS ever to run having been IMPEACHED. For cheating in the very election he’s running in. And the news media can’t seem to remember that fact. FFS, it should be the STARTING POINT for telling the election’s story: for the first time in history, one of the two candidates HAS BEEN IMPEACHED.
It’s not just weird that Trump’s impeachment has already faded into distant memory, it’s obscene.
He certainly doesn’t get re-invented by Mark Burnett as some genius businessman. Even a bullshit artist like Burnett couldn’t re-invent the king of skid row as “the great negotiator”.
Everything about Trump, his life, his accomplishments — it’s all absolutely phony. That includes his presidency. Well, just like the car thief and beauty pageant cheater, Trump will not get to keep the stuff that came with his “win”.
He won’t get to be POTUS anymore for starters. But, more importantly, everything that happened during his presidency must now be seen through the lens of “Donald Trump never had the authority to do ______”. Remember — we’re not revoking Trump’s authority, we’re pointing out that he never had the authority to begin with. The authority to be POTUS flows from the Constitution and the rule of law. It flows, ultimately, from We The People — and this self-governing government of ours — warts and all. You cannot legally steal that authority. If you even attempt to steal it in any way, shape or form then whatever authority you acquire is not legally yours.
And whatever you did — while illegally having that authority — is just as illegal. It lacked the authority that was never legally given over.
It’s just a stone cold fact. A stolen presidency cannot and does not have the authority to do anything whatsoever. It can’t craft legislation for the Congress to consider (in its capacity as the executive). It can’t issue “executive orders” or decrees. It can’t nominate judges.
Judges, after all, are the whole point of the exercise. The Right Wing money saw demographic destruction in their future. A diversifying population — diversifying and progressive by nature — spelled the end of white hegemony. The RW money (the Kochs, the Mercers) got that except for outright theft, the executive branch was going to be forever Democratic. The House of Reps? Too untrustworthy to invest in (especially when you have to pony up every two years for re-elections vs four for a POTUS and six for a senator). The Senate seemed a better bet — especially with a master politician like Mitch McConnell.
Make no mistake: Mitch McConnell is one of the worst Americans ever. He’s corrupt to his bone marrow. He’s racist as hell, petty and treasonous. But he’s also skilled at the game of politics. The RW money spent wisely on Mitch McConnell. If anyone was corrupt enough to try and see their hijacking through, it was going to be Moscow Mitch.
But, Mitch, too, has Russian connections. Mitch has taken plenty of Russian money into his campaign coffers. He lifted the sanctions on Oleg Deripaska in order to get Deripaska’s $400 million for a Russian aluminum factory in Dirt Poor, KY. Those sanctions, BTW, were put there because Deripaska actively participated in Russia’s theft of the 2016 election result.
Just watch when Mitch finally gets put under oath, his teeny-tiny turtle testicles in a vice grip.
Just watch when every one of these treasonous bastards gets put under oath.
It will be hard for us — after that happens — after the full, terrible truth of what happened here gets fully outed. Most of it will especially after all the co-conspirators begin turning on each other, looking for a better deal.
Now, think about this — as the criminals who did this to us begin to point fingers at each other — describing grander and grander schemes to defraud us of the electoral outcome we ACTUALLY voted for? Do you really think we’ll be inclined to let these pirates keep what they stole from us — from our children and their future?
A car thief — sitting in your car, outside your house, honking the horn because he wants you to see what he’s done — has a thief’s point of view. The thief’s victim — you — also have a point of view.
The cops show up just in time. They catch the car thief inside the stolen object, steering wheel literally in hand.
You tell your story — your side. The cops look to the thief — who they saw stealing your car. What “side” does the thief have in this story? That you gave the stolen object to him?
“Nuh-unh,” you say to the cops when they shoot you a look. Back to the thief. Unless he has a long, sad tale of why he’s a thief, he better keep his mouth shut. He doesn’t have a “side” here — meaning, whatever point he thinks justifies what he did does not exist. He has no point and never did; there is no justifiable explanation for why he stole your car.
Neither “I felt like it” nor “I dunno why” are acceptable or justifiable. A bully may not be able to articulate what compels him to bully but there’s something compelling him. Regardless, his emotional emptiness does not justify his actions. He may think he has a “side” equal to his victim’s, but he doesn’t.
What “side” could Donald Trump possibly have for backing Vladimir Putin time and time again?
What “side” could Lindsey Graham have for ferociously backing a man he said would be the destruction of the Republican Party?
What “side” could anyone possibly have for putting children in cages?
What “side” could anyone possibly have for turning mask-wearing into a political statement?
When your job is to tell our story in real time, as it’s happening, it’s vital that you know how to frame that story — in real time. If you screw up the framing, you’ll end up telling the wrong story. Our news media can’t ever get the Donald Trump story right because they insist on framing Trump’s story from TRUMP’S point of view. That’d be great if Trump were even semi-reliable with the facts. The fact that he lies about everything — that’s his most prominent feature.
On the one hand, a storyteller SHOULD base their story about this character on the fact that they always lie. On the other hand, a storyteller shouldn’t base their story on this character’s lies as if they were true. Because they’re not — and it skews the whole story away from REVEALING who the character is toward revealing nothing except the depths of the storyteller’s credulity. Trump is not some visionary whose lies are part of some grand vision. He’s just a goddamned liar. He’s a goddamned criminal. His lies are meant to keep him from getting caught. Period, end of story.
You’d think professional storytellers could tell it.
This isn’t every journalist working this beat, but it is most of them. While their dedication to the journalistic ethos of fairness is admirable, they seem to have confused political neutrality with complete detachment. They don’t want to judge whether anyone’s politics are right or wrong. Okay, fine. But, then they go and assume that EVERYONE is being political — “both sides do it”.
Except that’s not true. Both sides don’t “do it”. Example: both sides do not relentlessly try to suppress the other sides voters. Both sides do not approach elections the same way. Both sides do not want every single eligible voter to vote.
When a suppressed voter raises their hand to complain that their vote is being suppressed, they’re not being “political”. They are responding to a political act however. The person suppressing their vote IS acting politically. In fact, the whole point of voter suppression is to undermine the other sides ability to conduct politics. To get what they need from the political process. To suppress a voter is a political act. To defend the suppressed voter is NOT. It’s an act of patriotism actually.
And an act of civil obligation. The vote suppressor is breaking the law.
All this is framing. It’s seeing the story from the neutral perspective journalists aspire to. Real neutrality would involve asking what everyone’s motives were rather than assuming.
What are Donald Trump’s motives? That’s not a hard question. As big a liar as he is, Trump is remarkably transparent. His motives are always right out in the open. You don’t even have to scrunch up your eyes to see them. The trick apparently (to judge by our news media) is in accepting what you’re seeing.
Plenty of journalists HAVE accepted what they’ve been seeing all along: Sarah Kendzior, David Corn, Seth Abramson. Even the former Wall Street Journal journalists at Fusion GPS — the research firm hired by Republican-owned Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump during the 2016 primary season accepted what they saw (after doing their due diligence): that Trump was almost certainly a criminal who’d been laundering Russian mob money through his failed Atlantic City casinos. Some journalists have accepted that Trump is every bit the rapist all the brave women who’ve come forward SAY he is.
Some journalists have accepted that Trump is the rapist he himself says he is.
And then there’s the rest…
The ones who “reset” every day to a bizarre “Square One” where Trump is a “normal POTUS” who ran a normal campaign in 2016, not at all touched by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in an undeclared cyber war against us. That Trump “strategizes”. He’s a brilliant businessman and a master negotiator. He’s a good father and husband. He was a great student. He’s well read. He’s loved and he’s made us more respected.
All because he says so.
There’s a traditional English entertainment that plays at Christmastime called pantomimes.
These theatrical pieces are almost always based on some old chestnut — Cinderella or Puss In Boots. The story’s just a framework on which to hang a somewhat improvised game of call and response with the audience. At some point in almost every pantomime, the bad guy will end up standing behind the Good Guy who’s downstage center talking to the audience.
The audience — since their participation is expected — will tell the Good Guy with increasing desperation that the Bad Guy is behind him. The Good Guy — finally getting the message — turns one way but misses seeing the Bad Guy. He turns the other way — misses seeing the Bad Guy again. It’s maddening of course. That’s the point.
In a panto, it’s also part of the fun. Here in reality though, watching Trump and the GOP stand behind the news media while We The People shout “Look out behind you!” has become part of the tragedy. The news media has become part of the story. That is, their inability to tell the story has become part of the story.
Bullshit and truth are not the same thing. When a reporter, attempting to be “neutral” asks a “Yeah, but what if bullshit was true?” kind of question, they’re giving credence to bullshit. Regular bullshit is bad. Bullshit given the credence of Truth? Oy.
Is it really a wonder why at least a third of America doesn’t know what the Truth is anymore? It’s understood that political actors — Fox News — have made it their purpose to undermine everyone’s journalist credibility including their own. They need “truth” to flow from the top, truth being whatever the criminals running the kleptocracy say it is. Orwell knew what he was talking about. Control the past, you control the future.
The “truth” is, Donald Trump sucks at messaging. That is, he sucks at messaging anything other than what he is — a traitor and a criminal. The bulk of our news media also sucks — at storytelling.
It’s a fixable problem. All they have to do? Open their eyes. Accept what they know and make it part of the story.
Neutrality toward the Truth is not neutrality. It’s journalistic malpractice.
Magical Thinking should have an expiration date — at the end of childhood, say. Or when one turns 18 and votes for the first time.
Alas, that’s not the case. Some people — Republicans — never lose their taste for Magical Thinking. That’s because it’s more than a taste, it’s an addiction.
The reason religious dogma grabs people when they’re young is because that’s when magic still answers questions satisfactorily. Explanations don’t have to line up with facts so long as the narrative captivates. The apostle Paul’s genius — Paul invented Christianity, not Jesus — was to weave Jesus into a vague, mysterious messiah narrative that, if you accept it as “gospel truth”, will allow you to defeat death. That’s what Christianity is selling: eternal life. But only if you believe the ooga-booga lock, stock & two white-or-grey smoking barrels.
Jesus preached a pretty simple message: do unto others. While there was plenty of Magical Thinking in Jesus’s view of the world, his teaching didn’t require any mental gymnastics. One doesn’t have to believe in magic to do unto others. Even if one believed in Yahweh, Jesus taught that one could speak directly to him. One didn’t need the temple priests to do it for you — because they knew the magical code while everyone else didn’t.
Jesus never claimed to be the product of a virgin birth. He never claimed to be the son of anyone other than his actual mother and his actual father. He never claimed messiah-hood. All that magic was imposed on Jesus and Jesus’s story by the early church. The church very effectively disposed of the real Jesus, replacing him with an entirely magical Jesus instead — a Jesus who serves as mascot for their institutions and for Magical Thinking itself.
When people start out believing magic is the answer to our most foundational questions — why are we here and what is our purpose — they’ll favor magic as the solution to those questions. Instead of feeding themselves when hungry, they’ll await manna from heaven. They’ll mistake brain chemistry gone awry for demonic possession. They’ll think the voice in their head is divine and their actions therefore justified (no matter how terrible).
It’s a lot easier to forgive people for accepting magical explanations when their knowledge base is limited. The men who scribbled out the texts that became the OT really didn’t know much. Their world was tiny compared to ours. Most of them never traveled more than 50 miles from where they were born. They had no idea that pathogens existed. Their cosmology was all wrong. Imagine if, instead, they’d had access to telescopes and microscopes and the internet. They wouldn’t have written what they wrote the same way (even if they’d still had the same questions).
We don’t have their excuse. And yet, plenty of people still accept the explanations for basic facts from people who were legitimately ignorant of the facts.
If you accept the Magical Thinking that, say, the bible is the “inerrant word of God” then you will approach your work with that as the basis for all your thinking. If God doesn’t say “Hey, don’t pollute the planet” then polluting the planet is fine. But then, if your Magical Thinking tells you that the planet’s going to turn into some magical garden after Jesus returns, it doesn’t matter what you do to the planet. In your magic-addled mind, magic will fix it all anyway.
Except, of course, no — it won’t. Because it doesn’t exist.
The four days of the Republican National Convention was a study in Magical Thinking Gone Even More Bonkers Than Normal. Not only were masks not required, neither was logic. Or any sense of history — including what’s been happening from day to day. Suddenly Donald Trump’s disastrously inept pandemic response was genius. His racism was the best thing that ever happened to Black Americans. His treason was next gen foreign relations.
Every last bit of data and evidence from the last four years says Donald Trump has been a disaster for America and the non- authoritarian world. It says the rich have gotten exponentially richer while everyone else has gotten appreciably poorer. It says racism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry and every other form of hate is on the rise. Only Magical Thinking spewed at Trump campaign rallies and by Trumpanistas on TV says otherwise.
Every time Trump tells a rapturous, maskless crowd that the economy’s never been better, that America’s never been more respected, that he cares about them above all, that every negative word said about him is “a hoax”, we see Magical Thinking at work. The crowd mews approvingly as if the words magically made bullshit true.
What’s worse — the press repeats those words — and the crowd’s mewing response. They don’t frame what’s happening as Magical Thinking so it comes across as just “thinking” — so therefore legitimate. A crowd of rubes getting suckered in real time gets reported as “Trump’s supporters agreeing with his assertions”. It’s Magical Thinking to think that’s what’s happening.
Magical Thinking never ever represents reality. Trumpism’s triumph was getting the news media to report Magical Thinking like it does.
William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” rings in my ears every day. He was describing the chaotic aftermath of WWI as it rippled through Europe. He also was thinking about the Spanish Flu epidemic that nearly killed his pregnant wife.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”. That sounds exactly like now, doesn’t it? There is no centre. There hasn’t been for a while — we just didn’t realize it. The Democrats, to their detriment, have played to that centre more than they played toward their Progressive base. The Republicans on the other hand, have played to their base exclusively. The result — as Yeats put it —
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
Yeah — our world feels full of anarchy. Worse — it feels like
The best lack all conviction while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Boy, is that us. There are some whose gaze is fixed on what’s happening. There are journalists — citizen & otherwise — who’ve grasped the Truth and shouted it as loudly as they could. But, like Yeats wrote. “The best lack all conviction”. You can’t beat evil without conviction.
And we are absolutely fighting evil.
Here’s where I break ranks a little with Yeats. Well, I break ranks with the chronology. Yeats’ magnificent poem famously ends like this —
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
We aren’t heading towards that moment where the rough beast comes round at last, we’re already in it.
Donald Trump IS the rough beast.
Though he wrote the poem in 1919, Yeats has been credited with anticipating the rise of fascism that was already beginning to percolate in Europe. Whether or not Yeats actually anticipated it, the rough beast was definitely present — as he is now, here in America.
That’s the bad news. It’s also the good news.
Just as Yeats’ poem falls apart without a rough beast toward which the whole enterprise is pointed, the Republican coup d’etat that began on election day 2016 would collapse in on itself were Donald Trump to suddenly vanish from the stage.
Were Trump to, say, succumb to one of the myriad illnesses stalking him (you think if he were truly healthy he’d be hiding his health info from us?), there is no “Plan B” in place. Within Trump’s family, there’s no succession plan. Trump wouldn’t dare create one because he knows his “beloved” children would instantly begin plotting how to carry it out. Because that’s exactly what HE did.
As Mary Trump spelled out in her excellent memoir about her experience growing up the niece of this horrible man, Trump has plotted against everyone in his family to get his hands on as much of daddy’s money as he could. Even in a nest of Trumpian vipers, Donald is the viper-iest.
Ivanka thinks she’s the golden child — probably because daddy’s told her things when he “wanted” things. Don Junior apparently believes he’s the political successor to his dad’s political empire. Oy. Eric may not be quite as stupid as everyone things, but then, he might be.
If Donald Trump were to suddenly succumb to a stroke or heart attack — even if he were merely incapacitated — all hell would break loose. The centre would not hold.
Within Trump’s family, they’d all go rogue against each other — maybe not to their faces — but behind their backs?
What about the world outside the Trumps though? After all, that’s where all the compromise has gone down. Everyone gets that Trumps stay loyal to Trumps because they’re Trumps. And while everyone also gets that Republicans stay loyal to other Republicans because they’re Republicans, that doesn’t play quite the same way with Trump. Because Trump isn’t and never was a Republican.
Trump never was a Democrat either. He’s always been a Trump. That’s his party — and he turned the Republican Party into him.
The Republican Party may hate Trump but they saw a way to achieve their end through him. They want permanent minority rule. If Donald Trump & Russia are how they achieve it? So what.
The Republicans have no succession plan either. If Trump suddenly couldn’t serve as POTUS, Mike Pence would become president. But Mike Pence can’t hold this gang together like Trump can because Mike isn’t a boss, he’s a foot soldier. No one currently beholden to Trump (for whatever reason) is beholden to Pence which is why Trump disappearing from the stage would be a “get out of Trump jail free” card.
A political party based on the idea of “every man for himself” would suffer the fate it deserves as the rats all climb over each other to try and escape. Mike Pence is very definitely just such a rat.
Remember — Paul Manafort brought Mike to the dance. Paul needed a compliant vice president who absolutely would not balk when he learned certain ugly secrets about Trump’s campaign — like it’s deep association with Russia. Apparently Mike fit that bill.
That’s what happened on election night 2016: Russia pushed Trump over the finish line, helping the Republicans seal their coup d’etat with a victory stolen from the American people. We will come to see Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan through a very different lens. Trump didn’t pull off a surprise victory to snatch the Electoral College from Hillary Clinton. Russia first softened the environment by pounding it with propaganda borne of the proprietary polling data Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort handed to Russian Intelligence Officer Konstantin Kilimnik. When enough targeted Black voters were polling their reluctance to vote for Hillary (now that they were thinking she might be a closet racist thanks to all those ads showing up on their Facebook pages), Russia knew it could hit the voting machines — flipping just enough to make a Trump win believable.
That’s 77,000 votes across three blue states.
We don’t know for certain yet that that happened because no one — despite everything we know — has ever done any forensics on all those machines. Those machines — we now know — are incredibly vulnerable. Hacking into them — via the internet — isn’t even challenging. That’s probably by design. The majority of machines are manufactured by companies owned by Republicans — who’ve made their allegiance to Republican politics known. Considering how corrupt & corruptible people are in general — and Republicans are in particular — bet the ranch on those voting machines being part of the corruption.
The past 4 years have opened our eyes kinda like Alex’s eyes were opened in “A Clockwork Orange” — they’ve been pried open, giving us no way to not see every bit of the Trump Shit Show. That show though includes a lot of harsh truths about America’s failings. Racism has always been our fatal flaw — not because we were or are racist (tribalism is hard wired into us) but because rather than resisting our inherent racism, we indulged it. We allowed it to tell us that though “All men are created equal”, if those men are Black or brown or anything other than white, they aren’t equal.
Donald Trump didn’t invent American racism of course, he merely gave it permission to speak its vileness out loud. He didn’t invent corruption, he merely excelled at it (like he’s excelled at nothing else). He didn’t invent treason, he merely used it to get elected.
Living in America has never felt so perilous — or so filled with a need for change. Yet, as terrifying and exhausting and frustrating and insane as it feels, there’s also some very real hopefulness in the mix. If we can accomplish the systemic change that needs to happen? We will make America a more fair place where more people have the very real possibility of living their dreams.
I look forward to proving F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong when he wrote “There are no second acts in American lives”. We Americans definitely have a second act in us and probably a third and a fourth. We can’t get there though until we send this bloated orange rough beast to prison for the rest of his life.
Problem number two: our news media — even while reporting that Trump and the GOP are openly cheating in order to win — behave as if cheating to win and winning without cheating are the exact same thing.
No, they are not. The rule of law says cheating can NEVER equal winning. Now, the rule of law isn’t going to enforce itself. WE have to do that. But we can’t enforce the rule of law if we refuse to observe even its most basic tenets — like, say, you can’t cheat in order to win. If the press sat down to a card game and could never win because the person they were playing with cheated not only relentless but openly, they’d say something eventually. But, with Donald Trump, even if they do say something, they immediately assume that “Oh well, it’s Trump — cheating is “what it is”.
No, it’s NOT.
When republicans gerrymandered voting districts, they did it with the specific purpose of denying the majority their voice. That’s the whole point of gerrymandering. It’s to give a minority of voters political power far beyond what it should be entitled to. The point is, literally, to circumvent the will of the people. Do you think Republicans would have to gerrymander districts if they thought they could win them on the strength of their ideas?
It’s not just that Republicans fear Democratic voters. It goes deeper — beneath the labels to actual philosophy. Republicans fear the equality under the rule of law that Democrats want. They want special treatment under the rule of law — the same special treatment they’ve gotten up till now — at the expense of people of color, Black people especially.
Republicans, being conservative, want to “conserve” what is. Their name says it all. The future, in their minds, should be exactly the same as the present. The present, to them, already represents too much compromise with the future. They want to slow or stop any future evolution of our thinking and ways of doing things. Innovation is conservatism’s enemy. It has to be. All innovation causes change and change is anathema to conservatism.
If Republicans were honest, they’d campaign on a platform that promised to take America back to the 50’s — the 1850’s — back when being a voter meant being a white, Christian, landowning male. But then, if they did that, who’d vote for them?
There’s the rub. That’s why Republicans gerrymander and suppress Democratic voters and lie about their intentions. The irony is, Republicans don’t even want to govern, they want to prove that government is bad. So they govern badly — like a kid who doesn’t want to do their chores so they do them all the worst way they can. If the voting public knew what Republicans really wanted to do to the country — in fact, it’s exactly what they’re doing right now — they’d rise up in a tidal wave of anger, resentment and outrage that would turn Republicans out of power forever.
Republicans don’t need a book teaching them how to cheat. They’ve been doing it out of necessity for more than a generation now. The RW money (the Kochs, the Mercers) saw way back that America’s diversifying demographics spelled political doom for them and so set out to stop it from happening. They charged Mitch McConnell with the task of hijacking the judiciary — first, by denying Barack Obama the lifetime appointments to the federal bench to which he (and We The People) were entitled (via a thing called an “election”), then by filling the federal bench with unqualified extremists once Donald Trump had stolen power.
Partnering with Russia may not have originated inside the Republican Party, but even when they knew Russia was actively working to make Donald Trump president, they did nothing to stop it. In fact, they continued working with Russians. Mitch McConnell, for instance, refused to let Barack Obama inform us in September 2016 that Russia was actively trying to make Trump potus. He twisted every arm he had to to get sanctions lifted so that Oleg Deripaska could drop $400 million into a Russian aluminum factory in Western Kentucky. Those sanctions were put in place because of Deripaska’s role in subverting the 2016 election.
No, Republicans know perfectly well not just how to steal elections, but to steal elections via treason. And it IS treason because Russia is actively engaged in a cyber war against us — a war they envisioned years ago. Just because they haven’t fired a bomb or bullet at us doesn’t mean it isn’t a war. Russia could shut down our power grid today (they absolutely could!) and we’d sue for peace — the losers — tomorrow.
War is war is war. And anyone who thinks you need bombs and bullets to win a war will lose every war they ever fight going forward.
It’s our news media that needs to read this book. They need to see cheating for what it is — CHEATING — and not as some odd variant on “winning”.
Cheating is cheating is cheating. It can never be winning. As Republicans are fond of saying “elections have consequences”.
Point taken. And stolen elections have even worse consequences.