When Donald Trump got himself elected president, I decided to look on the bright side, telling myself that our democratic structures — the legislative branch, the courts, the vote, the Constitution — would save us.
The day after the election I wrote, “The United States has elected its own Silvio Berlusconi, a vain, vulgar, racist tycoon,” and predicted Trump would “test the strength of American institutions as they haven’t been tested since the Civil War, 151 years ago.”
Still sounds about right. But I went on: “Not every Republican in Congress is a Trumpster.”
Yeah, well, that assertion turned out to be idiotically, embarrassingly, way off the mark. Except for Mitt Romney on the third Thursday of every month containing the letter “k,” all the other Republicans in Congress are indeed Trumpsters, terrified of his deranged, epithet-launching, feces-hurling tweets, and his cult-like hold on the party base.
Like many of you, I figured Susan Collins might slap Trump down: She’s pro-choice, pro-Obamacare, for God’s sake.
Then she voted against removing the Russian Asset in the White House on the ground that impeachment taught him “a pretty big lesson.”
Right. Trump’s big lesson is that he can do anything he wants and Republicans will wag their tails, sit, roll over, and play dead, lest they get primaried.
Y’all remember when Marco Rubio dissed Trump as a “liar” and a “con artist” with “the worst spray tan in America”?
That was 2016. Now Marcocito (like Lindsay Graham, who called the president “a race-baiting xenophobic bigot” before he underwent his political lobotomy) morphed into a champion lickspittle, praying that soon-to-be-Florida-resident Ivanka Trump doesn’t want to run for his Senate seat, knowing that, if she does, she’ll be the Trumpublican nominee.
Unless she is in jail, of course.
The rest of the Trumpublicans in Washington carry on sucking up to him — even though (say it with me now) HE LOST.
I guess they actually want to further destabilize what’s left of our imperfect, yet often functional, republic. And with Trump pardoning some of the worst people in America and trying to overturn the election (again), chaos is winning.
You might even say Vladimir Putin is winning.
The whole world watched these past four years and felt not admiration but horror and a fair amount of schadenfreude. What Winston Churchill called “the Great Republic” is now rated a “flawed democracy,” 21st on The Economist’s index ranking civil liberties, electoral process, pluralism, and government functionality, coming in below Canada, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., the Netherlands, Australia, and other countries we assumed could never be in our league.
We’re still ahead of Nicaragua, China, and the Central African Republic — for now.
In his last days in office, Trump’s “governing” by rage and spite.
On Dec. 23, he blew up the COVID-19 relief bill — which had already been held hostage for nine months by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who would happily give the rich another honking great tax cut but balked like a blind mule at the idea of laid-off waiters and furloughed sales clerks getting enough gubmint cash to pay the rent.
Trump’s now demanding $2,000 checks instead of $600, or he’ll bring down the whole shebang.
White House aides had been scurrying about, assuring Congress the president was a big, fat Yes! on the bill — until he became a big, fat No! — igniting shock, consternation, and a run on Tums at the Capitol Hill CVS.
Meanwhile, down in Georgia, Trumpublican U.S. Sens. Kelly “Karen” Loeffler and David “Insider Trading” Perdue, running for re-election, had been touting the bill as a reason to vote for them. Now they have to dance in a minefield: Do they want to buck the president or cheerlead for $2,000, irritating Mitch McConnell?
In addition to ignoring the plight of people whose benefit checks run out the day after Christmas, Trump has also vetoed the national Defense Authorization Act because, he says, it contains “provisions that fail to respect our veterans’ and military’s history.”
What he means is, the bill will allow the Pentagon to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases, upsetting Trump’s white-supremacist supporters.
In the throes of the same epic tantrum, Trump also decided that the rule of law is really just a suggestion. He pardoned corrupt former congressmen including Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, who was convicted of stealing campaign funds that he spent on his various girlfriends and flying his pet rabbit around the country.
And there’s more! Jared Kushner’s jailbird daddy Charles got a full pardon, as did the four Blackwater Worldwide “security” contractors convicted of murdering 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Two women and two children, aged 8 and 11, were among the dead. Witnesses said they had their hands up when the mercenaries started shooting.
Blackwater was founded by Eric Prince, brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Can a pardon for Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha vigilante, be far behind?
The message is pointed and clear: Brown people, black people, Muslims, foreigners — they’re not real humans, not like Trump’s red-cap brigades who wrap themselves in the flag so tightly the oxygen has trouble getting to their brains.
Trump can’t be bothered to try and govern, address the pandemic, aid suffering citizens, but he’s got plenty of time to try and stage a coup. During an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18, Trump met with his Conspiracy Theory Cabinet, geniuses such as personal counsel Rudy Giuliani, loser of 53 court cases, still insisting there’s evidence of election-rigging out there somewhere and, by God, he’ll find it!
Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Green, the Q-Anonista convinced that Trump is fighting a secret war against a ring of pedophile Democrats and lizard people, was also in attendance, as well as lawyer Sidney Powell, who accused Hugo Chavez (dead since 2013) of rigging the voting machine, and the ever-truculent former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who suggested Trump should declare martial law to overturn the election.
The United States used to be esteemed, even envied. Much of the world (and too many Americans) had an overly romantic, uncritical vision of the nation, ignoring uncomfortable truths: The nation was born out of genocide and slavery as well as out of grand Enlightenment ideals of reason and liberty.
The American president used to be called “the Leader of the Free World.” Not any more: If that title belongs to anyone it’s Angela Merkel of Germany.
I still think — maybe the word I’m looking for is “hope” — Trump will stomp off to Mar-a-Lago where he can occupy himself with suing the town council and his the neighbors who don’t want him living there.
But whatever Trump himself does, his cult members, convinced that the election was stolen by blacks, illegal immigrants, feminists, gays, internationalists, and the coastal elites, will not stop trying to destroy what’s left of our faith in elections, praying their caudillo runs again in 2024 and brings about the promised white kingdom.
Have our institutions saved us? It still remains to be seen.