It is with little consolation that I write the title above this article, or share the graphic that I created to describe how Trump moved from slogans to fascism. Way back when Trump announced his candidacy for US President I lit into the man for his brutish behavior well before he gained a single vote. From that time forward, I observed that Trump had more in common with the fake sport of professional wrestling than anything else. I also observed that he behaved like a pirate with his thieving, grifting ways.
Beyond theorizing about his awful character, the regular news about his behavior was far more damning that anything I conceived allegorically. He threatened to withhold pre-approved funding for military assistance to Ukraine by trying to force the President of Ukraine to generate dirt on Hunter Biden. For that offense, Trump was rightly impeached for abuse of power.
The more time he spent in office the worse it got for America and the world. Trump lied to Americans about the threat of Covid-19 to public health, a fact recorded for posterity by journalist Bob Woodward. Millions of Americans pursuantly defied medical directives to mask up and get vaccinated. Trump’s supporters worsened and then prolonged the pandemic as Covid spread and killed hundreds of thousands of people, many of who would not have gotten infected if appropriate mask precautions were taken, and many that would possibly have lived if they were indeed vaccinated.
But people kept giving up their lives for Trump, whose lies kept piling up and whose behavior became more extreme and corrupt by the day. His public support for racist and para-military organizations led to violence while his refusal to hold police accountable for brutality on Black citizens drove protests that led to even more violence from activists defying Trump’s fascist approach to government.
Thus it was not surprising that Trump welcomed the fascist attack on the United States Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of results from a legitimate election. Trump’s people brought 60+ lawsuits trying to demonstrate election fraud, and all of them failed for lack of evidence. And still, Trump’s lies turned into the Big Lie, a propagandist tactic directly adopted from other fascist regimes whose success in nationalistic populism appears to be Trump’s main playbook.
After his failed attempt at re-election due to his moral depravity and lack of personal or governmental accountability, Trump retreated to his pirate’s lair in south Florida with goods and records stolen from the US Government. Now he’s being investigated for all kinds of crimes against the nation, and his prized Trump organization just got convicted and slammed for tax evasion. That only confirms his prior fraudulent behavior with his “Trump University” which got fined $25M for lying to its customers.
But what did we expect from a proven misogynist and sexual abuser that cheats at golf and claims that he hates exercise because it will “wear down his battery.” He’s an ignorant fraud whose vision of reality is skewed by a narcissistic need to be “right” all the time even when he’s been proven completely wrong. Who else stares up at a solar eclipse?
The pain of being right about Trump all along offers no solace. His Republican Party has zero conscience when it comes to political or civil morality. They are a depraved band of pirates who claim that women should be happy they were raped and whose history of blocking environmental legislation and climate change action means they’ll willingly rape the world if it somehow keeps them in power.
And that’s why being right about Trump is absolutely no fun at all.
The scene outside the main entrance of the Kid Rock establishment in downtown Nashville could serve as the poster scene for the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People wandered the streets in various states of drunken cognizance, which is just another way of saying cognitive dissonance. Some clung to each other in human chains while acting like they were free of the burdens that bind us most. Mostly these were members of Bachelorette parties. Some wore sashes indicating their Bride-To-Be status and others debauched in sashes designating their subservient roles.
The Bachelor parties were best-identified by their Bro Behavior, stumbling along in groups of five-to-ten wide, passing through the crowds like the Dark Matter of human existence. Don’t bump into one of them or the world around you could explode. We all live on a vigilante street these days.
Outside the doors of the Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Steakhouse, a man stood holding a cardboard sign with the words “Let’s Go Brandon. Fuck Joe Biden. God Bless” in handwritten defiance as he faced the crowds, sucking on a cigarette as if it contained the elixir of life itself.
I pondered his mission and realized that he most resembled those doomsayers bearing signs about the end of the world. They’re forever warning us about the End Times, and they’re always wrong.
The Let’s Go Brandon folks think they’re clever disguising the phrase Fuck Joe Biden behind the banal cheer they bellow and brandish on tee shirts. Of all the modern-day attempts at conspiratorial political subterfuge, this one proves the fatal instincts of the terminally deceived. Following Trump has proven to be nothing but a dishonest and brutally dismissive brand of folly from the beginning of the ex-President’s campaign to his current tempestuous residency as a deposed despot clinging to the hope that he can return to office to dismiss the vast record of crime and corruptions left in his wake. That is Trump’s only hope for salvation in this world: he needs power to even feel like a human being.
Surely he’d have been one of the ringleaders in the days of Sodom, when men nearly beat down Lot’s door so that they could abuse the strangers inside. Trump loves the look of terror in people’s eyes and the fear he engenders by proclaiming slogans such as “You’re fired!” That was Trump’s form of verbal rape back in the days when he was given license to formally torture people on “reality” TV. But it was never about reality it all. Trump’s entire world is a crazily concocted contrivance of his appetites and insecurities. He wraps himself in the clothing of self-aggrandizement and prances down the avenue in a sash just like those Bachelorettes he’d love to grope and fondle, since that’s his ilk.
And that’s what I learned during a venture into the heart of Nashvegas. America is obviously possessed by a self-consuming desire to abuse and be abused. To millions of Americans, the two are not even separable concepts. And when their self-indulgently abusive nature worships at the feet of men like Trump, the threat to all of us is real. Trump caters to the desire for abuse with his downtalking style and claims of victimhood that fuel the sense of entitlement this new-age confederacy of disenfranchisement finds so appealing, and so absorbs slogans like Make America Great Again that make their conflicted spirits feel whole again.
States where Trump is popular love that style of whining deprecation. Those trucks bearing flags abusively redesigned with black and blue stripes alongside those flabby Trump banners indicate a cult-like obsession with alt-authority that dominates the Trumpian mindset. It is significant that the same tactics used by the socialist-fascist tropes of old are so effective on the religio-fascists now vexing America. Trump has convinced millions of people they are the “free thinkers” in this world when every aspect of their behavior speaks to the exact opposite mindset.
The same depressing cultural gutspeak washes over cities like Nashville and Las Vegas every damned day of the year. These places are a grand excuse to lower the moral bar as far as one wants to go, and never feel the need to apologize for it. Nashville was the city of choice for a bachelor friend of mine, and we had a dose of fun without trashing ourselves or anyone else around us. I’ll admit. We had fun. We drank some. Listened to some good music. Chatted up some ladies to pass the time and got back home by 3:00 a.m. But that’s not what many people chose to believe about “reality” when it comes to visiting Nashville or any place like it. The phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…” speaks to a brand of willing self-indulgence and truth denial that indicates a disturbing tendency lack of responsibility that can’t help spill into other aspects of life. Are we on the way to replacing the United States of America with the Untidy States of Vegas?
We all need to cut loose once in a while and lose our cares. I like a good glass of whiskey as much as the next person. We toured a distillery and learned the art of making fine spirits from grain to mash to swan-neck distillation. But there’s a lesson in how whiskey is made. The first vapors through the process are too toxic and dangerous to drink. They can make you go blind and half-crazy if you’re not careful, and kill not just brain cells, but the whole damned body associated with it. That’s what I really learned in Nashvegas, Tennessee. It seldom pays to consume the first of anything whether it comes out of a still or from the mouth of a man telling everyone else to keep still because he considers himself the biggest expert in the room.
But Trump and his people are drunk on the notion that their primary notions and instincts are good for us all. A trip through the streets of Nashvegas on a Saturday night exemplifies the madness afoot across so many sectors. This is hardly what America needs to become great again. While it’s not all about sobriety, there should always be room for sober consideration of what greatness actually, really means. And this is not it.
This isn’t so much about the core issues of morality as it is about recognizing that wherever morality is twisted into shapes of personalities eager to dismiss and abuse others, we’re facing a real danger to society. That means the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah needs to be studied more closely. The lesson never was that gay people or strangers far from home are the real threat in this world. The actual moral is that people with authoritarian domination on their minds are evidence of the breakdown of society. They are banging on the doors of civility in this nation, and around the world. It is our holy and moral duty to keep these fascist monsters at bay.
Trump is their leader here in America. We must never forget that.
In which we study the similarities between Make America Great Again and Make Russia Great Again
We all watched the outcome of MAGA (Make America Great Again) in the United States of America. Four years of MAGA propaganda by the Trump Administration led to an insurrection against the nation by a manic mix of pro-fascist “demonstrators” claiming the 2020 election was stolen.
That was a horrific moment in American history. But the worst part of the Trump years was the support provided by the Christian evangelical community who cheered on Trump’s often lawless campaign to use the office of President as his personal stomping grounds for whatever enemies he chose to attack. All of Trump’s vengeful behavior was dismissed as necessary because he was ostensibly acting for the “greater good” by literally carrying out the will of God. According to populist notions of Trump’s rise to power, he was the one anointed to advance the idea that the United States of America is a Christian Nation under God.
That was one of dog-whistle (or God-whistle) messages driving Make America Great Again. It carried with it the promise to ban abortion and block gay people from civil rights, two key social issues to conservative Christians tied to the anachronistic dogma of the religion when it dominated American society. And this despite its demonstrated history of supporting institutional slavery and racism in the likes of ‘Christian-based’ groups like the KKK.
MAGA’s ugly underbelly
MAGA’s ugly underbelly revealed itself during Trump’s first campaign for president as he embraced racist organizations, complimenting them as “good people.” Those groups and others coalesced into the aggressive branch of MAGA whose militias broke down barriers, attacked police, and threatened to murder the Vice President, Mike Pence, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And while all this happened, the evangelical leadership in America either remained silent or cheered on the events while justifying Trump’s reign of terror by claiming that “God works with flawed people.”
The terrifying fact of the religious rationalization is that it is now being extended, in a brutally ironic fashion, to the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, during his military invasion of Ukraine. And here’s the kicker: Putin is carrying out this mission for much the same religious reasons that the American evangelical community wanted to Make America Great Again. Putin views Ukraine as a necessary iconic element in the re-establishment of a Christian-dominated Russia and for all we know, the rest of Europe. This war in Ukraine is an attack on a sovereign nation that values free and fair elections just like the United States of America and other democracies around the world. But Putin wants to install his Christo-fascist version of power over the nation’s people and its resources and call it Russia+. This is Putin’s version of MAGA. So we can legitimately brand it MRGA: Make Russia Great Again.
American Christian’s support for Putin
Thus it is no coincidence that America’s evangelical Christian community and their conservative friends seem to support Putin. There are also whispers in the halls of End Times Theology that “this is the big one,” because religious zealots hoping for the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ to rule it all pray that this is their moment of vengeance against the heathens and humanistic believers who want to solve the world’s problems, not turn them into an excuse for Armageddon.
Even Israel can’t make up its mind what to do about Russia, because Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself a Jew. There are political and economic striations to consider as well, so the nation perpetually caught between Jewish and Christian interests is now stuck between the rocks of conflicting ideologies, convenient loyalties, and funding to protect its own people.
MRGA and the Taliban
But MRGA will stop for no one under Putin’s direction. His army might be exhausted by the time he overcomes Ukraine, but the people of that occupied nation will keep fighting back. The frightening truth is that if anyone else gets involved beyond sanctions, Putin has threatened nuclear retaliation, even aggression. He also took control of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and he’s such a despot that he might just let some radiation leak to cow people to his will.
The really sinister part here is that MRGA has been cheered on by some of Trump’s high-profile fans and supporters, including Tucker Carlson at Fox News––and others. In an interview on Fox News, retired Army Colonel Douglas McGregor, who served under Donald Trump and apparently remains loyal to the cause, opined on behalf of Putin telling host Stuart Varney: “The first five days Russian forces I think frankly were too gentle. They’ve now corrected that. So, I would say another ten days this should be completely over.”
Macgregor went on to say that the war could have “ended days ago” if Zelensky had acquiesced to what Russia wanted.”
Those statements drew a rebuke from a noted Republican purist Liz Cheney: “Douglas MacGregor, nominated by Trump as ambassador to Germany; appointed by Trump as senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, says Russian forces have been ‘too gentle’ and ‘I don’t see anything heroic’ about Zelensky,” Cheney wrote. “This is the Putin wing of the GOP.”
So we can see that the militaristic nature of the latter-day GOP willingly dismisses any notion of international principle in favor of personal opinion, purpose, and priority. It is the classic example of the “ends justifies the means” approach to gaining and retaining power.
This fealty to power when fueled by aggressive conservative and Christo-fascist instincts is devastating to the health of democracies around the world. It is also brutally ironic given the resistance in the Christian sphere to similar efforts by conservative Muslim sects to establish religious control over entire countries. The entire American occupation in Afghanistan, the “war” that lasted more than twenty years–– was driven in part by attempts to rid the country of the religiously driven motives of the Taliban, an arch-Right brand of Islam. And the United States of America failed to quell that influence.
None of this surprises us because the ugly convenience of justifying social control and even conducting wars on religious grounds is as old as civilization itself. But consider the irony: It was Jesus that resisted the legalistic control of society by the religious authorities of his day. They killed him for trying to promote a more liberal and socialistic brand of religion based on love, compassion, and a personal relationship with God. None of that was evident in the conduct of the MAGA revolution in America, whose selfish conduct resounded in the halls of Congress when thousands of fascist-minded people beat the police and raided the Capitol.
Nor is there any sign of Jesus Christ in the Russian MRGA attack on Ukraine. This is also a selfishly narcissistic and vainglorious attempt by Putin to grab respect through brute force rather than earn it by respecting international law and having the confidence to build a nation that does not depend on corruption, dirty dealings, and graft to survive. Like Trump, he’s both immensely calculating and lazy at the same time, and sure enough, Trump initially complimented Putin’s military move into Ukraine as “savvy.” God Forbid if Trump was still President. He’d probably be cheering Putin on as Ukrainians died because Trump no doubt has a chip on his shoulder toward Ukraine’s President, who stood up to his corrupt effort to bribe him into doing some political dirty work on Trump’s behalf. To Donald Trump, there is no sweeter feeling than gaining revenge, and now we can see how bad the situation would be if Trump were still in control.
Functionally, we now recognize that MAGA and MRGA are essentially the same thing, twisting religion to serve despotic needs. That is the Red Letter commonality between two equally fascist movements. It also bears strong resemblance to the motives behind the second World War. And that’s bad news for everyone in the world.
A HANDS-ON LOOK AT HOW WE GOT FROM THERE (2016) TO HERE (2021) UNDER THE RULE OF EX-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
However we define Trumpism, there is no denying its existence in the United States of America. Its effects were on full display during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. The question we now face is whether Trumpism should be primarily defined as a political or personal condition.
The tactics used to promote Trumpism began with the political slogan Make America Great Again. Those four words symbolized the Trump campaign’s claim that the nation was in desperate need of recovery.
The MAGA slogan worked wonders with those already convinced that Donald Trump represented something “great” about America. His purported wealth and worldwide brand delivered a pre-packaged sense of competency and vision.
Yet that is not what Donald Trump ultimately wound up selling. Instead, he saw an opportunity in convincing people that the nation had abandoned them. That gave millions of already disgruntled people the idea that they had something genuine to complain about. Whether they knew the true sources of their purported misery, or whether they were justified in their self-proclaimed victimhood did not matter. Trump tapped into their anger. That was all that mattered.
To his retinue of pledged supporters, Trump added the support of the evangelical Christian community by choosing a dogmatically zealous Mike Pence as his running mate. The implicit promise in that action was banning abortion and installing some form of Christian theocracy on the nation.
Safely delivered from political criticism by his religious associations, Trump engaged with far-less-admirable brands of populists. Specifically, he offered approval to avowed racist groups as “good people” and chortled with glee as militia groups and violence-prone police threatened to bust heads as a means to maintain order.
All the while, he continued the drumbeat against illegal immigration and repeated his warlike call to ‘build the wall.” That brand of xenophobia resonated with Americans convinced that brown people were freeloaders and stealing their piece of the American pie. Others welcomed Trump’s dog-whistle racism as justification for their own terminal prejudices. Meanwhile, the wealthiest MAGA supporters happily embraced Trump’s “I’ve Got Mine” mentality because it promised a return to tax policies favoring their economic status.
As illustrated in the Trumpism Spectrum, it is easy to trace the initial migration from slogans to tribalism, and from religious legalism to populism. All these tactics were designed to cement a coalition of committed collaborators in the Make America Great Again cabal. Anyone that criticized that cabal was accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a supposed mental condition that caused people to act irrationally in response to the ex-President. But that invented term was itself a form of gaslighting, an attempt to make sane people feel crazy about their grip on reality.
Adding to the mix was the rising influence of conspiracy theorists including QAnon, a willfully ignorant and semi-mysterious source of insane accusations and outright lies invented by some Internet gnome lurking on the outskirts of humanity. While Trump griped and whined about the supposed lies contained in the campaign-driven Steele Dossier, he did nothing to counteract rumors that Democrats were involved in human sex trafficking or the daily piles of Right-Wing garbage pumped out by the political right, including but not limited to Fox News.
As Trump’s presidency proceeded, he relied on an increasingly aggressive mix of propaganda to cover up his many illegal activities and political graft in defiance of the emoluments clause and bans on pursuing campaign aid from foreign governments. He was impeached twice for his corruption, but excused by Republican henchman in both the Senate and the House. A few freely admitted that he’d cheated and even broken the law on several counts. But they are power-driven hypocrites and political whores of the worst kind. They are loyal to their party and traitors to our nation.
The only place that Trump’s lies and cheating seemed to catch up with him was during the Covid pandemic when it became obvious that he was both incapable and unconcerned about protecting Americans from a deadly disease. Rather that amend his ways, Trump’s authoritarian instincts drove him to evolve from a man in a perpetual state of denial of his real performance to a man recognizing his failures. Those he feared more than anything else, and in an effort to protect himself from legal and financial jeopardy, he began to plot ways to steal the election in 2020.
This was nothing new, as even before the 2016 election Trump refused to commit his approval for results if he lost. He merely expanded on this tactic in 2020, denying in advance that he could possibly lose. When he did, he launched the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from him. This lie was invented to foment unrest among his deplorable cabal of truth-denying bigots and zealots. It also appealed to the selfishly wealthy along with the fearful politicians that stood by him through two legitimate impeachments for corruption.
But the sickest loyalty of all is the continued support for Trump even after the acts of sedition conducted by Trump supporters at his direction. The violent, multi-front riots brutalized police officers and left people dead as a result of the insurrection. In the end, Trump invented a brand of fascism that entirely suited him, as he stood watching it all transpire on television even while his violent mob sought to capture and kill the Vice President of the United States. Trump didn’t care. Like his fast-food mentality dictates, he was “having it his way.”
That’s how we got from There to Here over the last six or so years. Looking back at the progression as illustrated on the Trumpism Spectrum graphic, it is pretty clear that it will be too hard to go back through time and fix things. Instead, we need to race forward in the near term to prevent it from happening all over again in 2022 and 2024. Trumpism is a toxic brand of hate-driven politics that was used to beat the nation over the head with an American flag. Despite his ugly pleas, we owe Donald Trump nothing in the way of compassion or compensation. He has done nothing to earn either privilege nor does he deserve it. He is no longer an American in any sense of the word. He is nothing but a greedy traitor, a perpetual con man and an abusive sociopath with nothing to offer the United States of America but an end to the great experiment that launched a democracy worthy of admiration by the whole world.
But under another four years of Trump, that great experiment would cease to exist.
The United States of America is famous for its protection of freedoms under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which provides more specificity than the original document.
Interpreting the freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights requires a bit more nuance than some people like to admit. Yet rather than admit they might be overzealous in claiming certain types of freedom for their own purposes, a host of Americans has turned the Constitution into a comfort blanket for selfish notions of what freedom is all about.
For example, the call to wear masks in public places as protection against the Covid-19 Coronavirus is in some quarters deemed a rights infringement by people claiming that their personal freedoms are denied in being asked or mandated to wear a piece of protective fabric over their faces.
The same disenfranchised crowd tends to deny the safety and value of vaccinations available to quell the spread and danger of the often-deadly Coronavirus now threatening to overwhelm health systems in an entirely new wave of the pandemic.
What do we owe the unmasked and unvaccinated, the disenfranchised and determined when their behavior endangers us all?
Some claim that it is wrong to shame or guilt those unwilling to wear a mask or get a vaccination. A Christian spokesperson Daniel Darling on the MSNBC Joe Scarborough show spoke in favor of getting vaccinated, yet went to great lengths telling viewers not to call or brand the unvaccinated “idiots” or any other derogatory term because it is counterproductive.
We’re all familiar with the long list of reasons why people refuse to get vaccinated. So-called “vaccine hesitancy” involves cultural, political, religious and individual beliefs about the safety and reliability of vaccines. The trouble with all these objections is that they avoid the central issue behind vaccine development: to protect human health and save lives.
Thus the unvaccinated, despite all their reasons and objections, remain a threat in societies where progress against the Covid-19 virus stalled because people were too fearful, stubborn, uninformed or aggressively misinformed about vaccines to protect themselves and others.
As grownups, most people develop a sense of perspective and propriety about right and wrong and its impact on personal freedoms. Even if we don’t like or agree with certain laws such as regulations on driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, responsible people respect those laws because they know that statistics clearly show the dangers of impaired driving.
That doesn’t stop some people from driving while drunk, and people die in drunk driving accidents every year. In particular, it is tragic when people too young to know the dangers of impaired driving crash and kill themselves and others. Their childish lack of judgment is further impaired by the power of drugs and alcohol to cause risk-taking behavior.
Kids often don’t like to be told what to do or how to act. They tend to complain about everything from curfews to allowances, dating practices to keeping grades up. We know that even young adults behave in childish ways until they make mistakes that actually cost them a few freedoms or create other consequences.
What we’re witnessing in America right now is a massively childish and immature instinct to claim freedoms and make mistakes that really do have fatal consequences. The unmasked and unvaccinated like to claim that they are taking responsibility for their own lives and actions, but in actuality they are not. These groups of people feed upon the meme-driven defiance of their equally childish peers, cheerleading their “cause” as some kind of superior insight about the science and safety of vaccines. In so doing, they threaten to disenfranchise the rest of us by putting public safety at risk, causing Covid lockdowns and economic pain, and forcing their behavior on the world just like a child that refuses to be disciplined in anything they do.
That raises the question as to whether the unmasked, the unvaccinated and the self-proclaimed disenfranchised are owed any respect, or does the world have the right and even the responsibility toe publicly shame them into appropriate behavior.
People addicted to certain toxic substances or habits sometimes require an intervention to wrest them out of destructive cycles. Of course they often resist, even violently, for being held accountable to the people they’ve harmed and the relationships they’ve destroyed. Much of the cultural impetus for the unmasked, unvaccinated and self-proclaimed disenfranchised is fueled by politicians who seek to gain from toxic populism because it fuels their own ambitions. These same influencers need to be subjected to public intervention as well.
That takes place at the the voting booth, and we’ve seen the outcome of America’s intervention with an out-of-control President who urged the unmasked to behave like children and seems to relish the stubborn nature of the unvaccinated because so many of them view him as a model of counterculture resistance. He appeals to the disenfranchised even as he continues to the behave childishly in denying the outcome of the election that rendered him a loser, the title he most hates to accept.
Do we owe respect to that brand of behavior? The lies? The denial. The mockery of science and the medical specialists working to save lives and get America back on a good path again?
No. What we owe the unmasked, the unvaccinated and the self-proclaimed disenfranchised is a headstrong, tough love intervention in which their childishness is called to account and revealed for what it is. A toxic addiction to selfish immaturity, willing ignorance and cognitive dissonance.
Any self-respecting person should recognize the truth in that.
What now seems like ancient history, the 2000 United States Presidential election was far closer than most of us probably recall. The website 270 to win shares this succinct summary of what transpired in the wake of Bill Clinton’s two terms:
“The United States presidential election of 2000 was a contest between Republican candidate George W. Bush, then-governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush (1989–1993), and Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Vice President.
Bill Clinton, the incumbent President, was vacating the position after serving the maximum two terms allowed by the Twenty-second Amendment. Bush narrowly won the November 7 election, with 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266 (with one elector abstaining in the official tally).”
The election was skewed by several factors, including the distraction of Ralph Nader running for President. The nearly 3M votes he received undoubtedly stoles votes from Gore’s side of the ledger, potentially handing Gore the victory had Nader not stubbornly stuck to his efforts.
What most might recall is the long delay in vote-counting that came down to a Florida decision that handed the election to Bush and Cheney.
2000 Election Facts
Outcome of race unknown for several weeks due to dispute over close vote totals in Florida
Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 2,882,728 votes, but no Electoral Votes
Gore won DC; however one elector did not cast a vote
One of only 5 elections (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016) where the popular vote winner was defeated
Issues of the Day: Impeachment, Presidential ethics, Good economy
To make matters worse, the controversies over recounts and the narrow margin of 537 distinguishable votes was thrown first to the Florida Supreme Court and then the United States Supreme court, where five justices nominated by Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush and Nixon all voted to install Bush as President of the United States.
Then the Shit Show began.
First, Bush and Cheney triumphantly ignored credible warnings about the 9/11 attacks handed over from President Clinton and Richard Clarke. We all know what happened then. Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The world watched in horror and fear, but the first thing the Bush clan did was fly bin Laden family members out of the country. As reported on CBS News, “Two dozen members of Osama bin Laden’s family were urgently evacuated from the United States in the first days following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, according to the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
One of bin Laden’s brothers frantically called the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington looking for protection, Prince Bandar bin Sultan told The New York Times. The brother was sent to a room in the Watergate Hotel and was told not to open the door.
Most of bin Laden’s relatives were attending high school and college. The young members of the bin Laden family were driven or flown under FBI supervision to a secret place in Texas and then to Washington, The Times reported Sunday.”
Bush and Cheney did the big power play of attacking Afghanistan to get at the vigilante member of the bin Laden family. They failed. Then Bush admitted, “I am not that concerned about him” In fact, bin Laden escaped into Pakistan to hide out for another decade or more before being hunted down and killed during the Obama administration.
All the while, American forces rooted around in Afghanistan trying to quell the influence of the Taliban, who were essentially blamed for the 9/11 attacks when actually, it was just one rich hermit and a band of willing mercenaries that carried out the dirty work of killing thousands of Americans on a bright fall day in New York City on 9/11.
Lying all along
So the Bush-Cheney regime never had the story right or a plan in place to exit Afghanistan if nothing was being accomplished. The Taliban might have been chased into the hills, but did not disappear. When American killed one Taliban leader another one simply slipped into place. As all this warlike activity transpired, warlords sucked up skidloads of American dollars while our troops tried not to get killed. Thousands did. Tens of thousands more were wounded. And still we stayed.
That was not even the worst part of life after Gore lost to Bush. Because one of the pet projects of the illegitimate President was to attempt a Middle East takeover with an invasion of Iraq. The United States attacked that nation based on falsified information about weapons of mass destruction of which international inspection teams found no evidence. Even General Colin Powell got sucked into the Post-9/11 fray and lied to us all about what was really going on in Iraq.
Which was awful, but still no reason to invade that nation on claims that it had anything to do with 9/11 or that Iraq posed any terrorist threat to the United States. Yet still we attacked. Saddam Hussein was captured, tried and sentenced to death. But all that America could find to do in the wake of that murderer’s death was to round people up and torture them in the same prisons used by Hussein to persecute his own countrymen.
The Iraq War Crimes Adventure also welcomed mercenary forces from guns-for-hire companies such as Blackwater and Halliburton, both of which reportedly direspected American troops and committed war crimes of their own on occasion.
The Brookings Institute reported: “But there were two problems: Despite its mission of guarding U.S. officials in Iraq, Blackwater had no license with the Iraqi government. Secondly, the murky legal status of the contractors meant they might be considered exempt from Iraqi law because of a mandate left over from the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. governing authority in Iraq that was dissolved more than two years prior.”
The relative lawlessness that led to billions of dollars wasted in military expenditures, torture and war crimes in Iraq seemed not to bother the Bush regime. It was our soldiers that paid for this folly with their health and their lives. Men like Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld famously dismissed our military’s lack of preparation for the Iraq venture by stating, ““You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
Such was the unapologetic approach of Bush and Cheney to everything they encountered. As America squandered trillions in its treasure on extended, fruitless wars, the world’s climate was busy heating up due to global warming. The Republican control of the Oval Office, Senate, Congress and the Supreme Court ensured that no legislation would pass to help counter the rolling effects of carbon dioxide polluting the atmosphere. Al Gore published a book warning that America had better look out for its true enemy, which was climate change, but conservatives mocked him as pedantic and hypocritical.
Now the government in Afghanistan has collapsed and the Taliban rushed across the nation taking over provincial capitols and finally, the national government in Kabul gave up and ran off. None of the Afghani troops “trained” by American forces over the last two decades put up any resistance. The entire Bush-Cheney debacle collapsed before the world’s eyes. Meanwhile, climate change is burning up the world with July 2021 registering as the hottest month in all recorded history.
It would have been so much different had Al Gore not been blocked from serving as President of the United States. He won the popular vote. In all likelihood, he even won the Electoral College vote if politics had not been played in the queasy state of Florida.
We could have avoided 9/11. Most certainly, the former VP is a prudent man who understood the threat of terrorism in real time, not as some abstract distraction to be avoided by the likes of Bush and Cheney. America might well have taken steps to ward off climate change as well. At least we’d have a start of some sort.
Lies and racism
Instead, we were forced to suffer through eight years of blatant lies and ractist attacks against President Obama, who also happened to rescue the nation from the collapsed economy wrought by the many abuses wrought upon it during the Bush years, when the price of health insurance alone climbed by 96%. When Obama pushed for the Affordable Health Care act, Republicans attacked the concept as unconstitutional and socialist. But much like Al Gore, Obama had American’s long-term interests in mind.
Trump was nothing more than a feckless version of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, combined. He exhibits the same bumbling inability to communicate effectively, instead engaging in a “downtalking” approach soaked in the ideology of victimhood. He pats his supporters on the head with patriarchal cynicism and glee, also welcoming the adoring affections of hypocritical evangelical supporters eager to trade their religious ethics for access to power.
Trump devastated the country with hapless tariffs, greedy tax cuts and rampant golfing excursions that cost the country hundreds times more than the meager $360K (or whatever) salary comes with the office. Where Obama was serious, considerate and collaborative, Trump was specious, angry, and bullying.
That approach appealed to his deplorable political base, which included openly racist populists and whorishly sycophantic political operatives within his administration that to this day claim that a legitimate election was stolen through some outlandish method for which there is zero evidence. That led to a massive insurrection in which the core of governance in the United States of America was under attack by a fascist mob urged on (and gleefully witnessed) by Trump and his minions.
But then, there was zero real evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There was zero evidence that Rush Limbaugh was ever honest or right about anything in his life. There was zero evidence that torture was necessary or desirable in Iraq. Zero evidence that Guantanamo was a good way to hold supposed terrorists when many were simply people caught up in the military horrors executed upon Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is zero evidence that anything the Republican Party has done the last twenty to forty years has benefited the United States of America in any way. There is less than zero evidence that the party proper has any intention of admitting to its incompetence, cruelty, or the many criminal indictments and convictions of its political representatives during the Reagan, Bush II or Trump administrations.
Yes, this country and the whole world could–and should–have been much different if Al Gore had become President. Instead, we’re left with a nation torn apart by domestic terrorists, gun proliferation, racism on the rise, and attacks on the Capitol by lawless vigilantes acting on the urges of a twice-impeached ex-President who lied so often in office that the entire world was gaslighted by his dangerously narcissistic psyche.
His toxic brand of rule led to more than 600,000 Americans dying from Covid-19 infection in a country where it was perfectly possible to prevent such tragic loss of life. But Trump lied to the nation about the threat, obscured its potential contagiousness, and mocked those wearing masks to prevent its spread. Even to this moment in time, his ardently deluded supporters refuse to wear masks and are contracting the Delta variant and dying in the hospital while begging to be vaccinated.
But it’s too late, in most of those case. It’s almost too late to recognize the pandemic that is Republican policy and the anti-government plague it has wrought on the country. As President Joe Biden noted, we have a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” That symbolizes the delusional nature of gaslighting tactics dating all the way back to President Ronald Reagan and his anti-American claim that government must be shrunk down to nothing in order to serve the people better. He was a liar just like the Bushes and the Cheney’s and the Trumps. The McConnells and the McCarthys are just as bad, along with the Fox News and Tucker Carlson crowd. It’s sickening.
None of this would have happened if Al Gore had become President. None of it.
The Chicago Tribune carried a news story about the death at age 90 of G. Gordon Liddy, the well-known mastermind of the Watergate burglary that led to scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.
Liddy said of his actions, “I’m proud of the fact that I am the guy who did not talk.”
That sort of “loyalty” leads to all kinds of misery in this world. The Tribune article contained this interesting observation. “Born in Hoboken, N.J., George Gordon Battle Liddy was a frail boy who grew up in a neighborhood populated mostly by German-Americans. From friends and a maid who was a German national, Liddy developed a curiosity about German leader Adolf Hitler and was inspired by listening to Hitler’s radio speeches in the 1930s.’
As we all know, followers of Hitler were famous for ‘not talking’ even as the regime carried through on plans for a Holocaust taking the lives of millions of people. All while Hitler claimed to be aiming the nation toward a “higher ground.”
But Liddy liked Hitler because he felt kinship with the man’s journey from frailty to power.
“If an entire nation could be changed, lifted out of weakness to extraordinary strength, so could one person,” Liddy wrote in “Will,” his autobiography. Liddy decided it was critical to face his fears and overcome them. At age 11, Liddy roasted a rat and ate it to overcome his fear of rats. “From now on, rats could fear me as they feared cats,” he wrote.
That instinct for payback against the world seems to have driven Liddy to extremes in ideology that bordered on manic. “While recruiting a woman to help carry out one of his schemes, Liddy tried to convince her that no one could force him to reveal her identity or anything else against his will. To convince her, Liddy held his hand over a flaming cigarette lighter. His hand was badly burned. The woman turned down the job.”
That refusal to join Liddy’s team was an indication of sanity. No completely rational person behaves as Liddy did in that or any other circumstance.
Liddy’s crazed brand of commitment to cause and manic charisma grew a great following among conservatives as he became a popular media personality. “Liddy learned to market his reputation as a fearless, if sometimes overzealous, advocate of conservative causes. Liddy’s syndicated radio talk show, broadcast from Virginia-based WJFK, was long one of the most popular in the country. He wrote best-selling books, acted in TV shows like “Miami Vice,” was a frequent guest lecturer on college campuses, started a private eye franchise and worked as a security consultant. For a time, he teamed on the lecture circuit with an unlikely partner, 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary.”
Liddy never hid even his most dire intentions, even illegal motives: “Liddy became known for such offbeat suggestions as kidnapping war protest organizers and taking them to Mexico during the Republican National Convention; assassinating investigative journalist Jack Anderson; and firebombing the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank in Washington where classified documents leaked by Ellsberg were being stored.”
History shows that Liddy worked to subvert the legitimate dealings of government on behalf of Nixon. After serving time for his crimes, he decide to plant roots of public distrust in the government and even law enforcement agents. “In the mid-1990s, Liddy told gun-toting radio listeners to aim for the head when encountered by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “Head shots, head shots,” he stressed, explaining that most agents wear bullet-resistant vests under their jackets. Liddy said later he wasn’t encouraging people to hunt agents, but added that if an agent comes at someone with deadly force, “you should defend yourself and your rights with deadly force.”
It is no wonder that an America fed such rhetoric for so long grew immune to the use of high-powered, cop-killing weapons such as AR-15s when men like Liddy were spouting anti-government rhetoric over the decades. Liddy normalized such violence in the minds of millions of people. He made them believe that violence equals patriotism and freedom.
Fascist roots and violent instincts
Liddy’s autocratic attitude and fascist roots fueled his violent instincts. These he spilled into the American dialogue without remorse or responsibility. We can draw a straight line from Liddy’s unhinged rhetoric to the brute nature of Trumpism and the insurrection at the Capitol driven by domestic terrorists, white supremacists and stark-raving nationalists claiming.the higher ground even while they devastated law officers charged with protecting the elected official inside.
One can easily imagine G. Gordon Liddy masterminding such a coup, just as he tried to do way back in the 1970s.Trump preached to his followers in advance of his attempted sedition, “Come to DC. It will be wild!”
Trump’s level of corruption exceeded even President Ronald Reagan’s administration, one of the most corrupt in history with a pile of indictments and convictions left behind. The leading contender for Most Corrupt was Colonel Oliver North, who engineered the Iran-Contra affair and then went on to preach in mega-churches that he’s always been on God’s side.
Generations of lies
A significant portion of America has spent several generations worshipping the wrong kind of heroes. That political bulwark Pat Buchanan claims this backwards philosophy of elevating criminals and corrupt bigots to top-level posts is pointing the country in the right direction. In a column titled “Trump–Once and Future Kind,” he praises the ex-president for his supposed success in economic terms. “Trump succeeded in enacting the traditional GOP platform of low taxes and deregulation, producing record-low unemployment — before the pandemic hit”
But Buchanan exhibits cognitive dissonance in his failure to even mention how Trump instantly spoiled economic prospects by selfishly denying the portent of the pandemic because he feared any deleterious effects to the economy. The result was a pandemic that spilled out of control, resulting in the need for economic lockdowns at the state level to assist overwhelmed healthcare systems. Trump’s lack of vision and stubborn claim that the pandemic was not a threat––despite his own admission to Bob Woodward that it was––directly caused the downfall of his supposed plans for prosperity. Trump has no one to blame but himself for his failure as a President.
Yet Trump speciously claimed the election itself was fraudulent because he could not imagine that so many would show up to vote against his despotic lies and political deceptions.
Blame Bush and Cheney, if anyone
Trump liked to blame all of America’s problems on President Barack Obama. But actually, the endless wars and drain on the economy caused by the economic recession under Bush took every effort by Obama to reconcile. He was largely a success at that, and won a second term despite constant Republican obfuscation.
Obama could not cure all of Bush’s mess because the GOP never admitted they were the primary cause. The feckless administrative style of George Bush depended on the direction of Dick Cheney, mastermind of the doctrine that led our country into the war in Iraq under false and badly miscalculated pretenses. That cost the country $7T in Iraq alone, all while torturing and killing its residents in the supposed name of peace. That war was America’s greatest failure, worse in many respects than the Vietnam debacle fifty years before.
All this misguided saber-rattling impoverishes the nation yearly, with a military so bloated by waste that a recent investigation into its accounting procedures resulted in a “no-contest” from the accountants hired to do the job. “We can’t even begin to figure out where the money goes,” was the summary issued, and I paraphrase, but that’s the outcome.
It all comes back to the toxic misappropriation of honesty and truth by men like G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump. They are all men raised to believe in themselves as a higher power unto itself. Those who believe in them are worshipping the wrong kind of heroes.
I’ve always loved teaching. I have a chance these days as a substitute working at all grade levels for several local school districts. Yesterday I taught language arts for first-grade class studying story structure. We reviewed material about the text features including Headings, Diagrams, Labels, Sub-heading, Bold Text, Illustration, Captions and Italic text.
These elements of a document are familiar to everyone consuming content on the Internet. That’s where the vast majority of people now gather information these days.
While the elements of a document or article are important to recognize, it is just as important to understand the components of a story in order to grasp its full significance. These include Characters, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Resolution.
Finally, it is particularly valuable to understand what type of material you are reading. Is it a news story or commentary? Hard news or Opinion? But most of all, is it fiction or non-fiction?
Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether certain types of information are fictional or not. The word “fiction” means something invented by the imagination or feigned, also known as “fake.” That is the term often used by politicians who don’t want you to believe the truth behind information they don’t like.
The challenging aspect of sorting truth from fiction is that some of the world’s greatest truths are found in fictional works. Often the reason a work of fiction is considered great is its compelling relationship to realities of many kinds.
Some of the most compelling forms of fiction willingly blur the lines between fact and fiction. American author Carlos Castaneda wrote a series of books about shamanism that lure readers into a world where the “crack between the worlds” is opened and revealed. As described on Wikepedia, “The books, narrated in the first person, relate his experiences under the tutelage of a man that Castaneda claimed was a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named don Juan Matus. His 12 books have sold more than 28 million copies in 17 languages. They have been found to be fiction, but supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy.”
That last sentence describes the power and influence of a charismatic personality or a compelling story. Being pulled into that sphere can make a person feel as if a great truth is being revealed. With that degree of revelation at hand, it is difficult to convince people that their seeming grasp on the truth is, fortunately or unfortunately, a work of fiction. This is particularly true when people feel as if they’ve been gifted with a particular brand of truth, especially that which contradicts the status quo or appears to give them insight on an important conspiracy or key to some sort of power.
Such is the case with conspiracy theories in the modern era. From the nightly talking points pumped out by Fox News to the QAnon crowd looking for clues to the overthrow government officials they suspect of sex-trafficking and cannibalism, the lines between fact and fiction are not just blurred, they are willingly and ardently confused and conflated.
The practice of blurring fact and fiction is not uncommon in history of many kinds. The Christian religion is quite adept at creating narratives that serve its purposes yet aren’t supported by fact. From the persecution of Copernicus and Galileo to the invention of purgatory to drive the collection of indulgences and line the pockets of the church, Christianity has long smeared the lines between fact and fiction. That holds true from the creationist take on Genesis to End Times theorists predicting the end of the world based on the Book of Revelations and other texts.
Owning the narrative is the purpose of blurring fact and fiction. If your claim to truth is based solely on a singular interpretation of a story about which you claim to hold the absolute key, then it is hard for anyone to challenge that authority. Such claims to absolute truth are typically based on a tautology, “a statement that is true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form.” Otherwise known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Fact and fiction
If we sit down with a class of first-graders that have been taught the difference between fact and fiction, as I recently did, I believe it is unlikely those kids will be fooled by the tactics of purposeful lies common to the adult world. It’s not that they think they own greater insights about absolute truth than adults. They just aren’t schooled in the art of self-deception and are not so eager to see conspiracy where none exists. They can tell the difference between fact and fiction because they aren’t interested in blurring the lines for purposes of self-confirmation and self-interest.
It’s quite obvious that a class full of first-graders knows more about truth than an entire nation of Trump supporters and the Republican Senate who refused to hold their “teacher” responsible for the long list of lies he’s been telling since he was born. That faction prefers the fiction that grants them power, and couldn’t care less if future generations have to suffer for it or not.
I keep reading comments in news stories and on social media stating that many of the 74 million people who voted for Trump are either “good people” or “smart people.” That may be true. Over the last four years a number of people that I’ve known for a long time came out in favor of Donald Trump. Some of those people are devout Christians. Others are avowed conservatives. Still others voted Republican all their lives and were not keen on Hillary and certainly were not excited about voting for Joe Biden.
But without exception, all of these good and smart people were somehow fooled about who Trump was, and who he turned out to be. Some of these folks recoiled upon seeing Trump supporters swarm the Capitol. Then came news that Capitol guards were killed. Others were injured or had their lives threatened by the unruly mob chanting, among many slogans, “Hang Mike Pence!”
The anger driving the mob was a direct result of Donald Trump’s persistent claims that the 2020 election was stolen. That led to slogans such as “Stop the Steal” and when Trump spoke before the crowds in Washington, D.C., he exhorted them to take action “Because you will never take back our country with weakness.”
That’s the difference right there. Millions of people were deceived into thinking Donald Trump would be an effective President. Some point to his “policies” as successful, a defense copied and pasted in social media memes as a defense of Trump’s supposedly positive action as President. The list of supposed successes includes a laundry list such as tax cuts (which clearly benefitted the richest Americans) the Middle East Deal (which cut Palestinians out of the picture) and a few Republican-ish items on the Wish List of discrimination such as overhauling immigration policy (resulting in nearly 6000 children separated from their families) and building the wall (a massive debacle with funds appropriated from military budgets to construct barriers through environmentally sensitive areas and Native American sacred places.)
Then there is the pandemic to consider. Within a week––and well under a year’s time––400,000 Americans will have died from the Coronavirus / Covid-19. From the outset of the threat, Trump denied it as a threat even as he admitted (that’s evidence) to reporter Bob Woodward that he knew things were going to get really bad. Trump played it down and his followers were fooled by his words. The pandemic denial made fools of us all. Now hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors are dead and millions are infected with potential side effects lasting years or permanently affecting hearts and lungs.
Trump’a denial was necessary in his mind because he was so afraid of not getting elected he feared any disturbance to the fragile economy over which he presided. Ironically, it was his own lies that crushed commerce and led to millions of people cast out of their jobs. The economy tanked due to Trump’s selfish instincts. We’ve all been left clinging to vestiges of normalcy while states and cities and medical facilities at every scale struggle to keep up with infection rates. All because our federal response was either denied, uncoordinated or non-existent. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner fooled around in the background trying to patch together some sort of “free-market” response, but the disease didn’t wait around for ideology to catch up with reality. People were dying, and there was no plan in place to stop it. That’s still true.
Then there’s the Trumpian deception over the election that led to an insurrection. How is America supposed to deal with that?
A justified response
On January 18, 2021, in the wake of Congress’ impeachment of the President, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial by Liz Peek, a writer for RealClearPolitics. She claimed that the move to impeach Trump was both rushed and unjustified. I wrote a response and sent it to the Tribune, where my letters appear with relative frequency.
The text is here:
“Columnist Liz Peek attempts to show that the impeachment of President Donald Trump is rushed and not entirely justified. She fails to mention that well in advance of the 2016 election, during a debate with Secretary Hillary Clinton, candidate Trump refused to state that he would respect the results of the election, win or lose. This man has never respected the rule of law or the democratic process. He has repeatedly broken the nation’s laws governing his conduct in office, and most recently led an insurrection to overturn the results of a fair and free election. This second impeachment is no rush to judgment. It is a statement that a man such as Donald Trump has no place in public office, especially the presidency, and his supporters need to understand that loud and clear. The Senate failed in its duty to convict Trump the first time around, breaking its oath to conduct a full trial. That should not happen this time around. The outgoing President deserves punishment for his prolonged assault on our nation, a practice evidenced even in the policies implemented under his watch, which rewarded only the rich, gutted agencies designed to serve the American people and protect the environment, and left hundreds of thousands of people to die due to his lies about the threat of the pandemic. Those who innocently supported Trump were fooled, but those who continue to support him are abject fools.”
Millions of people invented reasons to vote for Trump and support him during his presidency. This devotion required considerable suspension of disbelief. Well, Americans are really good at that practice. Look at all those intergalactic shows and movies where people walk around spaceships as if gravity follows them around, or flit from planet to planet and galaxy to galaxy where oxygen happens to be everywhere and the main characters speak the same language. The world thrives on this brand of disconnection from reality and America has thus survived four years on Planet Trump. The Grand Illusion serves the President well. He lies with the worst of them, yet people believe in him. Even Christians tossed aside their core beliefs to buy Trump’s replacement for their faith. They chose access to power instead. It’s a familiar story really. The entire Star Wars enterprise is based on the same premise.
That is why it is time to send Trump into an orbit of his own making. He deserves to face penalty for the fraud and graft he’s depended upon for years. Like Emperor Palpatine, he brought the same corrupt and power-brokering tactics to the office of President. People were fooled into believing that Trump’s supposed business acumen was real, like some kind of “force” that could solve America’s problems with the wave of a Trumpian hand. Never mind that Trump University was fined $25M for fraud, or that his dalliances with porn stars were well-documented? What does that have to do with character or anything Donald Trump is doing as President?
Trump’s supporters promised “so much winning.” Instead, the nation got hit repeatedly with the back of his selfish hand, all while being admonished for not loving him enough. America was subjected to the worst kind of abusive relationship where the gaslighting abuser takes his minions for fools and demands that all those under his charge submit to abuse as a sign of love. Trump used and disabused members of his cabinet, his personal and public lawyers, and anyone that crossed him. All were hit with abuse during Trump’s fits of rage and disavowal.
And still his supporters came crawling back for more. Trump willingly exploited their adoring submission, then turned it into a populist coup, an insurrection, and the final act of his abusive claim on power. He convinced those people to act like fools for him. It’s time to impeach Trump and show the fools and the foolish among us that there is a cost to believing in falsehood and lies.
Only then can the nation begin to heal from this foolishness.
The riots and attack on the US government at the United States Capitol building are proving one thing: America really does need to be concerned about the rise of fascism in this nation.
All summer long during protests against the murder of Black citizens by police were conducted by Black Lives Matter and other social conscience groups. Some of those protests were marked by looting that harmed businesses. That was enough for Trump and his supporters to claim the two responses to police brutality were automatically related.
We can turn to the nation of Spain for perspective on the relationship between protests for social justice and independence. I happened to be in Barcelona on a vacation in 2019 during the weekend when originally peaceful protests turned ugly. The issue in Spain was a call for “self-determination” by citizens of the Catalaonian region. They sought independence from the central government in Spain over issues of taxation. Catalan residents sought to secede from Spain. Right-wing defendants of Spain’s traditional national structure and constitution sought to crack down on the protests.
That’s when things turned sour in Barcelona. As reported on Reuters.com, “Barcelona town hall said 400 garbage containers were set ablaze on Wednesday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in two days. Some city residents condemned the rioting. “This doesn’t represent the majority of Catalans, whichever side they are on, be they pro-constitution or pro-independence,” said Joan, a 50-year-old small-business owner.
The political issues in Spain differ from those in America, yet the cycles of protest and governmental crackdowns and pursuant violence on the part of “protestors” is quite similar to patterns in the United States.
As Reuters reported, “Young people draped in Catalan flags congregated peacefully, tossing balls and skipping rope. Later the mood turned ugly, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs on the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street at the heart of the tourist district.
Earlier in the day, thousands of students took to the streets, some hurling eggs at police holding riot shields. Marches from around the region are due to converge on Barcelona on Friday and unions have called a general strike for the day.
“It’s not about who is a separatist and who is not – it’s about human rights,” said Aila, a student who declined to give her family name.”
Black Lives Matter and Antifa
That sounds so familiar. Here in America, hundreds of thousands of protestors also sought to stand up for human rights. Their cause was calling attention to the series of Black people shot or suffocated by police. The incident with George Floyd in which an officer put a knee on the man’s neck until he died went viral and served to illuminate the cause of minorities around the world.
But Trump and his supporters appeared unmoved by the calls for change, and protests escalated as a result. Property damage was rampant, and a loosely organized group calling itself Antifa rose to national prominence as Trump sought to place blame for the violence on an enemy he target for derision by his supporters. That meant Trump lumped everyone together in one supposedly “evil” group that he blamed for property damage. But the people seeking social justice weren’t willing to live with that accusation. They persisted in peaceful protests. I witnessed the “rebound effect” of peaceful protestors while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer following weeks of unrest. The boarded up businesses were decorated with messages of love and reminders of why the protests were initiated in the first place. That may have been no comfort to businesses affected by the lockdowns, but that effect was not solely the result of protests. There was the scourge of Coronavirus that Trump refused to address. That incalcitrance toward any authority other than his own was the cause of more suffering in the United States than any protest, Antifa or not, could muster. That’s the reality Trump sought to avoid.
The problem with the Trump tactic is that was successful with his supporters and his Republican allies eager to shift blame away from the President by siding with him in the depiction of all protestors as the “common enemy.” That means the original cause of the social justice protestors––justice for Black citizens and change in brutal police tactics––was effectively left behind. That is exactly how Trump likes it. His entire tactic in politics is to distract from the bad things he’s done and/or approved by redirecting blame toward anyone he depicts as the “common enemy.” In that regard, he has quite familiar company in history.
The concept of propaganda
Consider this excerpt from the Nuremberg 1934 rally, in which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels outlines the premise and purpose of propaganda:
“The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.”
He goes on to state, “Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”
In the case of Donald Trump, that “purpose” in mind is keeping power at all costs. That aligns with his central goal of self-interest. His policies fulfill promises to others that can help him keep power. But his actions aside from that are all about winning and protecting access to power.
That explains his lies to cover up the threat of the pandemic in its early stages. His central goal in presenting information about the Coronavirus was to protect his image going into the 2020 election. To do that, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and how many people it could possible kill. His interest was in protecting the economy upon which he believed his re-election depended. Yet his selfishness backfired as the virus raged through the American population, threatening to overwhelm hospitals as thousands died from Covid-19. The economy reeled. He raged against the lockdowns proclaimed by state governors as necessary to curb the spread of the disease.
That was Trump’s version of a “protest.” Yet it was his original inaction and refusal to engage the federal government in meaningful distribution of PPE and support for state efforts to conduct testing and reduce infection rates that led to the United States becoming the nation whose citizens were banned from traveling to countries around the world. Trump cynically and ignorantly blamed “testing” as the reason why the infection rates were so high. “If we didn’t do so much testing, there wouldn’t be so many infections,” seemed to be his reasoning.
The confusing mix of disease and outrage
So the summer months were a confusing mix of disease and outrage as American citizens endured the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus even as Trump refused to wear a mask in public and an entire ‘protest’ movement of Anti-Maskers sprung up within his movement. They claimed that wearing masks infringed on their personal freedoms. Men like noted conservative and former presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to wear a mask in public. He contracted Covid-19 and died as a result.
That incident describes the twisted reasoning and dangers of Trumpism.
In the same way, it was Trump sending out federal troops in a fascist show of strength in Portland and other cities that led to increased resistance and more radicalized response in cities across the country. The Trump administration resorted to posting unidentified, heavily armed guards in Washington, D.C. in one of the most fascist demonstrations of governmental secrecy in American history. No one knew who those guards reported to, or what their purpose was other than to serve as a threat that the right to protest at all was under threat.
Then Trump marched across the street in the company of military personnel while flash-bangs and other deterrence methods were aimed at peaceful protestors gathered around a church in Washington. Trump held up a Bible (upside down, it appears) in clear demonstration of the religio-fascist relationship he maintains with zealously bigoted evangelicals calling for outright theocracy in American government.
Trump supporters long to point toward his “policies” as signs of his success the last four years. But even the supposed lists of accomplishments now circulating in defensive memes are rife with contradictions. His supposed Mideast accords are little more than disguised acts of Zionism and anti-Palestinian intrigue. Trump’s forceful collapse of the Iran nuclear control deal is enabling the re-establishment of that nation’s programs. HIs tax cuts did nothing for the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, and his inaction on Coronavirus crushed millions of jobs while Republican Senators and Congressman fought significant relief bills to help everyday Americans. If one were to draft a program to make American lives worse rather than better, there is none better than the lack of platform resolved by the Republican Party and the sycophantic support they’ve granted their Fascist in Chief. The GOP, as I’ve previously written, simply got pimped.
This arc toward fascist takeover of American society was not lost on Trump supporters whose beliefs about American justice were formed and fomented by propaganda spouted by Trump well before the 2020 election even took place. Upon losing, Trump declared the results “fraudulent” and proceeded to carry out 60 fraudulent lawsuits that were in turn rejected by courts on the basis of no evidence to support them.
None of that stopped Trump or his fascist henchman Rudy Giuliani from continuing their attack on democratic processes. Right up to the certification of the Electoral College votes, Trump and Rudy G collared Republican Congressman, Senators, state governors and even election officials. They issued dictates and threats. When all this continued to fail, Trump called his supporters into action in Washington. He directed them to march on the Capitol in hopes that the disruption would delay or cancel the counting of Electoral College votes altogether.
The riotous mob did invade and seek to destroy the Capitol building and its occupants. They came armed with ties in hopes of kidnapping the Vice President or the Speaker of the House. Anyone they regarded as “treasonous” was a potential target. Even those tasked with defending the safety of the Capitol building were subject to fascist fury. A Capitol guard was slaughtered by “protestors” using a fire extinguisher to pound the life out of him.
It’s his own fault, not ours
All of this is inescapably the fault of “President” Donald Trump, whose impeachment for attempts to corrupt the 2020 election were both justified and accurate. So was the Article of Impeachment about obstruction of justice, an action that Trump has taken multiple times and in multiple ways during his administration, all while crying out that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
But the witch hunt that sprung into life on January 6 was one driven by those who support Trump, and no one else. It bears echoes of the witch hunt conducted by Michigan Trump supporters who first stormed that state’s Capitol building, then conspired to kidnap the state governor.
The witch hunt also burst into murderous flames in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young kid inflamed by propagandistic rhetoric about the actions of Antifa, and not the cause of their concerns, shot several people to death in what his supporters immediately claimed as an act of “self-defense.”
It won’t be long before Trump makes the same claim for himself, that his supporters were acting in on his behalf, as an act of “self-defense” against the supposedly fraudulent results of the election. That is the Big Lie upon which all of Trumpism now depends. It is one Trump originated even before the 2016 election took place. It is a lie he will likely repeat until his is in his grave. He simply can’t accept the reality that Antifa exists in direct relationship to his fascist persona and the actions it has begotten.
That is the ultimate irony in all of this. Trump supporters refuse to understand that Donald Trump brought this upon America, and upon himself.