What Trump is now is what he’s always been: a career criminal. He cheated contractors, ran a scam online school and a scam charity. And he’s never suffered for it: “Trump, in other words, is an example both of how legal rules barely apply to privileged sociopaths, and of how much the legal system relies on essentially voluntary compliance.”
And after Jerry Falwell Jr. declared Trump deserved an extra two years to make up for the time the Democratic investigations have cost him, Trump liked the idea. And so we face the question, if he tries it, how does the country stop him? Republicans will support it, and oppose anything that threatens Trump. Can Dems or the public do anything without them? Or does it turn out presidents stepping down is ultimately “voluntary compliance” with the law.
“It’s heartening to think that in a year and a half we can vote our way out of our predicament,” Dahlia Lithwick says, “but it’s a bit like suggesting that we have a good long national think about how things are currently going and tend to it all in 2020, when all the systems that were already broken in 2016 are more broken.
And let’s not forget, the religious right, which was so shocked and appalled about Clinton’s womanizing, changed their minds on Trump. And as soon as it becomes politically necessary, they’ll change back. What does letting a corrupt, venal, immoral scum matter compared to cracking down on Muslims? Or smearing liberals as not caring about attacks on Christians.
While Trump’s actions are bad, his rhetoric is also horrifying. This piece from the Niskanen Center makes a good case that Trump’s words and his willingness to say the quiet parts out loud further weakens us:
over the last year Trump has successfully radicalized the Republican electorate, with his words, in their support of him personally. Congressional Republicans who, a year ago, were still at least trying to keep Trump at arm’s length don’t dare to anymore. Trump has successfully belittled, marginalized, and demonized his occasional critics among Senate Republicans, with his direct line to the Republican electorate (and, again, as always, its amplification in the Trumpist media). The absurd drumbeat to “release the [Nunes] memo,” by its very absurdity, reveals Trump’s current power over Congressional Republicans. A year ago, more of them would have objected to delegitimizing the FBI. But Trump has successfully communicated to his voters that being on their team means not being on the FBI’s team. He’s changed what being a Republican means.
And he’s trying to change what being an American means. The power of elite speech in a democracy is only partly that of giving partisan cues to one’s supporters. It’s also the power to channel and direct the dangerous but real desire for collective national direction and aspiration. Humans are tribal animals, and our tribal psychology is a political resource that can be directed to a lot of different ends.
Case in point, as noted at the link: how many Republicans would have been decrying the “Deep State” before Trump, or declaring the FBI an enemy of Real True Americans? I’m sure if Trump sticks with that Two More Years line, we’ll see supporters picking it up. I’ve already seen friends of mine on FB discussing Muslims entering federal office as an “invasion.” I pointed out it wasn’t, but I’m sure that didn’t change their views (Fox News and the rest of right-wing media contribute a lot to this too).
And Trump has slashed the budget for monitoring right-wing extremists, despite the fact most of our terrorists are white right-wingers.
And conspiracy theories like the secret Democratic pedophile ring terrorizing America are getting crazier and based on less evidence than ever before. At the link, an analysis of why.
While it’s not much of a balance to the scales, though, I do take some comfort from seeing Pat Robertson say flat out that young Earth creationism is nonsense.