The Intelligence Community, the judiciary and (largely) the press have been fortresses against the dissolution of American democracy in this terrible time of Trump, even if the Republican legislature has rolled over for the Simon Cowell-ish strongman, a move which makes me wonder whether its obeisance stems merely from partisanship. How far do the Kremlin’s tentacles extend?
This attack on everything decent and enlightened, from the First Amendment to women’s health to Meal on Wheels, may very well end with numerous members of the President’s inner circle (including him) deposed, perhaps imprisoned, but that won’t mean our worries will be over over.
Nearly 63 million citizens voted for the most obvious conman, one who degraded our ideals at every turn. This awful and dangerous moment is merely the crescendo of decades of dumbing down, conspiracy theories supplanting civics and big money pouring into politics. There’s no guarantee that a post-Trump landscape will look anything like a desirable country. We’d be better for his removal, but we still won’t be anything near well.
Two excerpts follow.
In pretty much any other moment in our history, Brett Arends’ MarketWatch article, which encourages readers to move some of their investments outside of an increasingly lawless United States, would read as exceedingly hyperbolic. Not now. An excerpt:
It is no longer a certainty that America will remain a stable country governed by an impartial rule of law. You could argue it no longer is.
I am not saying that a further breakdown is guaranteed or even likely, but I am saying it is possible. Maybe things will end happily, but maybe not. What we are witnessing today is exactly how it has happened historically. It goes in steps. Countries do not leap from civilization to barbarism in a single bound. You do not wake up one morning to discover mobs burning books in the streets. The decline happens by degrees. Each step enables the next.
And what is being normalized here now is not normal.
The voters of Montana have just rewarded Greg Gianforte for beating up a reporter by electing him to Congress as their representative. Many on the right are crowing. Gianforte was reportedly swamped with extra donations following the attack. Republican congressman Duncan Hunter of California said the attack was merely “inappropriate” — unless, he added, the reporter “deserved it.” The president has celebrated the result. Popular right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham actually mocked the reporter and suggested he should have fought back against Gianforte and his aides. (One can only imagine what she would have said if he actually had done so.) She was not alone.
None of these people are being subject to moral sanction by the market or their supporters so far as anyone can tell. Gianforte has only been cited legally for a misdemeanor by the local sheriff, who was a campaign contributor. The smart money says he will get away with it, and take up his lucrative sinecure in Washington.
And as every conservative knows, human beings respond to incentives. If this sort of action is rewarded and not punished, it will happen more often.•
In the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew, veteran Watergate reporter, believes the head-spinning events of the latter half of May could be the tipping point for Trump’s Presidency. The thing is, truly terrible things could happen between now and any eventual terminus. An excerpt:
Politicians are pragmatists. Republican leaders urged Nixon to leave office rather than have to vote on his impeachment. Similarly, it’s possible that when Trump becomes too politically expensive for them, the current Republicans might be ready to dump him by one means or another. But the Republicans of today are quite different from those in the early 1970s: there are few moderates now and the party is the prisoner of conservative forces that didn’t exist in Nixon’s day.
Trump, like Nixon, depends on the strength of his core supporters, but unlike Nixon, he can also make use of social media, Fox News, and friendly talk shows to keep them loyal. Cracking Trump’s base could be a lot harder than watching Nixon’s diminish as he appeared increasingly like a cornered rat, perspiring as he tried to talk his way out of trouble (“I am not a crook”) or firing his most loyal aides as if that would fix the situation. Moreover, Trump is, for all his deep flaws, in some ways a cannier politician than Nixon; he knows how to lie to his people to keep them behind him.
The critical question is: When, or will, Trump’s voters realize that he isn’t delivering on his promises, that his health care and tax proposals will help the wealthy at their expense, that he isn’t producing the jobs he claims? His proposed budget would slash numerous domestic programs, such as food stamps, that his supporters have relied on heavily. (One wonders if he’s aware of this part of his constituency.)
People can have a hard time recognizing that they’ve been conned. And Trump is skilled at flimflam, creating illusions. But how long can he keep blaming his failures to deliver on others—Democrats, the “dishonest media,” the Washington “swamp”? None of this is knowable yet. What is knowable is that an increasingly agitated Donald Trump’s hold on the presidency is beginning to slip.•