I hereby demand.
Here’s what I believe, in the immediate reverberation of this chilling little tweet. America has now taken the first steps down an old and well-travelled road that wends its way toward coups, assassinations, the imposition of authoritarian rule, and civil war. They may yet reverse course, but it’s hard to quell the horror that they could actually have started down this path, as if stumbling drunk towards a buzz saw.
The Trump contagion should have long since provoked a violent immune response. That it has not, and likely will not, is testament to the level of corruption that’s undermined every one of the fragile institutions that ought to uphold the rule of law in the United States. But why? And why now? We’re all so punch-drunk, so lost in the forest, that we keep poring over the different trees, while failing to see that all of the many appalling transgressions that have come to characterize these latter days are merely aspects of one staggeringly simple thing: an oligarchy of rich, racist, misogynist white men seeks to solidify its position irrevocably, before it’s too late. Trump is just one of many, as much symptom as cause.
It all started long before he arrived. Stacking the courts. Voter suppression. Mass incarceration (often in for-profit prisons), allied to the permanent disenfranchisement of all those who’ve ever been locked up. Widespread gerrymandering. Dismantling regulatory controls and oversight wherever they interfere with the operations of the various industries in which the oligarchs have interests. Tax cuts for the super rich, wealth concentration and inequality to degrees not seen since the Gilded Age, the relentless assault on the New Deal, reproductive rights, science, secularism, the separation of powers, and immigrants, while climate change is denied, and the only civil liberty defended is the obscene, insane right to maintain private arsenals of weapons the like of which the frankly boneheaded authors of their cursed second amendment could never have imagined. And if, by the by, you think this fetish for firearms owes nothing to the latent terror of racial minorities, as the demographics threaten to turn them into the majority, give your head a shake. Try a little thought experiment, why don’t you – what tune would the NRA and their Republican henchmen start singing if there was a concerted drive to arm all African American people to the fullest extent permitted by their stinking Supreme Court’s pernicious interpretation of their stinking amendment?
Now the grey men, sensing a great opportunity, seek to exploit the unbelievably fortuitous election of the self-serving moron who won with the covert and illegal support of America’s most vicious enemies (so much for waving the flag and worshipping at the altar of national security). Their whole agenda is being pushed, and don’t be fooled by the intermittent failures – what Congress can’t do in one fell swoop can still be achieved by a thousand cuts in the various government departments charged with maintaining the common good, each of them now a henhouse ruled over by a Trumpian fox. The moron himself may have no real vision, but everything he achieves to do right by himself and his family has an agreeable knock-on effect, and the grey men are delighted to have him keep his nose in the trough so long as they get theirs too. And oh boy, do they get theirs.
Standing in the way of this antediluvian steamroller are a few tired organs of the failing system, still functioning for now, trying to resist with their obsolete weapons. The defenders of the old regime, what few remain, are standing their ground and inevitably, heartbreakingly, being felled, one by one. Meanwhile, the law does no good. Quite the contrary, really. It almost makes you laugh to consider that the Constitution itself more or less committed inadvertent suicide by foisting the demon upon us. Trump was, after all, installed by the anti-democratic operation of the Electoral College, an arcane and little understood institution that was actually created for the sole purpose of thwarting somebody like him. When the plane crashed, it was actually the ejection seat that killed us.
Who can stop a President who pays no price for having won with the help of the Russians, whose illegitimate power is used overtly and with utter impunity to enrich himself in violation of all constitutional and democratic norms? There isn’t space here to go into it all, but the thing to remember is that it isn’t a bunch of disparate little wrongs, it’s all bits of one much bigger thing, expressed in many forms: as long as he’s here, he’s going to use the levers of power to get good and filthy rich. Whoever he has to remove, however many laws he breaks, whatever norms he shatters, whoever he pays off, whatever bribes he takes, whoever he bullies, whoever gets sold down the river, it all comes down to servicing greed, avarice, and his own huge and hugely fragile ego – and oh yeah, the urge to rut every woman he sees, even his own daughter, by force if necessary. All the rotten spokes extend from this painfully obvious hub.
There’s no time to waste in a situation like this, so Trump has wasted none. Whatever it takes, he does it. Of course, naked abuse of power requires the open and notorious crossing of lines, but that’s no deterrent. It’s a Trump specialty. Always has been. You have to release your tax returns? Nope. You can’t fire the director of the FBI? Sure you can. You have to divest your private businesses? Says who? You mustn’t abuse the power to pardon? Tell it to Joe Arpaio. A President can’t direct law enforcement to investigate anybody either, but you know, this Muller sideshow is a threat, so Trump hereby demands a counter-attack from the Justice Department.
This particular abuse of power marks the crossing of a last, special line that even I hoped he wouldn’t step over, and now that he has, anything is possible. Ask yourself: suppose Donald gets a subpoena, and just says no. Suppose some court orders compliance, but he just says no. How far removed are we from a scenario that involves Secret Service agents deciding whether to obey their Commander-in-Chief, or let some law enforcement officer in the door to slap the cuffs on him? How far away is the place in which the Joint Chiefs have to decide who to back? You think it can’t happen? Give your head another shake. It happens all the time, in today’s world, and throughout history. You really think America is different?
Maybe they are, that’s what I keep telling myself. Maybe, maybe, since after all, what do I know? I guess we’ll find out. I guess we’ll soon see how frigging exceptional they are, or whether they go the way of all Republics, all of them all the way back to the one that drew its own sacred line along the banks of a river that was never to be crossed, on pain of death.