NORTH CHATHAM, New York
Most nights in America nowadays—more properly nowadaze—the so-called political analysts employed by television news networks lament the self-immolation of a formerly presentable Republican Party.
Founded in 1854 as a vehicle for abolishing the evil of slavery, the party evolved over the next two centuries as a coalition of family farmers, dutiful church folk, Main Street bourgeoisie, and Wall Street conservatives. One could disagree with Republicans philosophically, but respect that they came to their views based on honest reasoning and lived experience.
In recent years, however, the party has devolved into something dangerous.
Today’s party is a scary tribe of conspiracists, imbeciles and white nationalists in the thrall of a sociopathic career criminal who insists he is a billionaire business whiz, never mind that his fraudulent enterprises were six-time supplicants before the United States Bankruptcy Court. For the time being, he lives large at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida mansion and golf resort where pols and plutocrats make pilgrimages of fealty to the godfather of grift—Donald J. Trump.
A decades-long adjudicated bigot and con artist before becoming forty-fifth president of the United States, Trump’s eventual demise could mirror that of Meyer Lansky, né Meier Suchowlański (1902-1983). Trump’s fellow Florida exilé and former New Yorker, Lansky is a founder of the Brooklyn crime syndicate Murder Incorporated. In the 1930s, he set a swaggering example that Trump would emulate from the 1970s forward: that of a fourflusher who grossly exaggerated business acumen, personal wealth, and property holdings.
Although numerous air-tight state and federal criminal cases could have been brought against Lansky during the final decade of his life, authorities dropped prosecution efforts due to his debilitating health. A self-proclaimed multi-millionaire and “genius” financier of a sketchy commercial empire, Lansky succumbed to lung cancer at his modest house in Miami. There, he lived in financial straits so dire that he was unable to afford medical care for his beloved son Bernard, who was born with cerebral palsy and died of starvation and dehydration in 1989.
The late Hank Messick (1922-1999), an investigative journalist specializing in gangland America, wrote of Lansky’s estate: “Meyer Lansky doesn’t own property. He owns people.”
One fine day, Trump’s obituary is likely to tell the same truth.
Meanwhile, the TV analysts function as Greek chorus to a tragedy befallen the Trump-driven Republican Party once touted as the Gallant Old Party—rightly so for its rôle in preserving the United States through the turbulent civil war era of the mid-nineteenth century. Nowadaze, the G.O.P. is known, wryly, as the Grand Old Party.
And for the thousandth time, TV analysts urge sentient Republicans to somehow—please!—save their party from itself.
But the chorus sings a nonsense song, for in fact the Republican party as we long knew it is dead, whacked by a Mar-a-Lago mafia don—fittingly named Donald, il capo di tutti capi—and beyond resurrection.
Old school Republicans no longer have a respectable framework in which to articulate reasonably conservative policy or to promote responsible candidates for public office. They are overwhelmed by a revanchist movement of fair-complexioned cranks outraged over changing demographics and social mores, convinced that the “J” in Donald J. Trump stands for Jesus rather than John, and inflamed by the crypto-fascist propaganda of right-wing media.
The Movement, as I propose naming that which has crushed the Republican Party and stolen its formerly creditable name, is described by Jaime Harrison, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, as a triple threat of “fraud, fear and fascism.”
With our own eyes, we beheld Act One/Scene One in the Movement’s pageant of crimes against American democracy—the putsch of January 6, 2021.
That day, several thousand domestic terrorists swarmed the Capitol building in Washington, at Trump’s behest. They wore camouflage battle dress, motorcycle helmets, and Nazi regalia. With soldierly precision, they bashed their way into the Capitol and rampaged through hallways and offices and the floors of Congress, armed with clubs and glass bottles and poison spray used to assault police officers. Outside, they erected a gallows, presumably for the execution of then-Vice President Mike Pence—subject of chants that echoed through the Capitol’s marble corridors and stairways: “Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence…!”
Across the Potomac River, just beyond the city limits of Washington, a paramilitary gang of ex-cops and military veterans known as the Oath Keepers lay in wait for a call from allied thugs inside the Capitol. They referred to themselves a Q.R.F., or “quick reactionary force,” prepared to transport a cache of firearms and explosives to their comrade brawlers.
The putsch was carried out under the stars-and-bars banner of an earlier insurrection—when an army of the breakaway southern Confederacy attacked Washington at midpoint of the American Civil War of 1861-1865, the treasonous pro-slavery uprising ultimately defeated by Abraham Lincoln, first president of the yet to be dishonored Republican Party.
On the morning of January 6 last year, two weeks before the end of a despicable four-year presidency, Trump delivered his final speech in office. He appeared before an adoring mob of Sturmtruppen at an outdoor rally near the White House a few hours prior to insurrection. In Hitleresque cadence, and for the thousandth time, the Big Loser repeated his Big Lie: He was the real victor of a “rigged” election.
Now, railed Trump, it was time for “patriots” to “take back our country.” To move en masse to the Capitol, two miles down Pennsylvania Avenue where Congress was engaged in a ceremonial transfer of presidential power to Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
“We love Trump!” the mob roared.
Lover man roared back: “We have to fight like hell!”
Then, issued his marching orders: “Our country has had enough! We will not take it anymore! We’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be with you!”
But of course, Trump was and is an inveterate liar. And given his girth and sedentary lifestyle, incapable of a two-mile hike to the Capitol.
According to former press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Trump repaired to the White House after the rally and the roaring. There, comfortably seated and with cheeseburgers near at hand, he saw what the rest of us saw. As Ms. Grisham reported in a tweet: “[H]e was in the dining room gleefully watching on his TV.”
Such as it is, the Republican National Committee met early last month to consider the insurrection and its toll: five deaths, hospitalization for one hundred and forty Washington police officers involved in hand-to-hand combat with Trumpist thugs, Capitol corridors smeared in urine and feces, homicidal threats against Mike Pence and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, vandalized offices, and $30 million in structural damage (€26.40 million), according to Capitol architect J. Brett Blanton.
The committee’s conclusion, per the New York Times:
“WASHINGTON—The Republican Party on Friday declared the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and events that led to it ‘legitimate political discourse,’ and rebuked two [Republican] lawmakers who have been most outspoken in condemning the deadly riot and the role of Donald J. Trump in spreading the  election lies that fueled it.”
For his part, Mr. Trump said that he had given a “mild-mannered” speech to an audience of “great people” at pep rally where “love was in the air.”
Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the Republican contrarians referenced in the Times account, were subsequently deemed not so great by the party’s high command—notably by Ronna McDaniel, a Trump stooge and the niece of Republican Senator Mitt Romney, his party’s losing presidential candidate in 2012.
Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger are now essentially excommunicated from the Church of the Movement. Heaven forfend, their sin was to accept appointment to a special congressional committee investigating the attempted coup d’état of January 6, 2021.
In coming weeks, the special committee will issue its report on the fraud, fear, and fascism behind a level of violence unseen in Washington since British troops invaded the city during the War of 1812 and set fire to the White House and the Capitol.
The report will name and shame those who inspired the putsch—Trumpists one and all. The findings will then be given over to the U.S. Department of Justice, the governmental branch charged with a constitutional duty to seek just punishment for criminals in a country where no citizen is above the law, theoretically.
Watch this space for further entry to the Republican crime blotter.
REPUBLICANS & THE PUTSCH
Clockwise from top left: Mar-a-Lago Mob Boss, Ronna McDaniel,
contrarians Adam Kinzinger & Liz Cheney, Love in the Air
For the past eight years, the Republican Party has produced no institutional statement of political vision or legislative intent. But late last month, Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida—where else?—filled the gap as principal author of a manifesto from the party’s Movement within.
Titled “An 11-Point Plan to Rescue America,” the manifesto is a breathtaking denunciation of “the militant left” and the dirty Democrats, a laundry list of conspiracy theories, and just plain crazy talk. Writ large, it is a dystopian screed that any competent psychiatrist would recognize as a marriage of misplaced rancor and psychological projection. From the introduction—
“The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms— but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents.
“Among the things they plan to change or destroy are: American history, patriotism, border security, the nuclear family, gender, traditional morality, capitalism, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, rugged individualism, Judeo-Christian values, dissent, free speech, color blindness, law enforcement, religious liberty, parental involvement in public schools, and private ownership of firearms.
“Is this the beginning of the end of America?”
RICK SCOTT to the rescue!
Speaking of conspiracies, the Movement’s top favorite nowadaze is QAnon, an internet lunacy hatched in the basement of a Washington pizzeria back during Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Lord-only-knows how many Republicans believe that an eponymous/anonymous government insider named “Q” tells a coded tale starring Donald Trump as secret hero in a secret existential struggle with Satan-worshiping Hollywood celebrities and dark overlords of the Democratic Party who eat children after raping them.
—I can scarcely believe what I’ve just written about the fevered fantasies of an untold hoard of Trumpists. Alas, the foregoing is nonfiction.
And speaking of crazy, consider “Mad Marge” of suburban Atlanta, as she’s been tagged by Washington wags, otherwise known as Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene the QAnon queen. Among her numerous absurd claims, Ms. Greene blames last year’s wildfires in California on Jewish-controlled laser beams from outer space and that the Capitol insurrectionists were “a lot of beautiful people that (sic) had a wonderful time there.”
The queen has also suggests that Nancy Pelosi, leader of the congressional House chamber and a Democrat, should face the death penalty for ordering the “gaszpacho police” to round up beautiful insurrectionists having a wonderful time.
—You say gaszpacho, I say gestapo…Let’s call the whole thing off.
Comedians, beautiful or otherwise, had a wonderful time roasting Mad Marge for her inability to distinguish Third Reich goons from cold soup, sending Ms. Greene and her delicate sensibilities to the right-wing radio air waves to complain, “They treat me as if I’m some kind of crazy person or like I have three horns coming out of my head. It bothers me so much.”
She is regarded more kindly by a new wind sweeping the land: Mad Marge’s sisters of the Movement sorority, the women whom snickering Democrats call Hellbats of the G.O.P. Meet a few pledges—
• Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina is called “Hide Yer Biscuits Ginny,” often by her own smarty-pants aides, due to her penchant for stashing catered food at Washington social functions into her skirt pockets. Despite the constitutional principle of church-state separation, Ms. Foxx advocates otherwise: “If people of faith are not involved in political life, then you’re leaving it to the Philistines. And I’m not willing to leave it to the Philistines.”
• Kandiss Taylor gives Ms. Foxx a hearty “Amen.” As a candidate for governor of Georgia, she campaigns around the state in a bus emblazoned with her three-point platform: “JESUS…GUNS…BABIES.”
• Kelly Loeffler of Georgia may be a twice-failed U.S. Senate candidate, but because money is the milk of American politics she holds huge sway in state and national Republican circles. In recent years, she and her husband—Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange—have “donated” more than $3 million (€2.67 million) to Republican causes and Republican women candidates, according to the election research organization Open Secrets. Ms. Loeffler financed 100 percent of her losing Senate campaign of 2020 with $20 million of personal funds (€17.77 million). In 2016, she was asked by journalists how she, an ardent feminist, could be a vocal Trump supporter after he famously said of women, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Ms. Loeffler’s response to the Trump piggery, reported worldwide: “I’m not familiar with that.”
• Congresswoman Lauren “Pistol-Packin’ Laurie” Boebert of Colorado is second only to Mad Marge in her enthusiasm for QAnon. She owned the now defunct Shooters Grill, a saloon in the town of Rifle (where else?), closed two years ago for health code violations. In its active years, most Shooters employees and customers carried loaded, openly displayed weapons. In the halls of Congress, Ms. Boebert can be seen with a Glock 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol strapped to her hip, a blatant violation of law. A noted Islamophobe, Pistol-Packin’ Laurie has christened three of her Democratic colleagues—Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley—“the Jihad Squad,” suggesting that they should “go back where they came from” in the Middle East. [NOTE: Congresswoman Pressley is not a Muslim. She and Congresswoman Tlaib are from Massachusetts and Michigan, respectively. As a young child, Congresswoman Omar emigrated to the U.S. from Somalia, which is in Africa.]
• Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota is described by Rolling Stone magazine as “Trump with a cowgirl face.” While Trump visited the western state during his 2020 presidential campaign, the governor gifted him with a shiny token of her affection: a bronze miniature of the iconic Mount Rushmore, with its enormous stone visages of dead Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abe Lincoln—this one with the addition of Donald Trump. Two years hence, she continues her flirtation with the O.T. (Old Tangerine), in the cause of dissuading him for a second try at the presidency in the 2024 election, opting instead to anoint her as the Movement’s next great white hope.
• Sarah Palin of Alaska resigned from the governorship of her state in 2008 in order to lose her quest for the vice presidency, as the late Senator John McCain’s running mate. Four years later, she dangled the possibility of her own presidential run. But as usual, she mangled her message so woefully she was laughed off the hustings, e.g. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.” Earlier this year, Palin operatives determined that she was still wildly popular with Republican voters. But how to put herself in the spotlight? She filed a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times that was laughed out of court in February, though it did the spotlight trick. “Caribou Barbie,” as Alaska media dubs the ex-governor, says she will appeal the courtroom laughter. Stay tuned.
• Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee likewise loves the klieg lights of Republican cultural wars, giving performances that earn her buckets of press attention. She recently employed a parliamentary trick whereby a single member of the U.S. Senate may jam up or even entirely quash popular legislation, usually for no more than publicity. Ms. Blackburn did just that in putting a “hold” on an emergency spending bill to fund government operations through March 11—unless she received written assurance from President Biden that not a nickel of federal money would be spent to distribute so-called crack pipes to cocaine addicts. Steven Hale of Nashville Scene magazine, a longtime observer of Ms. Blackburn’s crackbrained antics, writes of the senator, “She’s not stupid, but she thinks you are.”
• Yvonne St Cyr of Idaho is one year out from the day the F.B.I. came knocking at her door in Boise to arrest her on a charge of breaching the Capitol on insurrection day, based on the video she made of herself amidst a mob screaming the Big Lie. In her close-up, Ms. St Cyr declared that she was “one hundred percent without doubt” certain that Trump was cheated in a rigged election. “There’s tons of evidence,” she declared in the video. “He (Trump) shared it all today. You aren’t going to hear about it on the media (sic) because they want you to think it’s gone and we lost. But we didn’t and that’s why we stormed the Capitol.” Naturally, Ms. St Cyr is a disciple of QAnon, and naturally she is being professionally advised on a run for public office as she awaits prosecution. (NOTE: Trump has never presented ”evidence” of vote rigging.)
HELLBATS OF THE G.O.P.
Clockwise from top left:
Virginia Foxx, Kandiss Taylor, Kelly Loeffler, Lauren Boebert,
Kristi Noem, Sarah Palin, Marsha Blackburn, Yvonne St Cyr
Dear Reader, I trust that Mad Marge and the Hellbats have amused you.
You’ve had your fun. Stop laughing.
These Movement people say what they mean and mean what they say. They are building a Movement that some political analysts see as a slow-motion journey to the possibility of civil war. A journey in two phases, with change happening along the way. In Ernest Hemmingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” change is succinctly explained—
“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
We’re in the gradual phase just now. It took Donald Trump forty years to go from life as a New York tabloid oddity and cheesy real estate developer to life in the White House and commander of an authoritarian cult. Gradually does it.
“He’s very much the cult leader,” said Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a television interview. “When you’re in his good grace, you believe that you have this enormous amount of power.”
When you’re an American hanging on for dear life—fifty-six percent of us cannot cover a $1,000 emergency expense (€887), according to a study by the Manhattan-based financial services company Bankrate—the good grace of a man of authority, even undeserved authority, can be a comfort and a protection. The man selling lies permits you to place others below you, and to blame them for your troubles. He sells lies that you eagerly buy, lies that allow you to sleep through the fear of your nights. Thanks to the man who owns people.
A man with all the answers, even though he’s a fraud, perhaps because he is merely that: a magnificent fraud who reflects the worst in us. Suddenly…
Thomas Adcock—Matt Kollasch/Kollorfoto