NEW YORK CITY, near America
An unholy gaggle of my journalistic confrères in corporate media sing daily from the hymnal of conventional wisdom of how the wily Donald J. Trump is bound to survive the perils facing him at this moment, of how his devoted flock remains a mighty rock of support, of how he shall rise yet again from the ashes of self-destruction.
I beg to disagree.
My fellow Americans are a forgiving lot of suckers for devilish entertainments such as The Donald provides. Among his anti-heroic charms, Mr. Trump has performed as epic swindler, preposterous liar and cad, habitual golf cheat, bankrupt casino mogul, television amusement, and high-stakes political operator who eluded justice in two impeachment trials over the four years of a gangster presidency.
But there are bridges too far, where only the arrogant tread. Mr. Trump does not tread lightly, and all good things must come to an end, a fact of life he must surely grasp somewhere in the deepest gloom of his soul. His salad days are over, and I am not alone in declaring him toast as walls close in. To wit—
• In early June, a special committee of Congress will commence daily TV broadcasts of its investigation into the deadly attack on the Capitol building back in January of 2021, an armed terrorist insurrection against the United States government mounted by Donald Trump’s Sturmtruppen, inspired by seditious urgings of the then-president.
Congressman Jaime Raskin, a committee member, predicts that evidence aired to a national viewing audience will “blow the roof off the house.” Evidence of treason will be referred to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for disposition.
• Next month in Atlanta, a special Georgia state grand jury will begin hearing evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime against democracy in lobbying government officials to falsify results of the presidential election of 2020—in which American voters soundly rejected his bid for reëlection, an outcome the Big Loser claims was the result of a “rigged” contest.
Front and center as evidence to be presented by the Fulton County District Attorney: an audio recording of Mr. Trump’s telephone call to a fellow Republican officeholder and Georgia’s chief election supervisor, in which the Big Loser proposed criminal conspiracy to overturn electoral results in his favor.
• Here in New York, a court has ordered Mr. Trump to begin daily payments of $10,000 (€ 9,500) beginning May 3 so long as he refuses to surrender financial documents subpoenaed by State Attorney General Letitia James, in connection with ongoing litigation involving civil fraud on the part of his business.
While the foregoing is a (very) partial catalogue of Donald Trump’s legal headaches, any one of which could and likely would land him in prison, there is a parallel dilemma that threatens not only Himself but the Republican Party, whose grandees and lesser lickspittles allow Mr. Trump to direct the party in glitzy exile at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida—at least for the moment.
But the Big Loser faces increasingly public comeuppance from within the Republican fold, members of once normal political entity corrupted in 2009 by the infestation of Tea Party ultra-rightists, then in 2016 by Mr. Trump’s allied delusionists and conspiracists of the QAnon cult—and now by a mafia of white Christian nationalists, anti-science crackpots, and aforementioned fascist street-brawlers of the Proud Boys ilk, with The Donald as il capo di tutti capo.
Of late, the two most powerful Republicans in Washington are calling for Donald Trump’s blond scalp, so to speak.
“I’ve had it with this guy,” said Kevin McCarthy of California, leader of the Republican caucus in the lower chamber of Congress, in a secretly recorded conference call with partisan colleagues. With reference to Mr. Trump’s inciting last year’s insurrectionist mob, he added, “What [Trump] did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should.”
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, counterpart to Mr. McCarthy in the Senate chamber, echoed high-level Republican disgust with the ex-president by holding him “practically and morally responsible” for a level of invasive violence unseen since British troops burned the Capitol and the White House during the War of 1812.
Last year’s insurrection, said Mr. McConnell in a public speech, marked the “intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision, or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
It is gross understatement to say that Donald Trump is a walking, talking bloat of sweat and stress. He is sufficiently astute to understand that Garland & James and McCarthy & McConnell are working to create an exit strategy for America’s Public Enemy #1, by way of jurisprudence or pressure politics. Imprisonment at age 75 beckons, and the Republican establishment that he and his followers upended faces a reckoning, not that he cares about the latter consequence.
Perhaps Mr. Trump’s attention is piqued whenever he sees a police officer. Perhaps he envisions the cop brandishing handcuffs and counseling a fat yellow-haired perp, “Come along nicely, sir.”
Perhaps further, Mr. Trump understands that the American public’s rejection of his second grab for the White House means that We the People are as exhausted by his sorry presence as we are by the lingering remnants of the covid pandemic. We fervently wish no more of either disease.
But never mind, the choir of conventional wisdom insists that Trump endorsements for this November’s congressional elections represent something of a Midas touch for those Republican hopefuls who made pilgrimages to Mar-a-Lago and delivered unto its resident Caesar that which he craves: flattery, sycophancy, and probably fistfuls of under-the-table money. Further, the choir insists, Republicans are so loved by voters that will somehow sweep back into full majority control of Congress in the run-up to Donald Trump’s sure-pop run for the presidency two years hence.
The choir sings a conventionally repetitive tune. But the song is quite removed from the basic structure of wisdom: discerning interior qualities of knowledge, grasping the impact of one fact upon another, sensing the Zeitgeist, respecting evidence under one’s very nose, and owning some measure of foresight leading to persuasive judgment.
With respect to political evidence, these items among others equally revealing—
• Mr. Trump’s most rabid supporters in Congress—Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn—face stiff opposition in Republican nominating contests this June due to their extreme right-wing antics.
Efforts are underway to disqualify Ms. Taylor Greene for candidacy on account of her seemingly illegal involvement in plotting the Capitol insurrection; Ms. Boebert’s congressional paycheque has been garnished to pay thousands of dollars in fines for bringing her loaded pistol to the floor of the House Representatives; Mr. Cawthorn, who recently told reporters that he’d been recruited for participation in Republican sex orgies, was cited in late April when airport authorities in Charlotte, North Carolina discovered a loaded 9-milimeter Glock semiautomatic pistol in his carry-on bag—his second citation for gun possession in a restricted venue, the last time at the airport in Asheville, North Carolina.
• Trump bootlickers who carry the Big Loser’s official support for the June Republican nomination contests—including daytime TV’s “Dr. Oz,” prompting a cheeky headline in Rolling Stone magazine: “Fraud Endorses Quack”—are substantially behind in the opinion polls conducted in the bellwether states of Pennsylvania, Florida, and Georgia.
• The most devastating forecast of Donald Trump’s chances in a potential rematch of 2020 election, won handily by President Joe Biden, comes from Mr. Biden himself: “I would be most fortunate if [Trump] were my opponent in 2024.”
With respect to the Zeitgeist, consider the hunger for a true hero in these godawful times. Consider how this hunger is satisfied, at long last, by the valiant Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine. Consider how this brave and extraordinary man leads his nation in existential defense of its people and their democracy against the war criminal Vladimir Putin—ruler of the Kremlin and sponsor of Donald Trump’s victorious 2016 campaign for the White House.
Given the opportunity to jump into a vehicle and flee the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as it faced imminent bombing by the Russian military, Mr. Zelenskyy opted to first see his wife and family to safety, then to beseech the world: “I need guns, not a ride.”
From Washington and a timely journey to Europe, President Biden masterfully brokered an international coalition of nations opposed to Russia’s genocidal war and dedicated to delivering guns and tanks and ammunition to President Zelenskyy’s army, as beseeched.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, pronounced his old pal in Moscow a “genius” for ordering soldiers to pillage a neighboring country, to slaughter civilians after looting their homes and raping women in front of their children. Mr. Trump’s unashamed Republicans offer limp explanations for Putin’s clumsy “miscalculations” of irresistible authoritarian might, ignoring hellish human suffering in Europe unseen since Hitler’s Third Reich.
I believe, as did Abraham Lincoln, that better angels dwell in the nature of my fellow Americans if only we listen. I believe that David will defeat Goliath. I believe that my countrymen know heroes from scoundrels, knowledge that does not bode well for either Donald Trump or his Republican fellow travelers.
Authoritarian rule is strong, for as long as it lasts. Democracies are fragile and sometimes fleeting, but they produce true heroes and possess one great and inarguable strength. As explained by John P. Flannery, a former federal prosecuting attorney in New York, “Our American democracy knows how to throw out the garbage.”