Not by a long shot.
In a vote that — once again — surprised absolutely no one with a fully functioning cerebral cortex — the U.S. Senate vote to “remove” President Donald Trump from office — once again — fell short of the constitutionally required two-thirds majority. Considering that Trump had already departed the presidency, however, the whole exercise may prove to be one of the most bizarre deliberations in that august body’s history. But if we’re actually going to make the impeachment and retroactive “removal” of presidents who have already departed from office a normal practice, then I’d like to suggest that the U.S. Congress “impeach” George W. Bush next. I suspect that the congressional switchboards would light up like Christmas trees if a member of the House ever proposed those articles of impeachment, with nearly unanimous popular support. And nobody should give a single damn about what Nancy Pelosi would have to say about it.
Five and a half years after Donald Trump descended the escalator in his mighty tower of brightly golden gaudiness to formally announce his candidacy for president of the United States, has The Donald Trump Show finally come to an end? People of sound reasoning everywhere are no doubt hoping that it it is, but all signs point alarmingly to the negative. Democrats and their like-minded allies in the GOP appear to be more than willing to keep rebooting The Trump Show indefinitely — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they’re setting up a sequel franchise — for everything they’re doing seems only to further fuel Trump’s populist-right movement. The only open question is whether that is by deliberate design or if it is due to a profound ignorance and incompetence on the part of Democrats and establishment Republicans alike.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brandenberg v. Ohio in 1969 that inflammatory speech is not a crime in the United States. It just isn’t — unless, of course, the speaker is explicitly instructing the mob to imminently proceed with committing a crime. As Trump had tweeted out that the protesters gathered at the Capitol should stay peaceful and reminded them that they are supposed to be the party of law and order, it’s difficult to claim with a straight face that he was instructing them to take the rotunda à la the storming of the Bastille. There is certainly no evidence at all that he had ever demanded that they violently commandeer the machinery of government, as is implied in the article of impeachment’s accusation of “incitement to insurrection.”
It may be true that he indulged in some aggressive sounding rhetoric that day, but such speech has always been taken as metaphorical as it’s long been typical of an overwhelming portion of American political speech from across the entire range of the ideological spectrum. If rhetorically urging one’s disciples and acolytes to fight and struggle and never give up, to never surrender, is to be regarded as a crime just because some hyperactive yahoos decided to go on a rampage afterwards, then certainly a good number of left-liberal political figures, including current members of the U.S. Congress, should be just as vulnerable to prosecution as Donald Trump. Sen. Rand Paul made a very cogent point when he noted that if Trump is guilty of “incitement” to an act of violence, then so is Sen. Bernie Sanders guilty of “inciting” James Hodgkinkson, an openly avowed supporter of the Sanders 2016 campaign, to open fire on several Republican members of Congress as they played a charity baseball game in June of 2017. Hodgkinson shouted that he was acting on behalf of universal healthcare as he fired away and seriously injured GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a lobbyist, a congressional aide, and two Capitol police officers. If it sounds silly to charge Sanders as the mastermind of Hodgkinson’s crime, then similarly charging Trump should be regarded as just as laughable, and the bit about the alleged “insurrection” even more so.
People are simply responsible for their own actions. Neither film, television, popular music, video games, or public figures are accountable for whatever crimes people choose to commit. If we were to follow the logic of the House impeachment managers to its conclusion, people would be imprisoned for merely uttering words while perpetrators of actual violence could be acquitted on an “incitement” defense. “You see your honor, Donald Trump incited me to march into the Capitol building that day. His incendiary rhetoric overpowered my own free will, so you can see that I am blameless.”
It fortunately seems that both American culture and jurisprudence are as yet unwilling to grant any legitimacy to such insipid reasoning and the horrible precedent that it would set just so that certain partisans can achieve the fleeting satisfaction of barring their most hated foe from ever running for national office again. Instead, charges have been filed and prosecutions are under way against those individuals who chose to engage in any criminal activity at the Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021, just as it should be.
Millions of people undoubtedly awoke this President’s Day morning with a tremendous sense of relief, expecting this day to be the first day of a much calmer era post-Trump. Because it should all be over now, all of it — or so we should hope. Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and the Democrats’ last-ditch effort — aided by those Republicans who had always resented his popularity with their party’s base— to replay their first failed attempt to remove him from office came to an abrupt end in the wake of a last-minute debacle over whether or not witnesses should be called at his Senate trial. And though he persistently kicked and screamed that his candidacy was the victim of election fraud the entire time on his way out, Donald Trump did ultimately drag himself out of the White House nonetheless, and retreated to his Shangri-la in Florida — or Mar-a-Maga, or Winn-E-Bago, or whatever it’s called.
And somehow we Americans survived it all — the four long miserable years of roaming Trumpite death squads, the Trumpenreich Schutzstaffel’s knocks on liberals’ and leftists’ doors in the middle of the night, not to mention the horrific re-education camps to forcibly transform Democrat voters into right-wing America-First nationalists and homosexuals into straight Republican Christian conservatives. Our long national nightmare finally ended with the jubilant liberation that resulted from the tireless and dogged efforts of our heroes in the #Resistance.
I’m joking, of course. We all know that, contrary to the constant, never-ending hysterical 24/7 shrieking of CNN, MSNBC, and other media outlets that followed every single day after the 2016 election, none of that ever came to pass. In fact, that is what we all had to endure for four long miserable years — the incessantly shrill histrionics, day after day after day, of Rachel Maddow, Wolf Blitzer, George Stephanpolous, et.al., and the legions of laptop liberators who breathlessly retweeted and Facebooked the clips of the latest anti-Trump rant featured on their favorite cable news or late night talk show the night before.
There was also the incessant hectoring and self-righteous lectures that Trump’s narrow electoral victory in 2016 was supposedly proof-positive that America was inherently hateful towards all those who are not of a pale complexion, even as President Barack Obama neared the end of his second consecutive term. All the while, the media insisted on focusing their massive spotlight on the most hateful of fringe-lunatic groups —particularly the few hundred or so soi-disant 1930s-European-style neo-fascists, the “alt-right” — in order to appear to be proving their point. It’s a very neat trick but it’s as old as dirt itself: Give as much attention to your political enemy’s most extreme followers as you can and insist, no matter how few their number, that they’re characteristic of your enemy’s entire base, no matter how frequently or vehemently your enemy denies any association with them. If somebody shows up at your enemy’s rally with a Nazi or a Confederate flag, no one ever needs to bother with even attempting to find out who they are — the main objective is to simply get those photos plastered all over television and the internet as quickly as possible. And the stronger your enemy’s denial of any association with such people, the more strenuously it can be characterized as prima facie evidence of the denier’s guilt by association.
And it was allegedly not only Trump’s entire base, but practically the entire country that was racist and bigoted virtually beyond any kind of redemption. It was even implied that this racial hatred was so prevalent that it justified the summer 2020 riots, inspired by the fatal police mistreatment of George Floyd, that burned countless small businesses to the ground — including businesses that served the very communities of color whom the rioting protesters professed to be defending— and destroyed who-knows-how-many livelihoods in the process. Does any serious person really believe that any kind of improved race relations resulted from any of it?
As the BLM-inspired protesters gathered en masse in concentrated crowds and assaulted people and destroyed property in the midst of what we were told was the deadliest viral pandemic since the “Spanish flu” of 1918, the media insisted that we were supposed to think that Trump was personally responsible for the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. because he didn’t do anything, or at least he didn’t do enough, or perhaps he was insufficiently omniscient and/or omnipotent, or who knows why or how? And thus, because of Trump’s inaction and incompetence, state governors therefore had no choice but to lock down a large section of the economy to protect us from the spreading virus, lockdowns that have ruined thousands of lives by way of bankruptcies, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicides.
Those were the things that the nation endured for four long miserable years, not any permanent totalitarian dictatorship established by Donald Trump. I have to wonder if Biden’s 7-million-vote margin of national victory was comprised mainly of people who just wished to God that it would all stop, dear God please please please make it all stop right now, right friggin’ now! What the Trumpite electoral fraud conspiracy theorists overlook is that Trump Derangement Fatigue is just as real as Trump Derangement Syndrome, and it may very well be what gave the Biden-Harris ticket the edge from the beginning.
Let’s not forget the opening act of this miserably long and drawn out farce. Virtually from the very moment that it became clear that Trump could reliably, though narrowly, claim victory on election night of 2016, the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, et.al., started shouting over and over and over again — and would do so continuously for the next two years — that President Donald Trump was in fact a tool of the Russian state, installed in the White House by Vladimir Putin to do his evil bidding. A salacious dossier acquired by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, proved it beyond all reasonable doubt so far as they were concerned.
But an investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller that spanned the entirety of those two years and cost some $32 million came up bupkis for the Trump-Putin conspiracy theorists. The strongest accusation that Mueller could level against Trump was that he perhaps, possibly, maybe, could have committed every Federal prosecutor’s favorite catch-all crime, “obstruction of justice.” But was Trump the servant of a foreign head of state, either wittingly or unwittingly? Mueller didn’t seem to have anything at all to support such a charge.
But there’s always Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s own investigation of Trump, of course, apparently for varying alleged types of financial fraud, including tax evasion. That investigation has been going for over two years so far and Mr. Vance has subpoenaed several years of tax returns from Trump. Vance has yet to file any charges, but still, who knows? Perhaps he’ll discover some kind of illegality on Mr. Trump’s part some day.
And it is unfortunately becoming clearer and clearer that this latest sordid chapter in America’s long history of political division and conflict is far from over. (Yes, somebody needs to point out to the hand-wringers constantly fretting about all the “division” in the U.S. that this country has rarely been united, if ever, but that’s a subject for another time.)
For even though Donald Trump is no longer in power, now, says the WaPo/Times/CNNMSNBC narrative, every good and decent American must be in constant fear of his potential efforts to reclaim it in 2024. Trump himself fanned those flames, of course — with a great deal of personal delight, no doubt — having stated the day before Biden’s inauguration that even though he’d been voted out of the White House, his movement is “only just beginning.”
It remains to be seen whether a 78-year-old Donald Trump would still have the energy and stamina to fight in yet another nationwide campaign for president in 2024, and so far as his support base goes, time has a way of eventually dissipating the passions of the present moment. But it’s clear that Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans alike are genuinely fearful of the prospect of a fully resurrected Donald Trump four years from now, and to be fair, they just might be right to expect that at least a Trump-like candidate will eventually seize the GOP mantle. Even if Trump himself doesn’t end up running for or winning the ’24 GOP nomination, 72% of Republican voters have told Rasmussen that they see him as the appropriate model for their party, though a slender majority would prefer that it be represented by a fresh face.
Meanwhile, 64% of Republicans polled said they would seriously consider joining a third party formed by Trump, with nearly a third stating that they would be “very likely” to join it, according to Newsweek.
No one has heard any further word from Trump on the matter, however, since Biden’s inauguration. But it would appear that Trumpism will continue to thrive with or without Donald Trump for at least a little while, and it has America’s ruling regime scared out of their wits, apparently.
Has there ever been a regime in Washington, D.C. as afraid and insecure as the current one? This does not bode well for the future.
Following the Jan. 6th riot at the Capitol, as many as 26,000 U.S. National Guard troops were deployed to D.C. ahead of President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20th, and several thousand are expected to remain there until autumn, occupying a sizeable perimeter that’s cordoned with fences and razor wire. The Jan. 6th Capitol mob were hardly a tightly disciplined and well organized unit of storm troopers, but that’s apparently what we’re supposed to believe. Moreover, there are potentially other such self-organized neo-Nazi/anti-government (yes, it gets confusing)-white-supremacist militias preparing to strike any moment and overthrow the U.S. government, at least according to former but still influential CIA officials.
Robert Grenier, who is a former CIA station chief who was involved in counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, recently asserted in the New York Times that the Jan. 6th riot indicates a strong possibility that there is a “violent insurgency within our own country, perpetrated by our own countrymen here in the United States.” Call me a “conspiracy theorist,” but I find that a former high-ranking counter-terrorism official suggesting that the Global War on Terror should be imported onto U.S. soil to be a bit troubling.
Wrote Mr. Grenier:
“We must isolate and alienate the committed insurgents from the population. Just as Al Qaeda in Iraq depended on a much larger community of disaffected Sunnis for tacit support and recruitment, we face the prospect of there being a mass of citizens — sullen, angry and nursing their grudges — among whom the truly violent minority will be able to live undetectably, attracting new adherents to their cause.” [Emphasis is mine.]
Mr. Grenier is suggesting that at the very least, the 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump should be seen and treated by the U.S. government as comprising a cultural environment in which future terrorists are potentially thriving, and which therefore shields future plotters of bombings, mass shootings, kidnappings, and the like — just as al-Qaeda had grown within the disaffected Sunni populations of Arab countries to eventually wreak mass terror through the region, and eventually in the U.S. on 9/11/01.
Not long before Grenier’s op-ed was published in the Times, former CIA director John Brennan informed MSNBC viewers that under the Biden administration, U.S. intelligence agencies “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians.”
Should we expect to witness in the near future the deployment of armed drones over regions of the country that largely voted for Trump, firing off missiles at suspects without even granting them any benefit of due process? Will we soon be seeing news reports of U.S. Special Forces marching from house to house in the Bible belt or in certain parts of Ohio or Indiana or Wyoming, busting down doors, dragging men, women, and children out of their beds in the middle of the night? Look, I’m trying real hard not to overreact and get too shrill and hysterical here, but when former U.S. intelligence officials who yet command attention and respect at the highest levels of the U.S. government start advising that slightly less than half of the American electorate — much more than half of the U.S. geographically — are possibly harboring our own country’s equivalent of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency of the 2000s or al-Qaeda, then they’re quite obviously suggesting that such draconian, militaristic tactics be widely applied on U.S. soil because that’s exactly how they dealt with Iraq’s Sunni insurgency and al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all of these declarations that Trump’s base is akin to al-Qaeda or insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan, Time magazine published a story that effectively reported that the Trumpites’ extraordinary claims that the 2020 election was rigged…are kind of correct!
“In a way, Trump was right.
“There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day. Both sides would come to see it as a sort of implicit bargain–inspired by the summer’s massive, sometimes destructive racial-justice protests–in which the forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy.
“Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result. ‘The untold story of the election is the thousands of people of both parties who accomplished the triumph of American democracy at its very foundation,’ says Norm Eisen, a prominent lawyer and former Obama Administration official who recruited Republicans and Democrats to the board of the Voter Protection Program.” [Emphasis is mine.]
Read the whole thing and make your own judgement. The way the piece is framed, of course, is that these groups — large unions and corporations, left-wing activists, and former government officials — collaborated to save our fragile democracy and prevent a potentially catastrophic outbreak of politically motivated violence if a clear winner wasn’t declared early enough, and to prevent Trump from allegedly “stealing” the election, i.e., challenge the official results. But without knowing the specifics of just exactly how state election laws and voting systems were changed, it’s not too difficult to see how a Trumpite could reasonably view this story with a skeptical eye as to the collaborators’ true motivations and intentions, to say the very least.
Between being designated as domestic terrorists and some of the most powerful people and institutions in American society openly bragging that they changed voting systems, election laws, rules, and procedures in total secrecy, why would the Trumpites even need QAnon when they have the mainstream media serving up plenty of juicy conspiracy theories right on the table in front of them?
Folks, there’s no way that this latest long and bitter episode in our country’s history is coming to a satisfactory resolution any time soon, not with the current regime’s stubborn insistence on escalating tensions further, to who knows what eventual end.
In closing, I’d like to note that the following would make for hilarious satire if the implications and potentially devastating consequences weren’t so disturbing: A government comprised of paranoid, fearful, and insecure bureaucrats, believing themselves to be threatened by a rising mob of fascists bent on subjugating them and the entire country to a system of fascistic totalitarian rule, proceed to protect their power, and the country (or so they believe), by erecting a fascistic system of totalitarian rule. Could Swift or Kafka have come up with anything more darkly amusing than that?
I doubt it.