Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
Regarding Trump holding up a Bible in front of St. John’s Church in Lafayette Square, Washington DC on June 1, 2020 –
“This is an awful man, waving a book he has never read, in front of a church he doesn’t attend, invoking laws he doesn’t understand, against fellow Americans he sees as enemies, wielding a military he dodged serving, to protect power he gained via accepting foreign interference, exploiting fear and anger he loves to stoke, after failing to address a pandemic he was warned about, and building it all on a bed of constant lies and childish inanity.”
– Robert Hendrickson, Rector at St. Phillips’s Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona
It may be counterproductive commenting on Trump.
He thrives on any attention or drama; mainly dysfunctional attention and drama.
He monopolizes the news cycle – still.
He realizes that it is beneficial to his interests to have any type of media publicity, even if it is totally negative – negative publicity to him is better than no publicity at all.
Day after day, it is a new distraction, a new lie in the news cycle, a new level of brazen mendacity, to divert attention from his most blatantly criminal corrupt acts and his most shocking failings.
People become too tired to fact-check each and every lie and fight back.
Trump’s gaslighting clearly worked, and he knows it.
Trump has so desensitized us that a day without a round of lies and blunt force cruelty from him is newsworthy.
Trump has exhausted our capacity for outrage.
Even after being impeached twice and rejected by voters in a landslide by a margin of over 7 million votes, he still lurks to terrorise the world.
The entire world has accepted that the Orange Menace is a reality TV carnival barker, a Con Man.
It was too easy to con the hard-core basket of deplorables that foisted him upon the world (“LGBTQ = liberty, guns, Bible, Trump, BBQ”) – it is far more difficult to convince them that they have been conned.
His sister, Maryanne (a retired judge), is on tape calling him a “clown.”
A clown intends to be funny.
Trump never intends to be funny.
“Buffoon” is a better description.
A buffoon is a stupid person who is trying to be serious but instead is unintentionally funny, a more apt description of Trump.
As one British writer quipped, “there have always been Stupid people in the world, and plenty of Nasty people too. But rarely has Stupidity been so Nasty, or Nastiness so Stupid”.
Trump lives to cultivate resentments, spew grievance, demonize opponents, and validate hatred.
His main tool of governance is the lie; the documented tally of his distortions and false statements over the course of his presidency exceeded 20,000, over 13 per day in office.
If America’s first president, George Washington, famously could not tell a lie, Trump cannot acknowledge the truth.
Inverting the words and sentiments of Abraham Lincoln, this dark troll of a man celebrates “Malice for All, and Charity for None.”
And now he is an old man, slipping into senility while again aiming for one of the most powerful offices on the planet.
My understanding of senility is that it magnifies existing personality disorders.
So that means that Trump’s Malignant Narcissism will grow worse as time goes on.
His Paranoia will grow worse over time.
His Disordered Thinking will grow worse over time.
And he is running for a second term.
Four more years of mental decline.
Trump’s supporters claim that Biden is the one who is suffering from cognitive decline.
I don’t see it but I have to tell you, given a choice between a senile malignant narcissist and a senile decent man, I’ll take Biden any day.
Throughout his four-year stint in office, he demonstrated a level of evil that is surprisingly one-dimensional.
Trump moves through the world like a caricature of an actual person, the physical embodiment of the Seven Deadly Sins.
He is all about Greed, Lust, Gluttony, Wrath, Envy, Sloth, and Pride.
It is fascinating — and horrifying — to see these traits played out with such thoughtless banality on a near-daily basis.
If he was a character in a movie, he would appear artificial and phoney, a caricature – a total cliche.
Evil in the era of Trump isn’t just about one man.
It’s embodied in the self-serving cowardice of a Republican party that refuses to stand up to Trump, even as he moved closer and closer to becoming a autocrat.
Trump is a caricature of an evil villain — clueless, ignorant of his own ignorance, forever aggrieved, often enraged, easily swayed by effusive compliments and praise, and nastily brutal in the thoughtless way of a child pulling the wings off of a fly.
But men like Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Kevin McCarthy and Rand Paul offer up another brand of Evil altogether, engaging in deceit to create “alternative facts” and a false reality to enable Trump.
In many ways, they are far worse than Trump because they see the Evil, understand the Evil and enable and use the Evil for their own ends.
Under Trump, the hate flag was flying, and the MAGA crowd stood up and saluted.
Trump has allowed people to express their racism and bigotry in a way that they haven’t been able to in quite a while and they really love him for that.
Hearing the dog-whistles from Trump, the NeoNazis, the White Supremacists, the armed militias like the Bugaloo and the Proud Boys and all the other assorted bigots and racists crawled out from under their rocks to parade and strut with their guns in the open.
It is shocking and depressing to realise that so many Americans love their hatred more than they care about their own actual lives.
Trump’s Tweets paint a picture of a deeply insecure, vindictive man with an almost complete lack of empathy for other human beings.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a child (Greta Thunberg), if you’re dying from cancer (John McCain), if you’re a grieving mother (Ghazala Khan), or a marginalized person whose life has been threatened by bigots — if you’re not with Trump, you’re against him, which means you’re fair game for an attack.
His policies on immigration, healthcare, business and trade, and especially the environment and the looming climate catastrophe will impact our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren for a very long time, decades, and not in a good way.
Trump falsely claimed after the 2016 election that millions of people had illegally voted for his opponent, Hillary Clinton and that except for those illegal votes, he would have won the popular vote (he lost by almost 3 million votes).
Leading up to the 2020 election, Trump again repeatedly asserted that voting in the US would be rigged against him, and afterward, when he denied his loss (by over 7 million votes), the term “the Big Lie” was used to describe his rejection of the factual world.
The Big Lie (German: Die Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 book Mein Kampf, to describe the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone could have the gall to distort the truth so infamously.
“If you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it over and over again, people will eventually come to believe it.”
The Nazis’ big lie was their depiction of Germany as an innocent, besieged country striking back at an “International Jewry”, which the Nazis blamed for starting World War I.
Trump has openly bragged about using the playbook of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister.
Josef Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of propaganda, repeated over and over the claim that Jews held power behind the scenes in Britain, Russia, and the United States, that the Jews had begun a “war of extermination” against Germany, and that therefore Germany had a right to “annihilate” the Jews in self-defense.
Hitler, Goebbels and the Nazi Party used the big lie propaganda technique to turn long-standing antisemitism in Europe into the mass murder of 6 million Jews.
Goebbels said that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.
Repetition makes untruths seem plausible – repetition is what makes Fake News work.
Political observers have long been hesitant to label the autocratic tendencies of Donald Trump as akin to those infamous European Fascists who deservedly turned that word into a monstrous epithet, encapsulating every horror of the 20th Century as wielded by the likes of Hitler and Mussolini and Franco.
But the analogy is now inescapable; as there is simply no other word that applies when a movement couples both contempt for the law and legal process together with an explicit endorsement of violence against one’s political opponents.
That is what the GOP has become in the shadow of Trump’s Big Lie, and its recent trajectory suggests it will become much, much worse.
Witness the change in Trump himself, comparing his shockingly generous but still somewhat tempered treatment of far-right White Supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville – while he still had to consider his re-election prospects – to the vitriol-spewing, unapologetic racist monster he has visibly morphed into since his electoral defeat in 2020:
Whatever he felt in his heart, he was constrained in 2017 by certain political and practical realities.
His non-Twitter actions as president were filtered through bureaucracies.
He had to work with Republican congressional allies who worried about losing seats in Congress in the next election.
He himself was still basking in the illusion of his supposedly huge victory in 2016, and hopes for a repeat in 2020.
Outright endorsement of lethally violent extremism?
That was too much even for Trump in 2017.
But now look where we are.
The failed insurrection of Jan. 6, which Trump himself orchestrated, provided a springboard for him to to convince those followers that violence was not simply the only course to follow, but the correct and proper course, one fully justified by the sinister presence of hidden forces aligned against them.
When Hitler was imprisoned after failing to overthrow the German government in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, during the Weimar Republic, he defended his actions as not only justified, but necessary:
“I do not consider myself guilty. I admit all the factual aspects of the charge. But I cannot plead that I am guilty of high treason; for there can be no high treason against that treason committed in 1918.”
Compare this infamous Nazi sophistry to the revisionist tripe now being peddled by Trump’s media enablers concerning the events of Jan. 6, in which a mob of violent MAGA thugs attacked the U.S. capitol with full intent of killing members of Congress to stop the certification of a lawful election.
At first Republicans sought to distance themselves from that insurrection, trying to attribute it to subterfuge, a “false flag operation by Antifa” or to media distortion of “peaceful,” law-abiding protests, even as hundreds of Trump supporting seditionists were arrested for crimes ranging from assault on police officers to conspiracy to overthrow the government.
But the tone has changed.
Now, instead of minimizing them, more and more Republicans are endorsing the events of Jan. 6, much like Hitler endorsed the crimes of his failed Putsch in 1923, as a necessary response to government tyranny.
The insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt, fatally shot while breaking into the Capitol senate chamber along with her fellow rioters, is being lionized by some Republicans as some type of martyr rather than someone who recklessly threatened to inflict violence.
This shift in narrative from minimizing the events to extolling the perpetrators is calculated and deliberate: it fuels the idea that the insurrection was a perfectly appropriate response to a grave crime committed against a select segment of the American people.
All of this nonsense is directly culled from the Nazi playbook, specifically the endorsement of violence as a a justified political tactic, and the glorification of those who commit that violence in the service of Fascism.
But the most important takeaway is that this is a new, evolving tactic, one characteristic of Fascist regimes.
Presidential-era Trumpism operated through at least the forms of law.
Post-presidentially, those past inhibitions are fast dissolving.
The conversion of Ashli Babbitt into a martyr, a sort of American Horst Wessel, expresses the transformation.
Through 2020, Trump had endorsed deadly force against lawbreakers: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted on May 29, 2020.
We don’t need to rely solely on the European models of Fascism as an analogue to what we are witnessing in the United States.
In particular, the cult of personality surrounding the autocratic, politically opportunistic regime of Juan Peron in Argentina (1946-1955) is most strongly suggestive of the following Trump has cultivated in America:
Juan Perón, a bungling and vacillating leader, attracted followers with a jumble of often conflicting and contradictory Populist ideas.
He had the good luck to take power in a major food-producing nation at a time when the world was hungry—and imagined that the brief flash of easy prosperity that followed was his own doing.
The only thing he knew for certain was the target of his hatred: anybody who got in his way, anybody who questioned him, anybody who thought for himself or herself.
An expatriate Argentine who grew up under Perón’s rule remembered the graffiti on the walls, the Twitter of its day: “Build the Fatherland. Kill a student.”
Even when the money ran out, Peronism could offer hate as hope.
After being ousted as president, Perón sought refuge in Madrid where the Fascist Francisco Franco was an amiable host.
Instead of quietly retiring, he kept determining from afar the destiny of his native land by keeping a hypnotic hold on millions of his working-class followers, before triumphantly returning in 1973 to govern Argentina at the age of 78.
Trump will be 78 in 2024.
Peron is a chilling model for Trump to emulate as he ponders his next moves in his exile in Mar-a Lago.
If this was just about Trump it wouldn’t matter so much; he would simply occupy his place in a long list of presidents rejected by Americans for incompetence or other reasons, whining about his perceived mistreatment by an electorate who had finally, decisively taken the full measure of his character, or lack thereof.
But the true Fascist cannot cope with such a desultory vacuum.
He must constantly up the ante, driving his followers to more desperate extremes until violence appears as the only solution to their ginned-up grievances.
What we are seeing slowly being developed in the U.S. is the cultivation of violence in a substantial segment of the population: in effect, the formation of a base of support carefully primed to endorse the use of violence to achieve their Dear Leader’s political ends.
In fact, the sheer number of ordinary Republicans who buy into the Big Lie nonsense is the very reason so many Republican elected politicians feel compelled to embrace it, willingly or otherwise:
The post-election Trump movement is not tiny.
It’s not anything like a national majority, but it’s a majority in some states—a plurality in more—and everywhere a significant highly vocal minority, empowered by the inability of pro-legality Republicans to stand up to them.
Once it might have been hoped that young Republicans with a future would somehow distance themselves from the violent lawlessness of the post-presidential Trump movement.
But one by one, they are betting the other way.
There is no longer any question about what Americans are facing in their country.
I want to make clear that I do not want Trump to win in 2024.
I view his almost inevitable resurrection with a dread I usually reserve for colonoscopies, prostate biopsies and Celine Dion concerts.
However, it is almost a certainty that Donald Trump will be the Grover Cleveland of the 21st century, in that he will serve two non-consecutive terms.
Grover Cleveland was not a Fascist.
So, in some ways they differ.
But as long as Trump’s health holds out, he will run again, and he will be sworn in to a second term.
Notice, I did not say he would win.
I will not argue that.
I will instead argue that “winning,” as it’s historically defined, will be irrelevant.
First, there will be the primary.
As we’ve seen, Trump’s hold on the Republican party is ironclad.
Despite the utter lack of evidence, over 70% of registered Republicans believe the 2020 election was “stolen”, simply because Trump says it was.
Candidates for office from all over the country are competing to show that they love Trump more than all of their worthless, good-for-nothing opponents, who may love Trump a lot, but not nearly as much as they do.
Furthermore, Trump loyalist stooges have been taking over local, county and state Republican Party committees at an alarming clip.
It is difficult to see how Trump loses the primary, and he may be the first non-incumbent since George Washington to have no serious opposition for the presidential nomination.
Then, there will be the general election.
And here is what will happen there:
Trump will run.
Biden (or some other Democrat, hopefully not Kamala) will run.
Trump will give speeches.
Biden will give speeches.
They will both have conventions.
There will be debates.
There will be election night parties.
In fact in many ways, it will look like a presidential election.
But it will all be Kabuki theater and will have very little impact on who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2025.
During the campaign, Trump will do what he has done in every election he has run in, and some he didn’t (see Obama vs. Romney).
He will say that Americans cannot trust the election results.
He will say that the election is rigged and that the only way he could possibly lose is if there is undefined voter fraud on a massive scale.
In fact, the way you can tell that there was massive fraud is if Trump loses.
He will be very clear that if he loses, that will in itself be all the evidence we need to see that the results were fake and false, and rigged and fraudulent and illegitimate.
This course of conduct will be no different from 2020, or even 2016, an election Trump won.
However, the result will be very different in 2024.
The reason Trump’s ongoing efforts to overturn the 2020 election returns failed was because there were some courageous election officials, many of them Republicans, all across the nation, but specifically in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, who withstood intense pressure and even threats, and certified the election returns in a way that reflected how the people voted.
Since that happened, 9 states have changed their election laws to transfer the power to certify election results from their secretaries of state and neutral election officials to MAGA stooges in Republican state legislatures.
The majority of these legislatures come from a political party where the only path to advancement or even survival is to embrace the idea that Republicans (and particularly Donald Trump) cannot lose elections legitimately, but only lose through cheating and fraud.
And they will behave in a way consistent with that reality.
This is not speculation.
We see what these legislatures have done about an election that has already been decided.
From Arizona to Georgia to Pennsylvania to Michigan to Wisconsin, bizarre, partisan “audits” are being conducted or planned by certified wackos like the “Cyber Ninjas” in Arizona.
It’s not yet sure whom the Republican legislature is hiring to do the audit in Pennsylvania.
But nobody would be surprised if it was a man from the circus whose act involves eating his own fingers.
In 2024, one of two things will happen, and they will both have the same result.
Trump could win legitimately.
Or, the Democrat could win, in which case Trump will claim fraud, and the Republican legislators will vote to “resolve the dispute” by certifying the Trump slate of electors, or refusing to certify any electors at all.
Either way, Trump will then prevail in the electoral college.
What could prevent this from happening?
The answers are frighteningly elusive.
Trump could die.
The life-expectancy projections for obese 75 year old men who exist solely on McDonalds McRib sandwiches and KFC and diet Coke aren’t great.
But counting on one man’s coronary arteries to close up is pretty thin ice to base the Survival of Democracy on.
Or, Trump could say or do something disqualifying before the next election.
But if nothing he’s said or done in the past 5 years did the trick, it’s hard to imagine what would.
If Trump recorded a video tape saying “I am going to kill all your children!!! Then I will cook them and eat them!!!” he’d actually get a 4 point bump in Iowa and a 90% approval rating in South Carolina.
In fact, in 2016, Trump said his supporters would stay loyal even if he happened to commit a capital offense.
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Trump remarked to a receptive audience at a “Christian” college in Iowa.
“It’s, like, incredible.”
Some of his supporters say, “Yeah, sometimes he makes me cringe, but I still like him and I still think he’s the right thing for America.”
One campaign worker said he found Trump’s point clear — but mentioned Trump could have articulated it differently.
“He probably could’ve worded it a little bit better.”
No, he couldn’t have said it any better.
The Republican Party could grow a conscience and a spine and preserve Democracy regardless of who that helps.
But that seems about as likely as winning the next Powerball Lottery.
Absent the occurrence of any of these unlikely scenarios, it appears that the American Experiment is hurtling towards a tragic and demeaning end.
The once inconceivable fact of Trump having been president, the likelihood of the resurrection of Trump again, wildfires on the West Coast, a global pandemic, a looming insurmountable Climate Catastrophe, and armed militias in the streets contribute to a sense of surreal dystopia.
Surreal enough to induce vertigo in the best of us.
I hope I’m wrong.
But the only times I’ve been wrong about Trump thus far are the times I underestimated how depraved and self-involved he could be.
“Do not, as my party did, underestimate the evil, desperate nature of evil, desperate people,” writes Rick Wilson, the Republican operative and witty Never-Trumper, in “Running Against the Devil,” his new book.
“There is no bottom. There is no shame. There are no limits.”