The Civil War Redux
Donald J. “Stonewall” Trump is on the Road to Justice–and his Followers Must Join Him
As we all know by now, Donald J. Trump was never a conventional politician or leader. We all know that he was a megalomaniac with a psychotic narcissistic personality disorder.
Starting with his infamous escalator ride in Trump Tower in 2015, he captured the imagination of dozens of millions of American by saying things that the rest of us wouldn’t; by doing things the rest of us couldn’t; and by expressing ideas that the leader of American democracy shouldn’t.
For four years, Trump and his lackeys gave us constant misogynistic, racist, religiously-intolerant, homophobic bashing of all who weren’t straight, male, American-born WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). These WASPs were the descendants of the so-called “Scots-English” who lived in the border between southern Scotland and northern England. They endured a thousand years of brutal, savage rule by the local nobility. When they came to America, they were themselves a savage race of warriors. They despised central authority, and they only trusted their families and clans.
Today, they are the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, Walmart-shopping, NASCAR-watching, beer-guzzling, gun-toting racists who believe in the “QAnon” conspiracy, who join the “Wolverine Watchmen,” the “Proud Boys,” the “Three Percenters,” or local so-called militias. They carry the Confederate flag proudly, and claim to be “true ‘patriots’,” even though the Confederacy was a cabal of traitors intent on overthrowing the United States government.
Many, but by no means all, are Southerners/Appalachians whose ancestors in recent generations fought in the Civil War, joined the Ku Klux Klan and gleefully lynched blacks, participated in and promoted Jim Crow laws, actively opposed racial equality, suppressed the vote for non-Whites, and generally made living in America a great challenge for blacks (and other non-Whites).
Ironically, Trump never really wanted to be the 45th President of the United States. As numerous biographers have written, Trump simply wanted to participate in the campaign in order to provide mass stimulus for his brand. He wanted to continue the decades-long push for recognition and adulation which his sick psyche so desperately craved. For Trump, everything was about marketing, and marketing, in turn, was his way to foster his brand, thus demonstrating how “loved” he was.
By 2009/2010, Trump’s cachet as a reality TV show host was fading, and he was not nearly as popular in the press as he was 10 to 20 years before. Beset with declining popularity, Trump needed to do something to regain the public’s attention.
So, he latched onto Twitter and Facebook, along with Instagram and other social media posts handled by his aides, compulsively Tweeting and posting multiple times per day, as his way of keeping and gaining attention. Starting in 2011, Trump (re)launched the “birtherism” movement, claiming that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and was, therefore, not eligible to be the President. Trump took out ads in the papers, and made much ado about Obama’s supposed foreign birth. This pattern went on for years, most frequently being the subject of Tweets and posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Those were (up until just a couple of days ago) his chief marketing avenues.
And when he ran for the Presidency, he received key advice from several of his assistants: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Roger Stone. Their Machiavellian recommendations — xenophobic, religiously-bigoted, racist — coupled with Trump’s own misogyny, were accepted and rolled into a campaign that threw hand grenades into the midst of conventional politics.
The Appalachian contingent of the American electorate was delighted with what they thought was his radical departure from the “usual” political approach, which they falsely assumed was catering to Blacks, Browns, Asians, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims, and other non-WASPs. Their racism was baked into their cultural DNA, and they felt that Trump was their advocate to fight back and overcome the changing demographics of the U.S.
Racist Support for Trump
These “true believers,” who call themselves “patriots,” are fighting back against an inevitable change in this country’s demographics, the so-called “browning of America.” They relish the notion of an all-White pantheon of leaders: in business, in politics, in education, in religion, in the military, and they view any deviation from this array as a betrayal of all that is good, and pure, and noble about America.
They have been fighting a cultural war for the last generation and believe that their obduracy is tantamount to being right in the fight for improving the quality of life here in America. If that were true, then the average donkey would be a candidate for a Nobel Prize.
What these bigoted boneheads fail to realize is that they are attacking the very thing — democracy — that gives them the right to express their opinions, wrongheaded though they may be.
The most fundamental problems they face are their complete logical inconsistency and double standard: on the one hand, they want law enforcement to be harshly restrictive and punitive when it comes to dealing with Black people who peacefully protest as an expression of their grief in the face of countless unjustified murders of Blacks at the hands of police, but they want gentility and camaraderie by the same police officers when the Whites storm the halls of Congress, outraged that their candidate, Trump, lost the election. They want to prohibit minorities from protesting, but they feel completely entitled to vent their anger at whoever gets in their line of fire.
The White racists today do not understand the inexorable fact of demographic change. They are at the end of the road when it comes to their ethnic majorityhood. By most estimates, Whites in America will be in the minority by 2040–2045. The sanctity with which they view Whiteness will continue to permeate their thinking, but there will be fewer and fewer of them to enjoy that status as time goes by. White women are getting married to Black men (and, to a lesser extent, Black women are getting married to White men) with greater frequency these days, since the cultural morés of a broadly-racist society are not nearly as encompassing as they were at the time of Loving vs. Virginia, which outlawed anti-miscegenation laws in 1967. The result is that we are seeing more bi-racial children being born every year, with less antagonism attaching to each child than was the case for most of our history.
Thus, while the racist underpinning of Trump’s base is still strong, there are simply too many changes going on in our society for it to be a sustaining force for more than a few decades, if that.
The forces aligned against corrupt political rule and brutal policing are becoming more pervasive in America. The Millennials and the Gen Zers have grown up in communities influenced by TV, social media, and the urbanizing influence of pop culture. Their school, work, social media acquaintances and friends tend to be more liberal and socially progressive than the racists who are in Trump’s base — but the base still commands a significant part of our population. While racism is fading away, its demise is slow and lingering.
While racism as the lowest common denominator in Trump’s base still exists, there are other components of Trump’s arguments which attract his supporters.
Socialist/Communist Accusations by Trump Supporters
There are naked assertions that Democrats are “socialists” and “communists,” although members of the Democratic Party are (with two or possibly three exceptions) most assuredly neither socialist or communist. The ad hominem attacks made by right-wing Republicans are classic illustrations of the logical fallacy of attacking the person rather than advancing arguments based on facts, science and reason.
And these sorts of attacks go back in modern American politics to the time when Richard Nixon, freshly minted from the U.S. Navy, in 1946 ran against Jerry Voorhis in California’s 12th Congressional District and won. In 1950, Nixon ran against Helen Gahagan Douglas for one of California’s U.S. Senate seats, and won, basing his campaign on sneaky accusations and insinuations that Mrs. Douglas was a communist. (She wasn’t.) (It was during the 1950 campaign when Nixon first was given the nickname “Tricky Dick.”)
During the 1950s, a young, disreputable attorney named Roy Cohn was the chief counsel to virulently anti-communist Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. A closeted homosexual, Cohn was disbarred due to his attempt to cheat an elderly client out of his estate. From 1973 to 1985, Cohn was Donald Trump’s mentor and was a “fixer” in New York (a role later assumed by Michael Cohen). When Cohn died from AIDs in 1986, the IRS took everything he had except for a pair of diamond cuff links given to him by Trump. (It turns out, from an appraiser, that the diamonds in the cuff links were fake….)
Cohn taught Trump that “all press is good,” even if it was disfavorable. He also stressed how to beat people through litigation, which was a war of attrition. He made it clear to Trump that when faced with potentially costly lawsuits, Trump’s creditors would bargain away almost all that Trump owed them, just to get peace.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Trump was living the high life in Manhattan, cheating creditors at every opportunity. He was constantly in the press, and garnered a reputation for being a successful businessman. The truth was, he was actually not a good businessman, and his winning deals only succeeded through brow-beating, intimidation, and threats of litigation based on fraudulent claims.
When Trump ran for the Presidency, his advisers counseled him to side with the people who were not favored by traditional politicians. They encouraged him to take an outsider’s approach toward conventional politics. And he did just that.
Through populist rhetoric (mixed with a liberal amount of racist ‘dog whistles’) Trump convinced his base that the “Democrat(ic) politicians are no good socialists and communists,” bent on taking away their rights. Through his Tweets, Trump managed to convince millions of Americans that “the Other” (Blacks, Browns, Asians, foreigners, non-Christians) were coming to get them and take away their freedom. This was all congealed into an anti-socialist/anti-communist mantra, which Trump’s base happily adopted as their own, as part of his “Make America Great Again” campaign. (Incidentally, this phrase was stolen from Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign in 1980.)
Lies, Lies, and More Lies
Throughout the last four years, Trump has fed his base a vast panoply of distortions and lies, all through Twitter, Facebook and his press secretaries/directors of communication.
Starting with the size of the crowd at his Inauguration, and continuing daily up to Friday, January 8, 2021, when his Twitter account was permanently suspended (an event that should have occurred in January, 2017), Trump has offered lies, lies, and more lies to his millions of followers. His claims in real estate, business, finance, TV, and politics have never been anchored to the truth, and as his narcissistic personality disorder has worsened over the last four years, his fabrications have progressively worsened, as well.
Trump has gravitated more and more to the lunatic fringe of the political far right, issuing dog whistles or coded messages that attract people who, at best, lack any semblance of critical thinking abilities or who, at worst, adhere to paranoid schizophrenic fantasies about Satan-worshipping, pizza-loving pedophiles.
His QAnon supporters, his conspiracy-following Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Wolverine Watchmen, and militiamen and -women, have paid disgustingly humble homage to Trump, much in the same manner as his sycophantic toady, Vice President Mike Pence.
Once it was clear that Trump lost the November 3, 2020 Presidential election, he became increasingly unhinged. His personality, as his niece, Mary Trump, put it, “is incapable of accepting a loss.” (As a practicing psychologist, and as someone who grew up in the Trump family, she is well-postured to sit in judgment on his psychological dysfunctions and their origins. . . .)
So Trump lambasted the election results, even though by all accounts the elections were well-run, efficient and fair.
His Tweets conveyed the idea that he had been “cheated” out of victory; that he was the “victim of fraud, massive fraud” by conspirators who were bent on swindling him; and that a bunch of “socialists and communists” were trying to deprive “good, hard-working, God-fearing Americans out of their rights” to re-elect Trump.
The repeated lies, hammered out on Twitter and Facebook over the last two-plus months, struck a responsive chord within his base.
Notwithstanding the fact that Trump filed 60 lawsuits around the country, challenging his election losses based on fraud, he lost every single suit because he couldn’t produce the slightest bit of evidence of fraud. Federal judges (many appointed by Trump) and state court judges told the same story: without evidence, we cannot entertain your litigation.
Even though Trump’s election lawsuits losses were widely reported and analyzed, his base was completely indifferent to the objective facts, and they joined Trump in his increasing anger. They know that their days are numbered and, in their desperation to preserve that which should never have been theirs to have in the first place, they have organized locally and through social media to form groups that they believe will prevail over the increasingly diverse America of today. Their appalling mottoes, going back to the explicit racism of George Wallace, are: “If you’re White, you’re alright. If you’re Black, stay back. If you’re Brown, get down. If you’re Red, you should be dead.”
And in this time of racist, ultra-right meltdown, the kooks and crazies in the QAnon crowd have come forward, seeking attention, venting their mental illness through their insane acts of violence and equally insane ideations, in a hodge-podge of religiosity, purported child protection rants, and claims of rights to unlimited freedom from any restraint.
These wackos should have been confined to appropriate mental-health institutions, but, instead, were allowed unfettered access to guns, social media, and places of public gathering. Their dangerous tendencies have been seen in Charlottesville, the El Paso Walmart massacre, the Margery Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, the Columbine massacre, the Oasis massacre, and countless more areas where insane people with guns have killed so many of us.
Trump, not caring about the consequences of his words or deeds, actively incited his deranged followers to “be wild” on January 6, 2021, and attack the U.S. Capitol while Joe Biden’s victory as the 46th President-elect was being certified. They heard. They listened. They obeyed.
And six people died in and from that attack.
During the period following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, five days after the Civil War ended, over 10,000 federal troops, police and detectives scoured the areas in and around Washington, D.C. to find his assassin and any co-conspirators. Eventually, they found John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, in a Virginia barn. Booth, apparently raising a gun, was shot in the neck by an army sergeant. Booth died three hours later, looking at his hands, and saying “Useless, useless.”
On July 7, 1865, David Herold and three other accomplices of John Wilkes Booth were hanged. That put an end to some of the worst anti-government activities for a while.
Now, with the powerful FBI and state police throughout the country engaged in a massive manhunt, it’s about time to bring the traitors who attacked Congress — Trump and his followers — to justice.
Life sentences without the possibility of parole would be suitable punishments for them. For Trump, as the leader of the mob, and as the person responsible for the degradation of our political life in America over the last four years, he should lose not only his freedom, but he should lose his assets as well as his contact with the public.
(Someone recently said that the most fitting punishment for Trump would be for him to be permanently derided as a “loser,” prohibited from speaking up to make lying denials, and paraded throughout the country as the worst political failure in American history. I’ve heard worse ideas….)
Where Do We Go From Here?
We are in the midst of a global climate catastrophe; a global pandemic; a time of economic meltdown in America; and a time for a racial reckoning. These are huge challenges facing President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. However, since they are the adults in the room, and have assembled a team of seasoned professionals in many areas, it is vitally important that they be given free rein to take the necessary reparative steps that will help America (and the world) recover.
The sweep of the Senate races in Georgia has given the Biden Administration a chance to launch a number of programs that will help America in several ways.
First, the glacial pace of the administration of the vaccines has to be dramatically sped up. There is no good reason for the semi-disorganized way the vaccines are distributed and given. There’s a need for a single, national mandate for how the vaccine program is run.
Second, a national mask mandate has to be implemented, through partnerships between the federal and state governments. This is not a time for the NASCAR crowd in some statehouses to assert “states’ rights.” This is a time for a recognition that we are in a national emergency. Local law enforcement agencies need to be aggressive in enforcing mask-wearing mandates.
Third, where appropriate, there has to be an emphasis on work-from-home mandates. Approximately 40%-50% of workers can easily shift to working from home, perhaps more. There is no logistical reason for people to come to centralized office locations in many instances. The beneficial impact on the environment, traffic conditions, the cost of living, and many more are reasons for emphasizing a shift to remote working.
Fourth, we need programs to support remote working. Child-care centers, providers, and related facilities need to be given stepped up financial support. This would be beneficial to both parents and children.
Fifth, education programs need to be dramatically strengthened. There are calls for President Biden to cancel $50,000 in student loans. This might be a tough act, unless there was a period of state or national service required for a period of, say, two years. A public service mandate would help to make the loan cancellation program feasible and politically acceptable.
Sixth, the health care system MUST shift to “Medicare for All.” Period. The insane billings for medical care have got to stop. And no one, repeat, no one, has come up with a truly coherent reason for why the United States is the only developed country in the world without this kind of national health care program.
Seventh, the U.S. military budget is nothing less than a bloated monstrosity, a form of “socialism” for the military-industrial complex. Our more than $700 BILLION budget could easily be reduced by 75% and still give us the largest military budget in the world. The savings could be transferred to:
A. Educational support programs
B. Health care programs
C. Creation of infrastructure programs
D. Creation of climate-change fighting programs
E. Organization of job-creating programs in the South and other disenfranchised areas of the country where low incomes produce poverty, which produce the kind of traitorous, anti-American attitudes and activities that Trump exploited
F. Creation of a National Economic Priorities Board, which assesses needs and focuses government and private sector resources (money and organizational skills) on creating new industrial areas to restore American economic competitiveness around the world
These programs, and others designed to foster a resurgence of American leadership, should be given a chance to be tried. The “proof of the pie is in the eating,” and a healthy government-private sector partnership can be effective in producing the resources necessary to get this country relaunched as a world leader, politically, economically, and socially.
These programs, if tried, would be a form of justice given to Trump and his followers. It is not merely the personal accountability to which each person must be held, but the social justice which would provide a fitting epitaph to the decades-long litany of Republican-uttered excuses for avoiding justice. “I’ve got mine; to hell with you, Jack,” is not a phrase that should be uttered or thought of.
With the advent of the Biden-Harris Administration, and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, this country has a fighting chance to become great. To do so would provide justice to those whose interests have been for too long betrayed by the ruthless and the excessively-ambitious throughout the land.
As we approach the end of Trump’s presence on the national stage, we should remember: