This Unholy Mess


This American Tragedy Continues

So the sad story goes on. Now, after revelations of glaring, show-stopping abuse of presidential power involving Ukraine and the 2020 election—stunning even in terms of the prior outrages dumped on us by our “president,”—we find ourselves mired in a multi-layered national tragedy. It is not just about the first, the obvious bit, the stunningly unethical acts of a man using the power of his office in a lopsided show of intimidation and economic muscle, leaning on the leader of a small foreign power to help himself out in an election. It’s about his response after the revelations, too.
He didn’t deny what happened, mind you, because it’s all too clear in the rough transcription of his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president. Instead he set out to legitimize and normalize what he did. It was a “perfect” phone call, he says. Sure. It was so perfect, so normal, that his alarmed minions did all they could to hide it.
But forget that, he says, in effect. Two weeks after the revelations broke, he stood on the White House lawn insisting that China too should investigate the Bidens. Right. Now that it’s normal to use the office of the President to investigate political opponents, why not put out a Presidential APB to every country in the world, asking for help in uncovering—or concocting, rather–whatever dirt they can about the Bidens? Certainly lots of small countries like Ukraine, with an economy about the size of Peru’s, would jump at the chance to curry favor with the leader of the U.S., a huge potential source of financial and military aid. And it only costs us the total compromise of American foreign policy and the shredding of federal election law. Cool!
Even beyond the actual crime, though, there’s the equally depressing spectacle of his glazed-eyed followers completely buying into this sleaze-o-rama, people willing to toss the Constitution out the window in some twisted display of loyalty to an unprincipled, opportunistic demagogue. It is chilling and extraordinarily sad. It forces an observer to accept the idea that America’s foundations, the roots of our republican democracy, are now at risk.
There is a well-worn line that is often employed in explaining the attitude of many of these Trump supporters. We are told that these “heartland Americans” are forgotten, “flyover” people, frustrated at never having gotten enough attention from the rest of the country, nor from Congress. (It is reasonable to ask why they haven’t been very interested in throwing out of office their unresponsive senators and representatives rather than focusing almost solely on the presidency, but then none of their activities are burdened with much logic.) They say we must accept that their needs have been ignored, their voices unheeded. That it’s a reasonable act of rebellion to vent their wrath on the rest of us by electing and supporting a lubricious, lying, self-serving charlatan as “president.”
Well, here’s the thing: if their perverted loyalty prevents them now from seeing a clear violation of the oath of office of the President of the United States, then I, for one, am not interested in holding their hand, taking their temperature, and worrying about their bruised sensibilities. Because either you’re an American or you’re not. It’s that simple.
It’s been hard enough to watch these people support a man who beds Playboy bunnies and porn stars, who advocates violence against protesters, who winks at white supremacists, who constantly undermines public confidence in our free press and our intelligence agencies, who openly obstructed the work of an investigation of Russian interference in our elections, and—possibly worst of all—who continues to treat the issue of climate change as a zero, a nothing, a hoax perpetrated by China to weaken our economy. That last one would truly be funny if it weren’t the saddest and ultimately most ruinous item on the list.
And now these unquestioning, rabid supporters want to overlook this latest naked violation of the public trust. It doesn’t just defy logic, it defies sanity.
The message to them should be: Go ahead and be Republican. Be as Republican as you need to be. Get out there and rail against “too much government,” decry deficit spending, excessive regulation. You can complain about RuPaul as much as you like. Do all the things real Republicans do. But do not come along and endorse the destruction of our government institutions and traditions in the name of some frustrated act of self-righteousness. If you are looking for an avenging angel to “shake things up” in the halls of government, next time it would be better to look for that angel somewhere other than in the grungiest reaches of the dissolute, self-absorbed, soulless hell inhabited by Donald Trump.

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