by Bonnie James
October 13—As we peer ahead into the next several weeks before the Midterms Nov. 8, polls show that more than 40% of Americans believe we are on the verge of civil war. Voters are deeply divided on who to blame for the broken economy and how to fix it; the issue of abortion has further split the country since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade; and most importantly, whether democracy itself is in danger following the January 6, 2021 bloody insurrection against the government. It is nearly impossible to find anyone who does not line up with one side or the other.
At the same time, the incessant, pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia propaganda, continually pumped out through the mainstream media, has effectively convinced the overwhelming majority of Americans that there is only one side to the story, that on this subject, at least, they are all but united. In a real sense, although President Biden has uttered the words “nuclear Armageddon,” the danger does not seem to have penetrated the consciousness of Americans as they prepare to vote in nationwide elections just a few weeks from now.
The January 6 Attempted Coup
On Oct. 13, the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, held its ninth, and possibly final hearing. The aggregation of evidence since the first televised hearing June 9, examining the causes of the unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol by an armed mob, while the House and Senate were in joint session to certify the election of Joe Biden as president, has succeeded in overcoming whatever doubts there may have been (at least among non-cult members) that Donald Trump was responsible for the seditious conspiracy that resulted in the bloody assault.
That assault and its aftermath have left an open wound on the body politic, which has divided the country in a way that nothing since the repeal of the 1830 Missouri Compromise, which laid the ground for the American Civil War. Today, at the conclusion of its two-hour hearing, the committee voted to issue a Congressional subpoena for Donald Trump’s testimony.
Trump now faces a trifecta of legal challenges, in addition to the committee’s subpoena: The DOJ’s investigation of Trump’s absconding with more than 100 highly classified documents from the White House and the National Archives, which he had stashed at his Mar-a-Lago residence/resort in Florida, is now reaching a conclusion, with the expectation that Attorney General Merrick Garland will move to indict the former President.
At the same time, the District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Letitia James, has filed a $250 million lawsuit against the Trump Organization, Trump himself, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, and Eric Trump for financial fraud, which could lead to the dissolution of Trump’s business empire, and possibly to criminal charges as well.
And, there is the ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia by Attorney General Fani Willis of Trump’s attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election in that state by demanding that (Republican) Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” an additional 11,000-plus votes Trump needed to be declared the winner in Georgia.
Trump and the Midterms
At this point, no one knows exactly what will happen on Nov. 8 – but that hasn’t prevented the commentariat from endlessly spinning out scenarios. The common wisdom is that, this being an “off-year” election (midway between presidential elections), the Republicans, as the party out of power, are likely to sweep the polls in November. But this is not a “normal” election year, primarily because Donald Trump continues to play an outsize role in shaping the political reality.
Meanwhile, the Democrats seem unable to seize the moment to present a coherent agenda that could win over a majority of voters. Americans have been battered by the Trump circus, along with a shaky economy. The Fed, under chair Jerome Powell, is pushing the economy into recession, while many voters fear that President Biden has passed his “use by” date.
Adding to the dismal picture, what was once the Republican Party no longer exists: there are either stark-raving-mad members of the Trump cult (and there are plenty of these running on the Republican ticket in the midterms), and those cowardly Republican politicians who don’t believe Trump’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election, but are terrified that if they don’t toe the line he is putting out, they will lose the support of his voters in their respective districts or states. (This has already happened to several GOP candidates who refused to carry water for Trump, and told the truth, including Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice-chair of the Jan. 6. Congressional Committee). A number of “leading” Republican members of Congress have so prostituted themselves to Trump, that were Dante writing his Commedia today, he would undoubtedly place them in the Inferno with the fraudsters, the panderers, and the flatterers. Among these we would certainly find Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, among many others.
So, who is Donald J. Trump, and how did he come to seize the US presidency in 2016? New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman, in her new book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America”, takes the reader back to the 1960s, as Trump emerged from the shadow of his father Fred Trump’s crime-riddled housing construction world in the outer borough of Queens, to become the big-time real estate mogul in the steamy, organized-crime milieu of Manhattan power brokers, and thence to the highest office in the land.
Assisted and groomed by his mentor Roy Cohn, the mob-connected lawyer who, in the 1950s, served as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel during the Army-McCarthy hearings, which, in cahoots with the odious FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, ran the witch hunts against Americans “suspected” of Communist sympathies. From Cohn, Donald learned how to manipulate the system, how to use litigation to deny, delay, deflect potential competitors, a “skill” which Trump is now attempting, not very successfully, to wield against the U.S. Department of Justice.
But Trump’s rise to the pinnacle of power in the US could not have happened without the support of his cult, both those who hold high elective office, and, of course, his base among the voters. Why did they adopt this sleazy New York real estate developer as their messiah? And why is he still looming over everything, despite having been repeatedly exposed as the fraud he is?
The full answer to those questions is far outside the scope of this article. But, in a nutshell: Trump, following the blueprint drawn for him by his corrupt mentor Roy Cohn, has mastered the art of carnival barker, the three-card-monte gambler—“Now you see it, now you don’t.” He perfected this act on his “reality TV” show, The Apprentice, where he also found a nationwide audience, who came to admire his tough-guy business practices. By the time Trump announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, he had already amassed a huge following, largely made up of disaffected working-class former Democrats who had seen their lives wrecked by the 1970s-’80s takedown of the American industrial economy, and the shift to the globalized, financialized economy, depriving them of their livelihoods and dignity. This, along with the failures of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, who largely kept to the script written for him by the Wall Street shysters, as had his precursors, left the voters open to the predations of Donald J. Trump.
Of course, Trump was aided in all this by the depravity of a Republican Party whose only motivating consideration, was to hold power by seeding the governors’ mansions, the state legislatures, and above all, the courts, including the US Supreme Court, with like-minded politicians and judges. In this way, they have succeeded in rolling back the advances of the past half-century in civil rights, women’s rights, and voting rights, etc. Which explains why today, the party is backing and funding (aided by big-bucks donors such as Peter Theil, and right-wing outfits such as the Federalist Society) dreadfully unqualified candidates, such as the mentally and morally deficient former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia; and in Pennsylvania, the quack TV doctor Mehmet Oz. Mitch McConnell et al, don’t give a fig about the qualifications of these misfits, but rather, only that they are sufficiently pliable, or otherwise like-minded, to carry out their cynical agenda.
Can the US pull out of this quagmire? If the war in Ukraine is taken off the table (admittedly, a big “IF”), and if Trump is sidelined (possible), we might begin to see some light coming through the fog, and the US may find its way back to the policies that made it a great nation.
– Credit Line: Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.