Living In Wacko World

There is much that I don’t understand about the Americans who continue to support Donald Trump and the Big Lie. There’s even more I don’t understand about today’s GOP, which looks absolutely nothing like the political party to which I devoted some 35 years.

Here’s a smattering of what I don’t get:

  • How do these people explain away the hysterical refusal of the Trump mob to testify to Congress or hand over documents? If they have nothing to hide, why would they act this way? From my lawyering days, I still remember the concern of criminal defense lawyers that a client’s failure to testify would be taken by a jury as evidence that the client had something to hide; in fact, there was a standard (and undoubtedly ineffective) jury instruction to the effect that the jury should refrain from making that obvious assumption.
  • How do they justify the rage and recriminations focused on the few members of the GOP who voted to repair the nation’s decaying infrastructure–especially when Trump tried and failed for four years to have his own “Infrastructure week”? Don’t they drive on our crumbling roads and worry about our failing bridges? How do they explain to themselves and others the GOP insistence that defeating anything  President Biden wants is more important than actually getting things that obviously need to be done, done?
  • What in the world prompts Republicans to threaten “reprisals” for the indictment of Steve Bannon? Bannon was indicted for contempt of Congress. There is no quarrel with the accuracy of the charge: he publicly refused to testify to the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, and just as publicly refused to provide documents Congress identified. If individuals can ignore Congressional subpoenas, if they can thumb their noses at lawful investigations, we are really in Wild West territory. Yet members of the GOP are warning that Democrats’ efforts to force Bannon to comply “paves the way for them to do the same if they take back the House in 2022.”  According to the Washington Post report linked above, “most high-profile GOP leaders have quickly turned Bannon’s indictment into the latest litmus test for loyalty to the former president.”

This is evidently where we are: if the rule of law gets in the way of partisan loyalties, well, the rule of law must go.

What must also go in this world-view is the First Amendment of the  U.S. Constitution.

Last week, Trump’s disgraced former national security advisor, former General Michael Flynn, spoke at a “Reawaken America” conference in San Antonio, Texas. (According to multiple reports, the conference was intended to reinforce the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and to support the argument that vaccine requirements infringe Americans’ liberties.) Flynn told the audience: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.”

The former national security adviser also characterized the investigation into the riot as “the insurrection crucifixion” and likened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Pontius Pilate. “This is a crucifixion of our First Amendment freedom to speak, freedom to peacefully assemble. It’s unbelievable,” Flynn said.

Flynn’s speech was one of the more explicit endorsements of what the Rightwing political fringe has clearly wanted–and what respect for the rule of law has impeded–a “Christian” nation. (Actually, a nation ruled by White Christian males.)

This is hardly the first time Flynn gets attention for his statements that seem to go against some of the basic tenets of American democracy. In May, Flynn said at a QAnon conference that a military coup like the one that took place in Myanmar “should happen” in the United States. Flynn was Trump’s national security adviser for less than a month and resigned after it was revealed he lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and Trump pardoned him.

What I don’t get–what I cannot wrap my head around–is how non-mentally-ill Americans (even those who get their “news” from Fox) can look at these and so many other examples of the GOP assault on logic, democracy, reality and the rule of law and tell themselves that they are the behaviors of “true Americans.”

If gerrymandering delivers Congress to the GOP next year, we are going to be living in a very different country than the one in which most of us grew up.


  1. While I agree w/much of what you write here, the first point, about the refusal to testify, is different. The instruction given to jurors is consistent w/the holding in Doyle v Ohio: a defendant should not be punished for, or allow any inference of guilt to be drawn from, invocation of a right. It’s not that close of a call in criminal trials. If the accused takes the stand (in her/his own defense) in a criminal trial, only two categories of people stand up to even inexperienced prosecutors’ questioning: sociopaths and professional witnesses. Otherwise, as I’ve explained to Clients, if Mother Theresa were raised from the dead & took the stand in her own defense, she would look guilty.

  2. Let’s not forget that Susan McDougal spent 18 months in prison for refusing to testify against Pres. Clinton in the Whitewater investigation.

  3. People used to ask how Germany could have fallen under the sway of Hitler. We now see something similar happening in the US with trump as the “leader” and the GQP rewriting history much as Orwell saw in 1984.

  4. Sheila writes, “I cannot wrap my head around…”

    You identify with ‘law and order’ because it was instilled in you and your profession reinforced it to you. Therefore, you strongly value it. You identify with it. You cannot understand how others don’t do the same.

    Let’s look at Michael Flynn’s worldview. I am not sure about all his neurosis, but one thing I know is he has been in the military for quite some time. They are above the laws of any nation just like transnational corporations and bank CEOs. They are more powerful than the laws dictated by countries.

    Imagine what kind of power (perceived) does to a person’s ego.

    We just had a General review of the drone attack killing 10 innocent civilians, including children, in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was the overseer of wrongdoing. He said nothing was wrongly done. It took less than a page to dismiss it. Nobody was jailed. Nobody was court-martialed.

    Look at what Wikileaks and Julian Assange exposed. He’s been tortured for a decade while the wrongdoers haven’t seen a day in jail. GWB knowingly lied to the American people. Colin Powell did too. Nothing happened to them. James Clapper lied to Congress, and so did Brennan. Edward Snowden proved it. Edward had to run to Moscow while the liars all got hugs from Michele Obama whose husband makes one speech a year to Wall Street and receives $500,000.

    Yep, and that’s just scratching the surface folks. If you don’t think it can’t get worse, keep watching…

  5. Most of us live in a world of our emotions, not of our rational selves. Democratic politicians are often “intelligent”, but they rarely are “clever” or even insightful. It is scary to see one’s: “world” crumbling around one. Many people don’t feel listened to ! Black and LatinX People are used to not feeling listened to (except during election campaigns. For many white people, the world of their church, their (closed) community, the opportunities – for a career (as opposed to 5 or 6 careers over 40+ years of working), healthcare, and even popular culture (there is no more: Ed Sullivan and Bob Hope for example) – is changing rapidly. Does Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos care about them? Republicans are clever – at pointing at Demons (immigrants, Blacks, Gays, etc.) – as “the problem” – as well as those “socialist” Democrats. Combining – such white people – with – well-off white people – who often benefit (or think that they benefit) from economic policies – where they exist – of the Republicans – creates a sizeable coalition – that can be swelled by big money – make guns and CRT – the issues – often keep your mouths shut and let the Dems fumble. The Democrats – should have 60+ % support – on “the issues” – but we on the left – often – Speak Down – to those we need to ally with us! This only goes back to the 1600’s -(seriously) – I think it’s easy to understand! 2022 – need not be a year of loss – but it may well be – unless Democrats learn to be more clever. Also – don’t think that MSNBC and CNN – are “our side”. While Fox is “their side’ – we often have no ally to counter such messages!!

  6. Some on the blog today have already hit on the 5th Amendment right “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,”; the reason most defense attorneys recommend defendants do not take the stand to testify was evident yesterday in the Arbery murder trial. Travis McMichael’s testimony “dug him deeper in the hole” as stated by one legal authority on MSNBC. IMO I was happy to see McMichael dig that hole deeper as more truth came out than the prosecution would be allowed to question. One defense attorney demanding no Black Parsons be allowed to sit in the courtroom boggles the mind. The Rittenhouse trial is another story with the Kenosha, WI, court system is televising “Living In Wacko World” with the presiding judge making up his rules as he goes along. The defendant was allowed to pick out his own jury and the dead and injured persons not allowed to be called “victims”. The judge wasn’t sure of the rules regarding the jury’s request to view films as evidence as they decide the verdict.

    And Todd’s statement “You identify with ‘law and order’ because it was instilled in you and your profession reinforced it to you. Therefore, you strongly value it. You identify with it. You cannot understand how others don’t do the same.” places his “values” with the GOP we are struggling to survive due to Trump’s administration and his Wacko supporters in both houses of Congress.

    Last night there were already Republican rumblings of “reprisals” for Rep. Paul Gosar being censured. Reprisals against Democrats or members of their own party who voted “yea” or all of them and what form will they take. In his pre-vote statements Gosar further incriminated himself. A lovely sight to see but further evidence of “Living In Wacko World” of the current GOP.

    “This is evidently where we are: if the rule of law gets in the way of partisan loyalties, well, the rule of law must go.”

    Obviously the Oath of Office taken by all elected officials is meaningless and democracy and upholding the Constitution also must go.

  7. The “one religion” Flynn was inventing puts Donald Trump as its head. The only good news is that Donald Trump is very old – older than his years. He can’t last much longer.

    All the other stuff has always been there. Always. Todd’s ranting about Obama and all the rest is merely an expression of what’s always been part of the American psyche. Sometimes, it’s suppressed for decades. Sometimes it explodes into madness: Civil War; anti-Viet Nam War riots; the January 6 insurrection; dysfunctional Congresses; idiot-level Presidents: Harrison, Cleveland, Reagan, Trump, et. al.

    As long as big money is allowed to direct our governments, the 25% of the screaming fools will emerge from their intellectual swamp and create mayhem. Compared to so many other countries, we’re doing nothing differently, and certainly not with as much violence and upheaval. How many governments and revolutions has France had in the last 200 years?

    As has been often mentioned on this blog, the human being is simply not biologically capable of governing itself on a very large scale. We can do pretty good when it’s only a hundred or so of us together, but after that it’s a power struggle for resources and control. On a global scale, we look ever so much like a species that wants to make itself extinct.

  8. The Radical Right Wing propaganda sources are all guilty of enabling the ex president and his cabal in congress. It truly resembles Hitler and the Third Reich.

  9. My friends among the Reactionary Right, blame Biden for higher oil prices, as if Biden suddenly turned the “Big Oil Valve” down to trickle. The are clueless about the power of the OPEC Cartel to control world wide oil prices. They blame Biden for inflation not understanding the concept of supply and demand and the back up at the coasts with container ships packed with products and port cities being overwhelmed trying to off load the product.

    There was a Meme showing a picture of Greta Thunberg with a microphone in hand vs Kyle Rittenhouse with an AR-15 in his hand. Rittenhouse has become a hero to the Reactionaries. Gosar can post a picture of violence against AOC and the GOP rally’s around him.

    Somehow no matter how low the GOP goes there is never a bottom.

  10. I always suspected that Flynn would turn out to be 45’s Jack Ripper (See “Dr. Strangelove”). There really isn’t much difference between Ripper’s “precious bodily fluids” and Flynn’s “Christianity”. These people are crazy. One might even describe them as a basket of deplorables.

  11. Regarding Flynn’s vision of what America should be, I am reminded again of Sinclair Lewis’s novel, published in 1935, I believe: It Can’t Happen Here. Well, it sure seems that he was wrong.

  12. Question 1: Two words: Witch hunt! Never give in to a witch hunt.
    Question 2: Sure, sacrifice obvious stuff now in order to regain power. It’s obvious. It’ll get done then (even though it didn’t get done last time they had power).
    Question 3: Vow revenge! The left are evil and must be punished.

    These are idiotic answers, of course, but they’ll make perfect sense to the cult followers.

    Question 4: On “true Americans,” I’m confident they believe they ARE adhering to the constitution. They surely haven’t read it. Plus, even for the few who have read it, they’ll find an interpretation with which they can work, something to suit their ends. It’s the same they do with their bible, so they’re already practiced at it.

  13. This is about more then a mentality that has gone amuck or tribalism. There is a big spiritual component to all this madness. At the risk of derision in this forum, I will say that the apostle Paul is clear that we do not fight against flesh and blood but powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12). Fallen beings (Satan included) are active in deluding people and driving them to do things they might not ordinarily do. That is the biblical perspective (or at least my biblical perspective).

  14. Mark: I take a different tack, if a selective one. I am aware of the standard judicial instruction to the jury to draw no inferences from the failure of a criminal defendant to take the stand, but I have been around long enough to know that this instruction may be in conflict with deeply held views of jurors, i.e., if the defendant is not guilty then why doesn’t he/she defend him/herself? There are some who embrace the opposite view, i.e., that the defendant’s willingness to take the stand suggests they are not guilty and are willing to subject themselves to cross-examination in their defense. My point is that judges may instruct juries to disregard defendants’ failure to take the stand but that human nature may, however subtly and one way or another, affect jurors’ sense of how to vote.

    I have been both prosecutor and defense counsel when a young lawyer and once as defense counsel in a first degree murder case put my client on the stand. The state, as usual, overindicted. She did only eleven months and we found out post-trial that the jury almost hung but agreed to a compromised verdict. The decision of whether to take the stand rests with counsel, and each case is different, i.e., so counsel must consider whether in a given case to have his client take the stand.

    As to today’s topic, I think the reason the Republicans have retreated into their non-governing shell and gone wacko is that they see the end is near and are resorting to any means of staving off their inevitable descent into Whigdom via more intense gerrymandering, voter suppression, invasion of the capitol, support of the likes of Flynn, Gosar, Trump, Cruz, Hawley, and other assorted inciters of revolution as a last resort to the pretense that they are a political party entitled to the exercise of power – all at the expense of the rule of law and our democracy.

    We Democrats are trying to govern and in the spirit of the two-party system have invited Republicans to help but Republicans are opposed to anything and everything we propose because it was Democrats who proposed it, even voting en masse against an infrastructure Trump himself promised but did not deliver in the two years he had a Republican congress.

    As I often write, the Republican Party is not a political party these days since it has no platform or guiding principles; it is rather an aggregation of criminals, opportunists and mentally ill people such as Gosar, Flynn, Trump, and assorted other crazies who provide heightened Nielsens for the media while raising doubts that we can self-govern. To do? Hang tough. Govern as best we can without help. Tell the truth, and most importantly, defend the rule of law and the greatest asset we hold in common – our democracy.

    As to today’s topic, I think I know the reason why we are living in a world of wacko Republicans.

  15. There is a term used in psychiatry. It is a “tight delusional belief”. When a delusion is really tight, it is next to impossible for the person suffering with it, to let it go. They might sound logical. i.e. I know the FBI is looking for me because I have seen a black SUV parked around my house”. And then you find out his neighbor owns a black SUV from his wife.

    The insane logic of these people is based on false premises i.e. the election was stolen. And every extremist group I have seen has a tight delusional belief system based on false premises i.e. terrorist groups, both domestic and foreign.

    So they forget that Trump wanted an infrastructure bill. They conveniently forget that Trump and the GOP ballooned the deficit with their tax “reform” bill etc. They forget that the GOP has done little to nothing for people in rural communities, union jobs, the middle class.

    I am not sure the democrats have done much for those groups either. Neoliberal economics has simply widened the wealth gap.

    The insanity of this GOP base is simply a loud echo of Trump’s grandiose delusions.

    I learned in my practice as a psych nurse that rather than pay attention to the delusional content, I had to pay attention to the underlying feeling i.e. fear, anger, pain especially with people suffering with paranoia. Paranoid people are much more prone to violence.

    Obviously 45’s followers are angry because they are certain the election was stolen. The anger hides the underlying fear and pain due to the loss of their demi-god. After all who want’s to feel afraid? Who wants to feel pain? It’s so much easier to be angry and point our fingers at someone else. Usually though when someone points a finger at someone else, he/she has 3 fingers pointing back at him/herself.

    The GOP needs to look at how the extreme right infiltrated their political party. They need to address the delusional insanity of it’s Trumpist base. Sane GOP members really do not know how to dissolve the tight delusional system of the extreme right.

    In the meantime,I keep resorting to the Serenity Prayer and the principles of the 12 steps and Al-Anon slogans to keep me sane in the midst of a fractured country. I also keep practicing gratitude.

  16. The “Reawaken America” gathering should be the clue that the over riding answer to the issue of the day, is that when one is a cult
    member, one can conveniently ignore ANYTHING that contradicts the leader’s “truth.”
    Bizarrely, we have a combined 2 cults, synergistically working within the GQP.
    Nancy, I have been thinking the same thing: that the Empty Orange might just beat justice, and leave us feeling somewhat empty, by “shedding
    this mortal coil,” before being tried,or, given that, being jailed.
    ML, Dumpy has been working the Fascist Playbook, from that fateful escalator ride on.

    “America’s founding generation feared sociopathic demagoguery as much as they did anarchy, and they understood that the two abet each other.”
    Alexander Hamilton, ”… in a letter to President Washington…warned that the ’only path to a subversion of the republican system of the country’ is by way of the ruthless demagogue who uses fear and flattery to ‘throw things into confusion [so] that the may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” pg.156-157 “The Constitution of Knowledge-A Defense of the Truth, “by Jonathan Rauch

  17. Sheila —
    As I read your blog today and also Heather Cox Richardson’s, I have a faint sense of nausea and a big feeling of anxiety. I truly believe we are in for a really bad stretch beginning in 2024 when the GOP installs Trump or Abbot or DeSantis as president. I have had several serious discussions with friends who are physicians and other professional people who end the conversation with “Where can we move to when this happens?” People like me are becoming afraid of what is to come and wonder will we have to flee our homes or stay behind to defend our “liberal” friends? I live in the South and I am truly afraid for people of color. I am thinking that a regime like the one that held power in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a distinct possibility. (Not that women will become “Handmaids” or “Marthas” but that a religious extremist administration will use violence to coerce us non-believers into doing what they perceive is correct.) I am very unsettled.

  18. Hey Robin — Me, too!
    (In the meantime,I keep resorting to the Serenity Prayer and the principles of the 12 steps and Al-Anon slogans to keep me sane in the midst of a fractured country. I also keep practicing gratitude.)

  19. Mental health, addiction treatment and prenatal care are all begging to be funded here in the Hoosier state. Suppose these are things republicans are more comfortable ignoring.

  20. Can we add that today, the ghost of Joe McCarthy rose from the grave in inhabited the body of Senator John Kennedy. Sadly, nobody got to say “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

    Robin, remember that the Democrats embraced Reagan at the end of the last century, believing that the only way to beat him, was to be him. Some call Clinton the best Republican President in a generation.

    It is Elizabeth Warren, AOC, and the “radical progressives” that are trying to return the Democratic Party to the principles of FDR. Those are the policies that reduce inequality, help both union members and rural Americans. Sadly, I have to agree with your analysis of a tight delusional belief. The Serenity Prayer, and switching from news to Rom-Coms is a good palliative.

  21. BTW – I suspect nobody asked Senator Kennedy about having a sense of decency because they know that the concept is now foreign to today’s Republicans.

  22. So many in the GOP support “law and order” but apparently don’t think that’s the same thing as “the rule of law” – or at least the latter term doesn’t generate the same emotional pull.

    Or how about – ‘Steve Bannon must think he’s too important to obey the laws like the rest of us.” “Rule of law” just doesn’t connect in the same way.

  23. To be sure this is not the world that I grew up in that we see today. It’s certain that, if John Q. Public had ignored a subpoena from Congress to testify he would have been locked up immediately and questioned later. Apparently, politicians, and their ilk, are governed by different laws than we simple folk.
    I, for one, feel very strongly that if the Democratic candidates wish to win, they should continuously show videos of the insurrection at the Capitol. I was horrified to see our country fall into the thinking regarding how a third world country operates. They were not visitors, they were there to do harm, period.

  24. It’s not complicated. A year or two for contempt is better than twenty years for sedition. The head honchos have to win or go to prison. Their only choice at this point is to keep lying and inflaming the gullible.

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