I haven’t added what would be superfluous commentary to the news of Donald Trump’s overdue indictment. The media has already reported pretty much anything you might want to know about that indictment and the various reactions to it.
Did The Former Guy (TFG) break the law? Obviously. Were the potential consequences serious? Very definitely. (In fact, we have no way of knowing whether TFG actually sold or otherwise shared highly sensitive information with the oligarchs and autocrats he admired. Was that two billion dollar infusion of Saudi cash to Jared payment for information? Who knows?)
For those who reside in the real world, nothing in that indictment was a surprise–and despite TFG’s efforts to characterize it as politically motivated, it very clearly was not the product of a “witch hunt.”
What, then, is most troubling about this long-awaited legal confirmation that TFG is a crook? Why am I adding text to the millions of words being exchanged about this predictable indictment?
I’m commenting because I am absolutely gobsmacked by the reaction of the crazies who now constitute most of the GOP.
In the face of overwhelming evidence–much of it produced by Trump himself in his endless blatherings–you would expect partisans to simply shut up, or to defer to the operation of the legal system. Instead, those on the farthest edge are evidently calling for armed resistance, and elected officials are insisting that there is no difference between the inadvertent retention–and immediate surrender–of documents by Pence and Biden and Trump’s clearly intentional and deeply corrupt theft of national intelligence.
Despite what you may have heard about the federal charges against Donald Trump, there is actually nothing shocking or unprecedented about a former head of state facing criminal charges. It has happened several times in other democracies, and it would have happened in the United States but for Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon.
What is shocking, and carries the ominous reek of banana-republicanism, is the response by the opposition party to the news. Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking Republican leader, depicts the charges as a personal plot by Joe Biden — “It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him” — and a “grave injustice.” Trump’s leading Republican opponent denounces the charges as “political bias” and “the weaponization of federal law enforcement.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene likened Trump’s arrest to those of Jesus Christ and former South African President Nelson Mandela. Kari Lake–still insisting she won her election– threatened civil war.
Evidently, whenJonathan Chait wrote in the linked article that there is no conceivable set of facts that would permit the GOP to acknowledge Trump’s guilt, he knew whereof he wrote.
In the article, Chait traces what he calls the GOP’s “decades-long descent into paranoia,” a descent that has led to the “idiosyncratic embrace of a career criminal.”
Chait reminds us that the culture of today’s Republican Party was shaped by what Richard Hofstadter famously described as “the paranoid style” in American politics. Hofstadter was writing about a conservative movement that, at the time, was only a far-right fringe faction of the Party.. Today, as we know, that fringe has completely assumed control of the party– and Chait writes that it has imposed its “warped mentality” on half of America.
To its adherents, every incremental expansion of the welfare state is incipient communism, each new expansion of social liberalism the final death blow to family and church. Lurking behind these endless defeats, they discern a vast plot by shadowy elites.
As a result of that warped world-view, the party went in search of a strongman, someone who would “crush its enemies.” Chait writes that the GOP could have found that strongman “in a politician, a general, a movie star, or an athlete. Instead, Republicans located their warlord in a crooked real-estate heir.”
It is the interplay of the two forces, the paranoia of the right and the seamy criminality of the right’s current champion, that has brought the party to this point. Trump’s endlessly repeated “witch hunt” meme blends together the mobster’s hatred of the FBI with the conservative’s fear of the bureaucrat. His loyalists have been trained to either deny any evidence of misconduct by their side or rationalize it as a necessary countermeasure against their enemies.
The concept of “crime” has been redefined in the conservative mind to mean activities by Democrats. They insist upon Trump’s innocence because they believe a Republican, axiomatically, cannot be a criminal.
I hope Chait is wrong about this paranoia infecting “half of America.” If it’s that widespread, we are in very deep do-do.