Donald Trump’s threat to use the office of the American presidency to jail his political adversary, is little more than the logical culmination of the departure from traditional democratic principles by the American right some twenty plus years ago.
While media outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post were uniquely complicit in elevating the sensational but essentially baseless scandals conjured by the right in an attempt to tar, cripple and delegitimize the Clinton presidency, and the Democratic Party as a whole, the matrix of this attempted putsch was an informal collaboration of right-wing law firms, activist groups and oligarchs.
While the attempted delegitimizing of the Obama presidency was made more palatable to the Republican base because of the color of the president’s skin, smearing him as a non-citizen and illegitimate president was the next, and entirely predictable step in the right-wing quest for what at least initially would be a de facto one-party America. From there, codifying it would only be a matter of time.
This is not a quest to dominate politics. It is a quest to end politics. This is not a thrust and parry in a contest of ideas in the public forum or within America’s governing institutions. This is an absolutist crusade with the goal of effectively abrogating the debate entirely. Threats to default on America’s debt obligations, or shut the government down are not politics, rather acts of sabotage, their manifest destructiveness only a trait of war.
This journey to Trump Republicanism, or the full blossom of American authoritarianism has been greatly aided by the multifarious sources of hard, Orwellian propaganda so easily dispersed in the age of talk radio and social media, which in turn have resulted in the election to positions of power in state and federal government of demonstrably radical and irrational ideologues. And on the vicious cycle goes.
Since the American left (with its own sliver of sanctimonious, self-involved puritanism) and timorous Democratic Party officialdom, along with major media outlets failed to distinguish this continuation of politics as war for so long, and to combat it in any effective way, we now face a blatantly and brazenly authoritarian cult figure unforgivably close to executive power in the United States.
There is a small reformist wing of the Republican Party, which though it accepts in large part modern conservatism’s exotic and ridiculous economic dogmas, is not wedded to the racialist subtext on which Republican politics has built itself and thrived, since the inception of Richard Nixon’s southern strategy in the late Sixties.
Unfortunately, there is an alternate reality in the United States, inhabited by a third of the American population (otherwise known as the Republican base, the Tea Party, or martyrs of diminished white entitlement) and this biosphere of ideological and cultural eccentricity will remain effectively impenetrable to reason, rationality, factuality and enlightened citizenship for the remainder of the natural lives of its inhabitants.
While I consider myself a democratic socialist, it is worth pointing out that a callow, puritanical, self-involved and ultimately irrational sliver of the American left too often have been useful idiots in allowing this march forward of the authoritarian right. No better example is the credulous ingestion and regurgitation of manufactured scandal and calumny against the Clintons, who as irony would have it, were the first to be assailed in this burgeoning civil war.
It is not only progressive values, but survival of the American polity as we have known it (for good and ill) that hangs in the balance, and anything other than wartime footing and survivalist mode is a decadent, inexcusable luxury on the leftward side of the spectrum.
Donald Trump will lose, not because he embodies the resurgence of American reactionary radicalism, which he does, nor because he favors the policy positions of a radicalized Republican Party, but because he is a uniquely odious individual. While a growing majority of Americans reject today’s Republican ideology, the radical Republican minority will continue its warlike quest as a continuation of politics. Or more accurately, a substitute for it.
While the eventual electoral decimation of Donald Trump will be a relief, as well as a delight, unless more Americans, including in the media, recognize what they’re up against, the relief will be short term.