Why Citizen Trump Will Probably Never Run Again!
Love him or hate him, you have to credit Donald Trump with two things: first, a genius for knowing how and when to enhance his “brand;” second, an uncanny ability to cultivate an almost slavish codependency among those still caught in his orbit. He is also the living embodiment of Lincoln’s adage that, “you can fool some of the people all of the time.”
Most recent example: bitch-slapping his own GOP home boys with a “cease and desist,” denying them the option of invoking his name without permission and rerouting all political contributions away from the RNC to his own Donald J. Trump “Save America PAC” that has garnered nearly $300 million since he set it up. It’s a slush fund for his “campaign expenses” (and other discretionary funding) with little or no financial accountability required. It’s a piggy bank for the Donald and everybody knows it. And still they love him.
This of course is icing on the cake of retribution DJT recently baked at CPAC where he came down hard on those inside the party who had offended him—everyone from (“RINOS”) Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney to the newly minted Mitch McConnell who miraculously grew a conscience around January 7th and then just as quickly lapsed back into the Trump toady posse one week later, endorsing the Donald should he have another go at being president.
Mitch stopped short of traveling to Mar-a-Lago to kiss The Donald’s ring (mainly because he wasn’t invited). But it didn’t slow up others like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who had his own fences to mend for having accidentally spoken his mind about the atrocities of January 6th only to turn into LeFou 48 hours later, fawning over Trump’s “Gascone” in ways that were downright embarrassing.
They all, in their turn, flew into Trumplandia, posted photo ops with the fallen former POTUS and assured him that he had their support for a rerun in 2024. In a point of irony that still eludes me, Trump had them all shaking in their boots because—at some level—they still perceived him to be the locus of power in the newly fractured GOP party structure, partly because he was already making rumbles about starting his own political party, and half the rank-and-file said they’d consider moving with him if he did. So here he was—a scant two months after being shoe-horned out of the White House, and ten weeks after his nightmarish attempt to overthrow our Democracy had met with disaster—casually opining about gutting the GOP and dumping on their requests to use him as their party standard bearer. And still they love him.
It’s been less than 90 days, and I remain indelibly haunted by the images of the Zombie Apocalypse this man dredged up from the dark corners of our political consciousness on January 6: The Capitol Hill lynch mob—99% white guys, 80% bearded, and 100% worked into a frenzy, wearing stars and stripes warpaint, MAGA hats and toting 5’ by 8’ flags with Trump’s face silk-screened on Old Glory–as they broke into the Temple of Democracy looking for scalps. They were Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, Q’Anon, Proud Boys et al. and proud of it. They did interviews, took selfies, stole stuff and incriminated themselves in every possible way, proving that most right-wing extremists have the collective IQ of a socket wrench and revealing the naked truth that Donald Trump, even at his most conniving, can’t properly organize a riot.
They became the living embodiment of Samuel Johnson’s jeremiad that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” They were 20% veterans and 8% off-duty law enforcement. And what’s even more unsettling is that their rabid, insane acts of vicious retribution are being rationalized in retrospect by the Goebbels-like musings of Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Texas’ Ted Cruz and FOX News as a “good old boys outing” gone overboard—an act of overzealous patriotic frustration and no real threat at all.
Churned into a froth by morning minions like Rudi Giuliani calling for “trial by combat,” this mob armed with hockey sticks, combat gear, tear gas and “bear spray,” screamed epithets such as “hang Mike Pence,” and “kill him with his own gun,” even as they attacked, bludgeoned and eventually overran the Capitol Police, causing seven deaths (including 3 Capitol Policemen) and sending over 130 people to the hospital. Now, in the funhouse mirror of selective memory these same groups, including paramilitary plots to kidnap the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House, are being portrayed in the conservative media as victims of DOJ persecution that is out to ruin them financially through something called “Lawfare.” Lawfare is a clever new portmanteau term created by FOX News et al. to make mandatory investigations of crimes committed sound weaponized and immoral.
Not surprisingly, these indicted protestors and their defense counsels are also claiming exculpatory evidence for their behavior—and believe it—because they had been given a mandate by their POTUS to perform these violent acts. In his final speech, Donald John Trump “invited” them to march and promised them: “I’ll be right there with you.” He assured them time and again just before jumping into his limo and dashing back to the White House to relish the chaos in a coffee klatch while his supporters twisted in the cold January wind. And still they love him.
It’s a paradox that rank-and-file Republicans have yet to decipher. Because Donald Trump doesn’t love them back. (He has even privately referred to them as “those awful people.”)
They love him so much that, despite a botched raid on the Capitol Dome by a Trump inspired lunatic fringe, 211 Republican Congressmen and 42 Senators voted not to impeach Donald Trump—even though half privately admitted that he had committed acts that were both treasonable and seditious.
To follow up, the state legislatures of 33 of our 50 states are rushing out “voter integrity bills” that they are trying, at warp speed, to pass before the public at large catches on. Many were on the books before in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and especially Georgia (where voter suppression has evolved into an art form). Some got scrubbed clean. But now they’re back. If they follow the legislative model just passed by the Georgia State legislature, these laws will shorten eligibility windows, reduce the number of days one can vote, eliminate Sunday voting (no more “souls” to the polls) and make voting by mail more difficult than getting a driver’s license. It is an act of blatant electoral manipulation unparalleled in an American history. For many states, this is being done to sod the ground for Trump to make another run for President in 2024.
Even now, they come off as burnt-offerings to appease this Master Fabulist for his party’s failure to gut a legal transfer of power, jam up the machinery of our Democracy and pull off a political coup. After all, Trump had built the platform, and his minions in the GOP had clearly let him down.
A master of manipulation, Trump had already fabricated the most convincing mythology in the history of American electoral politics—The Fable of An Election Stolen Even Before it was Held. Clobbered by COVID, with a 38% approval rating, and trailing Joe Biden by 9 points in the polls, the incumbent Donald Trump began as early as May of 2020 flipping the script on the coming election.
First, he launched an all-out Twitter blitz denouncing “vote by mail” (the only hope of a locked-down nation) as a seedbed for corruption. Next, he set about to secretly dismantle the US Postal service and almost pulled it off before his operatives at the Postmaster General’s office were caught decommissioning bulk mailing machines and got held up in the courts. Caught flagrante dilecto, these antics somehow escaped scrutiny while The Donald’s media minions nightly beat the drum, touting “voter manipulations” in several swing states.
By the time the actual election was held on November 3, Trump had already won the propaganda war. Despite the highest independent integrity rating of any political race in the last 50 years, despite a record turnout of more than 81.2 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden, despite a 7.7 million vote margin of victory in the popular election (the biggest ass-whipping since Reagan beat Mondale by 16 M in 1984) DJT claimed that he had “won big!” And 72% of his voting base believed him.
From the outset, Trump knew it was a lie he could sell because he had already tested the waters with a “rigged election” media blitz in the weeks before his upset victory in 2016. So the scenario was ready made for him in the summer of 2020 when The Donald began to realize that his strangle-hold on the American psyche was at long last slipping away. This caused the POTUS to tighten his grip on his pliant Republican base, most of whom were still drunk on the cheap perfume of his demagogic mystique.
It’s easy to cry foul to a political party 56% of whose membership already thrives on conspiracy theories. And Trump and his legal team were out peddling them wholesale. They included an entire Bible of apocryphal offenses—from corrupted Dominion voting machines to perverted Smartmatic algorithms, to the Arizona “Sharpie Scandal,” The Late Ballot “Pennsylvania Polka,” and the Georgia Recount Tango. Most were ridiculous allusions easily shot down by 30 minutes on a calculator. But they were all touted as “real and true” on FOX News, Breitbart, and Newsmax who pounded them so often into the public consciousness that they became an alternate reality. Follow that with a closing mantra called, “Stop the Steal,” and it was just enough to enrage Trump’s base, delegitimize our Democracy and choreograph a Capitol insurrection. It also resulted in billions of dollars in defamation lawsuits and millions of dollars in unpaid legal bills. And yet even now about half of all Republicans still think the game was rigged.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the number of Trump true believers in the GOP is down from 74% three months ago to around 51% today. That’s roughly half of the party that now only represents 25% of the nation’s total voting base. And even if you toss in another 16% of independents who still might back the guy, it’s not enough to put The Donald back into the winner’s circle.
The simple truth is that Trump’s numbers are dropping, and they might never climb back up. Because it has taken Republicans this long to figure out that now—at this moment in time—Donald John Trump is no longer President of the United States. He’s just another guy with an opinion.
Gone are the days when his hypomanic tweets could cause the world to tremble, when he could take a wrecking ball to the State Department and pervert our DOJ into his personal attack dogs to rip and tear at the seams of our Constitution. The simple truth is that Donald Trump, now that he is just Citizen Trump, has lost his ability to tyrannize the rest of us. Ding Dong, the Witch is dead.
Finally… the vilified Mainstream Media that DJT has so long manipulated into reporting his every utterance has finally wised up to the fact that his daily doggerel no longer carries weight. His serial fabrications and verbal orgies of self-serving hyperbole have, at long last, become predictable and boring. And a public that once viewed him either with horror or rapt devotion has now simply grown tired of him. For in his attempt to wear down our will, he has also lost our interest.
Add to all this the irrevocable truth that former President Trump, now Citizen Trump, will—if the wheels of justice are to turn at all—soon become Defendant Trump in several criminal cases. I say that advisedly because, over long decades and 4,000 plus lawsuits, no one has shown the ability to tiptoe through the legal minefields of the American judicial system better than The Donald. Like all powerful men of shadowy ethics, he is a passed-master at constructing labyrinths to confuse, confound and otherwise elude the long arm of the law. In the past he has used layers of lawyers to do it. Only this time, in his desperation to reverse the course of history, Donald J. Trump has, by every body of evidence, gone a bridge too far. And now he has five possible criminal indictments pending that promise to tie him up for the next two years at least. Of the five, only two are on the books. Two others are imminent. And a fifth seems inevitable.
The last among these to come down may seem to be low hanging fruit but will likely be the hardest to prove: These will come in the form of DOJ and DC DA indictments for inciting the January 6th insurrection and assault on Capitol Hill. Despite the fact that 69% of American public holds Donald Trump either fully responsible, largely responsible or partly responsible for the raid on the Houses of Congress, it became evident early on that The Donald knew exactly what he was doing. His level of incrimination went right up to the line of incitement but never crossed over it. In the pure language of liability, he denounced the election and embraced the mantra to “Stop the Steal,” but never allowed himself to get caught personally espousing violence. (He let his minions like Rudi Giuliani and Michael Flynn do that for him.) In so doing, he worked the gears of treason and sedition without ever actually getting caught driving the vehicle itself.
Trump will also probably dodge the criminal indictment for financial fraud levied against him by Deutsche Bank. Even though Donald Trump, Trump Properties, and other Trump holdings have defaulted on loans from Europe’s eighth largest financial institution to the tune of $2.5 billion, he will escape charges of financial fraud mainly because it’s a criminal charge tacked onto a civil suit as a bonus. Misappropriations of funds are seldom prosecuted because they almost never result in a conviction. Juries in cases of financial fraud simply lack the sophistication to establish a verdict beyond “a reasonable doubt.”
The same “reasonable doubt” tag will also probably save The Donald in the retread of the Stormy Daniels/Karen McDougal campaign finance fraud charges originally dropped by the Southern District of New York but picked up again by New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. who, at this point, definitely smells blood in the water.
Cy Vance’s Tax Evasion investigation of Trump, however, may be another story. Vance, a notorious front-runner and serial capitulator to the rich and powerful, is also a highly political animal who senses when the wind has shifted in his favor. Armed with literally 1 million pages of tax documents, a battalion of CPAs and a legal team that numbers in the dozens, he has become a dog with a bone where Trump’s taxes are concerned. Rumors run rife that the purported $3.5 billion Trump Empire is, in real terms, about $500 million underwater and sinking fast. It is a situation made even more untenable by the fact that COVID-19 has clobbered the service industry, especially luxury hotels like Trump Resorts, casinos and vacation properties all over the world. Compound that by the fact that DJT has managed to block and delay reviews of his taxes for 20 years and you have a feast for forensic accountants to go picnicking in the woods of Criminal Tax Evasion. It seems inevitable that it is by hacking through the thicket of hidden ledgers and cooked books that the government has sent everyone from Al Capone to Bernie Madoff off for extended stays at Club Fed.
Still one can get overconfident here. And the IRS “shell game” has also found a warm hearth in Donald Trump’s wheelhouse. He has managed to put off, obfuscate and delay audits over two decades. So delaying for another three or four years should fit right into his game. Obviously, he would like to return to being POTUS because political and legal immunity come with the perks of the office. But with this many numbers and number-crunchers closing in, it all comes down to mathematics. And time may be running out.
That leaves us with pending criminal indictment Number 5: “the little engine that could,” Fulton County DA Fanny Willis and her methodical investigation of The Donald’s late-night call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. By now the conversation is famous: Trump’s plea to the Raffensperger to find him 11,800 votes somewhere—anywhere—so he could actually tip Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in Trump’s favor. No need to rehash the conversation folks! It’s been recorded on tape. In view of that and other bodies of evidence, Ms. Willis is carefully laying down the following official charges: “the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, a violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.”
Most of the indictment carries relatively light 3-year sentences, except for one: racketeering. Racketeering includes such felonies as bribery and extortion, both of which were audibly in evidence during the POTUS’s obtuse 45-minute phone call to Raffensperger.
Of all of Trump’s pending criminal litigation this has Trump’s legal team scrambling to “get it fixed.” But, unless the Georgia legislature can find a way to defang Willis’s indictment and render it moot (and believe me they’re trying), Citizen Trump will have to face trial in person, and could possibly go down…for 20 years.
Then again, there is also another shift in the wind. Even if Donald Trump survives this obstacle course of civil and criminal charges, there is every indication that he has become radioactive where serious politicos are concerned. Mike Pompeo notwithstanding, Trump’s betrayal of his conservative loyalists in his final desperate days revealed to the world that his only true allegiance is a will to power at the expense of all else. The last-minute resignations of enablers such as Attorney General William Barr and former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney proved that there are some things even sleazy politicians just won’t do. And Trump’s callous banishment of Mike Pence (and his legion of evangelicals) has proved to be a poison pill that simply cannot be underestimated.
In the aftermath, the DJT brand is left with mainly a hardcore base of strange and seedy people intermingled with a few true believers who still view Trump as their “Golem”—that and a bizarre and risible reconstruction of recent events by FOX, Newsmax, Breitbart and One America News—all of whom are trying to win the moral relativity sweepstakes so they can grab what remains of the last few shreds of the shrinking cult of Trump.
Symptomatic of such a decline comes Donald Trump’s most recent announcement that he plans to create his own Social Media platform along the line of a Facebook or Twitter. (It’s not that hard to do.) Given his recent banishment, he will have to tread gingerly. And the question is: who is left who really wants to sign up? Certainly Trump can build on the echo chamber of fanatical followers who will slavishly tune-in to anything that comes out of his mouth. But will it be enough to sustain a franchise? The problem with echo chambers is that they invariably ring hollow…and, by every law of physics, fade away in the end.