I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. – Mark Twain.
The period from mid-September through the first week of October were bookended by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and Trumpus’ illness.
Republican Corruption: The release of Trumpus’ taxes revealed years of no payments at all, income from undeclared foreign sources, massive debts to unknown creditors, gargantuan conflict-of-interest problems when they come due soon, and the likelihood of outright fraud. It was revealed that he had described war veterans as “suckers and losers” and that his 2016 campaign had identified 3.5 million Black Americans as voters they wanted to suppress through Facebook logarithms.
Republican plans to wreck the election continued quite openly. Trumpus hinted at his plans to use phony claims about “fraud” as cover to keep election officials from counting all the ballots after Election Day and repeatedly refused to promise that he’d step down peacefully if he lost. Right wing operatives were everywhere in the swing states, openly attempting to restrict the vote. A judge struck down their plan to allow only 1 ballot box in each Ohio county. But Governor Greg Abbot simply avoided the courts entirely and effectively handed Texas over to Trumpus by ordering all Texas counties to do exactly that. Harris County (population: 4 million, including Houston) will have exactly one drop-off box.
A pro-Trumpus militant Group has allegedly recruited thousands of police, soldiers and assorted thugs to monitor and harass voters in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. Even the FBI – certainly no friend to people of color – is now preparing for a “violent extremist threat” posed by anti-government militia whose members have advocated for a “race war.”
But why are Trumpus and Barr being so open – almost bragging – about their plans to steal the election? The answer, like their plans, is right in front of us. Polls indicate that Democrats are less likely to vote if they believe Trump will steal the election, something Republicans are banking on. Those voters are most assuredly people of color, who understand the long tradition of American white mob violence quite well, writes John Feffer:
Whether it was the displacement and massacre of Native Americans, the horrors that slaveowners inflicted on African Americans, the wave of lynching that followed Reconstruction, the bloodletting of Red Summer around World War I, the murders conducted by the Ku Klux Klan and other extremist organizations, or even everyday resistance to federal policies like school desegregation, gangs of Americans have repeatedly taken the law into their own hands on behalf of white supremacy.
This puts the Dems in a tight spot. While it is absolutely vital to raise the alarm, amplifying Trumpus’ promise to sow chaos serves his goal of suppressing Democratic turnout. So, as these bastards learned over many generations in the South (although they were Democrats then), the threat of voter suppression is itself a form of voter suppression.
Liberals were shocked. His base, if they noticed at all, approved.
Ginsburg’s body was hardly cold before Trumpus named her replacement. As I mentioned above, they had already used strong-arm tactics (under Roger Stone) to steal the 2000 election, and Amy Coney Barrett had been a member of his team, providing some of the wacky legal arguments that helped sway the Supreme Court. For twenty years, she has quietly epitomized the bizarre confluence of Christian zealotry and mob tactics that characterizes these people. Aside from the certainty that her presence on the court will destroy Obamacare, abortion rights and same-sex marriage, Trumpus will expect her support if the election is disputed.
Democratic Corruption: Analysts have posed this question about Trumpus for four years: can his corruption be distinguished from his incompetence? Is he an idiot, or does he simply play one on TV? It’s time to ask the same question of the Democrats. On September 22nd, Biden made his loyalties crystal clear, telling interviewers that no one earning up to $400,000 would see their taxes raised by “one cent” and following that with “I beat the socialist!…Do I look like a socialist?”
By the way, we are not talking about a 6-3 split on the court if she joins it; we’re really talking about 7-2 (unless the Dems win the Senate and expand the size of the court), since the liberal Stephen Breyer turned 82 in August.
But, again, if we simply blame Republicans for this state of affairs, we miss the real story. The federal courts would not play such a large political role if the Democrats had been serious about winning at the local level. Their nearly exclusive focus on winning the Presidency had resulted in the loss (under Obama alone) of over 900 seats in state legislatures and the Congress. “The fact that the Democrats mishandled this situation so badly”, writes Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report, “is one of the reasons they have deified the late justice Ginsburg. They have to divert attention from the mess they created.”
… the Democrats are now…behaving with the same lackadaisical attitude that cost them the 2016 election. In the must-win state of Michigan, the Biden campaign has no in-person voter outreach, and no one that people who want to help can talk to…an on the ground campaign doesn’t really exist…Of course, Hillary Clinton raised more money than Donald Trump, but four years of propaganda have rendered most Democrats incapable of critical thought. They believe that repeating a losing strategy will somehow work this time around.
The First Debate: I see three critical points. The first is that the mainstream media framed the debate itself, not Trumpus, as deplorable. The next day, my local paper, the liberal San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed: “First Debate devolves into debacle,” rather than “Trump wrecks debate.” For contrast with normal years, you may want to read my earlier essay, The Ritual of the Presidential Debate.
The second is that relative to almost any election in memory, most people have already decided whom they prefer, or hate less. This year, the “undecided moderates” who are the traditional targets of most rhetoric and advertising are an endangered species. The largest bloc of undecided voters are the one hundred million people who haven’t decided if it is worth voting at all. The Republicans are doing everything possible to keep them from deciding to vote, while the Democrats want them to vote but not become active in the future or put any pressure for real reforms on a Democratic Congress.
This leads to my third point. Trumpus knows he’s losing in the polls (for what they’re worth), and he knows what he needs to do to win, including having a Fox News “journalist” as moderator who consistently framed his questions from a right-wing perspective. His intention, well-rehearsed and certainly gleaned from the study of focus groups (see below), was quite clear: to provoke such a hot mess that large numbers of people would not only quickly change the channel but give up in disgust on the whole process.
His intention, precisely as with his studied refusal to condemn white supremacy, was literally to suppress the vote. Well, that’s my opinion, but I found it confirmed across the spectrum. On the left, Caitlin Johnstone wrote:
You seriously could not have designed a more perfect display to do everything we’ve been told for years that Russian propagandists are trying to do: depress the vote, encourage support for third parties, weaken public trust in America’s institutions…
On the right, Frank Luntz (who certainly knows more than he let on) claimed to have found a dozen undecideds for a focus group – and to have been as shocked as anyone else: “This debate has actually convinced some undecided voters not to vote at all.”
Part of that strategy was to provoke Biden into a no-win situation – continue to act the spineless wimp, always willing to come more than halfway, or take the bait and add to the chaos. Still, who can deny that it felt good to see the old geezer show some cojones?
Then Trumpus got Covid (and knowingly exposed large numbers of people). The news immediately set loose an astonishing range of speculation, fear, chaos, rejoicing, incrimination, flip-flop announcements from his own doctors, and full-on looniness from the QAnon crowd. Was this the long-awaited October Surprise or merely a very convenient distraction? Or both? Michael Moore wrote, “Trump being diagnosed with COVID is about the best thing that could have happened to him right now. So much so, in fact, that I pretty sincerely doubt that it’s true.” Some of his speculations:
— He can control the news cycle and get lots of free publicity.
— He can opt out of the next debate without repercussions.
— He’s going to be cured by a new drug that will make him and his cronies billions.
— He doesn’t have it but will “recover” very quickly to show how Covid is overblown.
— He’s planning to drop out of the race and be replaced by Pence, who will then pardon him.
“Don’t even pretend you can’t believe he’d lie about it,” wrote Moore.” Indeed, many people had predicted weeks before that Trumpus would claim to get – and be quickly cured – from Covid.
But his doctors claimed to be using a treatment plan normally used only for the severely ill, leading many to suggest that he was sicker than they were letting on. Meanwhile, at least two Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee contracted Covid, raising questions about the timing of the Barrett hearings. The Republicans vowed to continue, even if they have to change the rules.
Biden hung up his cojones. Predictably, the Democratic leadership and the usual media pundits took the high road with faux-Christian charity, praying for Trumpus’ recovery and even removing their negative advertising (even as the Republicans specifically refused to do so). Johnstone would have none of this:
Do these seem like the sentiments of a media class who believes Donald Trump poses an urgent existential threat and must be defeated at all cost?…Would you stop fighting someone who was trying to kill you with every weapon at your disposal just because they got sick?… It turns out all that unprecedented hysterical shrieking about a Russian Nazi in the White House was just political hyperbole…They’ve never seen Trump as a uniquely menacing threat, they see him as what he is: a garden variety corrupt American president who is evil in more or less the same ways the other corrupt American presidents are evil. They see him as a part of the establishment they serve, advancing more or less the same agendas…
All kinds of broad, quotable philosophy went around the web. Here’s my favorite: The country is being asked to pray for their abuser and being shamed for not feeling sorry for him.
After just a few days Trumpus, having “controlled the news cycle and got lots of free publicity,” left the hospital, claiming to have been miraculously cured, removing his mask and telling the public not to fear the virus. He received no charity bump, though, as Biden’s poll lead increased. Perhaps there really still were/are lots of undecided voters. Or perhaps some committed Trumpus voters changed their minds.
The only thing that is sure is that the nation is in utter chaos – a deeply archetypal, ritual image. The King suffers from a wound in his groin (symbolic of the capacity to generate new life), and our Parsifal is a holy fool. We know from world mythology that chaos is the necessary precursor to the re-stabilizing of cosmos, the ordering of culture. But chaos can just as easily lead to even deeper chaos. It does not by any means predict a straight line toward a happy ending. Its primary characteristic is a most profound not-knowing.