My head is still spinning from the news this past weekend. I consider myself someone who can keep up with all the big stories surrounding the corruption of the Trump administration and the criminal conspiracies of the Trump 2016 campaign. But I can no longer keep up. A conspiracy wall the size of a soccer field couldn't hold it all. My brain hurts.
So what happened this weekend? Trump and his legal team got angrier, sillier and more bold in their use of limited hangouts. At this stage, it appears that Trump is on the verge of torpedoing the Mueller investigation and claiming that anything less than shooting someone is a not a crime.
But this latest development is unfolding in a most terrifying way. First, let's accept the fact that most Americans don't care. That's terrifying in itself. Bush v. Gore shattered the republic. The endless war on "terror," the permanent state of fear, and the Patriot Act shattered it some more. The Republican-led Senate preventing a sitting president from filling a Supreme Court vacancy set fire to the house. Now, while the fire spreads to all the rooms under president Trump, most Americans are either too broken or simply not engaged to care. The disengaged post-Watergate future scholars warned us about is here. That sets the stage for even more, permanent oppression.
This weekend, we reached the stage where the president declared himself to be above the law. It took nearly two years for Richard Nixon to reach that stage. It took Donald Trump less than 15 months (since the Mueller investigation began). And just in case it wasn't clear, the president himself tweeted it on Monday morning as a kind of limited hangout that maybe he did commit a crime, but take it from him, he didn't! And as if that wasn't enough, he tweeted 90 minutes later that the Mueller probe is unconstitutional.
In 2017, tweets like this were met with some eye rolling and some gasps from Mika Brzezinski. It seems to me that this past weekend a large portion of the news media finally woke up and realized that these tweets are official presidential statements, and need to be taken seriously. Despite typos, misspellings and occasional humor, Trump has followed through on most topics he has tweeted about. From his "travel ban," to exiting the Iran deal, to starting trade wars, Trump eventually remembers what he's angry about and acts on it. And so, we have to assume that he is going to try to end the Special Counsel's investigation again soon. His staff might talk him away from the ledge, or he might take the dive, but as Trump always says before he does something big, "we'll see what happens."
We've reached the totalitarian stage of the Trump presidency. It was always there, beginning with the lie about the inauguration crowd size, but now it is fully out, 500 days into his first term.
In 2017, Trump reserved his angriest tweets for Saturday mornings. Now his manic, angry, desperate tweets are sent almost every morning - usually before 07:00 DC time.
Trump's tweets are bad enough. But Trump has found the recipe for motivating his base of 60 Million white supremacist supporters. His blistering, endless condemnation of NFL players who do not stand for the Star Spangled Banner before games is white nationalism wrapped in public patriotism, and it stirs his base into a frenzy. It is Trump's most successful tactic as president. No president has ever succeeded in doing this. Reagan came close, launching his 1980 campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, the same county where three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964. Ronald Reagan gave his base white nationalism packaged as an argument for "states rights." He demonized the poor and anyone who collected public benefits of any kind, claiming that they were a burden on working people, and that government, by aiding the poor, was too big and too intrusive. That was terrible at the time, coming on the heels of a dark but progressive era that brought bipartisan support for legal abortion, some equal rights, and even some environmental protection polices and causes (think Superfund sites and No Nukes). Reagan represented a right wing backlash to all that.
Trump represents an even stronger backlash to that, as well as all the social and economic changes that have come since the early 1990s. The USA is more Hispanic. The USA has many more people living in poverty. Our local law enforcement agencies are more militarized and use even more force against young black men and women. And the US has a furious white population, fueled by 22 years of Fox News, ready to go out as loudly and with as much violence and destruction as they can muster. If there ever is a serious attempt to remove Trump from office, there will be civil unrest.
Last September, Trump found this winning formula, and today, he deployed more furious tweets about black athletes, rallying his base. Trump's big ego has always been ridiculed. But now, with his more identifiable totalitarian posture, his inflated ego is finally being recognized as part of his 'strong man' style of leadership. It needs to be taken seriously.
It's a shame and embarrassing that one of the only public officials to condemn Trump's tweets today is the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenny. Kenny was correct to speak out, of course. And his words were very apt: