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Trump's Last Act? Joe McCarthy Or Huey Long?


"Abscess Of Malice" by Chip Proser


Today's biggest news should be about unemployment claims soaring again to a seasonally adjusted 853,000 in the week ended Dec. 5, according to the Labor Department. Instead, it's another day wasted with everyone obsessing over the sordid and sputtering Trump clown show.

Last night the Washington Post published a report by Rachel Bade, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger about Señor Trumpanzee's devolving strategy for stealing the election, "shifting his focus to Congress after the courts roundly rejected his bid to overturn the results of the election, pressuring congressional Republicans into taking a final stand to keep him in power... part of a multipronged approach as he also seeks to lobby state and federal lawmakers to give him cover for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, as well as rally support for a last-gasp legal challenge in the Supreme Court that election law experts almost universally dismiss."

Trump and Giuliani (the latter from his hospital bed) have been working the phones, pathetically "calling Republicans, imploring them to keep fighting and more loudly proclaim the election was stolen while pressing them on what they plan to do." Trump has told Pence to do the same, but The Post reported that "A person familiar with the calls said Pence has not exerted pressure on lawmakers to take specific actions and sees them as 'checking in.'"


“The request is more: Can you feel people out to see if they think the election is a fraud, and are you willing to help us overturn it?” said one person familiar with Trump’s calls, who described it as a “last-ditch effort.” “He’s asking people to check in with their contacts in various battleground states to measure whether there is an appetite to take action from the legislature. He says, ‘Why don't you see what this person says? Why don’t you see what that person says?’ ”
The pressure on Republicans will grow more intense after the electors meet in each state Monday and cast their votes and as Trump’s hopes in the courts continue to fade. Republicans who have spent four years catering to Trump’s desires could face a choice for which they will be judged in the 2022 midterm elections and 2024 if they have presidential ambitions as the GOP has shown unfettered loyalty to Trump.
...“It’s just simply madness,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said. “The idea of supplanting the vote of the people with partisan legislators, is, is so completely out of our national character that it’s simply mad. Of course the president has the right to challenge results in court, to have recounts. But this effort to subvert the vote of the people is dangerous and destructive of the cause of democracy.”

Meanwhile, though, Sean Reyes, a dangerous homophobic psychopath, Trump fanatic and Utah's appointed Attorney General, has-- much to the dismay of other Utah Republican leaders-- dragged Utah into the Supreme Court case against democracy. Reyes was Trump's Utah campaign chairman. Not just Romney but out-going Gov. Gary Herbert and Gov.-elect Spencer Cox said, in a joint statement, that Reyes is wasting Utah taxpayers' money on the frivolous case: "Just as we would not want other states challenging Utah’s election results, we do not think we should intervene in other states’ elections. Candidates who wish to challenge election results have access to the courts without our involvement. This is an unwise use of taxpayers’ money." The Salt Lake Tribune: "Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the law, but he is doing neither. Instead, Reyes on Wednesday joined 16 other attorneys general in a desperate, half-baked bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out election results in four states that President Donald Trump lost-- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin. It’s an act of pure, craven political hackery, signing on to a mish-mash of arguments and bad-faith allegations already heard and dismissed repeatedly by the courts. What it really is is an overt attack on every democratic institution we cherish. Worst of all, he purports to be doing it on behalf of the state of Utah... [W]e see Reyes for what he is-- a partisan hack willing to debase himself, abuse the law, diminish our Constitution and democratic electoral processes to keep the Deluded Donald in office. He is an utter embarrassment to his office and to the state of Utah."

But what happens once the Supreme Court throws the Trumpist suit out for lack of merit? John Harris took to the pages of Politico magazine to contend that Trump's cause will die-- and faster than anyone thinks-- and that there will be no 2024 election bid. Harris concedes that Trump possesses a flamboyant, self-dramatizing persona and the ability to tap into genuine popular grievance toward elites which he has molded into a cult of personality. "Cults of personality in American politics are quite common," he wrote. "But they never live long, and Trump has offered no reason to suppose he will be an exception... He has largely abandoned any pretense that he thinks about anything other than his personal resentments, or that he is trying to harness his movement to big ideas that will improve the lives of citizens. When he vaulted into presidential politics five years ago, Trump’s still-potent gifts-- for channeling anger, for mockery, for conspiracy theory-- were once channeled to an agenda that fellow Republicans were largely neglecting, over trade, immigration, globalization, and perceptions of national decline. These days, no one can follow Trump’s Twitter feed and believe that he cares more about the public’s problems than his own, and that is not a recipe for sustaining political power... Politics never stands still, but Trump largely does. As he leaves the White House, Trump should be haunted by a stark reality-- if he had any capacity for self-calibration, he wouldn’t be leaving the White House at all. He’s got one set of political tools. When things are going well, his instinct is to double down on those. When things are going poorly, his instinct is to double down on those. In political terms, the pandemic demanded modulation of Trump’s blame-casting brand of politics-- but also would have lavishly rewarded him if he had done so. Trump didn’t change because he didn’t perceive the need and couldn’t conceive of how to do so. That’s a combination of flawed judgment and impoverished imagination that hardly supports optimism about his ability to retain power in the new circumstances that await him once gone from the White House."


Time moves on. Ambitious Republicans who wish to regain control of the party and become president themselves do not have to confront and defeat Trump, as his 2016 rivals tried and failed to do. They merely have to transcend him, using issues to create leadership personas that will soon enough make the 74-year-old Trump look irrelevant, an artifact of an era that has passed. What about his 88-million Twitter followers, and the possibility that in his ex-presidency he will start his own news network? It is true that Trump will not lack for avenues to get his message out. But what will that message be, beyond repeating claims of a stolen election that his own attorney general has said are not true. Conspiracy theories, of course, can have power, even when the evidence is nil-- that’s just proof of how deep and wide the conspiracy must go. But this isn’t a promising basis to return Trump to the White House or make him kingmaker.
...[Neo-fascist GOP cult leader Joe] McCarthy, died as a pathetic alcoholic at age 48 in 1957. It was basically true for George Wallace, who won 13.5 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate of racial and class backlash in 1968. He was shot in an attempted assassination when he tried again in 1972, by which it was already pretty clear that his hour of consequence had past. Perot, a more benign representation of the American fascination with supposed strong men who burst on the scene in noisy opposition to conventional politics, won nearly 20 percent of the vote as a Reform Party candidate in 1992. That dwindled to 8 percent when he tried again in 1996, and Perot continued to slip from public view.
It is not just in American history but American imagination that self-invented, outsized outsiders don’t have staying power. Willie Stark, modeled after Huey Long, was shot at the end of All the King’s Men. F. Scott Fitzgerald delivered the same fate to Jay Gatsby. Not long after the Wizard of Oz is exposed as an amiable fraud (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”), Dorothy awakens to discover it was all just a dream.
The Trump years were not just a hallucination. But chances are they will soon enough come to feel like they were-- which won’t leave much opportunity to return to real power.


©2000 by Howie Klein. Leading The Progressive Fight Online Since 2000

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