There is a long history in this country of saying one thing and doing another. From the man who wrote “all men are created equal” owning 600 people to professed Christians seething with intolerance, betrayal of humanity has been the id battling America’s superego for 247 years.
The latest example is Donald Trump. Using what conservative columnist George Will once called feral cunning, Trump has played our lowest impulses like a virtuoso.
Fortunately, American history also includes freedom struggles and course corrections. On March 30, Trump, whose privilege and brazenness long permitted him to flout the law without consequence, finally experienced what many people feared would never happen: a criminal indictment.
It surprised no one when the GOP, which has long portrayed itself as the law and order party, circled the wagons around the former president. Determined to hold onto power regardless of election results, they have embraced Richard Nixon’s statement to David Frost: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
Republicans think their contradictions don’t matter. They invoke freedom in opposing an assault weapons ban even as they push bans on abortion, vaccines, literature, history, and drag queen story time. Thus they ignore real threats in favor of culture war incitements.
Another ploy is the quaint assertion that it is unseemly to bring a former president to justice. Any concern about unseemliness should also extend to Trump’s unseemly behavior as president. Respect is a two-way street, and he did much to disrespect his office. We do not have kings. The president is a public servant, and when he so egregiously serves himself instead, failing to hold him accountable sets a dangerous precedent.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg persuaded a grand jury to indict Trump on 34 felony counts, demonstrating what most Americans believe: that presidents and former presidents are not above the law. Trump was grim-faced in the courtroom, with none of his usual bravado. He pled not guilty and will have an opportunity to defend himself in court.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr said it would be a bad idea for Trump to testify at his own trial. As journalist Brian Krassenstein wrote, “Trump’s own Attorney General thinks he ‘lacks all self control,’ yet Republicans want him to control the Nuclear codes.”
MAGA minions are forever trying to impose their alternate reality. For example, those exploiting the Nashville school shooter’s reported gender identity to engage in group blame ignore what the Human Rights Campaign noted: “that transgender and non-binary people are much more likely to be victims of violence, rather than the perpetrator of it.” Republicans, intent on dividing the country to gain power, respond to tragedy by seeking scapegoats rather than solutions.
Trumpists are flooding the zone, especially on social media, with projecting and gaslighting. Donald Jr. posted a photo of Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter on Truth Social and claimed his father was the target of a “hand-picked Democrat show trial.”
Prior to Trump’s April 4 arraignment, New York Mayor Eric Adams warned protesters, “Behave yourselves.” In the event, the media outnumbered the protesters. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene lasted only a few minutes outside the courthouse. Earlier she saw fit to compare Trump to eminent arrestees Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ.
There are signs that Trump’s hold on his supporters is weakening, despite his dramatics and the media circus of news helicopters following his motorcade, which recalled O.J. Simpson’s slow car chase with police in 1994. But voter suppression and election denial remain key to the Republican playbook.
One rather desperate tactic on Trump’s behalf was the claim that his indictment boosts his gangsta cred. Benny Johnson of Turning Point USA said after the indictment, “Democrats just turned Donald Trump into Tupac.”
Not even a little. The man who demanded the death penalty for the Central Park Five — and refused to apologize after their exoneration — deserves no glamour, only comeuppance.
Not that he will go quietly. His lawyer in the Stormy Daniels case, Joe Tacopina, tried to grab a document from Ari Melber during an interview on MSNBC. The consigliere in The Godfather had greater decorum.
But this is not only about Trump. Take Tennessee, where GOP lawmakers moved to expel three Democratic colleagues for joining protesters demanding gun control legislation. Conflating dissent with insurrection is nothing like upholding the rule of law. Republicans do not oppose weaponizing government; they simply assert an exclusive claim to it.
Let us rise to our best to beat back the fascists while we still have the chance.