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by • January 16, 2024 • Weekly ColumnComments (0)59

Trump’s Rise May Signal America’s Fall

Iowa Marks the Start of an Election Season with Democracy on the Ballot

The Iowa caucuses provided cold, but little comfort for Americans working to protect democracy. A storm cloud now ominously hovers, with Trump the Terrible cruising to an easy victory over a coterie of cowards who could barely whisper his name in vain.

Those who hoped timorous Republicans would save the republic were always dreaming, with their fantasy as futile as trying to squelch a 5-alarm fire with a squirt gun. In my state, Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio joined Sen. Rick Scott in endorsing Trump. It’s worth remembering in 2015, “Little Marco” correctly called Trump a “con man” who was unworthy of the Oval Office.

If the weak and feckless Rubio is endorsing a con artist who tried to overthrow the government to stay in power, what does that say about him?

Rubio is one of 24 U.S. Senators to debase themselves at Trump’s authoritarian altar. They supinely bowed down to kiss the ring of the toxic Orange King, with no care of the impact this unpatriotic betrayal would have on America’s future.

The Republican electorate seems even more enraptured by a man who has dictatorial leanings and has already proven he doesn’t accept election results unless he’s victorious.

What does this say about these voters?

It informs me that we have entered uncharted waters. We enter a pivotal election year with close to half (or more, God help us) of Americans no longer committed to liberal democracy. In a sense, they are no longer Americans, as defined by fidelity to the constitutional order. They, long ago, abandoned America as a nation with shared ideals on liberty, human rights and democracy, and now define citizenship based on a twisted white supremacist model of “blood and soil”. They detest their fellow citizens and view people with different ideas through a Hitlerian lens, considering them “vermin”.

Haven’t we seen this tragic movie before?

This noxious strain of nationalism must be defeated and MAGA buried deep in a padlocked casket with other malignant movements such as the Confederacy, McCarthyism and the Ku Klux Klan.

If you’re a normal optimist, who values pluralism and believes we should all “just get along”, it’s challenging to think in such sobering, cynical terms. It’s even more difficult when we understand that the people tearing our nation asunder are our former friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members, many of whom were set adrift and vacuumed down the seductive rabbit hole of FOX News and right wing talk radio. Perhaps, by now, they have descended to Newsmax or Alex Jones, in the same way an OxyContin addict helplessly spirals downward to a heroin habit?

We think we know these people, whose brains erupt with such bitterness and hearts harbor enormous, pent-up hatred towards their neighbors. They may smile at work or on the street, pretending they wish us well. But, in a blink, they transform into scary MAGA monsters, hellbent on destabilizing our nation, launching venomous online vituperations against fellow citizens and wreaking havoc upon America’s most cherished institutions.

In the throes of group psychosis, they conspiratorially view non-partisan civil service workers as “The Deep State”, the FBI as nefarious plotters against Trump, the media as “the enemy of the state,” and NATO as evil, while Vladimir Putin, a brutal and oppressive war criminal, is their role model and hero.

Donald Trump has told us, in no uncertain terms, that he intends to deform the presidency and transform the country in hideous, unpredictable and unprecedented ways. Yet, as Iowa showed us, millions of American voters appear to be on board with this chilling experiment.

Even if Trump is ultimately defeated, (as if he’d accept the results and not claim it’s rigged) America has already lost. We have elevated, once more, our country’s most odious, maladjusted malefactor and positioned him to regain power, with the full realization he will refuse to ever relinquish it. That voters chose this path, only three years after Trump engaged in violent insurrection, is beyond inexcusable.

I ask, again, with sincerity, who are these Trump voters and what are their intentions? What we do know, is that the more despicable Trump is, the more they love him. A Mediaite headline succinctly captured the terrifying insanity of this moment: “Stunning Poll: Trump Nazi-Echoing ‘Poison Blood/Vermin’ Speeches Make Republicans MORE Likely To Vote For Him.”

Trump’s belligerent, angry, rabid supporters, as well as the candidate’s Hitleresque word choices, force us to contemplate human depravity. I think back to 1994s bloodcurdling Rwandan genocide, when Hutus, encouraged by political extremists and toxic media personalities, grabbed machetes to hack to death up to a million of their Tutsi neighbors. What’s haunting is that these Rwandan citizens turned murderers knew their victims yet were still capable of such malicious fury.

While I don’t anticipate MAGA goons picking up machetes (they have guns), I do wonder what perversities and monstrosities Trump supporters are capable of. A Trump administration will likely need leaders to plan “camps” for immigrants and officers to round up and detain these forlorn people. They will need lawyers to argue cockamamie legal theories to justify authoritarian policies. They will need thugs to break up protest rallies, police to arrest dissenters and judges to sentence protesters exercising their constitutional rights.

They will need “leaders” to come up with punitive legal frameworks to intimidate and harass media outlets until they are cowed into subservience or silence. They will need lawmakers to concoct bilious bills to write transgender people out of existence or roll back gay rights. They will need a regime of spies to watch over women who seek reproductive freedom and to snoop on doctors who offer medical advice to pregnant women. They will need corrupt workers at the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service to harass and prosecute political opponents. They will need “poll watchers” to bully voters.

Do you doubt for one second that a newly empowered Trump regime won’t find such willing sycophants who enthusiastically carry out once unthinkable orders and directives?

Just recall how at every key moment when Trump’s momentum could have been thwarted, virtually the entire GOP establishment meekly bowed at the feet of Dear Leader. The evidence suggests there are few limits to what MAGA followers are capable of. And, of course, Trump always has Roger Stone at his disposable to do his dirty work.

It’s critically important to understand that we are dealing, first and foremost, with a religious insurgency. Trump has promoted a video peddling the dangerous idea that the former president was created by God to lead America and fight his ever-expanding enemies list.

The Washington Post analyzed the results of the Iowa caucuses and found Trump has converted most Evangelicals to MAGA worshippers, even as church attendance in the state has declined:

In 2016, Trump fared poorly in the most evangelical areas, with his share of the vote declining as the share of evangelicals grew. That pattern was reversed this year. He won 58 percent of the vote in the most religious counties compared with 54 percent in the least religious.

Trump improved by 35 percentage points in the most evangelical counties, one of his biggest gains. For example, in small Hancock County in the northern tier of the state, which has one of the highest share of evangelical voters, Trump got 19 percent of the vote in 2016. He won 65 percent Monday night.

If reelected, Trump will owe his un-Christ-like evangelical base and will swiftly move to enact their oppressive public policy demands. The former president has publicly taken credit for the “miracle” overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationally. If he wins despite curtailing women’s rights, and bragging about it, he and his evangelical cult members will feel liberated to advance the remaining planks in their endless culture war.

MAGA is an aggressive cancer rapidly spreading through the body politic. To quote Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank:

Let there be no more excuses made that Republican voters haven’t been given an alternative. They had a choice — and they chose Trump.

Campaign season is officially underway, with Iowa confirming the ugly truth we all anticipated. In the coming months, we face the direst election since the runup to the Civil War. Will democracy end or will it endure? That is a question we will answer in November at the ballot box.

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