Remaining Danger, Lasting Damage

In the final week before Christmas 2020, the presidency of Donald Trump is the gift that just keeps giving… just not in a good way.

By Anatole d’Ecotopia

Reports have surfaced over the weekend from multiple sources that, in addition to sending yet another frivolous lawsuit before the Supreme Court, Donald Trump has actually discussed the possibility of imposing martial law with some of his least reputable remaining advisors.

The danger of this actually amounting to much is fairly slight.The scheme to seize voting machines and reprise the election (only, mind you, in states where Trump lost) is the stuff of bad fiction — the sort of conspiratorial nonsense that may play well in the comments section of InfoWars, much less so in the real world. It would require Trump being able to give direct orders to U.S. military commanders that directly violate the Constitution and the chain of command. 

Whatever success Trump may have had replacing Pentagon civilian leadership with compliant toadies, however much he may have support among the many white supremacists that serve in the ranks… his ability to order members of the officer class to commit seditious insurrection on his behalf remains a preposterous fantasy. As did Trump himself, these are men and woman who took an oath to defend the Constitution. Unlike Trump, these are people who have actually read the Constitution, and understand the concept of an oath.

Or the concept of honor.

The danger is not that of a military coup. The real danger is that this continued disinformation and conspiratory nonsense may yet inspire one of Trump’s equally deranged followers into acting out these dangerous fantasies on his behalf. It is perhaps a good thing that the conditions of a spiralling pandemic preclude a traditional inauguration crowd. There is no small likelihood that such a crowd would be in peril from one or more of the “very fine people” from within the cesspool of Trump’s ultra-right paramilitary sympathizers — more correctly described at that point as domestic terrorists.

To this danger, we add the danger of the pandemic itself — as well as the danger of hostile Russian action in cyberspace. However much Trump may fantasize about remaining in power, he has shown less inclination than ever to actually use that power for any other purpose than the enrichment of his family and cronies. On the subject of Russian hacking, his only response is to — predictable, and without evidence — suggest that the real actors are “Chinese”. This may play well to the hapless racists of his base, just as does referring to Coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”. In terms of constructive leadership… it achieves nothing. 

But even that flaccid misdirection exceeds Trump’s response to the latest surge in Coronavirus infection numbers, much less the disturbing news of newly-mutated and more aggressively infectious Covid strains emerging in the UK and elsewhere. Trump confidants have told members of the media that Trump is “simply over” the pandemic. His response to the skyrocketing U.S. death toll –again, predictably — is nothing.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is nowhere close to “over” the rest of us. The abdication of leadership would be stunning — were it not so very, very familiar.

The lasting damage from all this is two-fold. In the short-term, it hampers the Biden’s administration’s ability to quickly and effectively transition into power during an on-going state of emergency — one more among the many parting gifts of spite Trump leaves for Biden and the American people. 

The long term damage remains to be seen, and has much to do with Joe Biden’s ability to return the presidency to something resembling the status quo ante before the office was handed over to a tainted narcissistic reality television star. But it also has a lot to do with the Democratic Party’s political willingness and ability to make a lasting example of this. At this writing, nothing has been said to substantially respond to reports that the President of the United States is essentially plotting a coup. This goes far beyond the worst excesses of Nixon, exceeds in its lasting damage G.W. Bush’s elective “War on Terror” and the rape of Iraq. This is fundamental damage to the very institutions of American Democracy from which the presidency derives either power or authority.

A Democractic win in the upcoming Georgia senate run-offs would bestow sufficient political power. The question of political will is entirely another matter. If it is lacking… then we have not seen the last of this. And the next Trump, god help us, might even be competent.

Happy Christmas to all. And to America: Good Night…

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