Not long ago I wrote in my journal, “Today, Trump ate my consciousness.” I suspect this has been the experience of many people, on far too many days.
It is as if Trump, obsessively monitoring the media his entire life, stumbled upon a formula which enabled him to commandeer our attention, and our consciousness, for many hours each day.
Trump’s ability to develop a cult following among some 35-40% of the population has morphed into a mortal threat to all that we hold dear–Truth, Integrity, Decency, Character, Facts, Science, Law, Freedom, Democracy.
Because we value democracy and the Rule of Law, our attention has been riveted on Trump. While some of the more naive among us may have found Trump amusing at first, we all now know that he represents a deadly threat.
In our quest to understand what we were seeing, right before our eyes, Timothy Snyder’s little book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, published in Match 2017, was immensely helpful. It provided needed historical perspective, and a guide to the path toward authoritarian rule on which Trump was driving us forward.
Guided by Snyder, we read other books and plays. Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros captured in graphic form what we were seeing everyday with our own eyes. As individuals in Germany and elsewhere had “flipped” into becoming Nazi’s as a result of the pressures and influence of mass political psychology and propaganda, in Ionesco’s play individuals in a small town who “flipped”–like the newly-minted Nazi’s had done–assumed the outward form of a rhinoceros.
I saw the play in June 2019. And since Trump’s campaign in 2016, I have watched a steady stream of Republican Congressmen and Senators and Trump officials reveal by their actions and words that they had “flipped”, undergoing a metamorphosis that turned them into rhinoceri following Donald Trump.
Trump’s policies and daily outrages made increasing inroads into my consciousness after he took office in January 2017. But as I began to fully grasp how Trump’s assault on the Truth and the Rule of Law had gained control of the minds of nearly all Republicans, the parallels with the rise of fascism and Adolf Hitler became increasingly evident. Many years earlier I had studied Twentieth Century European History and German History in particular. Now those lessons about the rise of fascism began to reverberate ever more loudly in my head.
After “the adults in the room” departed, leaving Trump alone with his sycophants in the White House, and particularly after a craven Senate Republican majority acquitted Trump in January 2020 on impeachment charges relating to the Ukraine–when the factual evidence was overwhelmingly against him–Trump increasingly dropped any pretense of adhering to democratic norms and the Rule of Law.
So we have come to a crucial crossroads, as election day is only three days away.
This is high drama, with the future of the Republic and American democracy seemingly at stake.
How can we keep Trump from robbing us of our consciousness in these dramatic circumstances?
We need to pay attention and get ready to act. The first and most critical action is to vote–in a reliable manner that will ensure our vote is counted. It is already too late, in many states, to vote by mail.
Yet we also need to prepare to oppose the actions of Trump and his supporters to suppress the vote, and to interfere with the counting of the votes. The latter could occur through mob action as in fact occurred in Florida in 2000 when a threatening crowd forced a halt to the counting of the ballots and the chads in one key county. I still have vivid memories of the scenes on TV in which the mob was pounding on the windows of the office where they were counting the votes. Or the Republicans could try to interfere with the counting of the votes by bringing endless bad-faith legal challenges against mailed-in and other ballots.
We must also be prepared to oppose any efforts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to name electors to the Electoral College who do not represent those elected by a majority of the voters. Many if not most states have laws which require the naming of electors representing the candidate who won a majority of the votes. But these laws can be changed, particularly in states with both Republican legislatures and Republican governors.
Finally, we must be prepared to counter any attempts by armed militias, federal “police forces”, National Guard troops, or federal military units to interfere with the Constitutional processes for electing and placing in office a new president.
If Trump and his collaborators should still somehow succeed in taking a case to the Supreme Court on which the outcome may depend, as it did in Bush v. Gore in 2000, we must be prepared to send millions into the streets, in Washington and outside the Supreme Court, to make it clear to the Justices that the people will not tolerate again the Court’s throwing the election to the Republican candidate on specious grounds, as it did in 2000.
I am a lawyer, though not a Constitutional law expert. Nonetheless, I read all the Florida Supreme Court opinions in 2000, when that Court’s majority decided in favor if Gore. And I read all of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions in Bush v. Gore, when a majority of the Court on totally specious grounds threw the election to Bush. The majority invoked novel and unprecedented legal arguments to support their decision, while stressing that the case could not be cited as a precedent in the future. The majority decision, upon very close examination, did not pass “the smell test”.
So, we need to reclaim control over our consciousness by removing Trump from office. The first step will be to vote overwhelmingly against him and for Joe Biden on November 3.
Then we will need to pay close attention to any Trump maneuvers and actions aimed at disrupting the vote count, and the proper operation of the Constitutional processes established to count the votes and place the winner in the White House on January 20, 2020.
Unfortunately, given this timetable, Trump is likely to command an out-sized share of our consciousness for at least the next few months, until he is removed from office and replaced. Hopefully, that will happen on January 20, 2021.
Only then will we be able to reclaim full control over our own individual consciousness.
In the meantime, we will need to remain as level-headed and analytical as possible, so that we will be able to respond in an effective manner to any efforts by Trump to successfully implement his ongoing attempted coup d’état.
To remain level-headed, we will need to be disciplined in our consumption of news, avoiding the passivity of always being glued to the TV or social media. We will need to stay informed, but with a view to taking and supporting appropriate actions to counter unconstitutional maneuvers by Trump and his Republican collaborators.
1) Michelle Goldberg, “Four Wasted Years Thinking About Donald Trump,” New York Times, October 29, 2020.
Goldberg writes, presciently, “Trump has blocked out the sun. Only when he’s gone will we see how much we’ve been missing.”
2) Farhad Manjoo, “The Fury Against Trump Has Begun a Great Democratic Awakening,” New Yotk Times, October 30, 2020.
3) Larry Diamond, “I’m a Democracy Expert; I Never Thought We’d Be So Close to a Breakdown; Our election systems were not built for the modern era; Looking abroad might help,” New York Times, November 1, 2020.
The Trenchant Observer