No matter what the eventual outcome of Mueller's investigation, the US's national nightmare is just getting started. Because even if Trump is removed from office, Trumpism is alive and well — and armed to the teeth.
With every news cycle we eagerly gobble down the “feel good” pieces by “expert” tea-leaf readers predicting the coming comeuppance for Trump and his cadre. These experts posit the risks the Trump forces face, delight in the prospects, and offer hope that the end of our long national nightmare is at hand.
Of course, no one actually knows, but that doesn’t matter. We are now so exhausted, so worried, so desperate for relief, we consume these pieces as though they were penned by Nostradamus himself.
The trouble is the more we learn, the less we seem to understand what’s actually afoot. In fact things are more likely to go the other way, and in big way.
Let’s, in the name of balance, consider the worst-case scenario of what might happen after special counsel Robert Mueller announces the final results of his investigation.
Trumpism has to be seen in the larger picture as it coincides with a worldwide move to the far-right: here, in Western Europe, in the Middle East, in Eurasia, and in the Middle East. Those hoping that Mueller will slay this dragon are kidding themselves. He might even energize it.
There are two separate but interrelated things here: Putin sowing discord, confusion, and dissatisfaction within Western democracies — and Trump’s determination to win at any cost.
Clearly, Putin has already succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, disrupting democratic institutions and politics, here and abroad. His skillful, if dastardly, use of the internet and social media has inflamed long-simmering fringe issues into full blown movements.
Race, ethnicity, class, religion have all been weaponized by Russia, and effectively so.
What Putin has done is to pry open the West’s Pandora’s box of self-contradictions, whereby majority rule can be mobilized to end the reign of liberal democracy itself.
By bootstrapping on international crises, such as uncontrolled mass immigration, Putin has injected fear of “the other” and a thirst for order — the kind of order that can only be provided by authoritarian regimes.
Here in the US, Putin’s machinations have found particularly fertile ground. A failed national educational system has produced at least three generations weak in critical-thinking skills but strong on feelings of entitlement. Fundamentalist Christianity gladly (and profitably) rushed in to fill the knowledge void, creating tens of millions of anti-science, anti-intellectual followers, easily manipulated and eager to spread malign propaganda that reinforces their own apocalyptic beliefs.
And it’s no accident that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Russia found common cause as well. The NRA’s decades-long fight against any and all regulation or control of firearms created a country in which the number of guns in private hands now outnumbers the total population of the country. So, what better place for Putin to stir up the gun-loving far right, a readymade armed militia able to turn large parts of the US into sectarian conflict zones?
Michael Scheuer, who favors “elimination” of Trump’s enemies, is a frequent guest on Trump-backed radio show.
While defenders of liberal democracy hang their hopes on the outcome of Mueller’s probe, only disappointment is likely to follow. No matter what Mueller concludes or does, it will almost certainly be followed by waves of ever-greater fear and consequent danger.
Mueller appears to have enough evidence to charge many surrounding Donald Trump, not the least of which are Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner — who are likely to be charged with lying to the FBI, and with conspiracy. Trump himself may be accused of obstruction of justice, though named only as an “unindicted” co-conspirator. Mueller may also issue sealed indictments against Trump that would be unsealed upon his leaving office.
Any of these possibilities will send Trump into a unrestrained rage. It will also send millions of his followers into a frenzy of anger fueled by feelings of victimization and discrimination by “the liberal elite.” Trump will read this upwelling of support from his loyal base as a green light for radical action. Some who know Trump well have already warned of what may happen if he feels cornered:
Schwartz, who wrote Trump’s book The Art of the Deal and spent months with Trump to gather information for the book, predicted that Trump would declare martial law. Not as a possibility, but as a near-certainty. … Asked how Trump would go about undertaking such a drastic measure, [Schwartz] said many of Mr. Trump’s supporters were police, members of the border guards force and the ‘far right wing’ of the military.
Too apocalyptic for you? Why would you not consider this a real possibility? The pieces are all in place. The federal courts are being systematically stacked with far-right judges, so where we once could find comfort in the thought, “surely the courts will put a stop to this,” that is no longer a sure thing.
Trump has also systematically undermined confidence in our free media with false charges of “fake news.” More recently he has been accusing the press of being “the true enemies of the people.” Where we once had confidence that the Woodwards and Bernsteins of the media will expose and defeat the plans of the evil doers, that too has been eroded:
Which suggests we can’t count on media reports and investigations to put a damper on a far-right, pro-Trump uprising. The far right is already armed to the teeth and itching for a fight. Indictments and charges that amount to treason against their guy in the White House will represent the final straw for many of them. And if just a few bands of armed militants start trouble, others will likely follow. Once large-scale sectarian violence gets rolling, it’s not easy to restore order. And even harder to restore public confidence in just about anything tied to government.
So there you have it: a peek at the Dark Side. Whether Trump colluded with Russia or not, both Trump and Putin are on the same authoritarian wavelength. And both are, in their own ways, pushing social and political systems around the world toward modern-day forms of nationalistic fascism.
Events will move quickly once Mueller acts. Those of us who cherish liberal democracy will soon find ourselves challenged as never before to defend it.
So, as you eagerly consume stories about Trump’s mounting legal woes, understand that nothing ends there. It’s just the beginning.