As I sit here writing, we are awaiting the impending release of the Mueller Report. I will fully accept those findings, whatever they are. Unfortunately for America, I am probably in the minority.
If the 2016 election taught me anything, it is to be very circumspect before making any predictions. If I had to predict, however, it would be that almost no one will be really satisfied with its findings. The reason? The true believers from both sides, and in these troubled times far too many Americans have become true believers, simply won’t believe the report unless it fully corroborates exactly what they already believe.
I have several friends who absolutely hate the Clintons. They think both of them deserve very long prison terms. When the names Comey and McCabe come up, they almost foam at the mouth. But Donald Trump can do no wrong. Let’s face it. There simply has never been such a prolific liar in the White House in the history of the Republic. Even Tricky Dick is a piker in the sheer shamelessness of Trump’s monumental mendacity. The man is a life-long serial liar! Every informed objective observer should agree to that. My Trump enthusiast friends, very bright and very well-informed people, when confronted with a well-documented Trumpian whopper, with complete sincerity and righteous indignation fully rationalize and explain away the lie. While their mastery of selective amnesia and denial of objective reality is truly impressive, however, it is highly corrosive to the foundations of representative democracy. We certainly don’t have to agree with each other about anything requiring an opinion, but if we live in alternative political universes, where for them up is down and down is up, elections don’t resolve anything. They only make things worse.
On the other hand, and there is almost always an “on the other hand” for an Extreme Centrist, I seriously doubt Mueller will find an indictable or what should be an impeachable offence against the president. Ultimately, the Southern District of New York may, but I doubt Mueller will. For my Trum- hating true believer friends, simply nothing short of that will do. It is not against the law to lie in public, even to the American people, or particularly unusual for a successful politician to be morally corrupt. In fact, it is almost a job requirement. For some reason that eludes me, however, they almost universally give the Clintons a pass while waxing eloquent over the moral turpitude of Donald Trump.
So, what is so special about the Trump presidency? Why is his presidency a disaster for America no matter what Mueller has found?
Other presidents have had illicit sexual affairs. Other presidents have lied, although not with the frequency and consistency of Trump. Other presidents as candidates engaged in questionable, perhaps even illegal campaign tactics. Other presidents may have determined foreign policy based on selfish personal interests. I’m not aware of any other president as a candidate paying hush money to mistresses. However, what no other president has ever done is normalize all these behaviors; to flaunt them in plain sight, express no shame and convince his political party and core base that even if he did all these things, it just doesn’t matter.
The bizarre “Alice Through the Looking Glass” aspect of all of this is:
- His party was once the party of family values.
- He and his supporters claim the mantle of conservatives, returning America to its traditional core values.
- His strongest most consistent voting bloc is Evangelical Christians!
I once lamented, soon after the Inauguration, that Trump was undermining the moral authority of the presidency. The reality is much worse. By normalizing these behaviors, by succeeding in convincing his constituency that none of this matters, he has destroyed the moral compass of America. When other presidents did these things and were caught, they experienced shame and disgrace. Indeed, the very folks who are Trump’s most committed supporters shamed his predecessors the most, even for much less egregious lies and behaviors. They still do, even while accepting the very worst in Donald Trump and with absolute conviction deny their gross hypocrisy. They believe their own horsehockey! They accept that American foreign policy doesn’t need to stand for any values other than crass self-interest, that America stands for nothing other than what Donald Trump tells them it stands for. They know he lies, believe his lies and, when his lies are revealed as lies, simply shrug their shoulders and implicitly say, “So what?”
This is what Post-Modernism looks like. A Trump world is a world without truth or objective reality. It is a world without morals or values. The very Americans, self-described conservatives and Evangelical Christians, who once resisted Post-Modernism the most, are now its prime enablers. Will America survive Donald Trump? Will we rediscover our moral compass as a society and political culture? The 2020 election may be our last best chance and it will likely depend on the character, charisma and competency of our next president. I pray to G-d for America’s sake he/she is the anti-Trump.