The sequence rolls on: Break the law, incur retaliation, then incite violent backlashes against “lawless repression”
How long will it take America to get the Trump Terror cycle, or that his gang is revving up the next the civil war? Not with formal enlistment, organized armies and fierce battle lines, for that would disastrously set militant amateurs against fully-armed professionals. Plus, Trump is a creature of impulse, not planning, the opposite of good generalship. Malignant narcissists live in the twisted present tense, spurring made up (“alternative”) realities on the spot. Why else would Trump hire expendable wackos like Eastman, Powell, Giuliani, Flynn or the Pillow Guy?
Above all, Trump trusts his savvy, operator “genius,” accepting shortfalls as inevitable but temporary. If he can repeatedly disrupt the status quo, the subsequent chaos offers this Master of Mayhem the opportunities of a lifetime. Or so goes his derangement. It’s not the noisy, never-ending scrimmages that count, but who’s left standing when the dust clears. More “retaliation” only makes Trump the greater victim, and even thuggish genius needs backup to sustain maximum pressure. Look how one (insupportable) Big Lie stalks like a national cancer against electoral health. Trumpism doesn’t have to score many wins to set the terms of engagement. The big tell on his violent appetites came early on (2015) when Trump gleefully approved punching and dragging out rally critics.
Today’s right-wing militancy, like our overseas militarism, is open-ended, even ad hoc, flush with heavy symbolism and all about proxy wars, indirection, and subterfuge. Don’t let Trumpian enemies see the moving ball, then switch the game and field of play, just one step ahead. Here Trump has more competence than in the political, policy or leadership realm. Amoral malignant narcissists cannot “lead” others because they only “represent” their own internal urges. The fascist con artist is in the end the only audience that counts.
Gamesmanship is life
Trump’s entire career testifies to his art of the disruptive deal (as long as he’s the sole dealer): find a weakness, manipulate, then lie/deceive/break faith against whatever stands in your way (whether media, banks, insurance companies, wives, competitors or political party establishments). The goal is to create chaos, then keep your head above water until the next act. If that demands playing the tantrum-throwing five-year old, so be it. If that demands slick rally/stage performances, full of sneering bluster, testifying here’s a movement worthy of support, so be it. If that demands blackmail (Ukraine), obstruction of justice, or stealing state secrets, the sequence justifies all norm-breaking. Trump didn’t have to know one sentence on one intelligence page: he anticipated that the theft might well incite retribution, reinforcing his status as innocent victim fighting the big, bad, invading federal wolf. Breaking the law is the paramount first rule across his art of the phony deal.
That Trump’s dim-witted, pliant political cover know nothing about the intelligence only serves Trump’s dark purposes: The more ignorant your lackeys, the more recklessly they can lie (or repeat yours). Knowledge could impede fabrications, let alone increase liability. Document theft likely fits Trump’s notion of hostage taking, kidnapping valuable documents for who knows what end. Auctioning off top secret intelligence (or copies) is not out of the question and funds more criminality. Returning state secrets can function in potential plea bargain bartering. Criminals need not know the final worth of treasure to seize it.
Lessons ignored at our peril
Proto-fascist takeover Lesson #1: Establish simplistic morality plays in which the anointed, fearless hero incapable of error (too rich, powerful or famous to shun risk) takes on a populist crusade of redemption. He’ll even threaten to fund his own campaign (a total contradiction). Then whenever facing resistance, exposure or indictment, play the endless victim card, reinforcing the very paranoia against elitist government which your outraged fans relish. Demonize the long arms of the law that foes will bring to bear, like prosecutors, the FBI, CIA or whatever fits the bill. Attack all (“quasi-legal”) investigations as unAmerican “invasions,” smacking of ruthless Nazi Germany and jack-booted Gestapo. Treat Constitutional mandates as leaves flapping in the wind, not instructions or restrictions on the entitled messiah. If Trump does it, that makes it right, even right wing.
Lesson #2 Blame in advance your foes for committing the crimes you plan to commit (like lying, security breaches, subversion or bad faith). Project on your foes your own criminality (the FBI are the lawbreakers and third-world autocrats, along with Biden, Obama and Hilary). The Trump mission is to break all laws, then magically escape penalty. Can this carnival barker break more laws than anyone else and, thanks to entitlement, gall and daring do, escape unbloodied. Push every limit to find out how many outrageous ploys this Guru of Grift can pull off. So far, so good, Trump would brag, despite a matchless parade of chaos-making. Before he’s done, shooting a Fifth Avenue passerby may not be out of the question.
Thus, since all elections he loses must be rigged, the fascist mobster must outdo the connivers with greater ruthlessness. The noble end always justifies the suspect means. Trump is skilled at counter-plays, committed to “ripoff the ripoff artists.” The righteous won’t conquer illegitimacy by playing by the rules.
Lesson #3 Keep everyone (foes and fans) guessing, forever surpassing the last scam with bold, new preemptive strikes. Trump started out by shocking the world, as the anti-immigrant, outraged messiah of grievance, then when successful (beyond dreams of avarice) rode the inherent right wing, racist wave against law, justice, truth, minorities and majority rule. If a scam works, then repeat ad infinitum, or until it doesn’t.
Lesson #4 Criminal disruptors need “insurance” or ballast to deflect disgrace, bad press or failures. To achieve a daunting federal election takeover requires a protection racket against great, status quo powers that be. If one can’t mafia-like buy “influence” with cash, today’s insurgents buy it with publicity or slavish support—and friendly media. Thus Trump assails non-supportive press and the phantom deep state, instruments that could impede his power manias. Lying and slander were mandatory because Trumpian fascism, with its own reality, must invalidate any other better “truths” the nefarious elites use to control the masses.
Lesson #5: Leverage your own contradictions. Elevate your peerless manliness (and potency, able to fix anything) with your unprecedented self-created victimhood (thus conceding great power to foes). In public, especially at rallies, strut like Mr. Macho, full of sneering, mocking belligerence, showing yourself so powerful your terrified low-life enemies will do anything (even abuse their own law) to survive. Like any classic underdog, Trump needs to anticipate, then overcome attempts to scapegoat him. Instead, scapegoat your enemies before they scapegoat you.
Lesson #6: Whatever happens—win, lose or draw—keep the predatory fundraising machine going. If you win, you need more money to “win more;” if you lose, you are desperate and need even more funds. Actually, there are no draws. Just like a crooked televangelist, the fascist schemer is God’s appointed messenger. Why, that makes Trump donations akin to religious contributions (even implicitly winning you points in the great beyond).
Somewhere there is potential good news because Trump’s infamy expands quicker than Pinocchio’s nose—so much so it’s dawning on even backward Americans that Trump has gone way too far. A little criminality in a president is one thing; but an endless torrent, and with overt anti-election and anti-democratic fascist objectives—nah, that’s beyond the pale. And now, after the fact, when he’s out of office. Too much—and the people cringe.
Outrage is a two-way street and busting up American institutions is bad enough. But sneering about it, piling up lies and pushing our faces in the total swampiness Trump swore to drain, that invites the wrath of the multitudes. Problem is, pathological control freaks never know when enough is enough. Either we have a functional justice system, one that punishes perpetual malefactors, or Trumpian pitch-forkers continue to burn the Constitution on the Trumpian pyre.