The Devil appears to Comrade Donald Trump the morning after the 2016 election. He says, “Comrade, I have three suggestions for you as president. First, you should undermine and destroy representative democracy. Second, you should downplay the severity of a deadly epidemic. Third, you should stop wearing lifts in your shoes.” Trump asks, “Why should I stop wearing lifts in my shoes?” The Devil grins. “Yeah, I figured you wouldn’t object to the first two.”
I’ve been on something of a social media holiday the last week or two. I haven’t been actively avoiding it; I’ve just spent less time fiddling with social media and engaging in or responding to it. But this morning I read some reporting about Comrade Trump and found myself imagining Trump in conversation with the devil.
The reporting this morning suggests Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who has been investigating whether the Trump Organization deliberately misled lenders and/or tax authorities about the value of its properties, is going to indict Trump personally for racketeering. It may be true. If so, it will be a tiny (but very welcome) step toward holding Trump accountable for some small fraction of the harm he’s done to the United States.
It’s difficult to describe…hell, it’s difficult to even comprehend…the scope of Trump’s corrosive effect on US society. His casual, reflexive lying about almost anything has become a common aspect of GOP political rhetoric. His nonchalant petty corruption–using the office of POTUS to enrich himself–has tarnished the office itself; perhaps not beyond repair, but the Trump stink lingers. His vindictiveness against anybody or anything he believes has slighted him has created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in governance. His indifference to public health has not only contributed to the death of more than 800,000 US citizens, but sparked an unhinged conspiratorial view of the medical profession. His unthinking automatic racism has fueled racial violence against almost every racial, ethnic, and religious minority group in the country. His cheap, performative imitation of patriotism has degraded the national capacity to be truly proud of the nation. His perpetual insecurity has turned conservatism into a whiny, grievance-oriented, resentful group of fear-biters.
Combine all that with Trump’s deliberate, willful undermining of the norms of representative democracy, and you end up with a bitterly divided nation in which a third of the population is willing–even eager–to scrap nearly 250 years of semi-cooperative governance and replace it with an authoritarian regime grounded in white resentment and free-floating rage.
I don’t know that indicting–and, it’s to be hoped, convicting–Trump for ordinary crimes like racketeering or tax evasion (rather than the political crimes he’s certainly committed) is the most effective method for undoing the damage he’s done. But it’s a good start.
That assumes the reporting is accurate. Which reminds me–Trump’s manipulation of the news media had warped the very notion of responsible journalism. One more black mark on his Devil’s scorecard.