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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 1/24/21

Good morning!


It’s been a crazy week of excitement to turn the page on the darkness of the Trump era and the reality that this is going to be tough going ahead. With COVID deaths reaching over 400,000, likely 500,000 by mid-February and 600,000 well in sight, all while the vaccine roll-out is sporadic, disorganized, and lacking in clear instruction. Meanwhile, we are plagued by “true patriots” resisting instructions to mask-up and keep distanced, in the face of overwhelming evidence that these simple acts could bring down the spread.


Meanwhile, Josh Hawley is doubling down on his desire to further solidify his position as the keeper of the scorched-earth strategy alive by slow-tracking the nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security because he hasn't shown fealty to aggressive action on our southern border. Not to be outdone, Mitch McConnell has made clear he will be the “agent for no change,” standing in the way of anything he can through use of the filibuster and arcane Senate procedures. But enough of them.


Sundays previously were devoted to “in his own words,” a compendium of the tweets and pronouncements of our former Dear Leader. Now that he is hunkered-down in Mar-a-Lago licking his wounds from a landslide election he still thinks he didn’t lose, banned from the “mainstream” social media platforms, contemplating having defend myriad lawsuits and government investigations regarding his feckless business dealings, his financial over-leveraging, and his prior alleged sexual misconduct, I’m guessing he’ll be talking less. Add to that that the “mainstream” media (including Fox) increasingly will see him and his regular outbursts as not so story-worthy any more.


Now, of course, we are headed toward another impeachment trial. The dye already has been cast. He will not be convicted in the trial, as the Democrats will not muster the 17 Republican votes they require to convict. They will get four or five—maybe even six or seven—but it will end with that. So why all the fuss? I think the House practically had to impeach, even knowing conviction was unlikely, for reasons I’ve already stated. But establishing a line in the sand for future would-be autocrats was important. It is equally important to force the Republicans to “choose sides” in the Senate. It will be interesting to see how many will risk being “primaried” in order to do what they no doubt think is right. And if they vote in favor of the President, they will be forever tarnished by what we will come to learn of the excesses and illegalities of this singularly unfit man.


As Mark Schwartz points out, “One way to make sure the GOP loses seats is to have the party at war with itself and continue on its dysfunctional path. The easiest way to keep the GOP on the path of self-destruction is to keep up the infighting between the Retrumplicans and the rest of the party we formerly knew as Republican...I find it ironic that those that voted to overturn the Electoral College, that voted to murder American democracy, that hoped their undying loyalty to Trump would serve them in their next re-election are calling for unity in America and fighting an impeachment trial in the Senate.”


I agree but it's all about politics. Curiously, it is possible the impeachment trial itself could in fact help the Republicans, who no doubt will rely upon two ideas: 1. Impeachment seems like a silly remedy for a guy defeated at the ballot box, and 2. This was one single act and it can’t be demonstrated that Trump’s “rallying the troops” was the proximate cause of the insurrection at the Capitol. They will paint the Democrats as wasting valuable legislative time and it will no doubt slow the Biden legislative agenda. The Democrats will be made to look petty and perhaps even silly. And none of this helps President Biden.


What is lost in this impeachment, as was in the last, is that it is focused on but a single bad act of Mr. Trump and his sycophants,. The mendacity of these people, however, is better understood not solely by a single act (in this case his perpetuation of lies about the election and his repeated calls for action). Nor last time should have been restricted solely to the single act of trying to strong-arm a foreign leader to do his bidding in interfering with an American election for Mr. Trump’s own benefit. Nor is it measured by his willing support of, and dissemblance regarding, the clear, confirmed Russian interference with social media to sow discord and manipulate our election. In the broader context of history we will learn that the sheer volume of misdeeds, the bald-faced lies, self-dealing and thwarting of democracy will demonstrate why these repeated abuses made Mr. Trump arguably the worst president in the history of the republic.


Let’s remember that, as crazy as Mr. Nixon might have been, he achieved considerable advances during his presidency and ultimately accepted resignation in disgrace rather than dragging the country through an impeachment and trial. The hapless Buchanan, who helped bring about the Civil War, did so through stupidity and missteps, but not active attempts to precipitate it. Trump, however, is the primary source of the revolt of the far right and he did little to dissuade it. Andrew Johnson might give Trump a run for his money, presiding over the pullback from Reconstruction (that temporarily was slowed by Grant but ultimately completed by Hayes). Taylor and Tyler, no heroes, did much to demean their stature when not President. Trump is number one!


The ultimate result of all of this will not rest with the Senate. It will be the success of the Biden administration, the actions of the Senate Republicans in the face of further economic calamity, and the judgment of the American people (as they gain perspective on the Trump criminality, of which I believe we still haven’t heard the worst). Hopefully the American people will not be persuaded by the disinformation on the Internet, counter-fact and counter-science in the conservative press, or the continued craven pronouncements and positioning by Messrs. Hawley, Cruz and their compatriots.


We are not out of the woods yet. To paraphrase Churchill, we are not at the end of these attacks against truth and the attempts to institute a near-totalitarian remaking of the American experiment, but we hopefully are at the beginning of the end.


This coming week, some thoughts on the COVID situation, some books and movies and a little bit of ancient and recent history.


Have a great day,


Glenn

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