Each day’s developments and revelations make Trump’s hold on power look increasingly shaky.
We now know that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — who was candidate Trump’s campaign manager at the time — met with a Russian lawyer with ties to Russian intelligence in an effort to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
We have Trump raging against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his decision to recuse himself and for failing to disclose his contacts with a Russian official as a surrogate for candidate Trump. The repeated encounters between members of the Trump circle and Russians and their repeated disclosure failures suggest there’s at least some smoke surrounding the suspicion that the Trump campaign promised a hostile foreign power favors in exchange for assistance with the 2016 election. What Russia wants from Trump is obvious — an agreement to lift economic sanctions and a free hand to act aggressively against its neighbors without American interference. Trump’s bald statements about Sessions to the New York Times suggest nothing so much as a gangster complaining that his lawyer won’t help conceal his crimes.
And then came the abrupt resignation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Blue-state America likely views Spicer’s departure as a signal that the rats are beginning to flee a sinking ship. It’s definitely a significant development, but it also marks the beginning of a dangerous new phase in the continuing deterioration of political cohesion in the United States.
There isn’t much mystery as to why Congressional Republicans, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) — the chair of the Intelligence Committee — are reluctant to hold Trump accountable. They aren’t driving the vehicle of state. They know that the ire of Trump’s political base is as much directed at them as at progressive Democrats, and that they will feel their full fury if they break with the president. Trump was elected because a significant portion of the American electorate was angry, and they wanted a populist demagogue who was willing to violate democratic norms. The revelations have not caused them to reassess Trump. Instead, their hardening scorn for media elites, progressives and institutional politics has reinforced their affection for Trump, and prompted them to reassess their views on Russia.
Looking at the Trump saga through the lens of blue-state America, it’s easy to imagine Trump’s supporters becoming demoralized and lashing out in anger. In fact, the general feeling among the president’s grassroots backers appears to be closer to euphoria at the prospect of a coming showdown.
Alex Jones, host of “InfoWars,” announced in a July 21 broadcast — based on alleged undisclosed sources — that Spicer’s departure was due to the discovery that he was one of the leakers.
“The word is the hammer’s coming down,” Jones gloated.
“This is very exciting, very important,” he continued. “This is an amazing time to be alive. Stick to your guns. Don’t let folks bully you. Hold fast. Move forward.”
The danger to the American republic is that Trump’s supporters see the effort to remove their man from office as a mirror image of the very same threat that the resistance sees in Trump — essentially a self-dealing gangster enterprise leading to certain tyranny.
“This is an effort to subvert the administration of President Donald Trump,” conservative media personality Lou Dobbs told Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and Trump media-apologist-in-chief, on July 14. “It is nothing less. It is an effort by the deep state to roll over a duly elected president and a legitimate government and to break the will of the American people.”
The activists on the extreme right, though fractured by infighting, are mobilizing in various ways for a showdown. The Oath Keepers, a patriot militia group comprised of military veterans and retired law enforcement, and Bikers for Trump are turning out in support of the Rally for America in Washington DC on Saturday. The Facebook page for the event describes it as an opportunity “to show our pride in the USA and support for our new president.”
Oath Keepers have largely shunned the overt white supremacy of Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Workers Party and Richard Spencer, who are building a coalition under the banner of the alt-right. Spencer and his allies credit Trump with delegitimizing the mainstream media, but ultimately want to supplant him, and also to sideline more moderate players like the Oath Keepers.
It stands to reason that as the House of Trump begins to shudder, the white supremacist movement would feel emboldened. They are pledging an unprecedented turnout at a separate Aug. 12 rally billed as “Unite the Right.”
“I think Charlottesville has the potential to be a breakthrough moment in our activism,” writes Hunter Wallace, a white supremacist commentator. “There is so much energy which has been bottled up online over the past 15 years that the dam is close to breaking. It is only a matter of time before it finally spills over into the real world, and we are getting very close to that point.”
Half of America is dumbstruck at the fact that a figure as appalling as Trump could become president. Unfortunately, many of us lack the imagination to comprehend how much worse things can get.