GOP Trump defense: performative art or stupidity? by Marjorie Arons Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons Barron’s own blog.

How can someone be an ostrich, a worm, a sheep, a jackal and a dodo all at the same time? It’s no zoological mystery. Trump supporters in Congress – the House particularly – do it every day, even those who criticize him privately. So too do most of the other Republican Presidential candidates, most of whom are auditioning to be his running mate or cabinet member. And his steadfast base….they scare me the most.

These three clusters keep their heads in the sand, denying the facts of Trump’s 2020 election loss, choosing not to read the Special Prosecutor’s 49-page indictment documenting his obstruction of justice and mishandling of top-secret government files, and refusing to acknowledge Trump’s own recorded words interfering with the electoral process. They wallow in slime while slithering on the ground to prostrate themselves before their cult leader. With nary a bleat, they follow the lead of outspoken conspiracy believers in the House and their media heroes who traffic in lies and outrage. Meanwhile, other ditto-heads  in what once was  the Grand Old Party just nod in agreement, comfortable in their know-nothingness.

Polls confirm that Trump’s base accepts his serial abusiveness toward women and doesn’t care about his confirmed illegal and unethical business practices.  They even clearly believe that his misdeeds keeping, hiding, not securing, and disclosing classified government documents were not serious and should not have been treated as crimes. They repeat his lies about having returned all appropriate documents, when he returned only a few. They don’t care if he rejected his lawyers’ advice that all the remaining documents be returned to their proper owner, the U.S. government. Most couldn’t care less that Trump’s cavalier handling of top-secret documents could put at risk our nuclear secrets and safety (note: he didn’t even have the power alone to declassify nuclear documents), the lives of U.S. military here and abroad, exposing our vulnerabilities to attacks, the weapons capabilities of our allies, and safety of sources and human assets serving the U.S. under cover abroad.

Trump apologists mindlessly adopt his talking points. They blame the “politicization” of the Justice Department. Never mind the critical assessment of his own attorney general Bill Barr.  They ignore that Special Counsel and respected prosecutor Jack Smith has prosecuted Democrats as well as Republicans. (including former Senator and vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, for campaign finance violations.) Embracing false equivalencies, the faithful cite President Biden’s files, refusing to acknowledge that, when documents were discovered in the President’s Delaware home and outside offices, he dutifully notified the authorities immediately and turned the files over. Instead, the sheep bleat that it is Biden who is corrupt and using the Justice Department to destroy his opponent’s candidacy. And they cheer his promises to use, when re-elected, his Justice Department to exact political revenge on his opponents.

Three quarters of Republican or leaning-Republican voters recently polled say they view favorably the former President. He has seen an eight-point jump in support since February. Two thirds say they will definitely vote for him in the primaries. It’s easy to say that a poll is just a snapshot in time, but Trump’s rising numbers are unremitting. And each indictment generates millions of dollars in small donations.

This is a man who fomented an insurrection January 6th, 2021. Lives were lost, and the keystone tenet of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power, was compromised. This is a man who tried to intimidate election officials and overturn certified voting results, insisting the rightful winner had stolen the election. This is a man who allegedly (just read the 37-charge indictment, friends) conspired to keep as his own property and mishandle confidential and top-secret documents, –a jaw-dropping risk to our national security.

Mar-A-Lago isn’t a secure place. Plus, on at least two occasions, the former President is known to have shown classified documents to parties without security clearance. Would Trump have kept the documents to be able to trade information with foreign entities in exchange for cash or to further his private business deals? His motives may have been much more nefarious than simply wanting them to show how important he is? We don’t know.

One thing we can be sure of. If Donald Trump is elected President in 2024 and sworn in on January 20th of 2025, his first act will likely be to pardon himself for all known and unknown criminal behavior. Scholars, lawyers and other experts may dispute that it is legal to do so. But you know he will try.

President Biden has had the most productive record of accomplishments since LBJ. He continues to work hard, doing the job. But growing concerns about his physical capacity, coupled with uncertainties about Vice President Kamala Harris’s competency to step in if needed, make this time more perilous than we have seen in decades. Given all that has happened since November 2020, it’s staggering to read that, were the election held today, Biden leads Trump nationally by only a little more than the margin of error. I see few glimmers that Trump’s support is eroding.

Radical polarization of the electorate against the backdrop of declining trust in public institutions makes for many sleepless nights. Rational discourse to resolve differences assumes a capacity for nuance that is increasingly elusive. The entire system is under stress, and so are we.

After his arraignment in Miami last week, Trump stopped by a Little Havana bakery to cheers, birthday songs and prayers for his well-being. He expansively promised “food for everyone,” but according to reports paid for nothing. As usual, others were left to pay the bills.

What should we call those who fall for his cons time and time and time again? Some are suckers. Some are willfully ignorant. Some are criminally complicit. The rest of us could be, simply, victims.