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Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, A Historic Crime in the Making

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

It was at his "homecoming" rally -- he was giving up his old stomping grounds in New York City, including Fifth Avenue, that famed street where he could shoot someone and still "wouldn't lose voters," for his Mar-a-Lago resort in the swing state that means so much to him -- and he was "ranting and raving" (his words) to thousands of red-hatted, red-shirted supporters in the city of Sunrise, Florida, about how they were going to guarantee him "another at least five years" in office (and don't think that "at least" was a mistake from the leading potential autocrat of the Western Hemisphere) and like this sentence, that rally -- go watch it yourself -- was a perfect picture of his sometimes incoherent, sometimes rapier-sharp stream-of-consciousness presidency.

Here's a little sample to give you a taste of the man who is never-endingly with us all:

"Nobody, in the first three years of a presidency, has done what we've done, nobody. That's very important. With your help, we're going to complete the mission. We are draining the swamp. On Election Day 2020, the crazy Democrats are going down in a landslide. That landslide, that landslide is going to start right here in the great state of Florida."

And don't forget those fans of his waving "Keep America Great!" signs, chanting "USA! USA! USA!" and "Four More Years!" and "I want nothing -- no quid pro quo!" while the president threw insults at "Shifty Schiff," "Slow, Sleepy Joe," the "crooked New York Times," and the rest of the crew (to enthusiastic choruses of boos) -- "Now, they say, give us anything, we'll impeach him. Let him go to the refrigerator and pick an orange from Florida, no less. We'll impeach him" -- even as he praised his own "gorgeous chest," his many victories, real or imagined ("And then we beat Barack Hussein Obama and whatever the hell dynasty that is"), and above all his feelings about those present, "the greatest base in the history of politics" ("we're winning, you're smarter, you're better looking, you're sharper. They call themselves elite. If they're elite, then we're the super elite") in a world in which -- in case you hadn't noticed -- "everyone is getting rich and I'm working my ass off." And, of course, amid the nonstop raving and ranting were bevies of claims that, as ever, bore no relation to reality. ("We are strongly protecting our environment because we want America to have the cleanest air and cleanest water anywhere on Earth," "After years of rebuilding other nations, we are finally rebuilding our nation. It is about time," and so on and so forth.)

A rally like that one is a reminder that, while Donald Trump may be the president of the one percent, he's also caught the grievances of at least 35%-40% of this country, of a heartland population that in 2016 felt it (and its idea of America) was being ground to dust and wanted to send a man to Washington who represented its collective middle finger. Three-plus years later, that base is still cheering him on and when you start with such a steadfast part of the population, heading into an election year, you're somewhere, especially if you're already the president of the United States and the economy doesn't take the sort of sudden 2007 nosedive that helped elect Barack Obama.

Given all this, those chants of "Four More Years!" or maybe, sooner or later, "Five More Years!" or "Eight More Years!" need some explaining, some deeper understanding, which is why TomDispatchregular Rebecca Gordon, author most recently of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, takes a deep dive into the history of this country, a sort of "400 More Years!" version of Donald Trump's America. Tom

What's Wrong With the Republicans?
Fruits of the Twin Roots of Evil: Slavery and Imperial Expansion
By Rebecca Gordon

On the Thursday of the second week of the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment hearings, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had a special guest on his weekly podcast, Carl Bernstein. It was Bernstein, with fellow Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, whose reporting broke open the story of how the Committee to Re-elect the President burglarized Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C. That reporting and the impeachment hearings that followed eventually forced President Richard Nixon to resign in disgrace in 1974. Bharara wanted to hear about what differences Bernstein sees between the Nixon impeachment proceedings and Donald Trump's today.

That was the week when the New York Times reported that viewership of those "boring" hearings was proving to be "as big as Monday Night Football." That was the week when the world heard from, among others, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman on Donald Trump's July 25th "perfect" phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky; from ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on how "everyone was in the loop" when it came to the Ukrainian quid pro quo (not to speak of his "Zelensky loves your ass" exchange with the president); and from the steely former Trump adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill, on how that country promulgated the fiction that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 American election.

That should have been enough to convince anyone paying attention that the president had indeed attempted to trade a Zelensky White House visit and U.S. military aid for an announcement that Ukraine was investigating its own (fictitious) interference in that election and the (equally fictitious) corruption of Joe Biden via his son Hunter. Clearly, however, the Republicans in Congress were anything but convinced.

Bharara reminded Bernstein that, when Richard Nixon was at risk of impeachment, key Republican congressional figures, including two senators (at a moment when, as now, Republicans had a majority in that body) encouraged the president to resign rather than be impeached and be convicted in a trial there. Why, Bharara asked, is today's Republican Party more loyal to the president than the Constitution and the rule of law?

Bernstein replied that, in his view, the divisions in the U.S. today are no longer simply a matter of ideological differences -- disagreements about what constitutes a good society and how to achieve it. The whole country, he suggested, is already embroiled in a "cold civil war" that's vividly reflected in Congress. If so, then it's a complex war indeed, involving at least four allied but also diverging forces in today's Republican Party:

  • Those motivated by white anxiety and resentment, some of whom also tend to be isolationists opposing U.S. military adventures abroad;

  • Those dedicated to maintaining U.S. military expansion around the world, some of whom genuinely believe in the ultimate superiority of a white, Christian United States and some of whom care only about the projection of force;

  • Right-wing evangelicals, many sharing white resentment and also ready to make common cause with the forces of imperial expansion, especially when it comes to support for Israel;

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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