- I've generally been unconcerned with soon to be former President Donald Trump's post-election flailings. Ther attempts to undermine the election results seem like more of a moneymaking scheme than anything serious.
- But there are some worrying trends that Trump exposed during his tantrum.
- The US economy is still fundamentally broken, the right-wing media is more than willing to subvert the truth, and the Republican party is undermining our republic.
- There needs to be real change to fix these problems.
- Daniel Alpert is an adjunct professor at Cornell Law School.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
I am joined in today's column by my colleague at Cornell Law School, Dr. Robert C. Hockett (that's two doctorate degrees, including a JSD – which is like a PhD on steroids – Mr. Epstein). Bob and I have had an ongoing discussion over the weeks since November 3 regarding the actions of Donald Trump and the majority of the Republican Party establishment to undermine the legitimacy of the election and attempt to overturn it.
The debate has generally taken the form of Bob's recitation of any number of concerns and warnings with regard to what might be attempted by the Trumpian right and how it might spiral into a constitutional crisis or outright anarchy.
By contrast, I – having had decades of experience with and observing Trump – urge calm amidst what strikes me quite clearly as just another in a long line of attention seeking, self-promotional, grifting episodes. You can count on Donald Trump to squeeze every last nickel out of his naïve and impressionable "apprentices" to finance his comfortable existence.
It's a mirror image of the Trump University, Trump Network, and Trump Institute, schemes. Trump has chumped everyone from real estate buyers, to banks, to lenders, to those who voted for him for president. Somewhere between brazenly horrifying and pathetic — but not an existential threat to the United States of America.
Trump has pulled in an "impressive" haul of more than $200 million since the election. This money is nominally to finance his campaign-related legal expenses and another run for the presidency in 2024, but is almost definitely to finance his and his family's lifestyle and to turn The Trump Organization into a Central Committee of the Republican Party.
Again, pitiful and weirdly cultish, for both the willing knaves who threw money at Trump and the formerly Grand Old Party. Even troublesome for soon-to-be President Biden. But something that would quickly fade in significance under the own weight of its absurdity once the moving vans relocated Trump's place of residence.
Tut-tut, I said to my brilliant but hand-wringing colleague – let's not get all extreme about what we say and alienate more of the 74 million who voted to reelect Trump this year. We must unify the country as best we can after this snake-oil salesman of a president is out of office.
Truth-be-told, however, I am now starting to doubt my own sanguinity. 17 state attorneys general were joined by more than 100 Republican members of Congress in backing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the voting process in four other states. Republicans in Texas (and elsewhere) have been advocating secession from the Union. These developments get my attention.
I fully expect tens of millions of Americans to reject Joe Biden's presidency – after all, tens of millions of my tribe rejected Trump. But there is a false equivalence brewing as well. Thousands marching in pink pussy hats is a world away from thousands marching with loaded semi-automatic weapons.
Maybe it is right to sense the possibility of, and prepare for, an armed threat to the viability of the Republic? Do we need to dig out Title 18 of the U.S. Code, § 2383. on Rebellion and Insurrection, to contemplate the near-future of this nation?
Let's allow Professor Hockett to answer those questions:
I so want to be wrong here. My worry, however, is now less about Trump than about what Trump has laid bare. One short-term exigency and three long-term transformations, I fear, that mix as stably as nitrate and glycerin where the durability of republican self-government is concerned. I'll start with the long-term problems.
First is the loss of productive opportunity to all but a few strata of American society over the past 50 years. That is a loss which fosters first bewilderment, then resentment, then rage – blind rage that waits to be channeled.
Second is the spread, over the past 30 years, of Fox, a "foreign-owned" media complex (Rupert Murdoch is Australian, naturalized as an American in 1985 precisely so that he could acquire US television stations) able to channel that aforementioned rage by making a psychic reality of unreality for the aforementioned enraged millions, millions who seek simple explanations of — or easy scapegoats for — their plight.
Finally third is the degradation, again over the past 30 years, of a major political party into a fifth column actively undermining (small 'r') republican self-government. Acting in coordination with the aforementioned media complex, this subversive organization is able to engage in election tampering, sedition, and active incitement to political violence under the guise of legitimate political contestation.
We have avoided terminal disaster with this election only thanks to the fact that Trump's incompetence is the sole trait more salient than his sociopathy. The next Trump will not be a bungler. What, then, to do?
Well, in the immediate term, I suspect we will have to do what we must to confront outright rebellion. The good news here is that, like the "Whiskey Rebels" before them, the current crop of weekend warriors turn tail and run at the first sign of actual law enforcement – something that they haven't really experienced while Trump has been in office.
In the medium and longer term, we must simply get serious about the above long term chronic conditions. Reverse 40 years of Republican party and 'Third Way' austerity politics and invest trillions in restoring the turbocharged – and universally inclusive – American industrial policy that is our Hamiltonian inheritance (i.e. truly 'Build Back Better'). Restore the FCC's Fairness Doctrine that Reagan ended in 1988, thereby putting an end to all propaganda networks like Fox, Sinclair, and even MSNBC. And finally, commence a RICO investigation into the electoral activities of the Trump-dominated Republican National Committee, which has morphed into an organized crime ring. If that sounds 'extreme,' remember that the extremity originates in the disease, not the cure.
The coming weeks will be seized by a combination of extremes: an intensifying pandemic, a continued economic catastrophe and — whatever turn it ultimately takes — either continued protest or more violent civil unrest. That's quite an explosive cocktail – and one we haven't developed a vaccine to control.
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