Trump’s War On Democracy.

January 6th was the latest, and hopefully the last, step in Trump’s plan to become president for life. To fully appreciate the seriousness of his attempted coup, it’s helpful to look at his actions leading up to the election and the plan to overthrow our government by assassinating congressional Democrats, independent Republicans, and even Vice-President Pence.

Following are the highlights or, more appropriately, the lowlights:

1 – More than a year ago, Trump attempted to weaken his likely election opponent by illegally withholding aid to Ukraine unless the nation announced an investigation of Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. It was this action that led to his first impeachment.

2 – Trump used his compliant Attorney General to announce an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation claiming that Obama and Biden illegally “spied” on his 2016 campaign.

3 – Trump refused to say that he would accept election results unless he won. He repeatedly claimed that Democrats were trying to rig the election.

4 – Trump and his Republican supporters attempted to block all mail-in ballots claiming that it would open the election to widespread fraud. This was a transparent attempt to block Democratic votes, since Democrats had encouraged supporters to vote by mail to minimize their exposure to Covid-19.

5 – Trump replaced the Postmaster General with one of his donors and sycophants who apparently set about delaying and obstructing mail-in ballots, especially those in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. At the same time, the Trump campaign sued to block states from counting ballots received after election day.

6 – Trump replaced the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security with inexperienced sycophants likely hoping that he could count on military support for his coup and a weakened response to his hostile takeover.

7 – Prior to election day, Trump claimed that the true winner of the election would be the candidate with the most votes by midnight and stated that any votes counted after that time would be fraudulent.

8 – On the night of the election, Trump claimed victory saying he won in a landslide.

9 – When Trump’s then-favorite TV channel, Fox News, called Arizona for Joe Biden, Trump went ballistic and ranted that it was fake news – that he won Arizona.

10 – When the media eventually called the election for Biden, Trump again claimed that it was fake news and claimed the results were fraudulent.

11 – Before states certified results, Trump demanded recounts in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

12 – When the recounts failed, Trump called Republican legislative leaders and governors in swing states demanding they reject Biden’s slate of electors and appoint their own.

13 – Trump’s lawyers filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts to overturn the election results. He organized “Stop the Steal” protests at state capitols across the country. And he tweeted that the election was rigged no less than 157 times. None of it worked.

14 – Trump called governors and secretaries of state to encourage them to overturn the election. When that didn’t work, he threatened them. He called Georgia’s Secretary of State 18 times before the Secretary finally accepted the call during which Trump asked the secretary to “find” enough votes for him to win.

15 – Trump promoted a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. for the day Congress was to certify the electoral votes, tweeting, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” (Interestingly, the rates for Trump’s Washington hotel were raised to $4,200/night for the rally.)

16 – Trump tweeted that V.P. Pence could reject “fraudulent” electoral votes on January 6th. He told supporters to “fight like hell.” He also tweeted, “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules.”

17 – Prior to the rally, Trump supporters and domestic terrorist groups exchanged plans for the rally on social media. Many of the social media posts called for violence which caused the FBI to warn of an impending “war” at the capitol.

18 – It has been reported that, prior to the coup attempt, a foreign entity (Vlad, was that you?) transferred $500,000 to some of the violent groups that were ultimately involved.

19 – Astonishingly, Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies seemed woefully unprepared for the “war” on January 6th. The reason for their lack of preparedness is still unclear. Was it because of the inexperienced leadership that was installed by Trump? Or was the lack of preparation ordered by Trump?

20 – On the day of the rally, thousands of Trump supporters (including members of at least seven hate groups) descended on Washington to hear Trump, Don Jr., Giuliani, Mo Brooks and others claim that the election was stolen. Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” Trump encouraged the crowd to march to the capitol to “take back our country.”

21 – It is now clear that many of the terrorists had knowledge of the floorplans and the location of the offices of Democratic leadership. Many chanted “We want Nancy” and “Hang Mike Pence.” Some came with flexcuffs obviously intended to capture, restrain and likely murder members of Congress.

22 – As most Americans watching coverage of the insurrection recoiled in horror, Trump waited hours before calling for his followers to go home. But he refused to denounce the violence. Instead, he tweeted that he “loved” the terrorists.

23 – Trump and a majority of congressional Republicans have yet to admit that there was no election fraud despite the fact that many of those who confirmed and certified the election results are Republicans. And despite Trump’s own appointee to oversee election security declaring the 2020 election as “the most secure in US history.”

We still have much to learn about the violent coup. But we don’t need a crystal ball to divine the intentions of the mob and its wannabe dictator. Since Trump failed at his re-election, almost certainly, he intended to retain office by force. And his “soldiers” are already planning their next assault.

The Failure Of Language In The Age Of Trump.

As a professional writer who has a journalism degree and as someone who taught writing at the collegiate level, I believe words matter. Unfortunately, I feel too many journalists, politicians, and elected officials failed us during the administration of Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, I believe their choice of words to describe his outrageous behavior have both encouraged and enabled him.

For example, in the era of Trump, empathy, politeness and humility have been labeled as “political correctness.” Right-wing propagandists are dismissed as “conservatives.” Domestic terrorists are labeled as “extremists.” Violent militias and hate groups are labeled as “radicals.” Seditionists are known as “patriots.” And insurrectionist politicians are part of “the freedom caucus.”

Voter suppression is “enforcing voter ID laws.” Voter disenfranchisement is “updating voter registration.” Civil rights marches and protests are “riots” while threatening gatherings of armed militias are “demonstrations.”

When Trump bombarded us with lies and disinformation, far too many reporters referred to the lies as “factually incorrect” or “untrue.” When he made racist statements and encouraged violence, reporters called them “an attack on political norms.” Even when he called journalists enemies of the people, few reporters were willing to acknowledge his behavior as that of an autocrat.

When Trump ordered children to be ripped from their parents’ arms, too many reported that he had increased “border security,” instead of calling his order what it really was: child torture. When he refused asylum to political and economic refugees, he was “tough on immigration.” But, by sending them back to almost certain death, he was acting as an accomplice to mass murder. And both the Russia investigation and Trump’s first impeachment were labeled by some as “witch hunts.”

Yet, never has the issue become more obvious than in aftermath of Trump’s attempted coup.

Though the assault on Congress was clearly an effort to kidnap and murder those elected representatives who refused to do Trump’s bidding by overturning the election, the language was quickly softened. Instead of calling it a coup, an insurrection, or even domestic terrorism, many described it merely as an “attack,” a “riot,” or a mere “demonstration.” Some of the buffoons on Fox News even said, “America had it coming.”

Let’s be clear. We can never heal this nation until we have a shared truth. That requires precision of language – language that accurately describes what we have collectively seen and experienced. We must do better.

The Origins Of Insurrection.

As I watched our Capitol – the cathedral of democracy – invaded by a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, militias and conspiracy theorists under the banners of Trump, QAnon, and the Confederacy, I was both horrified and transfixed. But it was clear to me that the seeds of insurrection and hate were planted years earlier and nurtured by many…

– By the GOP southern strategy of the seventies that embraced racism for political gain.
– By the criminals Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon and Spiro Agnew who brought corruption to the West Wing and who tried to subvert elections.
– By Ronald Reagan who fomented distrust of the government and whose economic policies hollowed out the middle class and moved many into poverty.
– By Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and other religious leaders who called for discrimination against gays and women who chose abortions over childbirth.
– By Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the entire GOP propaganda network who used their media platforms to incite their audiences into an anti-government fervor by claiming Democrats and liberals were enemies of democracy.
– By Republicans who, in an attempt to repay Democrats for Nixon’s forced resignation, conducted a seven-year and $70 million hunt for dirt on the Clintons.
– By the racists, including Donald J. Trump, who refused to accept that Barack Obama was born in the US and, therefore, eligible to be president of the United States.
– By the Tea Party, including congressional representatives and senators who promoted false claims that the Great Recession was created by President Obama and that he was acting unconstitutionally.
– By Alex Jones who used his radio and Internet platforms to create and circulate bizarre conspiracy theories aimed at fomenting distrust of government and hate for Democrats.
– By GOP members of Congress who promoted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and conducted seemingly endless and outrageous investigations into the tragedy at Benghazi.
– By Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media that hosted a toxic brew of hate and anti-government conspiracy theories.
– By the Trump 2016 campaign that began with an appeal to racists and reached out to Russia for support and aid.
– By the mobs that chanted “lock her up” at every Trump rally.
– By the mainstream media that gave hours and hours of airtime to a reality TV “celebrity” and serial sexual assaulter in their insatiable quest for ratings.
– By the GOP that nominated and enabled a candidate who was clearly unfit and unqualified to become president.
– By former Attorney General William Barr who mischaracterized and dismissed the obvious crimes enumerated in the Muller Report.
– By GOP senators who refused to convict and remove Trump from office during his impeachment proceedings.
– By the outgoing occupant of the Oval Office who is clearly guilty of sedition.

Yet those most responsible, by far, are the Trump voters and supporters who put a conman in office, who excused his avarice and his obvious crimes, who supported his racist attacks on refugees and American citizens of color, who verbally and physically attacked journalists for reporting the truth, and who prioritized party and hatred of “the libs” over country.

They are all complicit in this assault on democracy.

Part John Gotti. Part Vladimir Putin.

That is the takeaway from Donald Trump’s hour-long call with the Georgia Secretary of State, in which he begged and bullied Brad Raffensperger, telling him he was “taking a big risk” unless he is able to “find” 11,800 votes that would give Georgia’s electoral votes to Trump.

The message was clear. Trump wanted Raffensberger to rig the election for his benefit.

Indeed, the whole tone of the recorded conversation was what you’d expect from a mafia boss speaking to a member of his mob. It’s also what you might expect from dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Bashar al-Assad, Nicolas Maduro, Kim Jong-un, Abdullah Aziz al Saud, or the late Saddam Hussein.

The call was not unlike the “perfect” call Trump made to the newly elected president of Ukraine in which he threatened to withhold US foreign aid unless Zelensky agreed to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden to help Trump win the 2020 election.

If you are familiar with Trump’s background, his attempts to defraud American voters should come as no surprise. As a developer in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada, Trump long played footsie with the Mafia. He was schooled in the ways of the mob by his late attorney, Ray Cohn. (Cohn’s clients also included Joseph Gambino along with other Mafia figures and the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy.) With Cohn’s mentorship, Trump was able to perfect the art of the con, which helped him defraud those who were enthralled by Trump’s “celebrity” to enroll in Trump University, to donate to Trump Charities, and to purchase overpriced Trump real estate. Ultimately, it’s what put him in the Oval Office.

Cohn taught Trump to exaggerate and lie. (On average, Trump has lied more than 23 times a day while in office.) Cohn and his successors helped Trump cheat at every turn, which may explain why Trump’s name appears 3,450 times in the Panama Papers, a database of those who avoid taxes by investing in offshore tax shelters. And, under Cohn’s tutelage, Trump learned to never admit failure or a mistake. Instead of apologizing or facing the consequences of his actions, Trump learned to bully, threaten, and sue to get what he wants. That’s why Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits.

Like a mob boss, Trump has surrounded himself with loyalists to do his unconstitutional bidding. When they have been caught, he has used his pardon power to keep them quiet. While following the tyrant’s playbook, he has used every lever available in his efforts to stay in power. And, in doing so, he has created more damage to our democracy than any of our external enemies could hope to do, which must make his current mentor, Vladimir Putin, very proud.

Will he ever pay for his cons and for the harm he has done to our nation?

At this point that’s unclear. He will likely try to pardon himself from his federal crimes. But that won’t save him from state crimes. And, given that the Southern District of New York is investigating his businesses for potential bank fraud and tax fraud, he may well end up like another crime boss – Al Capone.