Oh Golly, Are They Really Angry Now?

To hear them tell it, the Trump cultists -- which now evidently includes all but a tiny number of elected Republicans, along with the drones who attend his rallies and buy his crummy merch -- are now angry.  I mean, angry.  Really, truly p.o.'ed!  Weeping with rage.  Spitting fuckin' nails, man!!  And everyone else is going to pay the price.  Just you watch.

The question is whether the price that anyone pays will be any worse because of Trump's epic loss in criminal court in New York last week.  The answer to that question is no.

There is no point in quoting any of Trump's rantings on this topic, and the Speaker of the House with the generic name is so far gone on everything else that he is now effectively Trump's mini-me, using his dear leader's exact words in a one-man echo chamber.  And Johnson has recently decided to move on to new areas of depravity, responding to Senator Bernie Sanders's opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's invitation to address Congress by saying that Sanders and others are "siding with terrorists."  Yes, the Speaker who reportedly said only three weeks ago that people in Congress "need to treat one another with 'dignity and respect' despite their political differences" has no problem with personal attacks on people who sincerely disagree with him.  I have no doubt that Johnson thinks that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a communist, or that people who opposed the invasion of Iraq hate America.

But back to the cult's response to the Trump criminal case.  Trump and Johnson are utterly predictable, but it is interesting to see how others are deciding to perform their outrage.  Poor Marco Rubio, the senior senator from my former home state, first decided to say that Democrats "have crossed the line in which now the court system is a political weapon, and it’s going to be very hard for it not to come back the other way."  In its way, that was very Trumpian as well, because it mimics the indirect threats that masquerade as predictions: People are not going to put up with this!!  It's a sad day.  Trump uses that passive charade frequently.

Even so, it was possible (at least at first) to look at Rubio's comment and imagine responding to him with something like this:

OK, Marco, if that's what you sincerely think, are you going to do anything to try to prevent it from happening?  "Very hard" does not mean impossible, after all, and you appear to believe that it is bad to "weaponize" the courts.  For no conceivable reason, you have some stature in the Republican Party, so are you going to use it to tamp down the desire for retribution that is smoldering among your fellow believers?  Are you going to be a leader and do the hard work of leading?  If what you say is true, you are in a position to try to prevent the worst from happening.  You might be one of the only people who could prevent this from flaring up into a horrible cycle of revenge.  Will you do that?

I did not, of course, imagine that Rubio would do any such thing, but I also imagined that he would leave it at as an indirect threat.  Lack of shame and undying ambition being what they are, however, the perpetually twitchy lawmaker then tweeted that President Biden is "a demented man propped up by wicked & deranged people willing to destroy our country to remain in power. It’s time to fight (fire emoji) with (fire emoji)."  So much for any lamentations or thoughts that "it's going to be very hard" to stop Republicans from burning the place down.  Rubio decided to open a Molotov cocktail concession stand.

To read or hear anything from the right these days, one would think that they have been playing nice all this time, but now -- now -- they are ready to take the gloves off.  One of Fox's evening hosts, for example, had a segment (part of which I saw on a late-night talk show, because I care about myself too much to watch such insanity in the original) with the chyron "Waking a Sleeping Giant," while the host talked about how the Democrats are in big trouble now.

A few times over the years, I have recalled former football coach Mike Ditka's dismissal that "blackboard material" would matter in a game.  The conventional wisdom is that when a player or coach (or sometimes fans) from the other side says something insulting, that will motivate a player or team to be really at the top of their game.  Ditka said that if his players and coaches were not already planning to do everything within their power to win, then they were a crappy team.  He did not play up blackboard material because he did not think he should have to.

To be sure, Mike Ditka has been wrong about a lot of things in his life, and he might well be wrong about this, both in football and as I analogize it in politics.  It is, therefore, worth thinking through what is being threatened here from the Republican side of the ball, in the context of where we already stand.  My bottom line is Ditkan (?): The Trump conviction in New York will change nothing, because Republicans were already going to be as bad as they could possibly be.

If I am wrong, however, how could we know?  If now were truly different, then we should see or hear something new from Trump and other Republicans.  Sorry, but they have said all of this before.  In terms of open lawlessness, they predicted/invited violence when Trump was indicted (and I, for one, took the possibility seriously), but nothing happened.  Would there be riots if Trump were actually sent to jail?  Maybe, but they have been saying that every step of the way.  Violence can be stochastic, so something might happen at any moment due to any provocation or excuse, but there is nothing new in the air since May 30 that feels any more ominous than the super-ominous stuff that has been hanging over us for years.  To return to the earlier metaphor, the giant may or may not be a giant, but whatever it is, it certainly has not been sleeping.  

Rubio, however, was pouring accelerant not on a flame of street violence but on the flame of payback through the legal system.  His claim is that Republicans have been playing nice thus far by following the law, but now that Democrats have turned the law into a weapon -- and it is essential to remind ourselves that this claim by Republicans is simply wrong and is based merely on the idea that if Trump loses, it must be because of a conspiracy -- the put-upon Republicans will simply have to oh-so-reluctantly take the law into their own hands.

The problem is that Trump has already been promising to do that as well, for years.  Everything for him is about payback.  He tells his crowds: "I am your vengeance."  No one who was not already targeted by TrumpWorld on May 29 is now being targeted.  The obvious exception is the heroic jurors in Manhattan, which is horrifying, but again, we are talking about the calls by Rubio and others to use the justice system as a weapon against their political enemies.  That has already been threatened/promised by his side for as long as this has been going on.

At least once since the verdict, Trump has claimed that he could have "locked her up" when he was in the White House, but he magnanimously chose not to put Hillary Clinton in prison, because that "would have been a terrible thing."  The fact, however, is that Trump tried to do exactly that, but it did not happen because the US Attorney Trump assigned to the task could not find any crimes to charge -- just as House Republicans cannot find any basis on which to impeach President Biden.

That in turn means that Trump will succeed in going after his rivals if he gets another chance, not because he would try harder because now he is truly angry but because he and his co-conspirators would make sure that they find prosecutors and judges who would get the job done.  Again, that was already their plan, which includes a full-blown effort to put apparatchiks in every position of power.  And then to use that power.

I have been predicting for years that Trump will lose the 2024 election but will end up in the White House anyway, because Republicans will abuse the process more adroitly this time than they did last time.  If they have simple majorities in both houses of Congress on January 6 (which will be after the new Congress has been sworn in following the 2024 elections), they will be able to reject electors from states that voted for Biden.  Before that, they could contest the choice of electors, and in states where there is a Republican governor and legislature, they can reject the results.  In states with Republican-dominated legislatures but Democratic governors, the Supreme Court could carve out an exception to its recent rejection of the "independent state legislature" theory and allow Trump's electors to be appointed.

Could I be wrong about any or all of that?  Of course.  If I am, however, it will not be because Trump's people will not have tried hard enough; and again, nothing that happens with regard to the criminal justice system and Trump will make them try any harder, because they already have it turned up to 11.  For that matter, I could be wrong about Biden being declared the winner of the election in the first place, because Republicans have so aggressively suppressed voting, and because of the threats of violence against voters and poll workers that have been and will be made.

Will the guilty verdict against Trump make the Republicans try harder to do any of that?  To channel Coach Ditka once again, one could only say yes to that question if one believed that the Republicans were somehow not already doing everything they can.  Does anyone seriously believe that there was some strategy that they had thought about using but had rejected as "too much"?  The question answers itself.

None of this is to say that I am sanguine about what is going on.  I upended my life, after all, because of my deep pessimism about the future of the United States.  The point is that this nonsense about how the Manhattan verdict has changed the overall picture is absurd.  Trump and his minions will still try to do what they were going to try to do.  I continue to believe that they will succeed, even as I continue to hope that they will not.  They only need one of their gambits to work, at which point they will be back in control of the White House.

At that point, I have no doubt that they will say that their awful retribution is somehow the Democrats' fault.  Had Trump never been convicted, however, they would have done the same thing but blamed it on something else (the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, the simple fact of the indictments, or whatever).  As New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg aptly put it a few days ago: "By projecting the authoritarian aggression of their movement onto others, Republicans absolve themselves. It’s the mantra of abusers everywhere: 'Look what you made me do.'"

Yeah man, those guys are really angry now.