We’ve heard it said by Winston Churchill and others, reportedly paraphrasing George Santayana, that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I agree, and we certainly don’t want to repeat the past four years.
We need to keep studying how Donald Trump came to power and, just as important, how he created and maintained the grip he continues to have on 30% or more of the American electorate.
Yes, we’re glad to put the Trump administration behind us, but I for one will continue to study the man, his techniques, and his followers. Like Germany, which suffered even worse from their own misguided leader in the 1930s and 1940s, we need to fully understand what just happened.
It’s primarily a psychological and mental health study, and I’m so grateful for all the primary sources, such as Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, his long-time fixer, Michael Cohen, and his longest-serving National Security Advisor, John Bolton, for the first-hand information and insights they have provided through their books about Donald Trump. There are more books to come, and, as a student of history, I welcome them.
I have said from the beginning that “history will not be kind to Donald Trump and those who have fallen under his spell.” The question remains as to how much damage, including violence by far-right, gun-toting extremists, might be done in the meantime.
We all recognize that Trump’s racist dog whistles have emboldened countless “deplorables” — a term coined by Hillary Clinton but also adopted with affection, we're told, by Trump himself — to come out of the shadows, as they did in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting too often in violence and death. By echoing conspiracy theories concocted by others, such as Q-Anon, he gave them legitimacy leading to yet more activism and violence.
An early expression of that was “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory that the Clintons and other “Washington elites” were conducting a pedophile ring out of the basement of a Washington, DC, pizza parlor (which doesn’t even have a basement). One man, infected by that conspiracy theory, showed up with his AR-15 to save the children he believed were being trafficked for sex. Fortunately he was arrested with no shots fired.
And just this Tuesday, the following event unfolded, as described by my favorite newsletter writer, Heather Cox Richardson:
In Houston, Texas, today [Dec. 15], police arrested a former police department captain for running a man off the road and pointing a gun at his head in a misguided attempt to foil a massive voter fraud scheme. Sixty-three-year-old Mark Anthony Aguirre claimed to be part of a citizens’ group investigating voter fraud. Believing his victim was hiding 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck, Aguirre rammed the truck with his SUV and held the driver first at gunpoint and then with his knee in the man’s back until police came. Upon inspection, it turned out the truck was full of air conditioning parts. The district attorney, Kim Ogg, said “His alleged investigation was backward from the start — first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened…. [W]e are lucky no one was killed.”
We can’t pretend that once Trump leaves and sanity returns to the White House that these kooks will stop believing everything Trump has told them and will tell them in the future, including that the landslide election of Joe Biden was fraudulent. These people are deeply patriotic in their own minds and would go to war for this country. I cringe to think how that war will play out on American soil. Remember, there were death threats made against fellow citizens counting ballots and to the Secretaries of State for whom they worked.
Sen. Mitch McConnell is now being attacked and probably threatened by the same people for acknowledging that “the electoral college has spoken” and Joe Biden is president-elect.
This whole episode of our history is an embarrassment for our country, but it is also a serious threat. In light of this, the worst thing we could do, in my mind, is to “move on” and not address this threat directly — and I don’t mean by meeting violence with violence.
Fortunately, brave prosecutors will press their cases against the Trump organization and Donald Trump after he leaves the safe haven provided by the White House. I still believe that after he has preemptively pardoned everyone he wants to pardon, including his children, that he will step down, saying he wants to “honor” Mike Pence by giving him the opportunity to be president, whereupon President Pence will preemptively pardon Donald Trump to “put the baseless charges against him behind us.”
But pardoning Trump from federal crimes doesn’t lessen the many crimes he can be charged with by DAs such as New York’s Cyrus Vance, who this week won another victory in court to obtain financial records from the Trump Organization.
It has already been reported by the New York Times that our ex-president has $400 million in personal debts coming due in the next four years. We now know how he’s planning to pay some or most of those debts — by continuing to raise funds promoting conspiracy theories that he himself probably doesn’t believe but his gullible supporters do believe because he is voicing them. As I wrote in my Nov. 26 column, his actions in doing so make it clearer than ever that he puts his own interest ahead of the country’s — that it was always “Trump First,” not “American First.”
It’s really a sad and pathetic unraveling of his presidency, and I believe the unraveling needs to be documented and that Americans need to pay attention to it. If Germany could do it, so can the United States. Let’s learn from this history so we never repeat it.