Unprecedented. If you have been paying attention at all to politics the last three years, you know to what – and to whom – the word has been applied. We use it so freely these days that many news outlets have warned against deploying it in the context of the current White House because it has become a cliché. Perhaps in the acute sense of the behavior of the guy in the Oval Office, its use is appropriate, but what is going on now with the Republicans in the administration and on Capitol Hill is not at all unique. It is as familiar as a politician’s behavior gets.
It’s a power grab, a consolidation of agendas driven by the age-old motivations of money and the need to hold the winning hand. For a Machiavellian few, the dependency on Trump is driven by delusionary principles that include shaking our country’s foundation to the core, particularly when it comes to challenging the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
Of course, it all starts with Trump and the voters who adore him as if he were the Second Coming. To them he is Oz, the Great and Powerful. He occupies the masses with bright lights and bluster, with the gaffes and grossness that his supporters cheer and everyone else despises.
The president’s cabinet and those who lead the Republicans in Congress are fine with that cult of personality because as far as they are concerned, they’re the people behind the curtain. They have been handed the strings to Putin’s puppet.
The impeachment and the looming election have lit a fire under the extremists in the Grand Old Party. They are pushing their sandbags into place to try to keep the Trump tide from receding. If they cannot achieve their goals with this malleable fool as president, they fear, then their vision of a New America may never be realized.
They need his authority to stack the courts with conservatives, regardless of legal acumen; they need his pen to cut taxes and hold down wage costs while convincing struggling workers that he is their champion; they need his access to our government’s regulatory agencies, to deregulate the chemical and fossil fuel industries so they and their friends can get rich while destroying the planet’s future, and; they need the inherent cloak of the immense power of the President of the United States to enable their most extreme anti-Great Society leanings.
Their desperation in achieving those inglorious goals has led these complicit Republicans to participle in the most un-American kind of government corruption.
The Republicans in Congress may think they hold the puppet strings, but their own ineptitude means they are as reliant on a professional manipulator like Putin (via Devin Nunes and FOX News) to guide their hands on the controls as Trump is on the Russian leader to keep thoughts of money-shaped sugarplums with porn star boobs dancing in his head.
In the cabinet, meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr are convincing the president they have his back, and they do inasmuch as they both have their backs up against his so Trump cannot retreat even as they keep nudging him ahead. Steven Miller, meanwhile, thinks he is the one who has a leash around Trump’s neck and is pulling him forward. He doesn’t even know the high cabinet officials are back there pushing the president along, and they like it that way. “Let Steve think he’s in charge of policy,” Pompeo says to Barr with a wink. Barr giggles.
“What’s going on, back there?” Trump shouts over his shoulder.
Barr and Pompeo look at each other. “You’re winning, sir,” Barr replies.
“Don’t I know it! Make America Great Again!”
“MAGA, sir!” the both shout with joy and relief as they continue to push Trump forward with their backs.
The thing that happens when you walk backward, though, is you cannot see where you are going. They are relying on the president to be aware enough to keep from going over a cliff. It’s better than a fifty/fifty shot he will, and when he does, he will take everything and everyone – including us – down with him. But because these men of supposed brilliance are obsessed with hastening their mythical Judgement Day, it’s a chance at martyrdom they are willing to take.
That’s why it’s so frustrating, because unless twenty Senate Republicans suddenly abandon partisanship for patriotism, we will be living in a broken republic run by oligarchs and theocrats, with a careless, autocratic president who is out of control through the next election and maybe, G-d forbid, for years to come.