What will it mean if Donald Trump gets sentenced to prison? Or if he is even declared ineligible for office, as some lawyers linked to the conservative Federalist Society are trying (for murky reasons) to prove?
Let’s try to step back and think about these things in a coolly disinterested fashion, like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. Or like some foreign historian looking back at our present history from the distance of 500 years.
With Donald Trump’s mugshot out there floating and his bitter enemies gloating, I’m not sure that Vulcan detachment is possible. For the moment, I don’t think it’s crucial or even possible to convince two groups of people to adopt this detached perspective:
a. Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters, and those of us who find his prosecution absolutely chilling — an unprecedented escalation of totalitarian tactics on the part of our intolerant, irresponsible, and mediocre elites. Or:
b. Donald Trump’s most fanatical enemies, who see him as a Frankenstein monster cobbled together from the hatreds and wish-fulfillment fantasies of religious fanatics, embittered racists, and resentful economic “losers” whose industries deserve to disappear (such as coal-miners and religion teachers).
An Appeal to the Squishy Center
No, the questions I’m posing today are for a different group, the people on the in-between of the spectrum in our polarized debate. My target group here is group
c. People who are either moderately liberal or moderately conservative, who found Trump and his movement so disconcerting that they were repelled by him, and are eager to see him disappear from American politics, so things can return to “normal,” as they were in 2015 before Trump came down that golden escalator.
It’s not hard to spot such people. All but one or two of the candidates who appeared in the recent GOP presidential debate fit that description. The whole staffs of magazines I once used to read, such as National Review, fall into this category. Indeed, the vast bulk of the Republican party machine seems to think this way. They act as if Donald Trump were a glitch in the Matrix, which the system will soon delete. Then the hotheads will simmer down, the rabble will disperse, and the Left will feel safe enough to behave as law-abiding patriots again. Elections will magically go back to the calm, responsible contests they were in 1960, when JFK faced Richard Nixon.
Can’t We Live Every Day Like It’s John McCain’s Funeral?
Call this the John McCain Funeral Fantasy. Remember that event? With Donald Trump pointedly disinvited, the elites of both parties gathered festively in D.C., like religious pilgrims or eco-tourists. Observers from MSNBC to NPR to Fox gushed about how “bipartisan” all of it was, though to others it seemed like a gathering of both wings of a Uniparty, woven together by the love of power and pointless foreign wars.
The media picked up golden moments like George W. Bush holding hands and almost smooching with Michelle Obama, while Barry looked on, smiling. If only a wormhole would open in time and space, and swallow up Donald Trump, we could live every day like it’s John McCain’s funeral.
A Return to Blessed Normalcy
Or if only some set of criminal charges could be cobbled together somewhere, somehow, that renders Trump legally ineligible for office. Then the half of the country that supports him and agrees that the White House was stolen from him in a frenzy of fraud and censorship would … have to face facts and stop flapping their gums.
They’d gradually calm down, like children after a tantrum, and eventually come to some shame-faced peace with the fact that Nikki Haley, or Mike Pence, or Asa Hutchison, is the “responsible” choice for president. That Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Mitt Romney were right all along, and this whole Trump binge was like a long, drug-addled bachelor party weekend in Las Vegas. We’d all realize that we’d “hit bottom,” then enter rehab. We’d shun Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon as the “drunk friends” who weren’t safe for us to associate with.
Do you have people who think like this still in your life? Old friends with whom you’ve clashed since 2016, but you’re still in touch? If so, they’re probably gloating over Donald Trump’s arrest with the same glee as Kamala Harris. Or maybe more, because now at long, long last they can get their institutions back. Their beloved old country-club GOP will re-emerge like a groundhog, and see that the golf course is safe again.
Send These Questions to Your Trump-Hating Friends
Here are some questions for you to cut and paste, and send to friends like these. Assuming that Trump is either imprisoned or driven into exile in Minsk, do these people really believe:
- That the Left will relax, and drop its FBI witch hunts aimed at pro-lifers, PTA moms, gun owners, and skeptics of transgenderism and 47 genders? Will banks stop canceling the accounts of conservative Christians like Sam Brownback? Why do you think they would give up these clearly successful means of wielding power against their enemies? What evidence can you offer that the Left is ready to relent?
- That Democrats will give up on their practice of Anarcho-Tyranny, a double standard by which the same laws don’t get enforced against violent leftist rioters as raucous conservatives? It was okay for Kamala Harris to encourage nationwide riots that killed two dozen Americans and cost billions of dollars in damage, but not for Trump to call for a demonstration on January 6. But with Trump out of the way, the Democrats will stop selectively prosecuting us for actions they wink at among their own. Because they only acted that way thanks to Donald Trump. Now they’ll go back to being their cuddly, loveable, civic-minded pre-Trump selves. That’s what will happen, right?
- That pro-abortion radicals will stop trying to kill Brett Kavanaugh, pack the Supreme Court, frame Clarence Thomas on phony corruption charges, or disbar any attorney who represents conservative clients. All of that will stop, once the Left has proven that it can take Donald Trump out of politics. That won’t just be blood in the water, encouraging a feeding frenzy that targets next Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and finally even toothless GOP figureheads such as John Cornyn and Nancy Mace. Our sworn enemies who dubbed themselves “the Resistance” in 2016 will go back to being the loyal opposition, who happily share cocktails with us as Tip O’Neill once did with Ronald Reagan. Won’t they?
- That the Left really believes Donald Trump and his movement were a one-off, a bizarre aberration that a criminal conviction can correct. Then they can let conservatives have their constitutional rights back, after that. Leftists didn’t mean it when they claimed that America’s founding was an evil slaveowners’ conspiracy that began in 1619, whose Constitution is fundamentally racist, which needs to be swamped by impoverished newcomers through perpetually open borders, whose police are intrinsically anti-black and so must be stripped of funding. That was all just … a totally understandable response to the unique threat that Donald Trump posed. Now that’s over, and all is forgiven. We can hold hands and smooch, like Dubya and Michelle.
It’s my hope that a little distance and perspective can lead the more rational among the Trump-hating moderates to see the truth: That Trump was made the pretext for whole sectors of our elites to drop their pants, lose their minds, and lash out like bomb-throwing radicals. And if that’s rewarded with Trump’s defeat and disgrace, then look out. What’s coming next will be a whole lot uglier.
Not John McCain’s funeral, but ours.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”
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