The Coup

If Democracy comes through this whole, it will be because 1) The people behind the coup telegraphed their intentions every step of the way, and 2) Even the most mainstream of the mainstream media didn’t try to normalize what they were doing.

This morning’s headline and story in the Washington Post must be unprecedented. Here’s its lede: “President Trump is using the power of his office to try to reverse the results of the election, orchestrating a far-reaching pressure campaign to persuade Republican officials in Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere to overturn the will of voters in what critics decried Thursday as an unprecedented subversion of democracy.”

And the New York Times has a similar one.

But here’s the thing: how will we be able to say that Democracy came through this intact even if Biden does take office at some point, knowing as we now do that one of our two major parties so disdains the principle of majority rule? Even if Trump does vacate the White House voluntarily, he will still be the undisputed head of the Republican party. What do they stand for at this point, besides the disenfranchisement of majority black cities, plague denial, and universal deference to Donald Trump and his children?

I went back and read one of my old Salon stories about conspiracy theory this morning. In it, I mentioned a poll in which more than 40 percent of Republicans believed that Obama was plotting to stay in office after his second term. Those were the days! Such innocence. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that 80 percent of Republicans today believe that Soros paid the Chinese to concoct Covid-19–and that those same people also believe that it’s no worse than the flu. I wrote another story back then in which I said that conspiracy theory was the canary in the coal mine of Democracy.

Its specific claims don’t mean much (they always tell the same story about the cabal of bloodsucking, pederast billionaire/Communist/Jewish/Jesuits/Masons/Muslim/Lizards). But its waxing and waning is kind of a way to take the temperature of the polity. And we are running a very high fever.

We are heading for the abyss

What will they do if they succeed in overturning the election? There was no Republican platform, just a pledge to follow him. So where does he propose to take us?

What is it that only he can do that is so important that it’s worth overturning a democracy for? Will it be enough just to say that he conquered COVID, beat Hillary, and didn’t collude with foreigners? That he, and hence red state America, is great? Then what? Four years of vengeance against the blue states? And then a Trump dynasty to rule over the ruins?

It seems more and more likely to me that the election will be thrown into the House and the red states will elect him, just because he demands it. They are testing the limits of the system, and yes, it is breaking.

So much for law and order; we are heading for the abyss.

They really are burning down the house

You know what the hardest thing for me to accept about Trump’s structural support is? Not the ignorance and neediness of so many Americans, which is sad but commensurable. It’s the cynicism and fundamental lawlessness of the people they trust to lead them. I look at McConnell and Rudy Giuliani, at Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence and I wonder if they bother to pay for the TicTacs they pick up at airport newsstands, never mind their taxes. They lie, they cheat, they steal–they don’t give a damn about anyone or anything but themselves. They make me feel like such a sucker I can’t tell you. Why did I ever waste a minute feeling guilty about anything when I could have been robbing my neighbors blind?

When you read about early Protestantism, you’re struck by the terror they had of antinomianism–the heretical belief that once Jesus saves you, you can rob, murder, and fornicate to your heart’s content. Someday if I catch him sober, I’d like to have a chat about that with Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Sic semper tyrannis

One of my life’s great privileges is my long-standing friendship with the famed science fiction writer Barry N. Malzberg, with whom I have shared countless emails about Trump and Trumpism over the last five years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Barry’s many books, stories, and essays, his world view is somewhat, well, dark. This morning’s message strikes a different note….elegiacal, even, dare I say it, a tiny bit optimistic.

“I don’t blog, I do not know how to blog, if I had a blog it would be for an audience of seven so it is to you I turn with a statement I really would like disseminated; would take it as a favor if you would put it in the air.  Awoke remembering as I often do Jimmy Breslin’s column (must have been the POST, the Herald-Tribune was gone then) on the day after the day of Nixon’s “address to the nation” on the White House lawn before he boarded the helicopter.  Breslin wrote of the vista on the eve of that resignation, he walked the streets surrounding the White House at midnight.  Absolute quiet, serenity, a couple of stray police in front of the white House.  Utter calm.  Isn’t this a wonderful country? Breslin wrote.  No mobs, no noise, no protests, no guns, no militia, no heaving turmoil, just a Summer night in the breeze.  Historically and in many countries today (Eastern Europe, South America, Africa) the scene would be chaos but here nothing at all.  The most powerful person in the world was going to leave ignominiously and quietly and life rolled on around him .  It was a wonderful night to be a citizen of this country.

Breslin is dead, his daughter his dead, his wife is dead, Nixon is dead, everybody from that era except Kissinger is dead and I doubt that there is anyone who remembers that column.  But I do.  Maybe you could make reference.

Nixon accepted the situation with the gift of reason.

(This is ill-written but it is 6:30am and my own reason is tilted.)”

The Center Won’t Hold

It’s too early for postmortems as this thing could still go even further south, but I do have some emotions. Trump has turned out to be 100 times worse than even pessimists thought he’d be four years ago, but he is exactly as popular as he was back then, if not a little more-so. That’s just a fact.

I wish I could go on to say that we as a nation just have to make our peace with that and accept our differences, but when your differences go to the heart of your values, you can’t paper them over. His side hates my side; they want to destroy my way of life. I can’t shrug that off, anymore than they can shrug off the threat they believe I pose to them.

So, the center won’t hold, even if Biden gets to run a divided government. I think the next four years may be even worse than the last four years, because we at least cherished the hope of repudiating him.

The center isn’t going to hold.

Four Years Ago

So four years ago this morning, I got up very early so I would be at the head of the line at my polling place. It was already a block long when my son and I got there, which I took to be a good sign. When we got home, there was an email waiting for me from a Nazi who had posted dozens and dozens of antisemitic screeds on this very blog; he said he was renouncing that chapter of his life and asked me to take all of them down. I did and I took that as yet another propitious sign.

So, let’s see what today brings, shall we?

Closing the Deal


So, first his ex-campaign manager was arrested by a SWAT team. Then, last Saturday he officiated over a super-spreading event to celebrate the shotgun installation of a far-right Dominionist on the Supreme Court, Sunday he was exposed as a serial bankrupt and tax cheat, Friday he went to the hospital with Covid after infecting half his team and a bunch of supporters, Sunday he forced Secret Service Agents to breathe his droplets during a drive-by campaign stunt, and Monday he returned to the White House, maskless and triumphant, having conquered the virus without the benefit of even hydroxochloroquine. And this morning, down in the polls by double digits, he gave us his closing argument: write off the last four years and give me four more because Obama investigated his campaign’s collusion with the Russians and kept it secret until after he was elected.

How can he lose? But he can still steal the election and he just might if Barr stays healthy.

Amy Coney Barrett

I’m being deluged with “we must stop Trump from filling RBG’s seat” e-mails and messages, and they are not moving my dial at all. That shoe dropped back in 2016. It’s been obvious since Garland that McConnell would seat anyone a Republican nominated, even if they were nominated on January 15, 2021. I don’t care about Barrett, or what people who know her attest. She’s accepted the nomination from Trump some 40 days before the election; that tells me all I need to know. If I were a senator, I wouldn’t meet with her, I wouldn’t attend the hearings, and I wouldn’t cast a vote pro or con. She can’t be stopped, but she shouldn’t have a shred of bipartisan legitimacy. Let her win by 51-0.

What we are fighting for

I’ve stopped believing that anything I say or write about politics makes any kind of difference. Like religion, like conspiracism (which is religion at its most primitive and unformed), politics is driven by the emotions attendant on one’s feelings of power or powerlessness.

Trumpites fixate on his power because they know they have none. “Look at me,” he says. “I went to the best schools, have the best genes, the greatest mind, the most money, the hottest wives. I won the White House. I am immune to Covid. And all you have to do to participate in my greatness is love me unconditionally.” Deep down, they are nihilists; they know the world is on fire, that they and their children are doomed. But at least he makes their enemies suffer in the meantime.

Democrats believe they have power and agency and potentially a future, but only if they acknowledge the hard facts. “Look at him,” we say. “He is fat and stupid and a serial bankrupt, a lech, a liar, and a loser. We are in terrible shape as a nation. Thousands of us are dying.”

Trump gives his people a sugar high and we give them a cold bath.

“Those of us with money and security owe our good fortune to structural inequities that we wouldn’t tolerate for a moment if we weren’t their beneficiaries,” we say. “We have to make sacrifices. We have to pull together and put our shoulders to the wheel.” As Nietzsche said of the Christians, it’s a philosophy that could only appeal to a sucker or a slave. The only advantage to it is that it supposes a future that’s worth fighting for.


I’ve had cancer this year; I’ve lost a dear friend to suicide. More intimately than COVID-19 (which raged outside my Brooklyn window this spring, but not inside my house, thank God), it’s given me perspective on the plausibility of some worst-case scenarios. The worst can happen. It often does.

Anyway, I sent a donation to the Biden campaign yesterday, and this morning I got an email from his people asking me why I’d done it. “Fear,” I answered. Then they asked me if I want to give them money on a weekly basis. I almost answered yes.