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Media suddenly shifts its tone on Trump — but that's not courage, it's cowardice

Donald Trump has made history again.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him a second time because of his role in inciting violence before the coup attempt last Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Trump is now the only president to have been impeached twice, and could easily have been impeached on other occasions for his many other crimes against democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.

All 222 House Democrats, along with 10 Republicans, voted to impeach Trump. The Senate must now hold a trial, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not reconvene the chamber before next Tuesday, one day before Joe Biden's inauguration next Tuesday. So it appears likely that the incoming Democratic-controlled Senate will hold Trump's second impeachment trial. Some Republican senators appear likely to vote for conviction, but 17 would be required — along with all 50 Democrats and affiliated independents — to reach a verdict that might bar Trump from holding future federal office. No president has ever been tried after leaving office, and no president has ever been convicted by the Senate.

By largely refusing to join Democrats in voting to impeach Donald Trump, House Republicans sent several messages to their followers, the American people and the world more generally. These include:

  • Right-wing political violence is acceptable in the United States — as long as it advances the goals and objectives of the Republican Party and right-wing movement.
  • Coup attempts and other efforts to subvert elections or usurp democratic outcomes are now acceptable — if pursued by Republicans and members of the far right against their enemies.
  • The United States is no longer the world's leading democracy. If American fascism continues to thrive — Trump won at least 10 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 — the country's liberal democracy (however imperfect) is in danger of degenerating into what political scientists have described as "competitive authoritarianism," "inverted totalitarianism" or "managed democracy."

In all, the Republican Party has shown once again that it is the most dangerous political organization in the United States and the world.

In a recent essay for New Left Review, social theorist Mike Davis describes America's current state of crisis and what it portends:

Tomorrow liberal pundits may reassure us that the Republicans have committed suicide, that the age of Trump is over, and that Democrats are on the verge of reclaiming hegemony. Similar declarations, of course, were made during vicious Republican primaries in 2015. They seemed very convincing at the time. But an open civil war amongst Republicans may only provide short-term advantages to Democrats, whose own divisions have been rubbed raw by Biden's refusal to share power with progressives. Freed from Trump's electronic fatwas, moreover, some of the younger Republican senators may prove to be much more formidable competitors for the white college-educated suburban vote than centrist Democrats realize. In any event, the only future that we can reliably foresee — a continuation of extreme socio-economic turbulence — renders political crystal balls useless.

History is being rewritten in real time during this tumultuous and in many ways unprecedented moment in American history. Within two weeks this nation will witness a coup attempt, an impeachment and a presidential inauguration — all during a plague and under a fascistic authoritarian regime.

Many leading voices among the mainstream American news media have spent the last few weeks and months (and for that matter years) downplaying the obvious threat of a coup and other political violence by Donald Trump and his followers.

When the Trump-inspired coup plot was put into action last Wednesday, those same voices in the mainstream news media suddenly shifted their language and tone, emulating those writers, thinkers and activists they had previously — and in some instances very recently — mocked, marginalized, denounced and sought to silence.

Watching this happen is like hearing a movie soundtrack being changed, without interruption, from the wistful chords of a romantic comedy to the thunderous crescendos of an action spectacle.

During last week's siege of the U.S. Capitol, the "hope peddlers" and other professional centrists abruptly appropriated the language of "the Resistance," spontaneously finding last-minute courage to tell the truth about Trump's presidency and his movement. Now those same public voices are pretending they never denied the real dangers of Trumpism and American fascism, playing their new role as imposter defenders of democracy.

Such a shift in speech, tone and thought is patently insincere: it is the worst sort of cowardice and self-serving behavior, driven by the fear that history will remember one's errors. There are also great financial and reputational incentives in pretending to have been correct all along, when in fact those public voices were repeatedly and fabulously wrong.

As part of this sudden rewrite of history, those in the mainstream news media who denied the obvious reality of Trump's imminent coup (which could have been foretold before he took office in 2017) are also claiming that "we" were all victims of a "failure of imagination" and that "it was impossible to think such a thing could happen" in America.

With such claims, mainstream journalists are adopting a version of the royal first-person plural, speaking of how "we" have finally woken up to the dangers of Donald Trump, or saying that "we" have ignored" the dangers of right-wing extremism in the United States for too long.

In the world as it actually exists, Black and brown Americans have long understood that Donald Trump and his movement are an existential threat to the United States. Because of their personal or historical experience there are other individuals and groups, such as Muslims, Jewish people and recent immigrants and refugees, who also possess similar insights and instincts.

Many liberals, and progressives of all races, are also aware that Trumpism represents an extreme threat to democracy and American society. And of course, there are a select few public voices who, at considerable personal risk, have spent the last few years sounding the alarm about the rise of American fascism.

When prominent pundits, journalists and others in that sphere make the specious claim that Trump's coup attack and other examples of right-wing terrorism are "unthinkable," they are really pursuing a reclamation project for the reputation and authority of the mainstream media, in an era when that institution has consistently failed to defend democracy.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media is not likely to learn from its errors, or to consider how it enabled, normalized and empowered Donald Trump and his neofascist movement. What should of course happen in the aftermath of Trump's presidency is an ambitious recommitment to advocacy journalism and to holding government accountable, as well as a commitment to diversify America's newsrooms in terms of race, class, geography, professional and educational backgrounds and other meaningful criteria. In that world, the mainstream media would also come to grips with the principle that neutrality is not the same as objectivity.

To wit: It is objectively true that Donald Trump is a public menace. But the hope peddlers, professional centrists and stenographers of current events will inevitably present such facts as opinions demanding "balance" from "both sides" in an equation built on false equivalence.

Such obsolete rules and norms will also inevitably be used as cudgels by the mainstream news media against Joe Biden's administration and the Democratic Party. This will only further embolden the Republican Party and its anti-human and anti-democratic agenda.

Ultimately, because the mainstream news media failed so dramatically in its response to Donald Trump, it will overcompensate through Janus-faced vigilance toward the Biden administration and the liberal or progressive agenda more generally. When this happens — and it is happening already: see Lesley Stahl's interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on last Sunday's "60 Minutes" — American democracy will suffer more damage, succumbing still further to the poison of authoritarianism.

'Mentally disturbed' Trump will only become more dangerous as he struggles to tolerate reality: psychiatrist

Last Wednesday, thousands of Donald Trump's white supremacist supporters, at his de facto command, launched an assault on the U.S. Capitol with the goal of stopping Joe Biden from becoming the next president. While investigations are ongoing, some people in the mob may have planned to kidnap or assassinate members of Congress they consider "traitors," along with Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the ceremonial count of the electoral votes. Trump's fascist mob was well equipped for the task, as some of their members were armed with guns and other weapons, and clad in paramilitary gear.

This article was originally published at Salon

Five people have now died during and after the Capitol attack. Dozens more were injured. This Trump-inspired uprising is likely not over and may be in its early stages. There are credible reports by the FBI and other American law enforcement agencies that right-wing paramilitaries and other domestic terrorists are planning even more violence across the country in the days leading to Biden's inauguration next week. This attack was not an isolated event: The entire Age of Trump has been typified by right-wing violence. When Trump finally leaves office, the right-wing violence he has enabled and permitted may only get worse.

On Wednesday, by a vote of 232 to 197, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for a second time, on this occasion for "incitement of insurrection." All 222 Democrats (along with 10 Republicans) voted to impeach, while four Republicans abstained. Trump is now the only president to have been impeached twice, and clearly rivals only Andrew Johnson or James Buchanan for the shameful distinction of being the worst president in American history.

Instead of being cowed by the violence at the U.S. Capitol and his second impeachment, Trump, like other autocrats and fascists, appears even more desperate and emboldened. On Tuesday, during a visit to his "border wall" in Texas, Donald Trump warned the Democrats and the American people that there will be consequences — implying more violence by his followers — for his impeachment or removal. Trump then claimed the Democrats were causing the country "tremendous anger, and division and pain," another example of stochastic terrorism aimed at inciting violence by his political cult members against their shared "enemies".

Under pressure from Republican leaders and his remaining White House advisers, Donald Trump released a video on Wednesday evening in which he "condemned" political violence and claimed that his "true supporters" would never engage in such behavior. This is patently insincere: From the beginning of his 2016 campaign, Trump has encouraged political violence by his followers and other cult members. Moreover, during the assault on the Capitol Trump was reportedly gleeful and excited.

Ultimately, the disaster that is Trump's presidency did not need to happen. It was all a choice.

Those Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 (and in even larger numbers in 2020) are responsible.

The Republican Party, which embraced Donald Trump and his vile anti-democracy movement, is responsible.

A news media which normalized Trump's fascist and authoritarian white supremacist regime are responsible.

Those who denied the obvious warnings about Trump's coup attempt — and who mocked or tried to silence the people who were trying to warn the public — are responsible.

Writing at the Atlantic, Tom Nichols locates the disaster of Trump's presidency and America's national peril as a moment comparable to the Cuban missile crisis or the darkest moments of Nixon's presidency:

We can't keep hoping for the best or relying on those not in charge to keep Trump in line. Even one day more is too long for him to be in the White House. We escaped disaster over just a few days in 1962 and in the dark of an autumn night in 1973. Peace was kept, in part, by the presence of steady professionals such as Schlesinger and the Kennedy team, the likes of whom are nowhere to be found in Trump's Washington.
We no longer have a margin for error. A second impeachment is the only reliable solution, and it should take place immediately.

The disaster that Nichols describes could have also been prevented if warnings from many leading mental health professionals had been listened to and then acted upon. Since at least 2015, they have sounded the alarm and tried to educate the public about Donald Trump's pathologies, his malignant narcissism and his psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies.

Dr. Lance Dodes is one such voice. He is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

In our most recent of several conversations, Dodes explains that Trump's coup attempt and other dangerous behavior are a function of the president's obvious mental pathologies, and observes that this disaster was totally and utterly predictable. Dodes warns that Trump believes that he is a godlike figure — and that when that delusion is shattered, Trump will become even more dangerous. At the end of this conversation Dr. Dodes implores the country's leaders to remove Donald Trump as rapidly as possible, noting that if this man were a private citizen he would already be in prison or a secure mental health facility

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

The dominant narrative in the American news media is that Donald Trump is stupid, a crook, a charlatan, a buffoon, etc. Such claims have done the work of minimizing how dangerous he is to the country and the world. While so many tried to deny the likelihood of Trump attempting a coup against the United States, that is exactly what happened. This is the greatest crisis facing this country since the Cuban missile crisis.

I completely agree. Most professionals in mental health have long understood that far from being a buffoon, or the naïve idea that he is "crazy like a fox," he is severely mentally disturbed. Unfortunately, starting in 2016 the official psychological organizations in this country failed to speak out. The American Psychiatric Association actually threatened to throw out those of its members who understood the problem and had the courage to speak up, falsely claiming that speaking out would be unethical. Ironically, this meant that they threatened the most ethical and courageous members of the profession. If they had done their ethical duty to society it would have given the country a chance to save itself from the deaths and suffering of the past four years.

How do you think the mainstream news media has handled Trump's mental health?

Poorly, because many of them saw Trump is just a buffoon, or believed the psychologically ignorant idea that he is just being clever. As a result they didn't recognize they were dealing with a dangerous and delusional psychopath whose endless lies needed to be openly and vigorously challenged. Many in the media covered his every tweet as if it was true. He was yelling at White House journalists saying, "You're fake" from the beginning of his term and it was years before they objected. The reporters should have said, "No, Mr. Trump, you cannot talk to the free press that way." They should have covered his assault on the free press as a major story. The media failed to do their job to protect the country.

If he were a private citizen, how would Donald Trump be treated by law enforcement and other authorities?

At this very moment he would be in jail for having incited a riot. But the multiple other crimes he's committed over many years would have put him in jail years ago. If he were in any other position his complete incompetence dealing with the pandemic would have led him to be removed from any responsible position regarding the health or welfare of Americans.

In terms of mental health, is a diagnosis a type of prediction in terms of future behavior?

That's the most valuable part of making a diagnosis. When Trump was first elected, many hopeful people said, "He's been horrible, but he'll grow into the job." The impossibility of that was easy to predict because of his diagnosis. If a few people in my field hadn't incompetently denied his condition, and if the American Psychiatric Association hadn't tried to gag its members, the public could have been made clearly aware of his diagnosis and been in position to far better understand and deal with him and his behavior.

While the assault on the Capitol was taking place, Trump was reportedly excited and transfixed by the spectacle. This is part of a broader pattern in which Trump has repeatedly shown a fascination or obsession with violence. How does this fit into your warnings about Trump's mental health and behavior?

This man is fundamentally different from virtually all the people that you've ever known. The pain and suffering of others mean nothing to him. It's hard to get that across because we all say, "He must be like us," which is a normal expectation. He is nothing like us. We don't know exactly what's going to happen, but we know that he is going to continue to act on his delusional beliefs and he will continue to have no conscience about what he does to cause suffering to others.

Here is my prediction. Donald Trump does not care if he is impeached or removed from office by the 25th Amendment. Either one serves his goal of declaring that he was betrayed and that there is a plot against him and his supporters. He will declare himself a type of shadow president and cause chaos and destruction. His behavior is only going to bet worse. Trump will not stop seeking revenge on the American people.

Four years ago, we said he was going to get worse. And we're still saying he can only get worse. The closer and closer he gets to being what he would consider a loser, the more dangerous he becomes.

How were you feeling as you watched Trump's coup attack and its aftermath?

It was horrifying and terrifying to see the insurrectionists get into the Capitol building, partly because it was obvious that there was some plot going on; this wasn't just a mob on its own. There was a clear risk of a coup successfully led by Donald Trump. A few years ago, I said on MSNBC that among the risks Trump posed were that he would start a nuclear war, but that there were also other risks: that he would try to create an emergency, declare martial law and dissolve Congress. It's never been a secret that Trump wants to be like Putin or Hitler or Stalin or his friend in North Korea. He wants to be a supreme tyrant, and in his mind that's what he is. Anyone who threatens that delusion is his mortal enemy. If he could have taken over via a coup, he would have.

We can't read the man's mind, but based on his public behavior and the personality type, what do you think his internal monologue is right now?

Trump is a very simple person. He says outwardly, "I am being persecuted" and he says the same thing to himself. His beliefs are not affected by reality.

Donald Trump also has a type of God complex. He is a delusional megalomanic. His followers believe him to be a type of God as well. What happens to Trump and his followers when he loses his power?

It would be a sign of greater mental health if Trump were able to become depressed with a loss, because it would mean he has accepted the loss. But as we have repeatedly seen, he cannot tolerate that reality. When he loses power, rather than becoming depressed, he becomes more delusional. He attributes the problem to persecution by his enemies and mercilessly attacks them. That's what the coup attempt was.

The American Psychoanalytic Association, of which you are a member, recently issued a statement of concern regarding Donald Trump's mental health and the safety of the United States and the world. How did this come about?

I'm proud that the American Psychoanalytic Association became the first and so far only major national psychological organization to say that Trump must go. I wish the statement had come out four years ago, but I'm glad they're the first to break away from the self-imposed paralysis of the major psychological organizations. And I hope the country will listen.

What should happen next?

In an ideal world Trump would be voted out today via the 25th Amendment. If he were not president, he would have already been in jail or contained in some safe facility.

The attack on Capitol was a victory for white supremacy — can Joe Biden rise to the challenge?

Last Wednesday, thousands of Donald Trump's followers launched a right-wing white supremacist assault on the U.S. Capitol. On that same day, more modestly sized Trump mobs engaged in other acts of political terrorism and harassment across the nation.

This article was originally published at Salon

Trump's supporters committed these acts of political terrorism in response to his many incitements to sedition, treason and other forms of political violence, which go back to the 2016 presidential campaign and appear to be escalating in these days before Joe Biden's presidential inauguration.

Trump's mob eventually overran the Capitol building last Wednesday, forcing members of Congress, staffers, and other people to flee or hide, in fear for their lives. This fascistic coup attempt would result in the deaths of at least five people including a Capitol police officer. If not for the valiant efforts of Capitol police, District of Columbia police and other law enforcement officials to fight back against Trump's mob, the death toll could well have been much higher.

The forces attacking the Capitol building did not constitute a "riot," as many in the news media have incorrectly called it. Trump's coup attack on the Capitol (by implication, an attack on American multiracial democracy) was coordinated and planned weeks if not months prior.

The obvious objective of the assault was to disrupt the counting of the Electoral College ballots that would formally make Joe Biden president, but we may reasonably speculate that for some who participated, the goals were much larger than that. Some involved in storming the Capitol evidently wanted to take Democrats (and some Republicans) hostage, perhaps to execute them; pillage and defile the seat of democratic government; cripple the country's civilian leadership and chain of command; spark a nationwide uprising; and create a chaotic scenario in which Trump could declare a state of emergency allowing him to remain in power indefinitely. The fact that some of those goals were wildly implausible doesn't mean they weren't what the mob desired.

To that point, some U.S. allies have concluded that last Wednesday's attack on the Capitol was part of a coup plot that included people at senior levels of the government and the Trump regime.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post on Monday, Hillary Clinton warned of the power of white supremacy and its role in Trump's coup attempt. She described Wednesday's events as "the tragically predictable result of white-supremacist grievances fueled by President Trump" and continued:

But his departure from office, whether immediately or on Jan. 20, will not solve the deeper problems exposed by this episode. What happened is cause for grief and outrage. It should not be cause for shock. … What were too often passed off as the rantings of an unfortunate but temporary figure in public life are, in reality, part of something much bigger. That is the challenge that confronts us all.

As from before the founding of our republic through to the 21st century, white supremacy remains a dire threat to the security of the United States and the American people.

In the form of Trumpism and American fascism, white supremacy fueled the election of this president more than four years ago. White supremacy in its various forms helped keep Trump in power — and allowed him to become even more popular despite his obvious failure to protect the health, safety and prosperity of the American people. White supremacy and other antisocial and pathological political values and beliefs motivate Trump's followers in their unwavering loyalty and their relentless efforts (through legal, illegal and quasi-legal means) to overthrow the U.S. government and multiracial democracy.

White privilege is one of the primary ways through which white supremacy manifests itself on a day-to-day basis in America. It was white privilege that did the work of normalizing the Trump regime. It was why so many of the country's elites — including the mainstream news media and other opinion leaders — denied the obvious threat to the country's democracy, safety, and security represented by Trumpism and his imminent coup attempt. The logic was simple: Coups are exotic events that happen "over there," not in the United States. White Americans would never behave in such a way. American exceptionalism, which itself is a fantasy of whiteness and a result of its ability to twist and distort reality, deems American fascism and a coup attempt to be impossible.

For years, Black and brown people have desperately sounded the alarm about the existential danger to the United States and its multiracial democracy embodied by Donald Trump and his movement. With few exceptions, those warnings were ignored by the mostly white spaces that constitute America's mainstream news media and other major political and social institutions. As journalist Farai Chideya recently summarized on Twitter, "We'd never be here today — I truly believe this — if Black and POC reporters and editors had the authority and roles needed to shape the coverage of 2016."

Moreover, the loudest public voices who attempted to mock, silence and dismiss the prescient warnings of Trump's imminent coup attack were mostly white. Whiteness literally blinded too many elites to the attack on the Capitol and democracy itself, which was being planned in plain sight.

Donald Trump and the Republican Party's politics of white grievance and white victimhood have radicalized many tens of millions of white Americans (and too many Black and brown Trumpists as well). These Americans are increasingly rejecting democracy if it means that "people like them" do not maintain eternal control over the nation's political, social and economic institutions. In this version of America, nonwhite people are effectively to be treated as second-class citizens. There are established terms for such a societal arrangement: Apartheid and Jim Crow.

As exemplified during the attack on the Capitol, white supremacy and American fascism are inherently violent. Such violence is also infectious: It spreads like a type of social contagion first from the leaders (Trump and other far-right Republicans, Christian nationalist churches, the right-wing media) and then throughout society. That dynamic helps to explain why the Age of Trump has seen record increases in hate crimes and other right-wing violence. White supremacist violence will not suddenly cease when Trump leaves the White House. If anything, this epidemic of political violence will likely continue to spread, and attacks such as last Wednesday's will become more frequent — and more lethal.

In a recent essay for Time Magazine, John Douglas, the founder of the FBI criminal profiling program, whose career is the basis of the book and Netflix series "Mindhunter," warned:

Words really do matter — be they the blatant screed of an out-and-out hater or the dog whistle of a political leader only too happy to sow anger and divisiveness for personal advantage. And as the election confirmed, our society is so divided that words have entirely different meanings to each segment. To half the population, diversity translates into "social progress." To the other half, it means, "Not me."
In this environment, any movement that can give explanation, pride, and hope to those who feel left out and disparaged, and make them feel that there are those lower than them or responsible for their condition, that gives them promise of ascendancy and retribution, is a powerful, dangerous force. And in this fraught atmosphere — when candidates for the highest office in the land need to be asked to repudiate white supremacy — constant awareness and eternal vigilance are required. Merely changing the national leader is not enough to solve the problems of racism, white supremacy, and other forms of extremism and domestic terrorism.

Donald Trump will in all probability be impeached for a second time (and perhaps even convicted by the Senate) because of his most recent incitements to violence and sedition. He may even be removed from office under the terms of the 25th Amendment (although Vice President Mike Pence appears to lack the courage for that). But even with Biden becoming president next week, Trump and his authoritarian, fascist and white supremacist movement will not stop their attacks against America's multiracial democracy.

Last week, their vile cause scored a great triumph. Like barbarians of old, their forces sacked the Capitol building, overran the security forces, took prizes, terrorized the country's elected officials and won a heretofore unimaginable symbolic victory for the cause of white supremacy in America.

Years and decades ago, such an outcome was only fantasized about in white supremacist fiction or how-to manuals like "Victoria" and "The Turner Diaries," or in online forums. Viewed in that light, the Age of Trump was and is a strategic breakthrough for white supremacy.

Donald Trump is, in effect, America's First White President. Senior adviser Stephen Miller, one of the few members of Trump's inner circle to endure through his entire term, is an overt white supremacist. The Republican Party, despite its current, fumbling attempt to jettison Trump as an embarrassment, is the world's largest white supremacist organization. Human and civil rights have been undermined and rolled back in the Age of Trump. The coup assault and siege of the Capitol was but one battle in a longer struggle for (and against) white supremacy.

A report this week from the Associated Press describes the current state of affairs:

Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, said authorities in state capitals and other major cities besides Washington should prepare for the possibility of violent protests next week.
"A lot of people were energized by what happened last week," he said. "State capitals are a natural place where people might want to show up, especially assuming that they think there might be a huge presence of police and military in D.C. because of what happened last week."
Pitcavage tracks militia, white supremacists and other far-right extremists, but he said the Capitol siege demonstrated the emergence of a new movement of "Trumpist extremists, so caught up in the cult of personality around Trump that they may be willing to break the law or engage in violence purely in support of Trump and whatever he wants."

President Joe Biden will have much work to do to save the American economy from collapse, end the coronavirus pandemic and improve the country's much diminished image and power abroad. Biden and his administration will also have to confront and defeat a white supremacist fascist insurrection within the United States.

Many Americans voted for a "return to normalcy" in the 2020 election. That resulted in a landslide victory for Biden, whatever Trump and his allies may claim. But normalcy is nowhere in sight.

America the undead: Trump's mob attacked a democracy already weakened by his war on reality

What do we see in the images of Wednesday's bloody and lethal attack by Trump's terrorist mob on the Capitol Building and American democracy?

There is the superficial. The tens of thousands of rage-filled white people running amok and defiling the Capitol Building as they looted, destroyed public property and attacked police officers in a lethal white supremacist insurrection and mob action. Many of those same police even went so far as to allow the pro-Trump terrorists to enter the Capitol Building and the surrounding area. After the coup attempt, the Capitol police then allowed most of them to leave without being detained or otherwise stopped.

This article first appeared on Salon.

There are now iconic and infamous images of Trump's terrorists in their MAGA regalia — including one traitor dressed up as a buffalo. Trumpists broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and sat in her chair, mocking her. Other Trumpists urinated on the floor of the Capitol Building. It was all a party or some type of right-wing fascist Saturnalia, with Donald Trump in the role of Pan or Dionysus. Of course, Trump's mob of terrorists carried weapons. Congresspeople and their staffs and others who work in the Capitol Building were under siege. To say that the Capitol police and other security forces were on the "defense" is a polite way of saying that they were overrun and routed. Five people are now dead because of Trump's coup attempt, including a police officer. A member of Trump's mob was shot by the Capitol police. Broadcasters were aghast at the images of her bloody body.

When one looks more deeply, slowly, and more meditatively at the images of Trump's coup attempt we can see something else — if we so choose.

Breathless media coverage makes contemplation and such viewing and thinking more difficult — this is especially true during the long moment of never-ending crises that is the Age of Trump. So-called "hot takes" by the news media and other observers fill the bottomless hunger of the 24/7 news cycle, but almost by design such writing and thinking is ephemeral and almost a type of journalism and reporting as planned obsolescence.

It is that type of writing and thinking which helped to enable and normalize Donald Trump and his Republican Party and their fascist movement. The controversies were exhilarating and exciting — however horrible and vile their substance was and is — but the news media's tenet "if it bleeds it leads" all too often denied the American people a critical framework and the knowledge to explain exactly why these horrible things were happening to them. In total, the myopia caused by the real and imagined controversy of the day or week (or perhaps even month) all too often hides more than it reveals.

And in that way, fascism and authoritarianism get and retain power and control by creating a society-wide feeling of disorientation and exhaustion. The result is more than just the feeling that reality itself is broken, because in the ways that matter reality itself is in fact broken in Trump's America. We can try to counter that force by engaging in acts of critical self-reflection. Who are we? What do we represent? What are our values? Who am I in this society? How do we and I see the world? What of our relationships to and responsibilities for others?

I am a working-class Black American. For me this is a declaration of my first allegiances, description of my material realities, and mission statement for how I make my way through the world. Thus, when I reflect upon and look deeply at the images of Trump's fascist riot and coup attempt, I see another of the many temper tantrums of white supremacy and white entitlement and white aggrievement which have occurred throughout American history. I see the enemies of Black and brown strivers like myself. I see the people who denied Black and brown people the ability to accrue intergenerational wealth and income. I see the people who tried to take away the dignity of Black and brown people — and yet we succeeded over and over again nonetheless. I see the enemies of a better and more inclusive American Dream.

I also see Trump's favorite president, Andrew Jackson, a literal white supremacist slave driver and a man who led a genocidal campaign against First Nations people. In 1829, Jackson's populist supporters (of course this version of populism mostly excluded Black people) ran amok in the White House on Inauguration Day. Almost 200 years later, Trump's fake populist white fascist mob attempted a coup against America's multiracial democracy by invading the Capitol Building.

Because images do not exist in isolation but rather in relation to one another, in the rage-filled faces of Trump's goons I also see the reflections of the Black and brown folks (and white brothers and sisters) in the old Jim Crow state of Georgia who the day before bravely overcame voter suppression, vote theft, voter purges and the coronavirus plague to elect a Black man and a Jewish man to the United States Senate.

Many Black folks were lynched in Georgia during Jim and Jane Crow. A Jewish brother was lynched in Georgia during Jim and Jane Crow too.

Trump's fascist goons who defiled the Capitol Building and sought out congresspeople to put on trial — and perhaps even execute — were not just attacking the idea of democracy in the abstract, but purposefully trying to smother multiracial democracy.

As such, the Trump mob's fascist rampage was much more than a political "protest": it was the physical manifestation of death anxieties about being "replaced" by non-whites. Such fears are the heart of Whiteness since its invention in the 15th century. These anxieties of Whiteness are the fuel which sustain and fuel Trumpism, the Republican Party, and other forms of American fascism and white supremacy both historically and through to the present.

On Trump's fascist mob and the overall threat to America's multiracial democracy historians Rhae Lynn Barnes and Keri Leigh Merritt offer this historical context in a new essay at CNN:

"The helpless white minority."
That simple lie lays bare so much of America's misery and suffering. The far-right and White supremacists' purported fear of losing status, wealth and most importantly, political power, in the face of mass Black voter turnout has always been part of what animated racial violence in this country, from riots to lynchings to police brutality.

There are many other images and moments made clearer through contemplative viewing and thinking about Trump's fascist siege of the Capitol Building on Wednesday.

I felt waves of sickness at the images of Black Capitol policeman being chased by a mob of racist white Trump terrorists. Many of the latter were armed. Those Black Capitol police were granted power by the State to use deadly force. They did their best to protect the congresspeople, staff members, others there, and the Capitol Building itself. But they were limited in their power to do so. White police would have showed little if any hesitation at shooting a mob of Black and brown people chasing him down with the intent of causing them harm. But Black or brown police must always show restraint in how they use force against white people. In a racist society Whiteness and white people are to always be given deference.

Trump's white thugs were having fun chasing away an armed Black cop because they were secure in the fact, either consciously or subconsciously, that Whiteness empowered and protected them. Watching those Black Capitol police do battle with, flee, and eventually be run over by Trump's mob, I could hear the white slave driver singing in the movie "12 Years a Slave." In another year not too long ago, Trump's mob would have been out in the night hunting down Black people to hang from the lynching tree. Several Black Capitol police officers were quoted in a recent feature at BuzzFeed News where they shared the following:

"I sat down with one of my buddies, another Black guy, and tears just started streaming down my face," he said. "I said, 'What the fuck, man? Is this America? What the fuck just happened? I'm so sick and tired of this shit.'"
Soon he was screaming, so that everyone in the Rotunda, including his white colleagues, could hear what he had just gone through.
"These are racist-ass terrorists," he yelled out.
In the seven years since Black Lives Matter has become a rallying cry, the image of a white cop deciding how and when to enforce law and order has become ubiquitous. On Wednesday, Americans saw something different, as Black officers tried to do the same, as they attempted to protect the very heart of American democracy. And instead of being honored by the supporters of a man who likes to call himself the "law and order" president, Black Capitol officers found themselves under attack.
"I got called a nigger 15 times today," the veteran officer shouted in the Rotunda to no one in particular. "Trump did this and we got all of these fucking people in our department that voted for him. How the fuck can you support him?"
"I cried for about 15 minutes and I just let it out."

White men walked throughout the Capitol Building as though they were on vacation, entitled to be there because in their minds at least, the world is theirs and America is theirs for they are the "Real Americans." In the collective imagination of the so-called Real American, non-white people are just guests in the United States.

Trumpists proudly carried the Confederate Flag, a symbol of white supremacist treason. That evil cause was defeated by the Union. But in the 21st century that hateful and traitorous flag and those who rally beneath it had a moment of revenge as they rampaged throughout the Capitol Building. Not to be forgotten, the Confederates believed themselves to be real "patriots" and to be carrying on the legacy of George Washington. This is the same thinking that animates Trump's fascist mob and larger movement.

There were the Black janitors and other maintenance people cleaning up after Trump's coup rampage. I am the child of a janitor. I saw my father's face in theirs. Both literally and symbolically, Black people are always cleaning up White America's messes. That is true in the Capitol Building. It is true for the so-called "essential workers." It is true in Georgia. It is true on Election Day. It is true from before the Founding and through to the present.

When they look at the images from the Capitol Building, what do Trump's followers and other members of the right-wing see?

The right-wing media and other fascist myth-makers are claiming that the Trump traitors are "victims" who have been "misrepresented." Donald Trump is also a victim of the "liberal media" and did not attempt to incite violence and lead a coup.

Some of the most deranged members of TrumpWorld and the right-wing echo chamber more broadly even believe that the mob which attacked the Capitol Building and democracy were actually antifascists in disguise. Therefore, Trump's coup is imagined as being some type of "false flag" operation.

And for those in TrumpWorld who acknowledge the incontrovertible fact that Trumpists overran the Capitol Building, such an act was "patriotic" and was mostly "peaceful," as dishonestly compared to Black Lives Matter, for example.

In total, TrumpWorld is a "reality" of lies, conspiracism and other distortions and delusions where reality itself is not just realistically and reasonably mediated through experience but instead wholly made into something grotesque and deranged.

What Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels described as "the big lie" is the foundation of TrumpWorld and its coup attempt.

In a series of posts on Twitter, historian Timothy Snyder explained this in the following way:

The claim that Trump won the election is a big lie.
A big lie changes reality. To believe it, people must disbelieve their senses, distrust their fellow citizens, and live in a world of faith.
A big lie demands conspiracy thinking, since all who doubt it are seen as traitors. A big lie undoes a society, since it divides citizens into believers and unbelievers. A big lie destroys democracy, since people who are convinced that nothing is true but the utterances of their leader ignore voting and its results. A big lie must bring violence, as it has. A big lie can never be told just by one person. Trump is the originator of this big lie, but it could never have flourished without his allies on Capitol Hill.

The Age of Trump and all the societal and other evils and ills that it has unleashed, legitimated, and empowered has left America a type of undead nation. Sacred civic myths have been shattered about the country's democratic institutions and the inherent goodness of its people. Even with Trump removed from the White House, his cult members and other deplorables will be a mass of tens of millions of fascist zombie followers that he will control with shaman-like powers.

Ultimately, Trumpism and the forces which made it possible have transformed the United States even more into a type of fun house mirror society ruled by twisted images and confusion about the very nature of reality and truth — and without such a consensus a healthy democracy is impossible.

Trump's newest crime 'shocks' the media -- but the president's niece is not surprised

When it comes to Donald Trump, too many people in the mainstream media and elsewhere have tried to impose complexity onto simplicity. For many such observers there must always be some other explanation for Trump and his movement's anti-democratic behavior and overall evil. Therefore, we must ride the hamster wheel of shock and surprise at each new example of Trump's ignominious behavior.

Why does this happen? It comes from applying old frameworks for understanding politics and presidents onto a man and a movement that have shattered them. Moreover, to admit basic if unpleasant truths about Trump and his movement would be to force an act of critical self-reflection on a mainstream media ecosystem that has largely failed in its responsibilities to hold the powerful accountable during the Age of Trump.

We learned on Sunday that Donald Trump has apparently committed yet another "shocking" crime against democracy and the American people. According to audio recordings acquired by CNN and reported by the Washington Post, Trump spent an hour on the phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, urging Raffensperger "to 'find' votes to overturn the election results," and attacking him "for refusing to falsely say that [Trump] won the election in Georgia."

CNN reports:

"The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry. And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you've recalculated," Trump said in one part of the call. Raffensperger responded, "Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong."
In another part, Trump said, "So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state."
"You should want to have an accurate election. And you're a Republican," Trump said at one point. ...
The call represents the latest extraordinary effort by Trump to change the results of the race he lost following weeks of legal and political efforts by the President, his legal team and Republican allies to overturn the free and fair election.

No one should act so surprised: This is only Trump's most recent effort to steal a presidential election. In 2016, he made it clear that if lost the election to Hillary Clinton he would not accept the result. Repeated investigations have revealed that Trump and his inner circle eagerly attempted to collude with Russian agents to interfere with the election.

In 2020, Trump continued with the same threats, now amplified by his power as president. He was impeached almost a year ago because he attempted to extort the Ukrainian president into smearing Joe Biden during the 2020 election. A few weeks ago, Donald Trump hosted a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House where a military coup was reportedly discussed as a means of keeping him in power indefinitely. Trump continues to encourage his followers to engage in sedition and treason on his behalf in a last-ditch effort to overturn Joe Biden's election victory.

As Jason Stanley, a Yale professor and the author of "How Fascism Works," summarized on Twitter, "Trump is clearly not just a performative authoritarian. He's the real thing."

Trump, his Republican supporters and other members of the anti-democracy cabal members are correct about one thing regarding the 2020 presidential election: There was in fact voting fraud, but it was and is being committed by them.

Dr. Mary Trump, who is Donald Trump's niece and also a clinical psychologist, has publicly predicted Donald Trump's increasingly dangerous, aberrant and delusional behavior. Her bestselling book "Too Much and Never Enough" chronicles how her uncle came to be the man he is today, and the dire, almost existential threat that he represents to the United States and the world. In this new conversation with Salon, Mary Trump warns that Donald Trump will only become more dangerous as Inauguration Day approaches and he faces the last days of his presidency.

She also suggests that Donald Trump is experiencing a severe psychological crisis because of his deeply pathological fear of "losing," and discusses why he seems so indifferent to the death and suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and how he has a deep contempt for his own followers.

In conclusion, Mary Trump issues a warning: There is no limit to the havoc and destruction her uncle is willing to cause in these final weeks before he is forced from office.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

I had the honor of speaking with the late Dr. Jerrold Post some months ago, before he passed away. He described Donald Trump as being very dangerous and possessing what he termed "dark charisma." In your experience with your uncle, how has this dark charisma manifested itself? Is he that powerful?

I refer to it as "superficial charisma." But Dr. Post and I ultimately mean the same thing. If you are with Donald for more than three minutes, you understand that it is a scam. He is somebody who is superficially charming. There is no substance there.

However, here is the problem: Donald's the weakest person I've ever met in my life. But there are, as it turns out, people who are a great deal weaker than he is. He is a magnet for them. They also see that in their view he has been incredibly successful. He speaks to their grievances in a way I believe no one else ever has in this country. We saw that during his recent rally in Georgia. He said, "We're all victims here." All the thousands of us, including himself! Trump's a victim, too, despite having every privilege possible. He's a "victim." I've never met anybody who felt so sorry for himself, who so felt that he was owed something. But the truth of the matter is that his followers, such as the people at the recent Georgia rally, are his victims. That is what is so maddening.

Does Donald Trump the human being really exist? Or is he just a performer who is lost in the role? Are his followers responding to the human being or to the image and performance?

You're exactly right. Donald does not know who he is because he doesn't have an identity. Donald does not have a core. He is a completely false self. He is somebody — and to me this is a sign of serious psychopathy — who is exactly the same whether he is in front of a crowd of 50,000 people or in a room with his wife or his children, whether he's in a Cabinet meeting or hanging out on the golf course. He is the same person across every circumstance. That is deeply disturbing. Donald is entirely a construct. The question is, what happens when there's nobody watching anymore? He ceases to exist, essentially.

Insiders and others close to Trump have been warning that he is delusional and acting like some type of mad king since his loss to Joe Biden. Given your clinical expertise, what happens to a person like him after suffering such a great defeat? How dangerous will he become?

That is the danger, because he cannot process it. He is not decompensating. People have asked me that since the beginning: "Don't you see that he's deteriorated?" No, he's exactly the same person. I do not need to have seen him in 20 years. Donald is exactly the same person as he was when I was five, when I was 12, when I was writing his book for him, when I saw him in the White House in 2017. The only thing that's changed are the circumstances. Donald's under a level of scrutiny — not enough scrutiny, of course — but at least some scrutiny that he has never experienced before. He's under levels of stress he's never experienced. He's under levels of expectation he's never experienced. The distance between his competencies, such as they are, and what's required for the job are light years apart.

Nobody is going to be able to function at the same level under those changing circumstances. But Donald is the same. Now he is in a uniquely terrifying situation. This is a person who grew up with a father who considered losing the absolute worst thing a person can do. Of course, Donald's never won anything legitimately in his life. However, he's not an ethical person. Winning was more important than anything else, so therefore you did whatever you had to do to win. It didn't matter if it was legitimate or luck. It didn't matter if you lied, cheated, stole, used performance-enhancing drugs, whatever one needs to do to win. You won. That is all that matters.

Donald can't do that now. He is trapped in being a loser for all time. Daddy's money can't buy him out of a loss. My grandfather is not going to drive up to the White House with a briefcase full of electoral college votes. Hard as he might try, this election is not getting overturned because, although sadly it wasn't a landslide, it was a decisive win for Joe Biden. You cannot make up for a 7 million-vote discrepancy. It doesn't mean he's not going to keep trying, though. The more Donald has to acknowledge that he is not going to be able to get the win, the more dangerous he is going to get.

Thousands of people are dying every day now from the pandemic. What is Donald doing? He's giving rallies with people crammed in together, not wearing masks. It's almost like Donald is saying, "See. Fuck you. You rejected me. Fine, I'm going to kill all of you." What is weird is that he is killing his own supporters. It is almost a type of performative omnipotence.

What does Donald Trump really think about his followers?

Donald has nothing but contempt for them. Yet they are all he's got left.

Are there any limits on Donald Trump's behavior and what he is capable of doing during these last few weeks of his presidency?

There are none. What makes it even worse is that it did not have to be this way. But as long as the Republican leadership remains silent and does not call him out and acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden's election win, the more options Donald has.

If the Republicans had come out right away and said, "OK, Biden won. It doesn't matter if Donald concedes or not," that's not to say that Donald would not have done whatever he could to smash everything on the way out. He still would potentially have been selling state secrets or just enriching himself and his family in whatever illicit ways he could figure out, or what have you.

But Donald would not have been destroying our democracy. He needs help to do that. And Donald is only going to get more desperate because it is not just that he lost — which is a narcissistic injury the likes of which I do not think anybody on the planet has ever suffered — it is also what he's staring down the barrel of, with the indictments, lawsuits, bankruptcies and other consequences.

Language is so important here. We have got to stop using the language of "democracy" to talk about Donald, because right now this is not a transition, it is a coup. Who cares if it is failing or incompetent? It is still a coup.

America needs to undergo a real reckoning with itself about the Age of Trump and how this disaster came to be. What would a reckoning and healing look like to you?

We cannot have a reckoning if the government refuses to hold people accountable. The idea that there may not be a truth and reconciliation committee or a crimes commission is unspeakable. How is that possible? There is no one in the United States government for whom that is more necessary than for Donald. It would be good if there was accountability at the federal level. We may have to settle for accountability at the state level.

What advice would you give the American people about these next few weeks so they are not surprised by what Donald Trump may do?

Be on your guard. Be vigilant. Do not take anything for granted. We barely won this battle. We are nowhere near the end of this war. Donald is capable of anything. Don't laugh it off. He's not just some incompetent clown, although he may be, but Donald is not just that. He is somebody who has an extraordinary amount of power. He has an extraordinary amount of latitude. Mock Donald at your peril.

'This is a very dangerous period': Author says Trump is the most 'traitorous' official since the Civil War

More than 400,000 Americans will soon be dead from the coronavirus pandemic, which by some standards could make 2020 the "deadliest year in U.S. history," with a 15% increase in fatalities from 2019.

Public health experts have concluded that the actual number of people killed in the U.S. by the coronavirus is probably much higher. Many more Americans will have shortened lifespans from complications caused either directly by the virus or indirectly by the conditions of the pandemic.

The final year of Donald Trump's presidency has had such a negative impact that U.S. birthrates are predicted to decrease in 2021.

Unless immediate relief is offered millions of Americans may face eviction. More than 10 million Americans are now at least $5,000 behind in rent payments. There are long lines for free food and other essentials in cities and towns across the country, and all regions of America are experiencing near-record levels of unemployment and underemployment.

The country's already threadbare social safety net is about to collapse: In the midst of the holiday season, millions of Americans may not receive their unemployment benefits — perhaps even for several weeks — because of Trump's unconscionable delay in signing the coronavirus relief bill.

By comparison, the very richest individuals and corporations have become even wealthier and more powerful during the pandemic, while average Americans (as well as many small businesses) face financial ruin and deprivation.

Trump has been at his Florida resort since before Christmas, playing golf, sabotaging relief efforts and waging a last-ditch campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Such behavior should not come as a surprise: Many of the country's leading mental health experts have repeatedly warned that Trump is an apparent sociopath or psychopath who does not care if the American people live or die.

Ultimately, it appears that Trump is punishing the American people for voting him out of office.

He has even punished his own party by refusing to sign the coronavirus relief bill until Sunday evening. This delay did not reflect any care or concern for the American people — his demand for larger relief checks is clearly a political stunt — but rather an act of revenge against the Republican Party for failing to publicly support his coup attempt with more enthusiasm and vigor.

At the Guardian, former labor secretary and public policy expert Robert Reich explains the implications of Trump's anti-social and fascistic behavior:

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to re-elect Donald Trump — 46.8% of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election — don't hold Trump accountable for what he's done to America.
Their acceptance of Trump's behavior will be his vilest legacy…. The appalling reality is that Trump may get away with it. And in getting away with it he will have changed and degraded the norms governing American presidents. The giant windows he's broken are invitations to a future president to break even more. Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans recognize and condemn what has occurred.

Trumpism has left the United States in a condition where it is a morally and ethically undead country, shambling on by instinct and compulsion with no real direction or vision. President-elect Joe Biden will have to be a type of political sorcerer or exorcist to somehow heal America. Such a task is likely too great for any one person or presidential administration. A society-wide reconstruction project will be necessary.

Fintan O'Toole describes the broken state of America in Trump's last days in a new essay for the Irish Times:

The power of his instinct was that he knew how to tap into a hatred of government that has been barely below the surface of American culture since before the foundation of the US.
That instinct proved sufficiently well attuned that he got nearly 75 million votes in November, even while his malign incompetence was killing his own people. He got those votes, moreover, having made it abundantly clear that he would never accept the result of the election unless he won. They were votes for open autocracy.
This is his legacy: he has successfully led a vast number of voters along the path from hatred of government to contempt for rational deliberation to the inevitable endpoint: disdain for the electoral process itself.
In this end is his new beginning. Stripped of direct power, he will face enormous legal and financial jeopardy. He will have every reason to keep drawing on his greatest asset: his ability to unleash the demons that have always haunted the American experiment — racism, nativism, fear of "the government."
Trump has unfinished business. A republic he wants to destroy still stands. It is, for him, not goodbye but hasta la vista. Instead of waving him off, those who want to rebuild American democracy will have to put a stake through his heart.

As the clock counts down to Inauguration Day, what will Donald Trump do next in his criminal rampage of political revenge and destruction? In search of an answer to this question, I recently spoke with Michael D'Antonio, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the 2016 biography "The Truth About Trump." His forthcoming book (co-written with Peter Eisner) is "High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump."

D'Antonio is also a frequent commentator on CNN. His essays and other writing have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Esquire.

In our conversation, D'Antonio warned that Trump will do anything to stay in power and will accept any help, legal or otherwise, that he believes might enable his ongoing coup attempt to succeed. He also discussed why — with a few notable exceptions — the mainstream news media normalized Trump's presidency for years and refused to warn the public about the dangers presented by Trump and his incipient fascist regime.

Finally, Michael D'Antonio predicted that once Trump is finally deposed on Jan. 20, he will continue to be a looming, menacing presence in American life — perhaps by creating his own TV network and opening a theme park-style temple for his tens of millions of followers.

Donald Trump's coup attempt is ongoing. He recently met with his cabal in the Oval Office where they discussed using the military to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Why is this not the lead story at every news outlet in the country?

What Trump is doing is disgusting. The media's response to what is happening is puzzling. I suspect that the press is on the fence about when to pull the plug on paying attention to him. I do believe that the mainstream press went through a time period where it eventually decided that it had to confront Donald Trump for who and what he really is. In a way, they did cross the Rubicon, so to speak, and started describing him as a liar, and also tried to document what he was really up to.

I think the American press has also communicated that Trump is attempting to subvert the country's democracy and that he has attacked our democratic institutions. The major struggle has been between Trump — who is attempting to overturn an election, and through what is essentially a coup stay in power — and a court system that has so far stopped his coup attempt. But it is not time to take our eyes off the ball yet.

This is a very dangerous period where Trump is not only trying to continue to overturn the election but is also making a great effort to hinder Joe Biden as he comes into office and attempts to restore some sort of normalcy to the country and the presidency. Trump is doing things that no other president has done. I do not believe that we have had a more subversive and traitorous federal official in our history — and certainly since the Civil War. For the American press to ease up and place the scandal of Trump's meeting in the Oval Office, where martial law other parts of a coup plot were discussed, anywhere but on the front page is a mistake.

I've had lots of conversations with people in the mainstream press. They are trying to figure out what is the responsible thing to do in the public interest. But I must ask: Has the American news media served the public interest in the preceding four years?

If what Donald Trump and his agents are doing to subvert democracy were taking place in another country the narrative from the mainstream news media would be totally different.

Yes, if we were watching these events in another country there would be warnings of a coup. The United States ambassador might be raising alarms. The world community might be threatening sanctions. It may be that we are all so eager to put Trump and all that he has done to the country behind us that we are moving too quickly to do so.

There are so many examples of how the mainstream news media has failed in its responsibilities to hold Donald Trump accountable by speaking truth to power about his fascism, his racism and his violent assaults on the country's democratic norms and values. One of the greatest failings has been a refusal to describe Trumpism as a type of political cult. That framework might have helped people understand Trump's enduring power.

Many journalists are isolated. If you are a person who has never attended a Pentecostal church service, or has never known people who were in a cult, or has not tried to understand right-wing Christian evangelicals and the lifestyle that many of those people live, then you are not going to be able to recognize what Donald Trump has been doing. His campaign events and rallies are more like a religious crusade.

For most journalists, this is beyond their experience. It may well be that the separation of the journalistic community from the community of the faithful in conservative evangelical communities perhaps explains the anger felt by the evangelicals. They know that the mainstream press either doesn't get them or doesn't care to get them and may even look down on them. Therefore, when Trump says, "They hate you" and says that the press is "the enemy of the people," he has a ready and receptive audience.

The journalistic imagination of the mainstream media is very limited. Another example is the way they continue to be surprised by Trump's evil and cruelty and other aberrant behavior. Trump has been behaving this way for years in his public life. Why the perpetual surprise? Why do so many public voices keep asking questions about Trump and his movement to which they should already know the answers?

There is a great deal of fear in newsrooms of giving mental health professionals much leeway when discussing someone like Donald Trump. Part of this is a long tradition of hiding behind sourcing, the idea that you always have to have a source make the observation because a journalist is somehow not allowed to do such things.

That is a holdover from the ideal of a certain kind of fairness that came with an assumption that people are operating from some basis of goodwill. There was not any corner of the mainstream media that was prepared to deal with a person as malevolent as Trump, who was not operating out of any commitment to the country or to the oath of office. The press was paralyzed by the enormity of Trump's malevolence. Reporters kept waiting for the moment when they could say, "Oh, see, he is capable of something better. We were right not to declare him depraved." The mainstream news media waited so long for such a moment that now their judgment has become irrelevant.

It was so utterly apparent to anyone who bypassed the news and just watched Trump on television that he was fascistic, that he's a racist, that he's perfectly comfortable fomenting violence if he believes it's in his own interest to do so. Trump broke the minds of the national press. Trump and his behavior exceeded their imaginations. Even when there were mental health experts sounding the alarm from the very beginning about Donald Trump, such as Dr. Bandy Lee and others, the mainstream news media couldn't hear it.

With three weeks or so left until Biden is inaugurated, many journalists and other members of the chattering class are now speaking out against Trump, finally labeling him as a fascist and a white supremacist and a political criminal. But many of these same voices spent the last four years downplaying the threat of Trumpism and saying that those of us sounding the alarm about the danger he represented were exaggerating or hysterical. Now they want to be on the record to protect themselves from history's judgment. Am I being unfair?

There is an element of that. It may even be subconscious. I do believe it is unfair to say that nobody was speaking out about how dangerous Trump is. On the evening news programs, especially, there have been voices calling attention to Trump's harm and great danger. Impeachment spurred many journalists to start speaking out more boldly. Right now, there are journalists making their case against Trump and mourning about the fact that fascism found fertile ground here in this country. But yes, some in the press are making sure that they are on record before the end of Trump's term.

Many journalists were frozen by the shock of Donald Trump and his attacks on democracy and other unprecedented behavior. And it kept getting worse. But that is another amazing element to this saga, which is that while so many people were assuming there would be a moment when Trump would hit bottom and bounce up to a higher level and come closer to the norm, it just never happened.

I can't tell you how many times I spoke to editors who said, "This must be as low as he can get. Time to publish that piece saying Trump has finally hit the bottom." But if you have never been abused yourself — I mean really abused by somebody powerful — you may not understand what is happening. You might not even know that people like Donald Trump exist and that there will be no bottom, no "bouncing up" to normal.

The dominant narrative about Trump's coup attempt is that it has "failed" and he is "incompetent" so there is no real danger. How can we better explain to the American people how dangerous Donald Trump really is, even at this late stage of his presidency?

If Donald Trump could be a military dictator, he would eagerly assume that role. For me, the best way of explaining Trump is that he does not share common reference points for what life is really about. Love is not one of his reference points. Service to others is not one of his reference points. Joy, as you understand it, is not understood by him. All he knows is the pursuit of power through dominance over others. Trump will achieve that dominance through whatever means are necessary. If it is violence, then Trump will use it. If it's the law, he'll use it. If it's mere persuasion, that's fine too.

And because Trump wants to conserve his energy, he will use the least powerful means first and hope that serves his goals. But again, Donald Trump is not the kind of human being most people are used to dealing with. The individuals who do know how to deal with and control people like Donald Trump are in law enforcement, perhaps in the national security establishment and in the mental health field, because Donald Trump is closer to a psychopathic mob boss than anything else.

Let's be even more direct for purposes of clarification. If someone came to Donald Trump, be it a hostile foreign country, a criminal organization, military generals or other powerful forces, and they told him that they have a plan to keep him in power indefinitely, would he say yes or no?

Trump would say yes in a heartbeat. Anyone who arrived in the Oval Office with a plan for keeping him there would get a long hearing. Other people in the White House would have to keep such ideas from becoming actions. Donald Trump becomes desperate quickly.

Even though he has so much money and power he still somehow sees life as a constant battle for survival. That Trump thinks about life in such a way does not compute for most people, because they do not understand that Trump is disturbed. Once you accept how Trump thinks and lives, then you realize, "Well, if a guy with his resources and no human values thinks of life as a desperate fight for survival, God help the person he deems a threat."

Why was Donald Trump not impeached by the Republicans? They have gotten their panoply of horrible policies enacted by his administration. Why not impeach him and move on?

Donald Trump was not impeached because the Republican senators fear him and the members of his cult. What is quite interesting is that I do not believe that a single United States senator was in the cult, or is in the cult now. But they do fear Trump's cult. Therefore, the Republicans will continue to pay attention to what Trump says because he is such an effective demagogue. Donald Trump is going to continue to go around the country with his crusades. He will be holding rallies in the states of senators who disagreed with him. If there is a primary challenger, that person will make the pilgrimage to see the Dear Leader Donald Trump. Trump will then give them his endorsement.

Trump is a genius at escaping accountability. He is also a genius at setting the scene for whatever drama is about to take place. His entire life has been devoted to convincing people to be afraid of him, as well as convincing people to see in him something of themselves. When he campaigned in 2016, Trump persuaded those who voted for him that he was one of them. He showed the members of the Senate, who were Republicans, why they should be afraid of him.

Once Trump is removed from office, what do you think he does next? Elsewhere you have suggested that he may actually have his own TV network and theme park.

I believe that if Donald Trump does not have his own TV network, he will have something close to it. His children will have media outlets of some sort as well. I also believe that there will be a Trump headquarters in South Florida, and it will become a destination location for members of his cult and people who will feel compelled to go to TrumpWorld every year. They will visit the Trump presidential library and stay in a hotel that looks like the White House where every bedroom is a Lincoln Bedroom.

Visitors will maybe catch a glimpse of one of the Trumps in the TV studio. There will probably be tours of the Trump Leadership PAC offices. There will be a theater in TrumpWorld as well. There may even be a small stadium. TrumpWorld will be some combination of a presidential library, Dollywood and Scientology's gold base, and Trump will rule over it all. It will be very lucrative for him.

There is a narrative out there that naively suggests that Donald Trump will be tried and convicted for his crimes and then be put in jail. Your response?

I do not believe that Donald Trump will be put in prison. I also doubt that he will be criminally charged. I think there will be a deal involving a lot of money that has already been put in the bank. Trump's followers have already donated it. I doubt there is anything to prevent him from using that PAC money to keep himself out of prison.

I do think that some Trump entities will disappear. There may be a fire sale on the golf courses. Someone may buy the licensing deals for the hotels and change the name. They may lose some of their assets. But in the end Donald Trump is not going to jail. Moreover, none of Trump's inner circle are going to prison either. He was not convicted after being impeached because he understands the weaknesses of the Republican senators.

In the end, Donald Trump will likely not go to prison because he understands the American tradition that stands in the way of putting a former president in prison. America has a sense of itself which will not allow a former president to be imprisoned. Like so many sociopathic people, Trump takes advantage of the decency of others, who cannot bring themselves to deal with him in the way that he deserves.

Trump’s disgusting behavior is more than just a coup – he’s building up his fascistic cult: biographer

More than 400,000 Americans will soon be dead from the coronavirus pandemic, which by some standards could make 2020 the "deadliest year in U.S. history," with a 15% increase in fatalities from 2019.

This article was originally published at Salon

Public health experts have concluded that the actual number of people killed in the U.S. by the coronavirus is probably much higher. Many more Americans will have shortened lifespans from complications caused either directly by the virus or indirectly by the conditions of the pandemic.

The final year of Donald Trump's presidency has had such a negative impact that U.S. birthrates are predicted to decrease in 2021.

Unless immediate relief is offered millions of Americans may face eviction. More than 10 million Americans are now at least $5,000 behind in rent payments. There are long lines for free food and other essentials in cities and towns across the country, and all regions of America are experiencing near-record levels of unemployment and underemployment.

The country's already threadbare social safety net is about to collapse: In the midst of the holiday season, millions of Americans may not receive their unemployment benefits — perhaps even for several weeks — because of Trump's unconscionable delay in signing the coronavirus relief bill.

By comparison, the very richest individuals and corporations have become even wealthier and more powerful during the pandemic, while average Americans (as well as many small businesses) face financial ruin and deprivation.

Trump has been at his Florida resort since before Christmas, playing golf, sabotaging relief efforts and waging a last-ditch campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Such behavior should not come as a surprise: Many of the country's leading mental health experts have repeatedly warned that Trump is an apparent sociopath or psychopath who does not care if the American people live or die.

Ultimately, it appears that Trump is punishing the American people for voting him out of office.

He has even punished his own party by refusing to sign the coronavirus relief bill until Sunday evening. This delay did not reflect any care or concern for the American people — his demand for larger relief checks is clearly a political stunt — but rather an act of revenge against the Republican Party for failing to publicly support his coup attempt with more enthusiasm and vigor.

At the Guardian, former labor secretary and public policy expert Robert Reich explains the implications of Trump's anti-social and fascistic behavior :

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to re-elect Donald Trump — 46.8% of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election — don't hold Trump accountable for what he's done to America.
Their acceptance of Trump's behavior will be his vilest legacy…. The appalling reality is that Trump may get away with it. And in getting away with it he will have changed and degraded the norms governing American presidents. The giant windows he's broken are invitations to a future president to break even more. Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans recognize and condemn what has occurred.

Trumpism has left the United States in a condition where it is a morally and ethically undead country, shambling on by instinct and compulsion with no real direction or vision. President-elect Joe Biden will have to be a type of political sorcerer or exorcist to somehow heal America. Such a task is likely too great for any one person or presidential administration. A society-wide reconstruction project will be necessary.

Fintan O'Toole describes the broken state of America in Trump's last days in a new essay for the Irish Times:

The power of his instinct was that he knew how to tap into a hatred of government that has been barely below the surface of American culture since before the foundation of the US.
That instinct proved sufficiently well attuned that he got nearly 75 million votes in November, even while his malign incompetence was killing his own people. He got those votes, moreover, having made it abundantly clear that he would never accept the result of the election unless he won. They were votes for open autocracy.
This is his legacy: he has successfully led a vast number of voters along the path from hatred of government to contempt for rational deliberation to the inevitable endpoint: disdain for the electoral process itself.
In this end is his new beginning. Stripped of direct power, he will face enormous legal and financial jeopardy. He will have every reason to keep drawing on his greatest asset: his ability to unleash the demons that have always haunted the American experiment — racism, nativism, fear of "the government."
Trump has unfinished business. A republic he wants to destroy still stands. It is, for him, not goodbye but hasta la vista. Instead of waving him off, those who want to rebuild American democracy will have to put a stake through his heart.

As the clock counts down to Inauguration Day, what will Donald Trump do next in his criminal rampage of political revenge and destruction? In search of an answer to this question, I recently spoke with Michael D'Antonio, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the 2016 biography "The Truth About Trump." His forthcoming book (co-written with Peter Eisner) is "High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump."

D'Antonio is also a frequent commentator on CNN. His essays and other writing have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Esquire.

In our conversation, D'Antonio warned that Trump will do anything to stay in power and will accept any help, legal or otherwise, that he believes might enable his ongoing coup attempt to succeed. He also discussed why — with a few notable exceptions — the mainstream news media normalized Trump's presidency for years and refused to warn the public about the dangers presented by Trump and his incipient fascist regime.

Finally, Michael D'Antonio predicted that once Trump is finally deposed on Jan. 20, he will continue to be a looming, menacing presence in American life — perhaps by creating his own TV network and opening a theme park-style temple for his tens of millions of followers.

Donald Trump's coup attempt is ongoing. He recently met with his cabal in the Oval Office where they discussed using the military to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Why is this not the lead story at every news outlet in the country?

What Trump is doing is disgusting. The media's response to what is happening is puzzling. I suspect that the press is on the fence about when to pull the plug on paying attention to him. I do believe that the mainstream press went through a time period where it eventually decided that it had to confront Donald Trump for who and what he really is. In a way, they did cross the Rubicon, so to speak, and started describing him as a liar, and also tried to document what he was really up to.

I think the American press has also communicated that Trump is attempting to subvert the country's democracy and that he has attacked our democratic institutions. The major struggle has been between Trump — who is attempting to overturn an election, and through what is essentially a coup stay in power — and a court system that has so far stopped his coup attempt. But it is not time to take our eyes off the ball yet.

This is a very dangerous period where Trump is not only trying to continue to overturn the election but is also making a great effort to hinder Joe Biden as he comes into office and attempts to restore some sort of normalcy to the country and the presidency. Trump is doing things that no other president has done. I do not believe that we have had a more subversive and traitorous federal official in our history — and certainly since the Civil War. For the American press to ease up and place the scandal of Trump's meeting in the Oval Office, where martial law other parts of a coup plot were discussed, anywhere but on the front page is a mistake.

I've had lots of conversations with people in the mainstream press. They are trying to figure out what is the responsible thing to do in the public interest. But I must ask: Has the American news media served the public interest in the preceding four years?

If what Donald Trump and his agents are doing to subvert democracy were taking place in another country the narrative from the mainstream news media would be totally different.

Yes, if we were watching these events in another country there would be warnings of a coup. The United States ambassador might be raising alarms. The world community might be threatening sanctions. It may be that we are all so eager to put Trump and all that he has done to the country behind us that we are moving too quickly to do so.

There are so many examples of how the mainstream news media has failed in its responsibilities to hold Donald Trump accountable by speaking truth to power about his fascism, his racism and his violent assaults on the country's democratic norms and values. One of the greatest failings has been a refusal to describe Trumpism as a type of political cult. That framework might have helped people understand Trump's enduring power.

Many journalists are isolated. If you are a person who has never attended a Pentecostal church service, or has never known people who were in a cult, or has not tried to understand right-wing Christian evangelicals and the lifestyle that many of those people live, then you are not going to be able to recognize what Donald Trump has been doing. His campaign events and rallies are more like a religious crusade.

For most journalists, this is beyond their experience. It may well be that the separation of the journalistic community from the community of the faithful in conservative evangelical communities perhaps explains the anger felt by the evangelicals. They know that the mainstream press either doesn't get them or doesn't care to get them and may even look down on them. Therefore, when Trump says, "They hate you" and says that the press is "the enemy of the people," he has a ready and receptive audience.

The journalistic imagination of the mainstream media is very limited. Another example is the way they continue to be surprised by Trump's evil and cruelty and other aberrant behavior. Trump has been behaving this way for years in his public life. Why the perpetual surprise? Why do so many public voices keep asking questions about Trump and his movement to which they should already know the answers?

There is a great deal of fear in newsrooms of giving mental health professionals much leeway when discussing someone like Donald Trump. Part of this is a long tradition of hiding behind sourcing, the idea that you always have to have a source make the observation because a journalist is somehow not allowed to do such things.

That is a holdover from the ideal of a certain kind of fairness that came with an assumption that people are operating from some basis of goodwill. There was not any corner of the mainstream media that was prepared to deal with a person as malevolent as Trump, who was not operating out of any commitment to the country or to the oath of office. The press was paralyzed by the enormity of Trump's malevolence. Reporters kept waiting for the moment when they could say, "Oh, see, he is capable of something better. We were right not to declare him depraved." The mainstream news media waited so long for such a moment that now their judgment has become irrelevant.

It was so utterly apparent to anyone who bypassed the news and just watched Trump on television that he was fascistic, that he's a racist, that he's perfectly comfortable fomenting violence if he believes it's in his own interest to do so. Trump broke the minds of the national press. Trump and his behavior exceeded their imaginations. Even when there were mental health experts sounding the alarm from the very beginning about Donald Trump, such as Dr. Bandy Lee and others, the mainstream news media couldn't hear it.

With three weeks or so left until Biden is inaugurated, many journalists and other members of the chattering class are now speaking out against Trump, finally labeling him as a fascist and a white supremacist and a political criminal. But many of these same voices spent the last four years downplaying the threat of Trumpism and saying that those of us sounding the alarm about the danger he represented were exaggerating or hysterical. Now they want to be on the record to protect themselves from history's judgment. Am I being unfair?

There is an element of that. It may even be subconscious. I do believe it is unfair to say that nobody was speaking out about how dangerous Trump is. On the evening news programs, especially, there have been voices calling attention to Trump's harm and great danger. Impeachment spurred many journalists to start speaking out more boldly. Right now, there are journalists making their case against Trump and mourning about the fact that fascism found fertile ground here in this country. But yes, some in the press are making sure that they are on record before the end of Trump's term.

Many journalists were frozen by the shock of Donald Trump and his attacks on democracy and other unprecedented behavior. And it kept getting worse. But that is another amazing element to this saga, which is that while so many people were assuming there would be a moment when Trump would hit bottom and bounce up to a higher level and come closer to the norm, it just never happened.

I can't tell you how many times I spoke to editors who said, "This must be as low as he can get. Time to publish that piece saying Trump has finally hit the bottom." But if you have never been abused yourself — I mean really abused by somebody powerful — you may not understand what is happening. You might not even know that people like Donald Trump exist and that there will be no bottom, no "bouncing up" to normal.

The dominant narrative about Trump's coup attempt is that it has "failed" and he is "incompetent" so there is no real danger. How can we better explain to the American people how dangerous Donald Trump really is, even at this late stage of his presidency?

If Donald Trump could be a military dictator, he would eagerly assume that role. For me, the best way of explaining Trump is that he does not share common reference points for what life is really about. Love is not one of his reference points. Service to others is not one of his reference points. Joy, as you understand it, is not understood by him. All he knows is the pursuit of power through dominance over others. Trump will achieve that dominance through whatever means are necessary. If it is violence, then Trump will use it. If it's the law, he'll use it. If it's mere persuasion, that's fine too.

And because Trump wants to conserve his energy, he will use the least powerful means first and hope that serves his goals. But again, Donald Trump is not the kind of human being most people are used to dealing with. The individuals who do know how to deal with and control people like Donald Trump are in law enforcement, perhaps in the national security establishment and in the mental health field, because Donald Trump is closer to a psychopathic mob boss than anything else.

Let's be even more direct for purposes of clarification. If someone came to Donald Trump, be it a hostile foreign country, a criminal organization, military generals or other powerful forces, and they told him that they have a plan to keep him in power indefinitely, would he say yes or no?

Trump would say yes in a heartbeat. Anyone who arrived in the Oval Office with a plan for keeping him there would get a long hearing. Other people in the White House would have to keep such ideas from becoming actions. Donald Trump becomes desperate quickly.

Even though he has so much money and power he still somehow sees life as a constant battle for survival. That Trump thinks about life in such a way does not compute for most people, because they do not understand that Trump is disturbed. Once you accept how Trump thinks and lives, then you realize, "Well, if a guy with his resources and no human values thinks of life as a desperate fight for survival, God help the person he deems a threat."

Why was Donald Trump not impeached by the Republicans? They have gotten their panoply of horrible policies enacted by his administration. Why not impeach him and move on?

Donald Trump was not impeached because the Republican senators fear him and the members of his cult. What is quite interesting is that I do not believe that a single United States senator was in the cult, or is in the cult now. But they do fear Trump's cult. Therefore, the Republicans will continue to pay attention to what Trump says because he is such an effective demagogue. Donald Trump is going to continue to go around the country with his crusades. He will be holding rallies in the states of senators who disagreed with him. If there is a primary challenger, that person will make the pilgrimage to see the Dear Leader Donald Trump. Trump will then give them his endorsement.

Trump is a genius at escaping accountability. He is also a genius at setting the scene for whatever drama is about to take place. His entire life has been devoted to convincing people to be afraid of him, as well as convincing people to see in him something of themselves. When he campaigned in 2016, Trump persuaded those who voted for him that he was one of them. He showed the members of the Senate, who were Republicans, why they should be afraid of him.

Once Trump is removed from office, what do you think he does next? Elsewhere you have suggested that he may actually have his own TV network and theme park.

I believe that if Donald Trump does not have his own TV network, he will have something close to it. His children will have media outlets of some sort as well. I also believe that there will be a Trump headquarters in South Florida, and it will become a destination location for members of his cult and people who will feel compelled to go to TrumpWorld every year. They will visit the Trump presidential library and stay in a hotel that looks like the White House where every bedroom is a Lincoln Bedroom.

Visitors will maybe catch a glimpse of one of the Trumps in the TV studio. There will probably be tours of the Trump Leadership PAC offices. There will be a theater in TrumpWorld as well. There may even be a small stadium. TrumpWorld will be some combination of a presidential library, Dollywood and Scientology's gold base, and Trump will rule over it all. It will be very lucrative for him.

There is a narrative out there that naively suggests that Donald Trump will be tried and convicted for his crimes and then be put in jail. Your response?

I do not believe that Donald Trump will be put in prison. I also doubt that he will be criminally charged. I think there will be a deal involving a lot of money that has already been put in the bank. Trump's followers have already donated it. I doubt there is anything to prevent him from using that PAC money to keep himself out of prison.

I do think that some Trump entities will disappear. There may be a fire sale on the golf courses. Someone may buy the licensing deals for the hotels and change the name. They may lose some of their assets. But in the end Donald Trump is not going to jail. Moreover, none of Trump's inner circle are going to prison either. He was not convicted after being impeached because he understands the weaknesses of the Republican senators.

In the end, Donald Trump will likely not go to prison because he understands the American tradition that stands in the way of putting a former president in prison. America has a sense of itself which will not allow a former president to be imprisoned. Like so many sociopathic people, Trump takes advantage of the decency of others, who cannot bring themselves to deal with him in the way that he deserves.

The coup and the grift: Understanding Trump's evil endgame

Donald Trump's villainy does not rest or find any respite during the holiday season.

As Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump," told Salon in a recent phone conversation, Trump will accept any help — legal or illegal, foreign or domestic, from friend or foe — in his effort to remain in power. Donald Trump is America's fascist authoritarian stalker. He will not stop.

This article first appeared in Salon.

During a video released on Tuesday evening, Donald Trump again suggested that he will not leave office as required on Inauguration Day. In that same speech, Trump also offered the American people payments of $2,000 each (instead of the paltry $600 dollars yielded by Republicans) in coronavirus relief support. In effect, Trump hopes to bribe the American people — even at this late date — into supporting his attempted coup.

How has America's mainstream news media responded to Trump's ongoing coup attempt? With some notable exceptions, the professional political observers and commentariat are focused on the political countdown clock and what they see as Joe Biden's inevitable ascension on Jan. 20. But while the media obsesses about a return to "normalcy," Trump continues to scheme and plot.

Last Friday, Trump held a meeting with his cabal in the Oval Office. Apparently, there were discussions of a military coup that would allow Trump to "re-run" the election in states he has lost. Other options explored included the confiscation of voting machines to search for "irregularities" — which would presumably be found, leading to Trump's miraculous "re-election." Trump and his agents are also conspiring with Republicans in Congress to disrupt or delay the certification of Biden's electoral victory on Jan. 6.

Last Sunday, two days after Trump's seditious meeting in the White House, his campaign sent the following email to supporters:

Biden's Campaign Manager said Republicans were "a bunch of f---ers."
Friend,
Wow.
First, Hillary called you DEPLORABLE.
Then, Joe Biden said we aren't good people.
Next, Nancy called you a DOMESTIC ENEMY.
And NOW, Biden's campaign manager says we're "a bunch of f---ers."
This is what the Left thinks of you. They HATE you and only want to BRING YOU DOWN. Unbelievable. We cannot allow these LOW-LIFE DEMOCRATS to run our Country.
We're turning to the President's strongest defenders, like YOU, to step up and FIGHT BACK against the Radical Left. We must DEFEND the Election.
Please contribute ANY AMOUNT RIGHT NOW to support your President and to DEFEND America from the Left.

Donald Trump's emails to his followers are not separate from the coup plot. In fact, they are central to it.

TrumpWorld is an alternate reality, a political cult whose followers are tied together with the Great Leader in a knot of collective narcissism and other antisocial pathologies. Through that process Donald Trump's grievances become his followers' grievances. Trump's narrative of white victimology and "betrayal" — by Democrats, "the deep state," antifa or Black Lives Matter activists, the media, immigrants, Muslims and whatever group may be targeted in a given day or week — is shared by his followers.

The language used in Trump's emails to his fascistic flock, be it about "defending" the election or an appeal to "patriots," or as in the above example the bugaboo of "the left" and the "low-life Democrats" who "hate" you and "your President," is calculated to insult, enrage and activate a sense of grievance and anger.

The grand uniting theme of Donald Trump's emails to his followers is a narrative of "us" versus "them," the "real Americans" vs some imagined enemy. Stochastic terrorism is central here: Political violence is encouraged as a patriotic and necessary act to "defend" Trump and his "real Americans."

To understand Trump's campaign emails as purely a financial grift is to miss the larger picture. Authoritarianism is by its very nature kleptocratic. Moreover, Trump's "fundraising" emails are a way to insulate himself against criminal charges (and possible conviction) after leaving office, and then to finance his rebellious shadow presidency.

Trump's campaign emails fulfill another role as well: In conjunction with the vast right-wing disinformation machine, they psychologically condition his followers into giving aid, comfort and other support for political violence against the Biden administration, other Democrats and liberals and progressives more generally.

The Trump regime's strategy of violence and intimidation against Democrats — as well as those Republicans deemed to be insufficiently loyal — has proven at least partly effective. Michigan's State House was closed on the day the Electoral College cast its votes, for example, to protect its members from possible attack.

Several weeks ago, the Michigan secretary of state's home was surrounded by dozens of armed right-wing gunmen in an act of political intimidation inspired by Trump's blatant lies about electoral fraud. Earlier, a plot by right-wing terrorists to kidnap and execute Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in hopes of launching a "revolution," was stopped by law enforcement. This plot also targeted other government officials, including Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Overall, as reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the FBI and other law enforcement and watchdog groups, hate crimes and other right-wing violence have greatly increased during Trump's presidency. White right-wing terrorists are now a greater a threat to the country's domestic security than terrorism by militant Islamists. Inspired by Trump's presidency and the global right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis have committed mass shootings and other acts of lethal violence both in the United States and abroad.

Trump is not subtle in his embrace of white supremacist and other right-wing violence. After the mayhem in Charlottesville in 2017, which killed Heather Heyer and injured many other people, Trump described the Confederate sympathizers, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who led the rioting as "very fine people". During the 2020 presidential debates Trump also delivered a nod to the Proud Boys, a right-wing street gang, inviting them to "stand back and stand by."

The Proud Boys and other extremists fully understand Trump's expectations. For example, the Proud Boys and similar groups are supposedly planning to infiltrate Biden's inauguration with the goal of disrupting it. Right-wing militia leaders have threatened to resist Biden's presidency, deeming him to be an illegal president and usurper. Two weeks ago in Washington, pro-Trump thugs ran amok, attacking innocent bystanders, engaging in street combat with antifascists and targeting Black churches for vandalism.

In Salem, Oregon, this week, dozens of right-wing thugs (some of them armed) attacked the State Capitol with the goal of forcing Gov. Kate Brown and state legislators to abandon coronavirus public health restrictions. After attacking journalists and police officers, these paramilitaries were finally dispersed by law enforcement.

While this is obvious it must still be stated: If the Oregon State Capitol were attacked by Black or brown or Muslim people (armed or not), they would have been suppressed with lethal force.

Barring the unthinkable, Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States. Trump's coup attempt will metastasize into a shadow presidency, and his followers will mutate into a seditious fifth column, slavishly committed to the Great Leader, his family and his amorphous "cause."

The danger here is not that 74 million Trump voters will pick up arms and begin a second American civil war. But instead that far too many of them will give aid, comfort and support, both material and symbolic, to Trump's shadow presidency and the political terrorism it will likely inspire.

The ultimate goal of Trump's coup attempt is to overthrow the norms of democratic governance and legitimacy, by any means necessary. Trump would of course like to remain in power indefinitely, but that is only the proximate goal. On Jan. 20, he will likely be deposed — but the struggle will continue. If the American neofascist movement empowered by Donald Trump is allowed to keep growing, then his coup attempt will have achieved a major strategic success.

Trump's cabal of desperate conspirators is more dangerous than ever -- but mainstream media is telling us to move on

In the original "Star Wars" film — now known as "Episode IV: A New Hope" — Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and the droids R2-D2 and C-3P0 are stopped by a group of stormtroopers, the elite troops of the evil Empire.

The stormtroopers demand to see Luke and Obi-Wan's identification. With a wave of his hand, Obi-Wan Kenobi uses the mystical power of the Force to dispel their suspicions. Without doubt or hesitation, the stormtroopers say, "You can go about your business. Move along." The heroes escape to continue with their mission. The stormtroopers behave as though nothing unusual has happened.

When Luke Skywalker asks Obi-Wan for an explanation, the wizened Jedi knight explains that the Force can have a powerful influence on the weak-minded.

In their efforts to downplay the dangers of Donald Trump's ongoing coup against democracy, too many members of the commentariat and other "professional smart people" are attempting to use a form of the Jedi mind trick on the American people.

Based on the lack of broad public outrage about Trump's continuing effort to overturn the 2020 election, it would appear that many Americans may in fact be vulnerable to such a ploy.

Over the last few days, the Trump regime's coup attempts have escalated into an ever more desperate and dire stage. The New York Times reported that a cabal of Trump's conspirators met in the Oval Office last Friday where they had a "discussion" about how to overturn the 2020 presidential election by invoking martial law, using a special counsel to invalidate the election, and seizing voting machines to "inspect them" for "irregularities." Of course, the intended result of any such "investigation" would be to manufacture Trump's "re-election."

It should have been the headline in every newspaper and other news media outlet in the United States. But it was buried on page A28 of the print edition of the New York Times, and was also not a leading story in the online edition.

Predictably, Trump raged on Twitter that there were no such discussions and this was all another example of "fake news."

Axios added this additional reporting:

A senior administration official said that when Trump is "retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it's impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends."
"People who are concerned and nervous aren't the weak-kneed bureaucrats that we loathe," the official added. "These are people who have endured arguably more insanity and mayhem than any administration officials in history."

On Monday evening, the Washington Post also reported on Trump's cabal, observing that the president "has turned to a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss." Trump's "unofficial election advisory council now includes a felon, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a White House trade adviser and a Russian agent's former lover."

Once again, this report was not among the leading stories in the online edition.

Matters have become so serious that on Friday Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville felt compelled to issue a statement that there "is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election."

This is not the first time during Trump's reign that military leaders have publicly said they will not interfere in elections. As with most other things about Trump's presidency, such an announcement has no obvious precedent in American history.

Why have the chattering classes with a few notable exceptions, continued to minimize Trump's coup attempt?

It is easier to mock and deride the Trump regime's coup attempt as being "lazy," "failed" or "incompetent," or to describe it in some other liberal-schadenfreude language than to speak of an on-going national emergency. Likewise, calling Trump's coup attempt just a "grift" or a "con job" also minimizes the danger to the country and ignores the kleptocratic aspects of authoritarian and fascist regimes.

Moreover, it is comforting for the mainstream news media to bask in the glow of Joe Biden's victory and the absence of widespread of political violence and then to declare that democracy endures and Trump's coup attempt is a joke.

By necessity, such high-minded talk excludes Trump and his allies' efforts to suppress the votes of nonwhite people, slow down the mail and otherwise interfere with democracy.

Members of the "Church of the Savvy" and other hope-peddlers and stenographers of current events have an instinctive revulsion to speaking too much truth to power. As a group they have refused until very recently to accurately describe Donald Trump and his regime as being fascistic or authoritarian. Likewise, the mainstream news media and other public voices have been reluctant to state that Donald Trump is a compulsive liar. Instead, they have used euphemisms: The president "misspoke," or "distorted" or "misrepresented" the facts.

Despite abundant evidence, these same voices still refuse to consistently describe Donald Trump as a racist or a white supremacist. All of this reflects a desperate desire to return to perceived "normalcy," as embodied by the incoming Biden administration.

Part of this "normalcy bias" is a function of legitimate fear and anxiety, and an instinct for self-preservation given Trump and his movement's violent threats against reporters and journalists.

This is an example of "organized forgetting": The Trump regime and this version of American neofascism have traumatized not just the American people but many of the country's elites as well. Both groups, albeit in different ways, are deeply invested in reassuring fictions about our "healthy institutions" and "the democratic system." Thus, the compulsion to rapidly forget the horrors of the Trump regime and embrace the hopeful possibilities of the Biden administration.

In practice, this means that the rot in our civic, political, and cultural institutions that produced the Trump regime remains, but has been whitewashed over.

For the mainstream news media, this organized forgetting also involves a rewriting of history in which journalists did not consistently fail in their responsibilities as guardians of democracy by normalizing Trump's politically aberrant behavior, and by downplaying the threat posed to American democracy by his movement. As a practical matter, when the country's mainstream political voices finally started speaking some truth to power during the final months of Trump's first term, they sounded insincere. Where were those criticisms before? Why are they suddenly speaking up now, after Biden has been elected? What explains this sudden "courage," or the force of revelation about the dangers of Trumpism?

In many ways, the American media is stuck in a feedback loop of credibility failure, one which its leading figures largely created. The Age of Trump was merely a tipping point that exposed long-standing institutional problems.

As media scholar Eric Alterman observes at The Nation:

We know that our democracy is at stake and that the country may be on the precipice of significant political violence. If ever the mainstream media needed to shake its self-destructive addiction to false equivalence, now is the time....
Now those same network executives need to decide which side they are on: democracy or fascist rebellion. Network bookers should refuse to amplify the words of anyone who denies Biden's victory without immediately pointing out that that person is a liar. Nothing is "disputed." Nothing is "controversial." Nothing is "lacking in evidence." There is only truth or lies….
This should be simple. The news divisions of the major networks, together with CNN (and to a lesser extent, the liberal-branded MSNBC), have all sacrificed much of their credibility during the Trump presidency. They should welcome the opportunity to win it back.

Ultimately, the mainstream media's refusal to highlight the true danger of Trump's ongoing coup attempt, and the depths of the country's democratic crisis more generally, are a symptom of a much broader denial of truth in our society.

In his latest column for Scheerpost — republished by Salon — Chris Hedges warns:

One of the lessons I learned from covering wars and revolutions as a foreign correspondent is that the political, economic and cultural systems that are erected by any society are very fragile…. We cannot use the word hope if we refuse to face the truth. All hope rooted in self-delusion is fantasy. We must lift the filter from our eyes to see the danger before us. We must heed the warnings of our own prophets. We must destroy the centers of power that lure us and our children, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, to certain doom. The walls, daily, are closing in around us. The radical evil we face is as real under Trump as it will be under Biden. And if this radical evil is not smashed, then the world ahead will be one of torment and mass death.

There is less than a month remaining before Joe Biden becomes president of the United States. These next weeks, however, will be some of the most unpredictable and dangerous in the country's history. As time winds down for Donald Trump, he and his cabal will become even more desperate, dangerous and destructive. Like other authoritarians and fascist leaders, Trump will attack the country and its people as revenge for being "disloyal" to him.

The American media in this moment of crisis can choose to tell the truth, which may at least help to prepare the public for the struggle necessary to reclaim the country's democracy. Or it can remain in denial about the long struggle ahead to rehabilitate our democratic institutions and public life.

The first choice could also begin to address the American news media's crisis of legitimacy. The second will make that crisis exponentially worse.

A mental health expert explains how to survive the ongoing emotional abuse of the Trump era

Donald Trump has been abusing the American people for at least four years. The abuse is physical, through Trump and his administration's willfully negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 300,000 Americans. In addition, Trump has encouraged political violence against his perceived enemies, including Democrats, antifascists, Black Lives Matter activists, journalists and others.

The abuse is financial. Trump and the Republican Party have enacted policies — both before and during the coronavirus pandemic — that have severely harmed the economy, worsened social inequality and diverted huge sums of the public's money to the very richest individuals and corporations. Trump and his party's policies have resulted in record unemployment and job losses, rampant hunger and poverty, and millions of Americans living under threat of eviction and homelessness.

The abuse is emotional. Trump and his allies have caused the American people to suffer a type of collective post-traumatic stress disorder. Trumpism as a society-wide emotional and mental pathology is also shown by the way Trump's "white working class" supporters (and even more so his non-white followers) manifest a form of Stockholm syndrome in which they identify with the abuser and "love" his mistreatment of them.

In the 2020 election, Trump was soundly defeated by Joe Biden. But like other abusers, Trump will not stop his cruel and vile behavior. Moreover, the American people's decision to "break up" with him has caused Trump to rage and become even more abusive.

Trump has attempted a coup against democracy and the American people, and has amplified his use of stochastic terrorism and other incitements to political violence. Even after Trump (likely) leaves office next month, he will continue to claim that he is the "real president" of the United States and interfere with the normal functioning of government and society whenever and however he can.

In all probability, Donald Trump will continue to be a menacing and nearly omnipresent figure in American life, culture and politics for years to come. He is America's very own authoritarian stalker.

How can the American people escape Trump, and begin to heal from his reign of terror and abuse? To explore that I recently spoke with Dr. Seth Norrholm, whom I have interviewed twice before. He is a translational neuroscientist and one of the world's leading experts on PTSD and fear. He is currently the scientific director at the Neuroscience Center for Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma (NeuroCAST) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Norrholm has also contributed several essays to Salon, co-authored with clinical psychologist Alan Blotcky and others.

In this conversation, Norrholm argues that the combination of Trump's emotional and other abuse is a chronic stressful event that will have health impacts on the American people for years into the future, and that the Republican Party, the right-wing media and Trump's followers have been enabling this ongoing abuse of the American people. He warns that this abusive pattern, in combination with the mass death of the coronavirus pandemic, may lead to a form of survivor's guilt among the American people, which will require national mourning and intervention.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Donald Trump and his regime have also afflicted massive and traumatic stress on the American people, so it is not surprising that we are collectively dealing with PTSD, anxiety and depression. Even after leaving office, Trump is still going to be a large presence in American life. Using the traumatic stress, abuse and PTSD model, what happens when the abuser refuses to leave the victim alone but continues to harass and stalk them, as Trump is likely to do for years to come?

Unfortunately, that is the case with many abusive relationships. There will be some type of formal legal action taken, such as a divorce or restraining order. There will be some attempt by the abuser to push the boundaries of the restraining order, for example. That can involve physical stalking or online stalking. They may make a dummy account to track and stalk their target online as well. The relationship is formally dissolved, but the abusive elements still remain.

Now, if we think of Trump as being in an abusive relationship with the American people, this is unique in the country's history. He is soon to be the former president. Assuming things go as planned, Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20. Those elements of the election and transition of power are akin to the formal process of ending a relationship legally.

But with the president of the United States, there's a lot of continuation there. He's still referred to as "Mr. President," he still gets a security detail, and a lot of the perks and benefits of having served in the office. We've never really had to confront a continuation with a malicious president. What do we do as a country with someone like Donald Trump who is so pathological, so evil and so corrupt? With a former president who has those traits, and still quite a bit of symbolic power in the country and world?

Abusers will continue to claim that the victims are in a relationship with them even when it is over. They often claim their former partners as a type of personal property. Donald Trump is going to do this by claiming that he is still the "real president" and that Joe Biden is illegitimate and a fraud.

That is part of the alternate reality that abusers and malignant narcissists create for themselves. It is an example of gaslighting and the other forms of lying intended to get the abused person to the point where they begin to doubt themselves. They ask, "Am I crazy, or is he crazy?" The victim can become disoriented in terms of their core identity.

Donald Trump is trying to maintain an alternative reality by stating, "I am the president." There are a few ways to understand what Trump is doing there. First, I do believe he is a con man and a grifter. The longer he keeps up this fight, the more money he can generate. Regardless of his apparent psychopathology, Trump has the ability to seek wealth, power and adulation. Second, he fears exposure both legally and as a fraud. That is why he keeps up his alternate reality.

What is unusual about this situation is that there are 74 million people, Trump's voters, along with his party, his cabinet members and others, to help keep Trump in his alternate reality. There are so many enablers for Trump and his delusions. That is very different from the typical domestic abuse situation. Trump has a team of "surrogate abusers."

The worst thing one can do for a malignant narcissist or an abuser like Donald Trump is to tell him or her that they are correct or to otherwise validate the lies and false persona. Because then not only is this person pathologically telling themselves how special they are and how superior they are, but they have an echo chamber that is telling them the same thing.

Clinical work and other research show that the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is the end. That is when there is likely to be an escalation of some sort. This is when the abuser is most likely to be their most volatile.

What has Trump and his allies' emotional and physical abuse of the American people done to us collectively?

The last four years with Donald Trump have been a major chronic, continuous, stressful event. It has created a state of anxiety and unpredictability that was present on almost a daily basis. That is different from a typical PTSD case, where a person can identify one or more discrete events that happened in their life and from which there are post-traumatic consequences. An example would be a combat veteran who was hit by an IED or a motor vehicle accident victim who survived a deadly crash.

Those are distinct events. Therapeutically, a clinician would try to isolate that event for the patient, to point out that the likelihood of experiencing something like that again is quite low, for the most part. We help the patient to better see reality. There are ways to work through and process that type of post-traumatic situation.

Trump's time in office and what he did to the country is very different. One has to recognize that the source of the persistent state of stress is not going anywhere anytime soon. Now, what are we as a society going to do with that problem? I believe that there need to be task forces comprised of experts in domestic violence and mental health and other medical professionals. Their job would be to do community outreach.

Some specifics as to what Trump and these years with him have done to the American people: There are adverse psychological, physical, and cardiovascular problems; gastrointestinal problems; appetite, diet and sleep problems. Trump and his stress have likely caused new addictions, as well as caused people to relapse. Such problems are increased with a chronic stressor.

Suicidal ideation has likely increased under Trump. Combine that with the COVID pandemic and the country is going to be struggling with a psychological tsunami of problems that will need to be addressed.

Donald Trump and his time in office will be studied for years to come by social psychologists as well as mental health professionals. It is a textbook example of a pathocracy, and how a society can be manipulated into collective anti-social behavior by a pathological leader. As an example, consider Trump's recent rally in Georgia, which In so many ways was a crystallization of his evil and dark charisma. As an expert on mental health and neuroscience, what did you see at that event?

It was a confluence of psychological phenomena. There was the psychopathology and disordered personality of Donald Trump on full display for an hour and 40 minutes. But the crowd also demonstrated the cult dynamic that exists between Trump and his followers. Trump likely could be diagnosed with several personality disorders. Beyond any specific one, it is safe to say that his personality as a whole is disordered. At Trump's Georgia rally, he showed his grandiosity, his sense of superiority and his disdain for people he views as inferior.

Do not overlook how Trump's grandiosity is attractive to his followers. It is appealing, like a drug for them. That is part of the collective narcissism where Trump's grandiosity spills over onto his followers, who are then empowered, in some cases, into becoming reckless, violent and aggressive.

The mindset is, you're either with us or you're an enemy. From a cult perspective, it is either all or nothing in terms of reality and loyalty. And there were, of course, literally hundreds of lies told by Trump at the rally.

As part of Trump's god complex and his followers' feelings of shared omnipotence, he is offering the cult members a type of promised land. Trump's promised land is a White America in which there are no immigrants, everyone is rich and there is no racial diversity. As part of the shared omnipotence of Trump's cult, members are told that they must not stray from the flock or oppose him or criticize him — because if they do, they are out, the relationship collapses. Trump's power over his followers is extreme.

What role did the coronavirus play at Trump's rally in Georgia? That event was a literal death cult meeting, in which where people were not wearing masks during a deadly pandemic.

Outright denial. Not believing that the threat is real. Ignorance. But Trump used an interesting cult tactic here. He told his followers that the coronavirus was nothing to fear, then he got it and recovered (without highlighting the extraordinary care and treatment he received) and as such "demonstrated" to them that if they get it, nothing really bad will happen. Moreover, it's a reinforcement of the idea that the cult leader will protect me and all will be fine.

For those Americans who have survived the pandemic and the other horrors of Trump's time in office, will they experience some type of survivor's guilt?

Absolutely. There are going to be a significant number of people in this country with survivor's guilt, which is the idea that somebody did not survive, and I did, and then trying to reconcile why that is. In addition, there will be a large number of people who will continue to masks in the future because they are hypersensitive to this trauma. I believe we will also see more people becoming "preppers" because of the pandemic and all the death, stress and isolation. One of the things that will need to happen, in terms of healing from Trump-related PTSD and the pandemic, is some type of national closure.

I believe the best way to accomplish that is to have an annual national day of remembrance. There should also be a monument constructed on the National Mall as a reminder of the losses from the pandemic, and also a warning and symbol of not forgetting the political and social factors that led to this disaster. We cannot let this disaster disappear from the public consciousness.

Two vaccines for the coronavirus have already been approved and are being distributed. Will Trump's followers agree to be vaccinated?

In a cult, logic does not matter. Consider that at first Trump was calling it a hoax. Then he was talking about miracle cures. Then he started talking about a vaccine. Trump has taken his followers all the way from, "This thing doesn't exist," to "We'll have a vaccine out to you shortly," a feat of true mental gymnastics. In cult psychology, a logical pattern is not necessary. If Donald Trump is delivering the message, there does not need to be any logic for his followers to listen to him.

Bush ethics lawyer: Trump is an 'incompetent dictator' — but a 'shrewder' plot might have worked

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There is a mad bomber loose in your neighborhood. He puts explosives in mailboxes, in packages on the street corner, in public bathrooms and on people's front stoops or back porches. When the bombs "explode" they shoot out confetti. On other occasions the bombs simply make a loud noise. Is the bomber "only kidding"? Is he incompetent?

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Donald Trump and his allies are continuing with their efforts to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election and Joe Biden's victory. Trump's attacks on democracy are a de facto coup attempt which includes not just "legal" tactics but intimidation and threats of violence. Last Saturday night, dozens of Trump's unofficial paramilitaries surrounded the home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

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