Friday, December 17, 2021

If You're Waiting for a Smoking Gun to Bring Trumpism Down, Get Over It!

Merriam Webster defines smoking gun as "something that serves as conclusive evidence or proof (as of a crime or scientific theory)." In politics, it has often been used to describe evidence that sways even members of the party of the person under investigation. 

Most notably, "smoking gun" was used to describe the release of tapes from Nixon's Oval Office conversations immediately following the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Office Building. In particular was one that captured a discussion between Nixon and his chief of staff H.R. Halderman. The two discussed asking the head of the CIA to put pressure on the FBI director to halt the bureau's investigation into the Watergate break-in because it was a national security matter. On August 4, 1974, the tape of that discussion was made public.

At that point, Nixon’s remaining political support on Capitol Hill all but disappeared. The 10 Republican members of the Judiciary Committee who had voted against impeachment in committee announced that they would now vote for impeachment once the matter reached the House floor.

Nixon lacked support in the Senate as well. Sens. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) and Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), the minority leader, told Nixon that no more than 15 senators were willing to even consider an acquittal.

But that was 47 years ago. Things have changed. If you're waiting for a smoking gun to bring down Trump and his enablers, it is beyond time to recognize that it isn't going to happen. That's not because there is  a lack of conclusive evidence that the former president and his allies repeatedly obstructed justice, abused power, incited a riot at the Capitol, and attempted a coup to overturn an election. Instead, it is because no amount of evidence is going to shake Republican support. 

As just one example, both during and immediately after the January 6 insurrection, Trump's enablers in Congress and right wing media knew that he had incited the riot and that he might be the only one who could end it. That is what the texts to Mark Meadows indicated as they practically begged the chief of staff to convince Trump to stop it. 

On January 13, Kevin McCarthy said, "The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters." Similarly, Mitch McConnell made it clear that "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day." Even so, neither of these Republican leaders have done anything to hold the former president accountable. Instead, they've done everything in their power to protect him from the consequences of his actions.

I suspect that most Republican politicians know the danger Trumpism poses to our country. But they also know that, with the grip the former president has on the GOP, taking him down would mean that the entire party goes with him. That's not something they're willing to risk. As Jamie Raskin pointed out, "fascism is not an ideology; it’s just a strategy for taking power and maintaining it.”

The one thing the fascists have today that Nixon didn't is the epistemic closure created by an entire network of right wing news outlets. They create a path for the fascists to take, while providing cover for criminality. As long as Republican voters buy into that distorted reality, their leaders won't challenge it. In other words, there is a self-reinforcing feedback loop between right wing media, Republican voters, and GOP leaders. Anyone who dares to step out of that loop (ie, Liz Cheney) is vilified and excommunicated from the cult. 

All of that is why there will never be a smoking gun that brings the whole thing down. I am reminded of the fact that, prior to the 2016 election, we all heard audio tape of Trump bragging about being able to "grab p***y." That didn't stop almost 63 million Americans from voting for him. The one time he told the truth was when he said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and his supporters wouldn't abandon him...even as he held the smoking gun. 


  1. Nope, no smoking gun will take him down. There was already ample evidence he was a criminal and unfit for office in Jan 2016 when he made the claim about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. People expected the GOP establishment to block his path to the nomination, but they folded. People expected he wouldn't survive the election campaign against HRC. Instead, the media (with help from Comey) ran a dirty, rotten campaign against her, and he skated. The Russia collusion, the Comey firing, the Mueller investigation, Charlottesville, Helsinki, Ukraine, a failed coup, two impeachments. There's even more! Every time people think he's gone too far, nothing happens. People have had their hopes dashed too many times.

    Joe Biden may have the right approach. He doesn't think about the former guy. I avoid news about him. I don't want to hear about his mounting legal problems. I'll tune in someday if he gets indicted. But I don't hold my breath. I don't expect the Jan. 6 investigations will be any different. It's good to document what happened. People in the future will need to know. But anyone thinking justice will be done is kidding themselves. I don't expect much coming from the DOJ either. If I'm wrong, I'll be happy to see it.

    I'm not a cynic but I think our systems of accountability are thoroughly corrupted. That's started before #45 but he exploited the fractures like no one else.

    Justice in our lifetime is not likely to happen. He won't pay the price for his misdeeds, though I hold out some hope he may still help bring down the party that made his rise possible. That might not be the way accountability is supposed to work, but I'll take it.

    1. For me, it's not about what Democrats in congress do or what DOJ (or any of the other Trump investigations) does. It's about the fact that, regardless of all of that, the GOP base and Republican politicians will simply reject it all - and right wing news outlets will provide the justification.

    2. True. The GOP voters and pols will never abandon him, regardless of what he does. Their info ecosystem won't permit it. Anyone who contradicts the party line will be a pariah (e.g., L. Cheney).

      I was speaking to the expectations some have that he'll be brought to justice. Dems in Congress can only do so much (expose the truth, yes; but mete out punishment, no). We don't know what the DOJ and state DAs are working on, but I don't hold out hope he'll ever do the jail time many hope to see. That said, if he spends the rest of his days up to his eyeballs with legal trouble, that'd be good.

      The Founders did not anticipate political leaders would have greater loyalty to their party than to their branch of government. They gave us a system of checks and balances. Worked well in the Watergate era. Nixon lost Republicans in Congress, which had the power to "check" the executive. We're clearly not in that world anymore.

      This all has the feeling of inevitability going back to the collapse of the initial opposition within the GOP. If I'm surprised by anything, it's probably the years of "neutral" media enabling and normalizing behavior that should have opposed ferociously from day one.

  2. tramp's incessant denials and deceptions plus the incredibly unexpected complicity of the 'press' has made it possible for all the 'smoking guns' to be rendered inutile. Whatever it was that convinced the white racists of America to get out in numbers sufficient to 'elect' or 'throw the election' to tramp, will always be the subject of future historical analysis. In addition to all work by Nancy LeTourneau, let me recommend the well-written analytical piece by Sarah Kendzior "Hiding in Plain Sight; the invention of Donald trump and the erosion of America."


Sure, Trump is unfit for office. But his agenda would also be a monumental disaster!

For just a moment, I'd like to back off the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office, is a serial liar, has been found guilty of rape/...