I was born in New York, and grew up there during the 1970s and 1980s. Even as the disco era came to a close, Studio 54 still pumped out the jams, hosting a who’s who of cultural icons along with hushed whispers of bacchanalia. A city that suffered in the ‘70s began to see daylight in the ‘80s. Graffiti was scrubbed from subway cars and the economy started to rebound. It was a high time and the crucible in which Donald Trump and his mystique were formed.
Those of us who had the misfortune to watch as he clawed his way out of Queens into the bright lights of Manhattan knew his eagerness to be included in the New York Post’s page six gossip column. We had to look at insufferable pictures of him trying his hardest to hob nob with the Studio 54 set. We tried desperately not to listen to the audacious claims of power and money always at the tip of his tongue. We knew back then that he was a con man, a liar and a bigot. And we didn’t like him.
When, in 2015, Donald Trump sashayed down his golden escalator at the eponymously named tower, I immediately borrowed one of the Trump tell-all books from my library. I already knew I didn’t like the man. Reading more sordid tales of how, throughout his braggadocio, bankruptcies and misogyny, he always found a way to degrade the people in his way and screw small business owners and large institutions alike, I really understood him for what he is: devoid of empathy and morally insolvent.
I finished the book, climbed the tallest mountain I could find, and shouted the truth down to anyone who would listen. I even made jokes about the anti-psychotic medication he should be taking. How prescient that was.
That he could find a willing audience was a surprise. That the audience was so big and so easily duped was a shock that is still reverberating, now ringing in the halls of the Capitol building where we’ve just wiped blood from the floor and pieced broken furniture back together.
It would be easy for me to say I told you so, but that wouldn’t lay bare the real crime of the past four years. Forget the perfect phone calls and the relentless attacks on American democracy. Those are bad enough, but it’s the Republican Party that has boldly enabled, applauded, and fed a sick man’s ego and his inferno of hate. These are the people who should be put on trial.
Hours after the Capitol was stormed, these same cold-blooded cheerleaders had the chutzpah to make speeches and send tweets comprehensively denouncing the fire they helped fuel. It’s beyond frustrating.
We’ve thrown around words like treason and sedition quite a lot lately, and for good reason. But listening to Senator Lindsey Graham, enabler-in-chief, ramble on from the floor of the Senate—only after being compromised by a gang of flag-waving, costume-wearing dolts—about the obvious legitimacy of a Biden presidency after withholding that same recognition for months was one insincerity too much. Graham ended his rant by telling America that all along he’s tried to be “helpful.” Helpful? I’m not remotely amused by the cognitive dissonance anymore.
While Sean Hannity reminds us that he and the rest of the flame throwers at Fox News were quick to condemn the violence at the Capitol, he also promised that it was simply the actions of a few bad apples, that it didn’t reflect the nature of Trumpism. Then he quickly pivoted to criticize Democrats and other “mainstream” media outlets for not similarly condemning the actions of Black Lives Matter protesters. The spin is an obvious attempt at right wing relevancy lest they lose more viewers to Newsmax and their advertising rates slump.
I spoke with friends while Trump tweeted in real time from the West Wing and images of the Capitol under siege flashed on my television screen. They asked how I felt. “I feel validated,” I replied. “Because if you didn’t already know, or didn’t want to admit it, this brings the ugly, raw truth about Donald Trump and the people who support him into clear focus. The red-and-white striped clowns clinging to the walls of democracy’s ground zero are neither patriots nor constitutionalists.”
Even after such a deadly stunt, Senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley returned to their hallowed chamber, stood up and carried on the charade. Mo Brooks, Congressman from Alabama, tweeted another conspiracy theory that Antifa had secretly orchestrated the attack on the Capitol, using some kind of mind control to encourage Trump’s docile supporters. These examples are horrifying, yes, but not unexpected. That an outsize number of Americans not only condone this behavior but reward it by electing and re-electing these people to higher office is a mirror of the soul of America.
Over the years, I’ve heard countless politicians tell us that Americans aren’t stupid, and they can be trusted to make the right decision. They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.
Amos Klausner is an armchair political strategist and a resident of San Geronimo.