Tue, Apr

Our Latter Day George III


GELFAND’S WORLD - My generation lived through a presidential assassination and the resignation of a president. Previous generations survived foreign attacks, the waging of multiple overseas wars, and for an earlier generation still, the burning of our own Capitol and the nation's origin in a long and miserable war of revolution. At one point, we almost split into two countries over the festering blight of slavery and of those who wanted to preserve it. 

The history books suggest that those involved in all these trials were serious men. They had irreconcilable differences over things like separation from the British Crown, the right to build an economy based on owning other human beings, and the struggle between democratic institutions and the European monarchies. 

At least once, an opponent was demonstrably insane, in the form of the British king George III. 

We have had our own knaves and perhaps a few fools, but they seem to have considered themselves to be serious in their purposes and, for the most part, serious about traditions and principles. 

We are now engaged in a battle to preserve seriousness of purpose and principle, if nothing else, as we approach the presidential election of 2024. 

Intertwined with that is the question of whether this country will continue its resistance against Russian tyranny, manifested at the moment in the Ukraine war, but carried out previously in former Soviet states such as Georgia and Chechnya, and before that in all of eastern Europe. Does anyone doubt that Vladimir Putin wants to resurrect the power of the Soviet Union and the recreation of the Warsaw Pact buffer states? 

So where is the once-substantial movement to oppose all things Russian, to oppose Russian expansionism and, earlier in my lifetime, to oppose all those who held membership in the communist party? The history of the 1950s and 1960s is full of such stories, yet the present day Republican leadership seems to have forgotten it entirely. They have embraced the Russian tyrant, if not wholeheartedly then at least in practice. They have turned entirely away from the practices of Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr. 

The political literature used to be full of arguments and accusations about Who Lost China, and that we should have resisted Stalin's occupation of eastern Europe, and whether we needed to fight in Viet Nam. Now, a slightly revamped Russian Empire is asserting itself in the eastern Ukraine, and the Republican Party leaders are afraid to demand that we appropriate dollars for badly needed ammunition and funds. 

Avdiivka has fallen to the once-Soviets, and the Speaker of the House has been throwing monkey wrenches into the legislative gears in order to keep Donald Trump away from his own throat. As a result, Ukraine has not received the dollars and ammunition it so badly needs. 

At what point will the American voter and the political establishment develop the new equivalent to the old Red Scare, but this time aimed at Putin apologists? At what point will patriotic Americans point out that the NATO alliance is one of the great achievements in American history? 

At what point, after how many outrages, will enough Republicans and independent voters recognize Trump for the Quisling that he is? 

Helsinki apparently wasn't enough. The conspiracy to attack the congress on January 6, 2021 apparently wasn't enough, and so far, the abandonment of Ukrainian independence isn't enough. 

When will it be enough? 

In looking back on Watergate and the Civil War and the Great Depression, it becomes clear that our nation survived because enough leaders of both major parties believed in democracy and the republican form of government. Will the United States of America live on as a representative country, or will it spiral down into a quasi-dictatorship overseen by a corrupt President kept in power by a corrupt Supreme Court? 

I'd like to hazard a more optimistic prediction about the current sabotage of our democracy by the Republican Party and its later day George III: 

This too shall pass. 

Donald Trump has a mystical hold over his followers and rules the remainder of his party by intimidation and threats of political persecution. But Donald Trump is a mortal man, and his reign will eventually terminate, either by criminal prosecution and conviction, or by his passing. His deteriorating mental faculties are revealed by the ever-increasing attacks on Biden's mental faculties, in a classical repetition of the old truism that whenever the right wing makes an accusation, it is really an admission. They know that Trump isn't smart and is getting worse, so they try to pin that same accusation on Joe Biden. 

Some of the Trump followers will continue to worship him. Some will make him into a martyr after his passing. But at a certain point, they will not be able to vote for him for president. The most likely scenario is that Trump will be defeated in the 2024 presidential election, and that he will spend much of the rest of his life in courtrooms, facing both criminal and civil accusations. At some point, some jury somewhere will convict him of at least one felony, and at that point he will be just one more convicted criminal. 

Tired Old Cliches 

There are a lot of tired old cliches that pundits and the news media continue to flog, largely because they can't think of any other way to put things. My classic example is the misuse of the word "exponential" and the phrase "exponentially growing" to imply something that is very large. People who use those terms are consigning themselves to the innumerate, to use the term invented by John Allen Paulos in his book Innumeracy. Millions of students who have studied calculus or even pre-calculus understand the correct use of the word. Let's take an example. You could deposit a million dollars in a bank account which provides compound interest, and if you adjust the growth rate (the exponent) accordingly, it will grow at less than a dollar a year for the first thousand years. That's one entirely correct use of the term "growing exponentially." 

I would like to introduce one tired new cliche to this discussion, in the phrasing that the former president uses to describe prosecutors -- as Trump Haters -- and the like. The unstated implication is that there is something wrong with becoming emotionally or professionally involved with prosecuting Donald Trump. 

I would tend to disagree. 

The issue is that Donald Trump engages in conduct so open and obvious (the call to an official in the state of Georgia in the attempt to conjure up eleven thousand votes) that it would be impossible to ignore it. He engages in conduct that results in public violence, and even now continues to incite his followers to make threats and engage in violence. And over the years, his businesses in the state of New York have engaged in fraudulent practices. 

It is not abnormal to oppose and even detest such conduct. It is the very thing that prosecutors are hired to prosecute. 

So calling somebody a Trump Hater is an ineffective sort of insult, considering that it is a slightly overstated term for the rational response by sworn prosecutors to gross law-breaking. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)