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Beyond the Noise and Mania
This may be indictment season, but let’s not lose sight of the bigger prize: a healthier democracy
With all the noise and mania being fed into the body politic, it’s possible to miss the big picture and fail to keep our eyes on the prize. As we await the chef’s buffet of likely indictments and yearn for charges and prosecution, it’s reasonable to assume the “prize” is arrest and conviction. That would have the delightful flavor of justice being served—a delicious meal, not more toxic gruel—and the reassertion of rule of law and a fresh turn toward a healthier functioning of society.
But let’s not forget—amid all the noise and fire, all the promised madness and mayhem, and all the rightful hunger to address the dispiriting criminality—that accountability represents a crucial ingredient to move toward repair and genuine reinvention and advancement. It’s not just that those who care deeply about democracy seek this for its own sake—as if a healthier democracy is a static trophy that can be handed to us. Democracy is a process—and a process for an engaged citizenry to address many major challenges facing the nation and the globe (including the climate crisis, social and economic inequality, poverty and violence, all of which are exacerbated by democracy’s decline).
The more the body politic is wrapped up with culture wars and the constant flood of misinformation and disinformation, the more the country’s attention, energy and resources are spent fighting each other, then the more we lose the chance to marshall our resources, activate our capacities and fix what’s broken. Remember when it was reasonable to call America a can-do country and not be laughed at or bombarded with grievance and outrage?
That said, keeping eyes on the prize doesn’t mean ignoring the obstacles and threats in our way. Confronting the propaganda of Fox News, spotlighting and speaking truthfully about the autocratic Ron DeSantis and the malignant Donald Trump, punching back against the naked lies, cruelty and hate propelling the House GOP—all this is part of what can reset the globe on its axis and give us the possibility of reasserting factual reality and prioritizing the real work of making lives better.
In the short term as Republicans continue to defend Trump and attack prosecutors investigating crimes—and the main perpetrator becomes more deranged—paying attention is a responsibility no matter how sick or ludicrous it seems.
Still, every time I’m about to write something about Trump, I debate with myself about how much of his reckless language and behavior to share. I don’t ever link directly to his Truth Social platform, and I try to limit how much of what he spews I spotlight. We know, after all, there’s nothing that a malignant narcissist wants more than maximum attention, whatever it takes, however low or violent he needs to be to incite reaction.
But he is still the leading GOP candidate for president—a fact that’s honestly painful to assert—and the questions around how and when he will be indicted and justice will be served remain central and high priority, even if they may feel like a grim distraction.
The rising probability and proximity of indictment over the last week has not spurred any surprising reactions by Trump. We expected him to lie (no, he wasn’t arrested on Tuesday, despite his claim he would be), attack the prosecutors (no, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is not funded by George Soros and investigating Trump doesn’t make him a racist)—and exploit the moment to raise money and incite violence.
Yesterday, beyond his unsuccessful calls for protest and taking the country back, he used his platform to post side-by-side photos of Bragg and himself wielding a baseball bat. That was matched soon after with several particularly unhinged rants, calling Bragg a “Soros-backed animal” who “just doesn’t care about right or wrong” and threatening “the whole country” sees what’s happening “and they’re not going to take it anymore.” After detailing his usual list of the many wrongs committed against him, he concludes with “They are HUMAN SCUM!”
The failure of Trump this week to spur violence or drum up a protesting crowd should not console us. News this week that his lawyer Evan Corcoran must turn over his records—likely including conversations with Trump—will enable Special Counsel Jack Smith to ascertain whether Corcoran was used (possibly misled) and Trump engaged in obstruction of justice by refusing the return of classified documents. This raises the ante on an accelerated indictment in this Mar-a-Lago case and the prospects that the bottomless Trump will go further and lower.
The climate of violence and easy access to high-powered weaponry increases the likelihood of stochastic terrorism from troubled minds triggered by their dangerous infatuation with the leading member of the Grand Old Party.
As much as I hope the day comes when Donald Trump is provided his constitutional right to prove in a court of law the presumption of innocence—the right afforded to everyone in our system of justice—I’d welcome this leading to the finding of guilt and imprisonment. But you will never hear me or read me using the phrase “Lock him up.”
It’s frequently chanted phrases like this that dulled fellow citizens’ capacity for independent judgement, helped create a climate of vengeance and violence, disconnected people from their capacity for human decency and left us with a broken world that will take long, hard work to put back together. Instead of continuing down this dark path, pay attention to the noise and mania as an opportunity to remember this is only a moment in time and we are capable of regaining our compassion, repairing what ails us and reinventing how society can prosper.
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