Please sit back. Relax. As the chair reclines, it’s best to surrender, pitching your body with it. You can probably tell by the wrist binds that you will be here a while. Do they chaff? We do need them to be tight. Now that you’re properly reclined, I need you to open your eyes completely. Wide as you can now. I know the air is cold and irritating. We have to keep the room sterile, as well as uncomfortable. Better for maintaining viewer attention. Please keep your eyes open as wide as possible as I fasten the clamps. They may irritate at first, but soon you’ll hardly notice the pull. You didn’t really notice it over the past eight years, did you? You were too enthralled. Too preoccupied by the spectacle to recognize your attentional servitude.
Well, good news! The show isn’t over. Keep those peepers peeped! Here come the eye drops! *Ploop, ploop.* Now behold the next chapter of the never-ending Trump Show: the first indictment of a former American president.
The pinch production should have been a surreal image: up until last week, could any American truly imagine a former president escorted, arraigned, and tagged like a common criminal? That kind of thing happens in banana republics we ridicule as dysfunctional before showering them with our dollars at their all-inclusive seaside resorts. But in America, where a president can lie under oath about a toppy, receive a congressional rebuke, but go on to a lucrative post-Oval career of influence-peddling?
Up until the first decade of this century, the worst American president was generally regarded as the bachelor Pennsylvanian who idled as the country fractured into bloody civil war. Now our most criminal ex-executive is an unread publicity hound who committed a minor campaign-finance violation. Peter Thiel said Trump would make America a “normal country”—this latest slouch toward mediocrity may not be what he had in mind.
Whether or not candidate Donald Trump paid for porn-starlet Stormy Daniels’s silence over their tryst without properly reporting the expense to the FEC is beside the point. All 34 alleged felonies are really beside the point—not to mention comically excessive. The crimes are secondary to the real cause behind the cuffs. That the foofaraw has even risen to the level of felony is illustrative of its unseriousness.
Most consulted legal beagles can’t even bring themselves to agree with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s crime-pinning. Mainstream news reporters are unwhetting their readers’ vengeful appetite, calling Bragg’s choice to charge a “novel legal theory.”
Even top blue anon Ian Millhiser can’t fake Bragg fanboyism. But as Eli Lake wrote, the actual lawbreaking—the objective standard under which a civilized society operates—is dispensable formalism. “[T]here will always be a lot of voters, activists, and other professional Democrats who don’t care what crime Trump is alleged to have committed, so long as he is indicted for something—anything.”
The Bad Orange Man is the left’s Sam Hyde: he can’t keep getting away with it! The “it” being the conviction of Trump’s inherent criminality. In all likelihood, the law-dodger-in-chief will get away with it. But his skating will serve its purpose: to provide more acts in the weaving and wending Trump drama.
The high-profile Midtown booking stuffed the coffers of both sides ahead of mounting more production, despite scant camera coverage. The Trump campaign reportedly raised $8 million over indictment week. On the day of detainment, I received dozens of unsolicited email pitches from every Republican organization under the sun, all subject lined with all-caps iterations of “TRUMP ARRESTED.” A behind-the-scenes surrender reel is in the works.
That was just the pachyderm side of our political chimera. A palpable champagne pop could be heard from my neck of the Virginia woods across the Potomac in DC Democrats have been pumping their giddy list for cash. Trump’s poll numbers in the gathering ‘24 presidential field are rising. Democrats, if Joy Behar is exemplary, are champing at the bit for a Trump-nominee triad.
Why shouldn’t they? Democrats already know how to soundly beat MAGA Republicans. Remember the red wave that wasn’t? Meanwhile, the GOP can’t dispel Donald devotion. His image alone is too big a cash cow.
In this stage of late-republic decadence, our politics are fully Trumpified. Really, Donald Trump is our politics. We no longer argue about America as a nation, with its historical liberty and genius constitutional tradition. We moan, gripe, complain, praise, cheer, encourage, scream, and cry over a reality-TV star who exploits politics as tabloid fodder. Even the three cable-news bigs saw a ratings bump while covering the collar.
Meanwhile, the rest of our vast government machinery rattles on below the din. Regulations are adopted, rules are enforced, taxes are collected (just in time for Annual Fleece Day!). The constellation of pressure groups along the Potomac keep lobbying for loopholes, exemptions, advantages, a leg up on the competition. Think tanks publish unread white papers.
All these goings-on are overshadowed by the latest serotonin-spiking Trump headline. Days before the official arrest, the New York Young Republicans Club praised their native-son in transcendent terms: “President Trump embodies the American people—our psyche from id to super-ego—as does no other figure; his soul is totally bonded with our core values and emotions, and he is our total and indisputable champion.”
Quite the flight of fancy! And more than a little reverential. The ring-kissing statement was roundly mocked on Twitter. Charlie Cooke of National Review lambasted it as “utterly grotesque thing for any free person to say about any politician.” Au contraire, Sir Cooke, it’s an apt description. TDS and MAGA hero worship have been subsumed by an all-Trump-all-the-time dispensation.
Even the rule of law isn’t immune to the great Tangelo Tao. Alvin Bragg’s short-sighted sacrifice of our last neutral institution to the Trumpy alter may get good MSNBC hits, but furthers America down the path to Caesarism.
At least we have plenty of popcorn—now in Doritos Cool Ranch flavor! A Trump Steaks Pop Secret seasoning can’t be far behind.