I’ve been as focused on the Trump impeachment and presidential primary dramas as any other American political commentator in recent months and weeks. At the same time, I’ve been keeping notes on developments overshadowed by the non-defenestration of Donald Trump and the candidate contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. The Trump-led march to apocalypse has been continuing apace beneath the bigger headlines, my journal suggests.
Most reasonably attentive U.S. citizens know that Australia was struck in January by epic and lethal wildfires that followed extreme drought there. Far fewer Americans know the drought and fires were the consequences of anthropogenic (capitalogenic, really) global warming driven by the excessive extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Fewer still know that Australia is a leading climate change culprit thanks to its large-scale mining and export of coal and that its Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stood with Trump and Brazil’s eco-fascist President Jair Bolosonaro as a leading global climate-denier.
Even mildly observant American news consumers know Trump murdered a top Iranian military commander in a targeted assassination drone attack in Iraq last month — an action that brought the U.S. to the brink of a major war in the Middle East. Few Americans know this reckless and provocative attack crossed a new (anti-)“constitutional Rubicon.” The open U.S. execution of a governmental military leader atop a foreign state with which the U.S. was not formally at war was an unprecedented U.S. violation of national and international law. That the murder took place without the permission of Iraq’s government made Trump’s transgression more audaciously criminal.
Most Americans are certainly aware a deadly coronavirus broke out in China and has spread around the world, including to the U.S. Far fewer Americans know the Trump White House’s war on “the administrative state” (really on those parts of the federal government that don’t serve concentrated wealth and power or that punish the working and lower classes) has rolled back the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to pandemics.
Trump has slashed funding for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its infectious disease research. For 2020, he proposes cutting the CDC budget by $1.3 billion, 20% below the previous year’s level, raising serious concerns among public health experts about the nation’s capacity to protect the citizenry against a deadly contagion.
“Cutting the CDC in the middle of a pandemic,” writes Esquire’s Charles Pierce, “is not viable in a functioning republic. We do not currently have one.”
Government-imposed poverty could also finish you off. Also lost in the news fog of impeachment and presidential primaries were two cruel White House assaults on the poor. In December, Trump issued an executive order that will remove 700,000 deeply impoverished American adults from SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Charities and churches are gearing up to try to meet a fraction of the need this vicious policy will produce among “surplus” Americans who have been deemed disposable by the administration.
Two weeks ago, the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court (on which two Trump appointees confirmed by the right-wing U.S. Senate have swung the balance of judicial power to the far-starboard side) ruled the Department of Homeland Security can implement Trump’s nativist, Stephen Miller-drafted “public charge rule.” This malicious policy lets U.S. immigration officials deny green cards, visas and/or admission to the U.S. on the grounds that current or prospective immigrants might be “likely” to use government benefits, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Section 8 housing assistance, federal housing vouchers and Supplemental Security Income. The rule makes past or imagined future receipt of public benefits (including state and local cash assistance) a barrier to legal status. It lets immigration officers consider low English proficiency, low income, bad credit scores, medical problems and lack of private health insurance as reasons to deny immigrants green cards and visas.
This spiteful “wealth test” will affect an estimated 4 million immigrants a year. According to the American Friends Service Committee,
This change will force immigrant families to choose between their health and well-being and lawful immigration status: an impossible choice that harms everybody. If they access benefits, they may leave their family vulnerable to separation. Or they may forgo needed assistance.
Another underappreciated story takes us back to climate and the southern reaches of the planet. It was recently reported to little fanfare that West Antarctica’s massive Thwaites Glacier has been melting at a dramatically rising rate thanks to warming ocean undercurrents. The cause of this ominous erosion, which could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, is the kind of capitalist-led climate change the Very Stable Genius tells the world not to be “alarmist” about even as he shreds environmental regulations, forbids federal employees from mentioning climate change and otherwise acts to accelerate the transformation of the entire planet into a giant greenhouse gas chamber.
Trump’s 2021 fiscal-year budget proposal slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by more than 25%. This is hardly surprising. Trump has issued executive orders undoing regulations that protect children from mercury poisoning and try to preserve the nation’s water supplies and public lands.
Along the way, Noam Chomsky notes in a recent interview, Trump continues “to dismantle the last vestiges of the arms control regime that has provided some limited degree of security from terminal nuclear war.” Even worse, perhaps, Trump has recently furthered prospects for such war by deploying a highly provocative new, “low-yield tactical’” nuclear weapon (the W76-2, requested, designed and produced under the Trump administration) aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine.
Not content merely to smite the poor, immigrants, his political enemies, constitutional checks and balances and the rule of law at home and abroad, the president seems dedicated to bringing forth the collapse of a decent and organized human existence — and indeed the downfall of life on Earth. It’s no wonder Chomsky calls Trump “the most dangerous criminal in human history.”
Hitler’s goal, Chomsky notes, “was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other ‘deviants,’ along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But Hitler was not dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future [along with millions of other species].”
A socially and environmentally concerned Christian I know half-jokingly muses if “the president of the United States is the Antichrist.”
Sadly, the corporate-imperial Democrats seem to have been determined to indirectly reelect “the most dangerous criminal in human history” by handing him the long diversionary gifts of RussiaGate and UkraineGate and working furiously to prevent the presidential nomination of Bernie Sanders — the presidential candidate most ready, willing and able to mobilize enough lower-, working-, and middle-class voters to defeat Trump (forcing him to act on his clear threats to defy an electoral count that doesn’t go his way) in November.
None of Trump’s worst crimes were included in the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ case against “the most dangerous criminal in human history.” As with the Richard Nixon impeachment hearings, the charges centered not on the president’s most terrible transgressions bur rather “on his illegal acts to harm Democrats,” as Chomsky puts it.
The Democrats never had a chance of removing Trump through impeachment, thanks to Republican control of the Senate.
My nomination for either the stupidest or the most cynical thing said by a U.S. senator so far this year is Susan Collins’ statement that Trump will change his authoritarian ways since impeachment by the House taught him “a pretty big lesson.” The truth is quite the opposite. Trump learned yet again as throughout his long criminal career that he can get away with yet more nasty shit. As the Trump presidency’s incisive chronicler Michael Wolff observes in his latest book, “Siege: Trump Under Fire”:
One of the many odd aspects of Trump’s presidency was that he did not see being president, either the responsibilities or the exposure, as being all that different from his pre-presidential life. He had endured almost countless investigations in his long career. He had been involved in various kinds of litigation for the better part of forty-five years. He was a fighter who, with brazenness and aggression, got out of fixes that would have ruined a weaker, less wily player. That was his essential business strategy: what doesn’t kill me strengthens me. Though he was wounded again and again, he never bled out.
Trump’s longstanding modus operandi has been validated again: he can tough it out and emerge more powerful than before.
Hence the “shocking” aftermath of Trump’s Senate “exoneration”: the cold but unsurprising firings of impeachment witnesses Gordon Sondland and Alexander Vindman along with Vindman’s twin brother (authoritarian rulers like to punish whole families); the announcement that 70 “Obama holdovers” were or will be dismissed from the National Security Council, and the “rule-of-law” meltdown involving Trump and his attorney general’s norm-smashing intervention to veto federal prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations in the case of convicted Trump thug Roger Stone.
Pardons loom for Stone and other top Trump crime associates not named Michael Cohen. Is the president planning purge trials for after the election?
Faced with this openly authoritarian, barefacedly transgressive “beyond the rule-of-law” behavior, liberal cable-news types can do little more than shake their heads and tell viewers that ordinary Americans “only have one recourse left:” our holy, once-every-1,460-days chance to spend two minutes in a major party voting booth. In “liberal”-bourgeois media outlets, it isn’t just about keeping the ballot box sanitized against Sanders “socialism” (New Deal social progressivism). It’s also about keeping the people from protesting out in the streets, which millions of them really ought and need to be doing when the world’s most powerful office is held by “the most dangerous criminal in human history” — and when the normal bourgeois-constitutional and electoral mechanisms for containing and removing that criminal are being revealed as dangerously inadequate.
Chomsky’s above-quoted interview on Donald “Worse Than Hitler” Trump ends by praising Sanders for sparking a movement that “would proceed beyond the narrow realm of electoral politics to far broader and constant activism and engagement in public affairs.” That strikes me as more of an aspirational than an accurate description of the Sanders phenomenon, which by my observation is 97% electoralist so far. The sooner it goes beyond and becomes what Chomsky says it is, the better. Nothing Sanders is calling for will have a snowball’s chance in hell without massive mobilization beneath and beyond the election cycle.Print