If there was a time to pay close attention to what is taking place in our democracy, that time would be now. Two weeks ago, in this space, I suggested that Trump thrived on chaos and disruption. Sitting with Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi, he eagerly embraced a government shutdown unless they agreed to his demand of $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border.
A government shutdown is the very essence of his mayhem madness. It’s where he lives, hence, for 35 days more than 800,000 federal workers were either furloughed or forced to work without pay. Each of them stood on a financial and emotional precipice absent a paycheck, the weight for many unbearable. There was a cascade of images of men and women standing in food lines. It was a reprehensible unraveling of their lives.
What took place was breathtakingly unconscionable, the collateral damage, involving millions of adjunct contractors, still defies comprehension. And even then the shutdown has only been ended for three weeks. Imagine the continuing uncertainty. Chaos.
Meanwhile there is Trump, still nurturing an “Art of the Deal” delusion he will achieve his empty campaign promise: a wall, more accurately described as a medieval barrier, a unicorn, certainly one that Mexico will never pay for.
I acknowledge that over the past weeks my thoughts have drifted to a very dark place wherein Trump and all of his Republican enablers watched the hollowing out of our government with a certain satisfaction. For decades, conservatives have made clear their distrust of “big” government. Many subscribe to the conspiratorial belief of the existence of the “deep state,” meaning a clandestine government comprised of covert networks of power, all operating independently of a nation’s political leadership. What better way to damage the deep state than to create a shutdown framed by dysfunction and paralysis, a leveling of government workers, all over a meaningless wall cynically portrayed as being able to keep out criminals/gangs, drugs, and “diseased” denizens of Central American caravans.
As I watch this systematic disruption created by Trump, which began with his campaign, my thoughts again slide into a dark place. I imagine that Putin must be taking inordinate satisfaction from the turmoil that is now sweeping our nation. I think about not only Russia’s interference in our 2016 election, but of Trump’s resistance to any effort to push back aggressively against what has been called an attack by a foreign power. Recently we have learned that shortly after Trump’s inauguration, the F.B.I. opened a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether the president was in fact working on behalf of the Russians. It’s a chilling thought to consider: behind the MAGA chants, the “drain the swamp” promise, “only I can fix it” statements stands a man who is compromised and has conspired with Putin and his trolls to manipulate the U.S. electorate and thereby win the election. Pause for a moment and consider what that means. But why? Does Trump owe massive sums to Russian banks, hence his reluctance to challenge Putin? Was it the millions involved in the Trump Tower deal, a deal he admits to having pursued aggressively from the day he announced until the day he won, all while denying that he had any business deals in Russia. Or is this an elaborate Baroque scheme of quid pro quo involving the removal of sanctions against Russia in return for the presidency?
I have one final observation that comes from that same dark place: the Trump Organization is a Transnational Crime Family that is fully prepared to use the presidency to advance its mercenary interests. I wonder, is it happenstance that Francis Ford Coppola’s film “The Godfather” is oft used as a referent, especially when discussing Michael Cohen, Trump’s once trusted consigliore, and his pending testimony (Trump called him a “rat,” a classic mob term)?
I’m not sure how this rippling, crossroads moment will ultimately be resolved. But only then should Trump’s belief in unicorns be closely examined.
Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.