Dear Muellerites, you’re being played. There, I said it.
This week, many waited with bated breath for the latest revelations by special counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation. The consensus amongst followers in medias mainstream and social was clear — ‘This time we’ve got him!’
Not so much. While more of President Trump’s lieutenants — former campaign chair Paul Manafort and lawyer Michael Cohen — were taken down or reaffirmed as criminals, the situation surrounding the President, far from reaching a dramatic conclusion, became only more muddled, more convoluted. Perhaps it won’t be Russian collusion, Muellerites opined, but payouts to mistresses, or obstruction of justice in this very investigation; yea, we can Capone him!
It’s not that Trump isn’t a crook — it’s pretty clear he represents that trope of the rich and powerful well — or that we should not take a certain satisfaction when members of the usually untouchable ruling class like Cohen and Manafort approach what might look like justice for once. It’s that it is beginning to feel like this reality TV President is a character in a television drama, where each week the villain narrowly escapes and the audience is left with a cliffhanger — no, we didn’t quite get him this week, but tune in next week when we definitely will! — like they were Inspector Gadget turning around an empty chair.
The problem is that this has created, in effect, two mutually-exclusive yet simultaneously existing presidencies — one in which a boorish villain acts as Mafia don to a criminal empire under attack, and the other in which the actual actions of the Trump administration exist — the tax cuts for the uber-rich, the militarism, the radical judges, the immigration grotesquery, environmental calamity, and so on. The way in which these two presidencies increasingly exist as independent of one another is exactly the way in which Muellerites are being played.
What it boils down to is this: For those who oppose Trump: do you do so because you find him personally offensive, or because he represents, through ideology and action, everything which you oppose?
When the President says or does something racist, most people are offended. But politicians like Trump, or the recently elected Brian Kemp in Georgia, Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi, or Ron DeSantis in Florida, have existed within government every year uninterrupted since the foundation of the country, and thus have built racist effects into the system. The way to oppose Trump’s racism is not to proclaim how personally offended it makes you, but to oppose those systemic pillars which marginalize and harm particular groups of people. A good start might be to check the date that Trump’s nemesis Colin Kaepernick first took a knee.
If the recent scenes at the border near San Diego were appalling, then the way to reject such things is to oppose an inhumane system of immigration in which children are often used to “send a clear message,” as Hillary Clinton was fond of saying, to oppose militarized forces using tear gas and violence against children and the peaceful, as at Standing Rock and in Ferguson.
If the ignorance of Trump’s repeated climate change denial is personally offensive, then support must be given only to those who recognize the immediacy of the problem and intend to do something about it. For pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump was vilified. Yet, the Agreement, despite ample opportunity and the big words of President Obama, didn’t bind anybody to anything. In nothing or out of nothing are both nothing.
If it’s tax cuts for the uber-rich at a time of crushing inequality which offends, then opposition must be to a system which presents beholden politicians, the ones who cut taxes for, deregulate, and bail out the elite regardless of political party.
President Trump should be acting like a beacon towards these things, a point of reference in the enactment of the opposite. And to be fair, in many ways he has been, with more progressives than ever storming the halls of Congress in the midterms. But at the same time, there are many who, when presented with two simultaneous presidencies, the tangible and the intangible, are all too eager to recline into the Trump drama as though they were binge-watching their favorite show.
Need proof? Notice that the same outlets and influencers who are most voracious in their attachment to Mueller’s investigation are now building an appetite for something else.
If Democrats are seeing about winning in 2020, and, to be honest, I’m not totally convinced that they are, then the first question they would ask of any potential presidential candidate would be simple: Will this person, for any reason, alienate a large portion of our base that we need to win, ala Hillary with progressives.
Consider a fictitious Democratic candidate who believed in a green new deal, in universal healthcare, a federal $15 minimum wage and legalized pot, but was an unapologetic racist. Well, can’t choose them right?
Robert Francis O’Rourke is the son of a wealthy Texas political family and the son-in-law of an El Paso billionaire, a man who, after floating through his 20s, used his family’s money and influence to launch a political career. During his time in Congress, ‘Beto,’ as he is known, has repeatedly stood with Wall Street and oil companies; he has supported a punitive criminal justice system; he voted to fast-track the TPP and for Trump’s military budgets, while neglecting to sponsor either the House bill on universal healthcare or tuition-free college.
In other words, Beto is a candidate Democrats cannot possibly believe progressives will support. Further than that, if the idea is to oppose the ideology of President Trump, to oppose the actual effects represented in his buffoonery, Beto won’t really get anyone that far.
But for Beto supporters and Muellerites, that isn’t what is being opposed. Instead, in an ongoing drama where a villainous Trump personally offends and narrowly avoids retribution in each episode, Beto seems, with his boyish good looks and endearing, if slightly racist, fake name, like the perfect leading man, the perfect white knight (pun intended) to come riding in and save the day.
I guess the point is, if we’re fucking around in unreality anyways, then it hardly matters who the President is.