A TrumPence for Your Thoughts

Trigger Warning: Political Rant

“Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.”

Thomas Paine, “The Crisis, Number 1” (Dec. 23, 1776), in Ian Shapiro & Jane E. Calvert, eds., Selected Writings of Thomas Paine 53, 58 (2014).

♂, ♀, ✳, †, ∞

Person, woman, man, camera, TV

Back on October 20, 2020, televangelist Pat Robertson heard voices in his head, and interpreted them to be the voice of god, announcing the imminent victory of Donald Trump. How Robertson knows he was not hearing the devil, he does not say. Even gods get their facts and predictions wrong sometimes. We should always ask for the data and the analysis.

Trump’s “spiritual advisor,” mega-maga-church pastor and televangelist, Paula White, violated the ban on establishment of religion, and prayed for Trump’s victory.[1] Speaking in tongues, White made Trump seem articulate. White wandered from unconstitutional into blatantly criminal territory, however, when she sought intervention of foreign powers in the election, by summoning angels from Africa and South America to help Trump win the election.  Trump seemed not to take notice that these angels were undocumented, illegal aliens. In the end, the unlawful aliens proved ineffective. Our better angels prevailed over Ms. White’s immigrant angels. Now ICE will now have to track these angels down and deport them back to their you-know-what countries of origin.

How did we get to this place? It is not that astute observers on the left and the right did not warn us.

Before Trump was elected in 2016, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notoriously bashed Donald Trump, by calling him a “faker”:

“He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”[2]

Faker was a fitting epithet that captured Trump’s many pretensions. It is a word that has a broader meaning in the polyglot world of New York City, where both Justice Ginsburg and Donald Trump were born and grew up. The word has a similar range of connotations as trombenik, “a lazy person, ne’er-do-well, boastful loudmouth, bullshitter, bum.” Maybe we should modify trombenik to Trumpnik?

Justice Ginsburg’s public pronouncement was, of course, inappropriate, but accurate nonetheless. She did something, however, that Trump has never done in his public persona; she apologized:

“‘On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them’, Ginsburg said in a statement Thursday morning. ‘Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect’.”[3]

Of course, Justice Ginsburg should have been more circumspect, but her disdain for Trump was not simply an aversion to his toxic politics and personality. Justice Ginsburg was a close friend of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court bench. Ginsburg and Scalia could and did disagree vigorously and still share friendship and many common interests. Scalia was not a faker; Trump is.

Other conservative writers have had an equal or even a greater disdain for Trump. On this side of the Atlantic, principled conservatives rejected the moral and political chaos of Donald Trump. When Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president seemed assured in June 2016, columnist George Will announced to the Federalist Society that he had changed his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated.[4]

On the other side of the Atlantic, conservative thinkers such as the late Sir Roger Scruton rolled their eyes at the prospect of Donald Trump’s masquerading as a conservative.[5] After Trump had the benefit of a few months to get his sea legs on the ship of state, Sir Roger noted that Trump was nothing more than a craven opportunist:

“Q. Does ‘Trumpism’ as an ideology exist, and if it does, is it conservative, or is it just opportunism?

A. It is opportunism. He probably does have conservative instincts, but let’s face it, he doesn’t have any thoughts that are longer than 140 characters, so how can he have a real philosophy?”[6]

Twitter did, at some point, double the number of characters permitted in a tweet, but Trump simply repeated himself more.

In the United States, we have had social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, classic liberal conservatives, and more recently, we have seen neo-cons, theo-cons, and Vichy cons. I suppose there have always been con-cons, but Trump has strongly raised the profile of this last subgroup. There can be little doubt that Donald John Trump has always been a con-con. Now we have Banana Republicans who have made a travesty of the rule of law. Four years in, we are all suffering from what Barak Obama termed “truth decay.”

Cancel culture has always been with us. Socrates, Jesus, and Julius Caesar were all canceled, with extreme prejudice. In the United States, Senator Joseph McCarthy developed cancel culture into a national past time. In this century, the Woke Left has weaponized cancel culture into a serious social and intellectual problem. Now, Donald Trump wants to go one step further and cancel our republican form of democracy. Trump is attempting in plain sight to cancel a national election he lost.

Yes, I have wandered from my main mission on this blog to write about tort law and about how the law handles scientific and statistical issues. My desultory writings on this blog have largely focused on evidence in scientific controversies that find their way into the law. Our political structures are created and conditioned by our law, and our commitment to the rule of law, and the mistreatment of scientific issues by political actors is as pressing a concern, to me at least, as mistreatment of science by judges or lawyers. Trump has now made the post-modernists look like paragons of epistemic virtue. As exemplified in the political response to the pandemic, this political development has important implications for the public acceptance of science and evidence-based policies and positions in all walks of life.

Another blogger whose work on science and risk I respect is David Zaruk, who openly acknowledges that Donald Trump is an “ethically and intellectually flawed train wreck of a politician.”[7] Like Trump apologists James Lindsay and Ben Shapiro, however, Zaruk excuses the large turnout for Trump because Trump voters:

“are sick to death of being told by smug, arrogant, sanctimonious zealots how to think, how to feel and how to act. Nobody likes to be fixed and especially not by self-righteous, moralising mercenaries.”

But wait:  Isn’t this putative defense itself a smug, arrogant, sanctimonious, and zealous lecture that we should somehow be tolerant of Trump and his supporters? What about the sickness unto death over Trump’s endless propagation of lies and fraud? Trump has set an example that empowers his followers to do likewise. Zaruk’s reductionist analysis ignores important determinants of the vote. Many of the Trump voters were motivated by the most self-righteous of all moralizing mercenaries – leaders of Christian nationalism.[8] Zaruk’s acknowledgement of Trump’s deep ethical and intellectual flaws, while refraining from criticizing Trump voters, fits the pattern of the Trump-supporting mass social media that engages in the rhetoric of gas-lighting “what-about-ism.”[9]

Sure, no one likes to be told that they are bereft of moral, practical, and political judgment, but voting for Trump is complicit in advancing “a deeply ethically and intellectually flawed” opportunist. Labeling all of Trump’s opponents as “smug, arrogant, sanctimonious zealots” is really as empty as Trump’s list of achievements. Furthermore, Zaruk’s animadversions against the Woke Left miss the full picture of who is criticizing Trump and his “base.” The critique of Trump has come not just from so-called progressives but from deeply conservative writers such as Will and Scruton, and from pragmatic conservative political commentators such as George Conway, Amanda Carpenter, Sarah Longwell, and Charles Sykes. There is no moral equivalency between the possibility that the Wokies will influence a Biden administration and the certainty that truly deplorable people such as Bannon, Gingrich, Giuliani, Navarro, et alia, will both influence and control our nation’s policy agenda.

Of course, Trump voters may honestly believe that a Democratic administration will be on the wrong side of key issues, such as immigration, abortion, gun control, regulation, taxation, and the like. Certainly opponents of the Democratic positions on these issues could seek an honest broker to represent their views. Trump voters, however, cannot honestly endorse the character and morality of Mr. Trump, his cabinet, and his key Senate enablers. Trump has been the Vector-in-Chief of contagion and lies. As for Trump’s evangelical Christian supporters, they have an irreconcilable problem with our fundamental prohibition against state establishment of religion.

It has been a difficult year for Trump. He has had the full 2020 experience. He developed COVID, lost his job, and received an eviction notice. And now he finds himself with electicle dysfunction. Trump has long been a hater and a denier. Without intending to libel his siblings, we can say that hating and denying are in his DNA. Trump hates and denies truth, evidence, valid inference, careful analysis and synthesis. He is the apotheosis of what happens when a corrupt, small-minded business man surrounds himself with lackies, yes-people, and emotionally damaged, financially dependent children.

Trump declared victory before the votes could be tallied, and he announced in advance, without evidence, that the election was rigged but only if it turned out with the “appearance” of his losing. After the votes were tallied, and he had lost by over 5,000,000 votes, and he lost the Electoral College by the same margin he labeled a “landslide” for him four years earlier, he claimed victory, contrary to the evidence, just as he said he would. Sore loser. Millions of voting Americans, to whom Zaruk would give a moral pass, do not see this as a problem.

In The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix series, the stern, taciturn janitor of a girls’ orphanage, Mr. Shaibel, taught Beth Harmon, a seven year old, how to play chess. In one of their early games, Beth has a clearly lost position, and Mr. Shaibel instructs her, “now you resign.” Beth protests that she still has moves she can make before there is a checkmate, but Mr. Shaibel sternly repeats himself, “no, now you resign.” Beth breaks into tears and runs out of the room, but she learned the lesson and developed the resiliency, focus, and sportsmanship to play competitive chess at the highest level. If only Mr. Shaibel could have taught our current president this lesson, perhaps he would understand that the American electorate, both the self-styled progressives and conservatives who care about decency and morality, have united in saying to him, “now you resign.”

Dr. Mary Trump, the President’s niece, has written an unflattering psychological analysis of Trump. It does not take a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to see the problem. Donald Trump and his family do not have a dog. Before Donald Trump, James K. Polk (11th president) was the last president not to have a dog in the White House (March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849). Polk died three months after leaving office.

I suppose there are some good people who do not like dogs, but liking and caring for dogs, and being open to their affection back, certainly marks people as capable of empathy, concern, and love. I could forgive the Obamas for never having had dogs before moving into the Whitehouse; they were a hard working, ambitious two career couple, living in a large city. They fixed their omission shortly upon Obama’s election. The absence of dog from the Trump White House speaks volumes about Trump. In a rally speech, he mocked: “Can you imagine me walking a dog?” Of course, he would not want to walk a dog down a ramp. How interesting that of all the criticisms lodged against Trump, the observation that he lacked canine companionship struck such a nerve that he addressed the matter defensively in one of his rallies. And how sad that he could not imagine his son Barron walking a dog. It was probably Barron’s only hope of having another living creature close to him show concern. Of course, Melania could walk the dog, which would allow her to do something useful and entertaining (besides ignoring the Christmas decorations), especially in her high-heel dog-walking shoes.

Saturday, November 7, 2020. O joy, o rapture! People danced in the streets of the Upper East. Cars honked horns. People hung out their windows and banged pots. Grown men and women shed tears of joy and laughter. A beautiful New York day, VD Day, not venereal disease day, but victory over Donald. Trump can begin to plan for the Trump Presidential Lie-brary and adult book store.

But wait. Trump legal advisor Harmeet Dhillon tells Lou Dobbs on the Fox News Channel: “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court – of which the president has nominated three justices – to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.” Well, that was not a terribly subtle indication of the corruption in Trump’s soul and on his legal team. Americans now know all about loyalty oaths to the leader, and the abdication of principles. Fealty to Trump is the only principle; just read the Republican Party Platform.

Former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon was not to be out done in his demonstrations of fealty. Bannon called for Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray to be beheaded “as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you are gone.” Bannon, of course, was not in a principal-agent relationship with Trump, as was Dhillon, but given that Trump has an opinion about everything on Twitter-Twatter, and that he was silent about Bannon’s call for decapitations, we have to take his silence as tacit agreement.

It does seem that many Republicans are clutching at straws to hang on. Fraud claims require pleading with particularity, and proof by clear and convincing evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. First and second order hearsay will not suffice. Surely, Rudy the Wanker knows this; indeed, when he has appeared in court, he has readily admitted that he is not pursuing a fraud case.[10] In open court, Guiliani, with a straight face, told a federal judge that his client was denied the opportunity to ensure opacity at the polls.[11]

Under the eye of Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House, poll workers should be jailed, and Attorney General William P. Barr should step in to the fray. Never failing to disappoint, Bully Barr obliged. Still, the Republican attempt to win by litigation, a distinctly un-conservative approach, has been failing.[12]

How will we know when our national nightmare is over? There will not be the usual concession speech. Look for Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.

Donald J. Trump Foundation, Trump Airlines, Trump Magazine, Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, Trump: The Game, Trump University, GoTrump.com, Trump Marriage #1, Trump Marriage #2, Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Plaza Hotel, Trump Castle Hotel and Casino, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Trumpnet – all failures – are now gone. Soon Trump himself will be gone as well.


Post-Script

A dimly lit room filled with coffins. Spider webs stretch across the room. Rats scurry across the floor. Slowly, the tops of the coffins are pushed open from within in, by arms of skeletons. The occupants of the coffins, skeleton, slowly get up and start talking.

Skeleton one: COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, that’s all everyone wants to talk about.

Skeleton two: It’s no big deal; we were going to die anyway. Well at some point.

Skeleton three: And besides, now we are immune. Ha, ha, ha!

Skeleton four: Hey, look at us; we’re rounding the corner.

All, singing while dancing in a circle conga line:

We’ll be coming around the corner when he’s gone (toot, toot)

We’ll be coming around the corner when he’s gone (toot, toot)

We’ll be coming around the corner, we’ll be coming around the corner

We’ll be coming around the corner when he’s gone (toot, toot).


[1]  Wyatte Grantham-Philips, “Pastor Paula White calls on angels from Africa and South America to bring Trump victory,” USA TODAY (Nov. 5, 2020).

[2]  John Kruzel, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken to bashing Donald Trump in recent days,” (July 12, 2016).

[3]  Jessica Taylor, “Ginsburg Apologizes For ‘Ill-Advised’ Trump Comments,” Nat’l Public Radio (July 14, 2016).

[4]  Maggie Haberman, “George Will Leaves the G.O.P. Over Donald Trump,” N.Y. Times (June 25, 2016).

[5]  Roger Scruton, “What Trump Doesn’t Get About Conservatism,” N.Y. Times (July 4, 2018).

[6]  Tom Szigeti, “Sir Roger Scruton on Trump: ‘He doesn’t have any thoughts that are longer than 140 characters’,” Hungary Today (June 8, 2017).

[7]  David Zaruk, “The Trump Effect: Stop Telling me What to Think!,” RiskMonger (Nov. 5, 2020).

[8]  See Katherine Stewart, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (2020).

[9]  See Amanda Carpenter, Gaslighting America – Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us 2018.

[10]  Lisa Lerer, “‘This Is Not a Fraud Case’: Keep an eye on what President Trump’s lawyers say about supposed voter fraud in court, where lying under oath is a crime,” (Nov. 18, 2020).

[11]  Gail Collins, “Barr the Bad or Rudy the Ridiculous?” N.Y. Times (Nov. 18, 2020).

[12]  Jim Rutenberg, Nick Corasaniti and Alan Feuer, “With No Evidence of Fraud, Trump Fails to Make Headway on Legal Cases,” N.Y. Times (Nov. 7, 2020); Aaron Blake, “It goes from bad to worse for the Trump legal team,” Wash. Post (Nov. 13, 2020); Alan Feuer, “Trump Loses String of Election Lawsuits, Leaving Few Vehicles to Fight His Defeat,” N.Y. Times (Nov. 13, 2020); Jon Swaine & Elise Viebeck, “Trump campaign jettisons major parts of its legal challenge against Pennsylvania’s election results,” Wash. Post (Nov. 15, 2020).

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