The enduring Republic
Much of what Michael Cohen said in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee yesterday was shocking, in a country inured to shock. But it wasn’t surprising.
It wasn’t surprising that the Republicans on the committee took over the role which Cohen occupied for ten years, that of Donald Trump’s fixer and consigliere.
What they did—how they debased themselves, their offices, their institution, and their nation—will not be forgotten. When we again reach more civilized times, they will be held to account, if not in the dock of justice, then in the dock of history, as their cowardly, supine slavery to a man not fit to walk free among free people in this free Republic will be considered with the same opprobrium we reserve for the greatest of traitors.
The shock lay in the detail with which Cohen laid out of Trump’s petty, grubby, small-time-crook malfeasance. We literally have a minor mob boss occupying the highest executive office in the land. Trump doesn’t even rise to the level of a Tony Soprano. He’s more like the relics found in Ghostdog: The Way of the Samurai, sad little men meeting to plot their crimes in the back of a Chinese restaurant. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he can’t wreak havoc. But he’s no grand criminal mastermind; he’s merely a schlub, a schnorrer, a crass little man who has conned the deluded into thinking he’s a world-historical figure. Historians in twenty years will wonder, mouths agape, at how so many people willingly, blindly followed this louche Pied Piper. (They can start by looking at the parlous state of our educational systems. They can continue by seeing what is preached from pulpits across the country, in the darker, forgotten recesses of the nation, forgotten recesses filled with forgotten people who wallow in their own pathology.)
Although shocking, none of what Cohen testified to was a surprise. Trump’s ignominy has been well-known, at least to those of us blessed to have been born in, or spent any time living in, New York City. His racism, his meritless braggadocio, his sliminess were splayed for us on newspaper covers and local news reports. He was a joke in a city which reveled in the circus freaks, the fakes, the failed celebrities. His hair, his atrocious accent, his gaudy, outre fashion. No one saw him as a respected businessman, much less, far, far less, as a a politician. The thought of him as the actual president of this nation would have been something bordering on the deranged for anyone who entertained the thought for even the most fleeting of moments.
And yet. Here we are. We are living in a timeline which can only be explained by some time-traveler altering the historical record, or by a butterfly flapping its wings in Tierra del Fuego, affecting the fate of an empire.
But. I will tell you what is surprising.
When the results came in on November 8, 2016, and Trump secured the states he needed to win the Electoral College—through means absolutely foul, with not a hint of fairness about them—an amazing thing happened.
Of course, those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton were not going to roll over, no matter how devastated we were.
But those who had little political interest were also awakened.
A resistance rose up almost immediately. This nation’s collective conscience was jolted. It realized what an existential crisis had descended upon the commonwealth. The apathy, although not disappearing, waned. Plans were immediately set in motion, apparatuses of refusal were constructed on the fly. Before the miscreant even took his purloined oath of office, we had erected an edifice of opposition.
At first the going was tough. Both sides were feeling the other out.
But, let’s be frank: We in the Resistance have been blessed that the fascist takeover of this nation has been in the hands of the most inept, moronic cabal of putschists to ever grace a polity.
If Trump were at all competent, or at least hired competent people, you and I would be in gulags by now.
This nation’s saving grace, as opposed to almost every other nation on earth, is its decentralization of power.
As the 20h century progressed, as the questions which the country faced became more complex, the central government accrued more power. But it’s never been an absolute power. Far from it. The periphery, suitably motivated, can stifle almost any initiative from the metropole. The past two years have been a litany of states and localities striking at dictates from the center. Trump’s regime has done much damage; but not nearly as much damage as it could have done in a more centralized state. We as a people will have much to undo and restore; but the parapets, so far, have held.
And they will continue to hold because of the second surprise, following from the first. We took back power in November 2018.
The blue wave did happen. We reclaimed the House of Representatives, the People’s House, the chamber of the Congress from which everything emanates. The importance of that event was made clear yesterday, as two years of callow subservience to an orange monster were swept away as if old, gathered dust. The Senate, still in the death grip of the living dead Republicans, will now be seen as secondary, almost irrelevant, as a Democratic House, pumped full of fresh blood, will take oversight to the regime. Yesterday showed why it was vital for Democrats to take the House. For two years, there was no oversight of this regime. Now it has been served notice that it will be held to account. And this regime is not smart enough to pivot and deal with this new threat. We saw that, as I said at the beginning, in how the Republican committee members feebly carried water for the regime. They pulled out the same tired songs, and were laughed at.
This Republic endures because those of us of good faith and true patriotism will it so. Our opponents are not true to this country’s ideals. They are mere revanchists, seeking retribution for perceived slights and historical wrongs. The fact is that the Civil War never ended; it has continued for a century and a half, simmering, with irruptions of violence. Nothing was settled in 1865, when Grant allowed Lee’s soldiers to return home with their weapons. Now things are coming to a head, and what’s clear to me is that the revanchists are on the losing side. They don’t have the numbers. This was proven last year. This was proven yesterday.
What those whom we sent to the People’s House did yesterday was lance a boil which has grown putrid and festering for decades. The result will be messy. It won’t heal without pain. However, there’s nothing for it but to push through. This is the work of this generation. It’s the only work which matters.
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