Trump's childhood fear of humiliation is inspiring a petty fit of vengeance on the entire country
In Mary L. Trump's book about her family, Too Much and Never Enough, there's a moment referred to in the index as the "mashed potatoes incident."
Apparently, young Donald was a major pill almost from birth, undisciplined, rude and nasty to his siblings and his mother. One night at dinner, he was, as usual, picking on his younger brother Robert. He had the boy in tears. Older brother Fred, Jr., then 14, intervened.
"Robert's crying and Donald's needling became too much," Mary Trump writes, "and in a moment of improvised expedience that would become family legend, Freddy picked up the first thing at hand that wouldn't cause any real damage: the bowl of mashed potatoes.
Everybody laughed and they couldn't stop laughing. And they were laughing at Donald. It was the first time Donald had been humiliated by someone he even then believed to be beneath him… From then on, he would wield the weapon, never be at the sharp end of it.
On November 3, a majority of voters dumped mashed potatoes on Donald Trump's head and he's still screaming from the injustice of it all. Despite overwhelming evidence that he lost the election, he continues to falsely bellow "Fraud!" via his Twitter feed and pursues one frivolous lawsuit after another to challenge the result, all to no avail. So far. (As of this writing, he and the Republican Party were 0-25.)
Meanwhile, he fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, installed Trump loyalists at the Pentagon, and terminated Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), who had the audacity to do an exemplary job keeping this year's voting free and clear of hacking and other interference. "In every case of which we are aware," Krebs had announced, "these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent"— flying in the face of Trump's post-election attempts to flood the zone and work the refs with wild-eyed lies and conspiracy theories.
Judges are viewing his legal team's frantic fantasies with derision and contempt and lawyers have been dropping the Trump campaign like the proverbial hot un-mashed potato it is to the extent that clown prince Rudy Giuliani is now heading up the legal effort.
I'm hard-pressed to immediately come up with someone who needs to be twelve-stepped more than our city's former mayor. Rudy, who has not argued before a federal court in 28 years, appeared in one on Tuesday to argue on behalf of a case claiming voting irregularities in four Pennsylvania counties.
"The Trump campaign came in through Mr. Giuliani asserting a fantasy world," Mark Aronchick, attorney for the counties, told MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "It was a case that somehow involves 11 different states in a gigantic conspiracy with the biggest cities in the United States all joining in to somehow manufacture votes and change mail-in ballots, and somehow throw the election to Joe Biden. And I sat there dumbfounded because the story that was presented by Mr. Giuliani bore no relationship to the actual complaint in the case… Nothing that they said actually makes sense."
To which the perplexed judge replied, "At bottom, you're asking this court to invalidate some 6.8 million votes thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the commonwealth. Can you tell me how this result could possibly be justified?"
None of this has deterred the Trump campaign and the GOP itself from trying to disenfranchise voters and in particular, voters of color. Republican interest in protecting the vote or preserving democracy is virtually non-existent. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in particular seems to have shown a willingness to subvert the democratic process, allegedly approaching Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to suggest that he "look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out." That much of their focus seems to be on voters in Black communities tells you all you need to know.
As reported in The Washington Post Wednesday night, one of Trump's latest ploys, with the help of Giuliani, is to convince Republican legislators in key states to stall certification of the election and have GOP-chosen electors disrupt the Electoral College come December.
"But that outcome appears impossible," the Post notes. "It is against the law in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin law gives no role to the legislature in choosing presidential electors, and there is little public will in other states to pursue such a path.
Behind the thin legal gambit is what several Trump advisers say is his real goal: sowing doubt in Biden's victory with the president's most ardent supporters and keeping alive his prospects for another presidential run in 2024.
Further, the Associated Press reported Thursday morning, "Getting nowhere in the courts, President Donald Trump's scattershot effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory is shifting toward obscure election boards that certify the vote as Trump and his allies seek to upend the electoral process, sow chaos and perpetuate unsubstantiated doubts about the count." Hence the craziness among Republican canvassers in Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan and in Arizona and other states.
Ugh on about 16 different levels. It's painfully clear that the next two months before Joe Biden's swearing-in will be all about Trump's petty vengeance and the Republicans building on resentments. Given what Trump's been up to since Election Day (and his sordid history embracing birtherism and other canards), it feels as if these eight weeks will be a concentrated Reader's Digest version of his entire administration, fueled with spittle, bile, ignorance and cupidity.
As insane and silly as it all seems, we cannot drop our guard for an instant. We'll need to remain vigilant; they are doing everything they can, no matter how illegal and repugnant, to stay in power. When they finally are forced to vacate, they'll leave behind a scorched earth the new Biden administration will struggle to coax back to life.
Trump never has been what you'd call a hands-on president—unless it served his self-interest or desire to create havoc. But now, as a result of his monumental, post-election petulance, even less than usual is getting done—except for his election chicanery (and the announcement of major troop withdrawals in Afghanistan and Iraq with more anticipated in Germany and South Korea, a potentially disastrous move).
Congress is hamstrung, unable to pass a new Covid-19 relief bill, and with a fully tested vaccine still weeks away, the deadly virus has exploded across the country more severely and widely than ever before, further proof of just how badly Trump has handled this disaster from the start. Now he peevishly refuses to allow the Biden transition team to work with the White House coronavirus task force—while simultaneously denying the president-elect access to national security briefings. This is graceless and stupid, verging on the traitorous.
So far, most of his colleagues at the White House and on Capitol Hill continue to coddle the infantile behavior of the president, perhaps hopeful that his legal eagles accidentally will stumble into some mass plot that upturns the results. Keep in mind that there are motives behind this effort that go beyond Trump's whining Baby Herman act—he and the party are raising significant amounts of money for his so-called defense fund. And Republicans leaders continue to placate their nutty boss, hoping he'll campaign for the two GOP U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia's January 5 runoff and allow them to hold onto the Senate majority.
As childish as Trumps' tantrums are, as mentioned, he's also hard at work using the attacks to keep his base in line for a 2024 candidacy—all (gulp) 73 million of them. There will be a huge advance for a memoir for sure, and his own TV network, maybe a radio talk show. Perhaps his pal Mark Burnett will come up with a new reality game show, a cross between "The Apprentice" and "Dancing with the Stars." Trump will serve as sole judge, kneecapping with a baseball bat the contestants he just doesn't like.
Also part of his rage, of course, is the knowledge that even if he pardons himself or a freshly sworn-in temporary President Pence does it for him right before Biden's inauguration, state and local lawsuits are out there waiting for Trump, and no presidential pardon can protect him unless, foolishly, prosecutors decide to drop charges in the name of Americans' purported need for harmony, peace and a return to normal. Gerald Ford fell for that trick when he pardoned Nixon in 1974; this is no time for Mister Nice Guy.
In the end, Republicans, all you're doing is delaying the inevitable while grievously damaging the country and its democracy. This isn't governing, it's thuggish stalling, damaging the transition by choosing malignant selfishness over patriotism and truth.
And for what? Face it, you're covering for a psychopath, a petty tyrant with the scruples of a scorpion. You'll look swell in the history books kissing the hem of your two-bit Caligula. Please pass the mashed potatoes, there's a job to be done.
Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship
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