I am not saying I’m any historical expert of Watergate, but I have read up on the subject. I know a lot more Iran-Contra for various reasons and I’ll try to work that into this article as best I can. Here are some back-of-the-envelope things I have noticed about Watergate that might come in handy as we grind through this horrible experience now commonly known as TrumpRussia.
1. These things take time
It was a full two years from the June 17th 1972 break in to the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9th, 1974. Along the way, a lot of shit went down. There were mistakes on everyone’s part, there were dead ends, quirks of fate and the bizarre. We have barely gotten to the end of the beginning of this scandal for various reasons. And, remember, both Iran-Contra and Whitewater took hears and only in the latter was there an impeachment. And even then, the impeachment was over something serious but kind of dumb in the context of what was going on at the time. So, Trump could not only survive, but he could prosper. He could win re-election and we’ll still be talking about this six years from now. But though I talk like this, I refuse to give up hope that maybe, just maybe, the right thing — at least in my book — will happen before, like, 2025.
2. Keep things simple
While I am not an expert, I do know enough about Washington scandals to know that if things are both too dry and complex, people lose interest and nothing happens. That’s what happen with Iran-Contra. The more I think about it, the more I realize in some ways TrumpRussia has more in common with Iran-Contra than it does Watergate. Both TrumpRussia and Iran-Contra dealt with foreign powers and screwing around with things that shouldn’t be fucked with. But the troublesome thing about TrumpRussia is it takes the most nefarious aspects of Iran-Contra and takes it to a whole new level. I mean, at least Reagan was kind of senile and allowed people with at least patriotic intent to go around laws they thought weren’t just.
What Trump’s “satellites” may have done in an effort to win the 2016 election is nearly treasonous at is at least of a quisling nature if nothing else. But the thing we have to remember about Iran-Contra is it didn’t have the drama of Watergate, so it was just too complicated for the average person to understand. And, given that Reagan was popular, people give him an epic, historic pass. If I recall correctly, Reagan also apologized, which though I doubt Trump would do, that would be one way to possibly defuse any impeachment talk a few years down the road.
So, if you consider yourself a member of The Resistance, you need to hone down TrumpRussia to some basic talking points and repeat them until you’re blue in face. Right now, I think TrumpRussia could be boiled down to:
a. Trump or his associates may have colluded with Russian hackers to hurt Hillary Clinton
b. Trump obstructed justice by firing Jim Comey who was investing Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia
c. What does Flynn have on Trump and why?
d. Trump needs to release his tax returns
At this point, the Right wing person you’re talking to will probably start babbling about “fake news” and witch hunts and how the independent council is acting like an unelected fourth branch of government. This is the point when you have to take a deep breath and try to engage, not rage. If you have the time try to stay focused on those four issues to try to get your point across.
3. Only by not allowing outrage burnout to happen will anything happen
If you are a member of The Resistance, you have to stop raging and start engaging. You have to pick your battles and keep focused. You need to stay energized without wearing yourself out. The moment you become numb to the latest horrible the that Trump has done, the moment Trump — and Trumplandia — wins.
Here are some things, though that make TrumpRussia fundamentally different from Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater.
1. Trump is a moron, but a weirdly politically astute racist, bigoted, misogynist moron
Trump is, politically, like Chancy Gardner of the Peter Sellers’ movie Being There on mushrooms. He taps into something deep and dark in the American psyche in ways I don’t fully understand. Not to invoke his name unduly, but Trump really is, in his own incompetent manner, an American Hitler. The only thing stopping him from doing real damage is his sheer incompetence as an administrator. If you managed to put Bill Clinton’s mind in Trump’s poisonous vat of a persona, something scary really would be happening. I only mention this because Trump has gotten otherwise normal Americans to tacitly approve of things that they, themselves don’t personally condone. Thus, it becomes difficult to engage with them when the first thing you want to do is yell at them for being a racist, bigoted, misogynist moron. That only makes them mad and ends the debate with the two of you telling each other to fuck off.
2. America is polarized in an unprecedented fashion
We are in a 1968 era right now and I worry that it’s only going to get worse in large part because of, well, Trump. Trump as our Dear Leader sets the tone of his era and as such some pretty zany things are happening. Bonkers. People on the Right are beyond hysterical and it doesn’t help that FOX New’s bullshit mountain keeps having avalanches of partisan bullshit. So, one of the key things from Watergate — bi-partisanship — is completely gone. Poof. The two sides are at each other’s throats — in large part because of gerrymandering, dark money and general changes in technology — and hence we find ourselves in something of a pickle. So even if it’s proven that TrumpRussia combines the worst of Watergate AND Iran-Contra, there is a pretty good chance that nothing will happen. Nothing. Nada. Effectively, there’s no check on the executive branch of the United States. A fundamental principal of the American experiment in self-governance isn’t working right now and there doesn’t seem to be any chance of it coming back for years. Let that sink in for a moment. Add to this the fake news that people on the center-Right devour on a daily basis, and things grow complicated quite quickly.
3. Technology has changed
The media world is a lot different now than it was in the early 70s, the mid 80s or the late 90s. The media universe is not only enormous, but it’s news cycle can be counted in seconds, not hours or days. So a lot of people are overwhelmed and they feel like tuning out because it all becomes white background noise. What’s worse, then they do feel like engaging, because of the insane nature of online discourse, it’s almost impossible not be trolled or hated on or whatever. People either consume news they agree with, or they go out of their way to attack people they disagree with. A basic aspect of our democracy, civil discourse, simply doesn’t happen anymore. It doesn’t happen like it once did 45 years go.
I honestly don’t have any ready answers for the problems and questions I’ve raised. All I can say is try to engage, not rage. Try. Be patient. Be energized. Don’t let Trumplandia wear you down. I wish I could promise you that it was obvious that Trump will either resign or be impeached and convicted. But, alas, that is an assurance I’m unable to give. We just have to be ever watchful and ready to fight the battles we need to fight at strategic times — and know when those moments are to begin with.
Shelton Bumgarner is the Editor & Publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.