Psychological Observation About Trump From Access Hollywood Tape Incident

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I hate it, but I’m turning it a one-man Donald Trump truth squad. Anyway, if you remember what happened with the Access Hollywood tape incident, he saved his sorry ass by apologizing in all but name. So what happens from a political stand point if a year from now, just before the 2018 mid-terms, Trump suddenly realizes the gravity of the situation he faces and, well, comes clean to the fullest extent he can?

Then what?

Given the impeachment is a political, not criminal event, it’s possible that would be the thing that would allow him to survive and even prosper. The thing that would allow him to put this whole TrumpRussia thing behind him — admit that his “satellites” did, in fact, collude with the Russians and then say the time for the nation to move on had come.

It definitely seems like that’s how Trump would go about surviving this mess.

What The Resistance Can — And Can’t — Learn From Watergate

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumarls

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.

Why TrumpRussia Is Worse Than Watergate, But May Not End The Same

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

For decades now, Republicans have screamed at the top of their lungs that any transgression that Democrats may, or may not, have committed is “worse than Watergate.” This has become such a common theme among the center-Right in this era of hyper-polarization that it’s something of a cliche.

And, yet, now that we’ve reached the 45 anniversary of the Watergate break in while we’re in the middle of yet another epic Washington scandal, it’s pretty obvious that TrumpRussia really IS worse than Watergate for any number of reasons.

The one that comes to the top of my mind is the foreign power quality of it. Say what you will about Watergate, at least it was Americans who broke into the Democratic HQ, not Russians who did so with the knowledge and collusion of quisling Americans.

That’s just the tip of the ice burg. There is a huge amount of smoke coming off of this scandal and once we finally wade through the smoke and get to the bottom of it, we could be pretty astonished at what we find. We will then be further astonished that nothing happens, at least until the mythical “Blue Wave” rips through Congress. (That’s very unlikely to happen, sadly, because of gerrymandering, but oh well.)

Regardless, the fact that we could reach a point in the near future where we have the single worst scandal in post-Civil War America…and nothing happen…could cause a few bolts to pop off of our civil society. Vichy Republicans are so…Vichy…that we’re stuck with Trump for at least roughly 18 more months. That’s being optimistic.

So, we are quickly lurching towards a very dark, very uncertain future. There is no easy way out and there won’t be any sense of closure unless something really dramatic happens politically and that’s just not going to happen given current conditions.

I’m pretty pessimistic about all of this. Trump isn’t going anywhere unless there really are tapes. And even then, well, he is something of a Dear Leader to the faithful. So we’re stuck with Trump. We’re stuck with Trump in ways that we never imagined we would be.

TrumpRussia is worse than Watergate, and the ending will be tragic, but not in the way we expect. It will likely be tragic because it won’t be the end of All The President’s Men, but something closer to Deliverance. We will have gone through all this horrible mess and…nothing. Nothing, really, will change.

Newt Gingrich, PLEASE SHUT UP

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I am not going to suggest I’m any kind of expert of the statements of Newt Gingrich, but some of the rhetorical flourishes that Gingrich has managed to utter the last few weeks have been rather astonishing. He said, apparently, that the president can’t obstruct justice, which is exactly what he impeached President Bill Clinton for.

It’s all very surreal. It is because of the agitation of people like Newt Gingrich that we’re hurdling towards a national era of cognitive dissidence of such epic proportions that some pretty bizarre things are going to happen. American civil society could very well reach a tipping point, a breaking point by the time the 2018 election happens that we’ve not seen in the modern era.

I say this because I have heard through osmosis that apparently the bullshit mountain echo chamber of FOX News believes that the independent council is an unelected “fourth branch” of government that should just go away. They weren’t saying that 20 years ago when Ken Star, as special prosecutor, was rummaging around Whitewater and beyond.

It is because of the statements of Newt Gingrich and others that there is a very real chance that Donald Trump will fire Bob Mueller. If that happens, we’re going to lurch into a painful, surreal moment in our nation’s history that may — or may not — be resolved by Congress flipping in 2018.

But that hasn’t happened yet. And it may never. But the fact that we’re talking about that possibly openly does not bode well.

So, you can talk about how the base is “fleeing” Trump and the Vichy Republicans all you want, we haven’t reached the end of the beginning yet. We have at least 18 months before anything is going to change. Let that sink in for a moment.

The Resistance Has To Accept That Trump May Not Just Survive, But Prosper

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Watching the Watergate special, I realize that without tapes, Donald Trump is probably going to not just survive but prosper. Because, remember, it was the tapes that brought Nixon down. And it’s just really impossible without such definitive proof for a president to be removed. And, really, there was pretty much definitive proof that Bill Clinton lied and that wasn’t enough to get rid of him.

So, really, if you consider yourself a member of The Resistance like I do, you need to slow your roll when it comes to impeachment talk. At least for now. There’s a real chance that a year or two years, or six years from now, we’ll still be talking about how Trump should be impeached.

There’s a real chance that things are going to get really surreal. There’s a real chance that the difference between what the populace knows to be true and what Congress is willing to act upon will become so great that things will grow really extremely surreal.

When that surreal era happens, that may be when pop culture collective freaks out about Trump. Pop culture may be the only outlet for the people to feel like what they believe is true is being listened to. Remember, we’re not even at the end of the beginning yet. The inciting incident of this tragedy happened with the firing of Jim Comey. It could be that, say, the firing of Bob Mueller will be the moment we enter the second act. Or not. That may not happen. But the fact that people are openly talking about that possibility says something about what the conventional wisdom about Donald Trump’s mentality is.

Here is some historical perspective on all of this. Nixon’s resignation in 1974 could be seen as either the catharsis of the Watergate tragedy, or that for the period of time in our nation’s history that began in 1963 with the death of JFK. So, that makes you wonder how all of this will end. The human mind all but demands some sort of resolution to over-arching events like what’s going on now, and I just don’t see Trump either resigning or being impeached and convicted. I really can’t map out the future, not even my usual back-of-the-envelope daydreaming that I love to do.

Maybe Trump will make it through eight years and then, on his late day in office, pardon everyone. Maybe we’ll in a few years all know the facts of TrumpRussia, but nothing will happen for various reasons and we’ll just be in a really weird situation for a long time and the only ending, the only catharsis will come gradually as we all forget about it.

So, the thing that The Resistance wants so bad — Trump’s impeachment and conviction — just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. It’s just not. It is going to be years before we get anywhere near that happening and that works on the assumption that there won’t be a major crisis, terrorist attack or wag the dog incident that makes us think about something else.

It is interesting how fast all of this is going. In a way, I would suggest that Trump’s rise is the result of a slow moving technological Singularity. We may have reached the event horizon for a Singularity that will happen in 20 to 30 years Trump’s rise may be the tipping point, the point at which there’s no going back from previous ways of doing business. We live in the age of Twitter and I can only imagine it will get worse, not better in the age of AR/VR. How a racist, misogynist, bigoted demagogue might use AR/VR to promote their hateful agenda we can only begin to imagine.

Regardless, the whole point of this is we’re stuck with Trump. We now have a new normal, the Trumplandia Era. Our only hope is to try to make the best of it.

Coming Soon To A Talking Point Near You: The Pence Pivot

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Ok, maybe it won’t be all that soon, but it does seem inevitable that at the very moment people like me get to gloat that everything we’ve been saying about Trump from the beginning is true, the GOP will pivot to Vice President Mike Pence and say Donald Trump was worth it because Pence will now be president.

Whoa buddy.

Like I said, we got a ways to go before that happens. It could be years, in fact, before the Vichy Republicans finally, finally get a backbone and start to think about getting rid of Trump in any meaningful manner. That doesn’t begin to address any number of twists and turns that could happen between now and then. A wag the dog major regional war in Iran or North Korea. Or any number of other distractions that will draw out and prolong this tragic episode in American history.

But there will be people the moment it is obvious that Trump is doomed — probably whenever The Resistance happens to flip Congress enough to do the deed itself — who won’t blink an eye in going from defending Trump to singing the praises of Pence.

While there are some advantages to Pence like he’s sane and he actually has a traditional conservative ideology that he follows, there are some serious downsides that will probably lead to trouble down the road. He is so extreme in his conservative ideology that nothing good will come of it. The divisions that Trump has stoked and benefited from will still be there under a Pence administration. I mean, it’s not like all the people who have been alienated because of politics are suddenly going to hold hands around a campfire the moment Pence becomes president.

And, remember, should Pence become president, it will be after a long, drawn out and devastating scorched earth political war on the part of Trump and his ilk. I just don’t see Pence being up to the challenge of healing the wounds that Trump has caused.

Apparently, Pence’s favorite president is Andrew Johnson and it would be truly ironic if, by the time Trump finally is impeached and convicted that The Resistance is so riled up that they come after Pence for no other reason than, well, they’re pissed off. This would bring up the bizarre situation — should the Senate be so polarized that they can’t approve his replacement — that we might have effectively a legal, Constitutional Coup whereby the Congress gets rid of Pence for political reasons and Nancy Pelosi becomes president.

This is a huge longshot. It’s very, very unlikely to happen. As is, in real terms, the likelihood that Trump will be impeached and convicted in the first place. But it is, at least possible. Though I side on the possibly that the Vichy Republicans would be more likely to impeach and convict Trump between election day and the new Congress being sworn in late 2018 just so they would have the opportunity to seat the new veep.

Though there is the huge, huge longshot that maybe, just maybe, the Vichy Republicans in late 2018 out of sheer desperation might convince Trump to step down in exchange for Pence naming Ivanka Trump as Veep. That would be really bad, but if things got desperate there’s a small chance it might happen.

But the whole point is — there isn’t likely to be any healing over Trumplandia because there will never be a point when Trump supporters admit that this whole experiment was an abject, avoidable quirk. This has got to be the worst mistake by the American electorate since Prohibition and there will never be that moment in time when both The Resistance and Trumplandia agree that Trump was a tragic mistake.

What will happen, instead is, The Resistance will be celebrating the end of Trumplandia at the very moment Trumplandia will morph into Pence-istan. Or something. A new, just as divisive concept will rise from the ashes of Trumplandia as all the Bible-thumpers run around like a chicken with its head cut off praising Jesus that a New Age has arrived where all there home school children can finally be forced into gay conversion therapy should they come out.

So we will go through all this rigmarole politically, probably for years and we will never have that moment of bi-partisan clarity when we realize, together, as a nation, that Trump was a fluke, a horrible mistake that we now have to somehow fix the damage that was caused by it.

Instead, we’ll go to our individual corners, lick our wounds and go back at it. It will probably, at least on Twitter, take a few seconds for that to happen. Probably the duration of time between when the Senate finally convicts Trump and when Pence is sworn in.

Let that sink in.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

The Struggle Is Real (Redux): How To Address Trump In Art

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I am struggling to write a novel that addresses, head on, this new era of Trumplandia that we live in. It’s kind of a scifi satire, of sorts, and I just when I think I’ve figured out how I’m going to write is, Trump does something so batshit insane that I realize it’s much more difficult than expect to do anything with all of this.

I guess the reason why I’m having trouble grappling with Trumplandia is it seems ever-changing, ever shifting in is exact nature. There’s no set ideology and so it’s difficult to figure out how to satirize it. it’s difficult to take it to its logical extreme when you don’t know what it is in the first place.

But this brings up the broader issue of how art can and should address Trump. As I have written several times before, it seems as though the art world is so busy raging against Trumplandia that it isn’t actually producing much art that helps us process it.

What’s worse, when art does do things to help us process this weird, tragic, bizarre era we are in — like, for instance Shakespeare In The Park — the Right loses its shit. The Right is so absolutely hell bent on establishing an autocracy in the United States, they are so humorless and mean spirited, that nothing less than absolute devotion to the Dear Leader, Donald J. Trump, in all aspects of society can be tolerated.

It’s all very sad.

It’s also kind of unnerving. Art is something that despots of all stripes want to control or destroy and the fact that Donald Trump now that he’s in power can’t handle it is disturbing to say the least. That quality is another aspect of all of this that makes it so difficult to get a grasp on.

As I understand it, before Trump went nuts later in life, he was something of a patron of the arts in the New York City area. Weird. Just too weird. Don’t understand what happened. Something happened to Trump over the last 20 years that is inexplicable. He turned from a self-aware celebrity to a ranting, conspiracy theory loving unhinged madman.

Really, I guess I’m trying to do my part with my novel. I’m trying to channel what artistic ability I may have into something productive art-wise. As I have mentioned before, the big dogs seem rather quiet about Trumplandia. Though I am heartened by the notion that there are here and there a few signs that Hollywood and Broadway are beginning to do the art that we need right now.

I still think Hollywood should do something with The Mule part of The Foundation Saga. That is really weirdly timely in this era of Trumplandia. And, as I have mentioned before elsewhere, there are any number of different other works of art that could be used to address Trump. It’s just a matter of someone doing it.

It will be interesting to see when the protest songs will begin to pop up. Though there have been a few “woke” pop songs produced since Trump came to office, none of the has gone full protest. I think it’s going to be one of those things that we may have to wait until Trump — God forbid — wins re-election and everyone is weary of Trumplandia before we’ll get any real protest art.

Anyway, like I said, I’m doing my part. It’s a struggle, but I’m at least trying. In some ways, it’s a lot of fun working on a novel that deals so directly with the zany nature of Trumplandia. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

The Continued Absence Of A Spy Magazine-Like Anti-Axios Is Curious

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It is very curious that we’re this far into the Trumplandia era and someone, somewhere with the means, motive and opportunity hasn’t founded a Gawker or Spy Magazine for this new age. I just don’t get it. It’s really weird.

The Atlantic, strangely enough, is doing a really good job providing people like me with the thought provoking content that I’m looking for during this Cold Civil War. And Crooked Media, too, with its podcasts is doing a good job giving me content that enrages me, if nothing else. It enrages me because I feel like they’re telling us how Trumplandia is successfully destroying America and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about at this point. New York Magazine’s site also does a good job, but it’s a little bit bland liberalism for me. And The New Yorker and Vanity Fair continue to do yeomanly work.

But these are general sites, general news organization. They’re not devoted to specifically tearing Trumplandia to shreds. That’s what I want as a reader. That’s what I’m interested in right now. The closest thing I have at this point is Twitter, but that’s just because of who I follow.

Meanwhile, Axios is everything a Gawker or Spy Magazine would be against. It’s access journalism that sucks up to Trumplandia in the effort to get a steady flow of scoops. But there’s no opposite. There’s currently no snarky, rough-on-the-edges journalism site that’s popular enough to get the media world buzzing. Vox is meh.

I want a site like Gawker in 2003 or 2004 that you woke up excited to read. I want a site that really tears into Trumplandia in a way that makes people like me cheer. I have suggested that Playboy might be the news organization to do what I want, but I’ve heard crickets. I mean, I’m a nobody. No one listens to me.

Maybe it’s because in the last 10 years or so, the online media world has changed to such an extent that it’s just, in real terms, impossible to start a blog like Gawker. Maybe that’s what is obvious and yet I can’t accept it for some reason. It could be that moment in time has faded and will never return.

Oh well.

Still think Playboy should do it, though. The have the most to gain from doing as I suggest. It would really give them a purpose that the currently lack. They have the name and the resources, they could do something really cool if they came out swinging against Trumplandia on a daily basis.

If such an organization ever did get founded, I would probably bug the crap out of them to write for them in some capacity. They would get a huge amount of buzz and I think the advertisers would come with the associated traffic. It’s just a matter of someone with some vision and resources to actually make what I suggest a reality.

Cold Civil War: If Trump Fires Mueller…Holy Shit!

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I am just a lowly hayseed rube in a flyover state and even I would be aghast if Trump somehow managed to rationalize the firing of Independent Council Robert Mueller. That would truly be a shot across the bow of, well, pretty much everything.

But apparently — a least according to my Twitter feed — there is growing movement in conservative media for Trump to do just that. The only way to fix such an horrible act would be for Congress to pass a new Special Prosecutor law and given that the GOP controls Congress, that is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Yet this could very well happen and it would be yet another battle in the on going, slow moving Cold Civil War that the United States is engaged in. It would delay justice, of course, but I’d like to think that eventually, when it still matters, justice will be served.

I guess the game plan of the Right is to push the issue so far into the future that Trump wins re-election and it all gets sorted out just about the time he leaves office and so it’s moot and the damage will be done. Trump is nominating insanely young and conservative Federal judges at an alarming rate, so they just want to be sure to hold on to power for at east years, if not four, six or eight.

We can’t give up hope. But it’s tough. It’s tough not to get tired of it all and feel sad. But we’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to keep fighting the good fight. We have to. We just have to.

Shakespeare In The Park & Art In The Trump Era

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have addressed this before, but the fact that people are getting all bent out of shape over a modernized version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar makes me reflect on it yet again. To me, art is supposed to be not only provocative but a reflection of its times.

So, it seems in the specific instance of Shakespeare in The Park, we should judge the play on its artistic merits more than how inflammatory it is because of how it portrays Caesar. It is also quite ironic that while the Right accused people like me of “snowflakes” who need “safespaces” so we’re not “triggered,” they, in fact, are the ones who seem so easily upset when it comes to thought provoking art.

But that is becoming a cliche, given how often people like me are forced to make mention of it. So, for me, it’s more an issue of the play is supposed to not be all that good as opposed to how horrible it is that Caesar is portrayed as a Trump like character.

Anyway, what this means to me in the long run is in the culture wars, in this slow moving political Cold Civil War that we’re experiencing, the greater entertainment business has a responsibility to produce quality, through provoking art that helps us process this event.

As I keep saying, I continue to suggest that someone, somewhere use “The Mule” portion of The Foundation Saga to explain Trumplandia. But given that not only do I not have the rights to is, but I’m not a good enough writer to do it, anyway, that is just going to have to stay something of a daydream.

I continue to be puzzled by how quiet Hollywood is on the subject of Trump. It takes time for scripted material to get developed and produced, so maybe that’s the delay, not any kind of “shock and awe.” It will be interesting to see if a year from now there are lots of TV show and movies like the Shakespeare in The Park production or not.

Only time will tell, I suppose.