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.

An Update On My Novel About This Strange Era We Live In

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have pretty much only one plot to my name — the rise, fall and rise of ROKon Magazine. That’s all I got. They say “write what you know” and so for about 10 years now, I have struggled to do just that. I was all intent on writing a pretty much literal description of what happened when the Trumplandia Era happened.

So I have been struggling the last few months to figure out what to do with my one plot. I think I may have figured it out. I am going tell the general story of this era we in, while telling the more specific story of the magazine.

The novel will be speculative satirical fantasy, if you will. It is going to attempt to take some of the trends happening now and go, at light speed, to their logical extreme. I keep going on walks attempt to figure out how to do this and I think I may have finally done it.

It is probably going to take me a while to actually write the damn thing given everything involved, but I believe I may have figured out how to tell the general and specific stories that I want to tell. We’ll see, I guess.

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.

I’m Getting Nervous That Trump Is Going To Fire Bob Mueller

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

All signs are pointing to Donald Trump in a fit of pique firing Bob Mueller sometime, sometime soon. If that happens, we go from a chronic Constitutional Crisis that flairs up occasionally into full OH MY GOD mode. It would take all of this to the next level. And yet still the Vichy Republicans wouldn’t do anything.

So, the question of the moment is, would Trump actually do such a thing? What do you think? Of course he would do something like that. But I just don’t know. I just can’t seem to grasp Trump’s thinking right now. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. If he has nothing to hide, why signal, why prepare us for the possibility that he will, in fact, fire Mueller?

It’s all pretty bizarre.

But, like I said, the Vichy Republicans would do nothing and we would have to slog through 18 more months of this until the Republicans finally get around to the epic “Pence Pivot” whereby they dramatically change the subject and say they wanted Veep Mike Pence to be president all along.

We’re going to have to go through a long, winding horrible political clusterfuck that could have been avoided if only the votes of 3 million people had mattered on a Constitutional level. It’s going to be a horrible experience just like Watergate and it will leave lasting damage to American civil society just like Watergate.

But it seems as though it’s something we have to go through. It seems as though this is now our fate, our destiny. I am preparing myself for Trump to fire Mueller, but he might not do it.

Or he might.

I just don’t know at this point.

Rosenstein’s Weird Statement Makes Me Wonder: What’s Out There?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

So, like, the Depty Attorney General released a statement last night that said something like, “don’t trust leaks from foreign powers and, besides, leaks are bad.”

Wait, what?

Something weird is going on.

But what exactly is going on? Rumors are flying left and right and one of them is the now-but-could-change scurrilous accusation that the Australians, of all people, may have something worse than the pee-pee tape on Donald Trump. I won’t say what I’ve heard this maybe be, but it’s bad. Really bad.

Weird. Weird. Weird.

This raises the issue of what the reaction would be if this happened to be the case. If nothing was proven, then it would go off like a firebomb but quickly subside. But there is any evidence that it’s real comes out…whoa buddy.

I guess we just have to wait. It will be interesting to see how long we have to wait. Will something break today, or weeks from now? Who knows.

Cold Civil War: We Are Hurdling Toward A Dark Future

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

We risk the very real possibility that we are zooming towards a dark future where the democratic process is hampered by actual, real violence on a regular basis. I don’t quite know how it would happen in real terms, but if both sides see violence and physical intimidation as the only way to get what they want, then I honestly don’t know what will happen.

It could be that we will slink towards a quasi-civil war in that there will be regular politically-related bloodshed that actually influences elections. One issue is that rhetoric has consquences. What’s so scary about all of this is there’s no easy way out.

Usually, if history is any guide, something truly tragic has to happen before historical events like this work themselves out. I really hope nothing like that happens, but we are in really scary times and anything seems possible.

There is so much that I don’t understand about what is going on and why. I don’t understand why all of this is happening now. But it is happening and there is no easy way out. We’re in a long term period of turmoil and as I’ve said before repeatedly, we’re in a “Cold Civil War.”

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Mad King Trump: Mulling Ivanka Trump as Trumplandia ‘Regent’

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It has been floated in at least one major publication article the notion that maybe the Trump family could appoint a “regent” for Mad King Trump. It is not without at least a limited amount of precedent. Woodrow Wilson’s wife essentially served as regent after he had a stroke.

So, I guess the idea is without invoking the 25th Amendment, Vichy Republicans could, instead of impeaching and convicting Trump — which would never happen — might suggest that Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka run the country on a day-to-day basis given that, well, the Vichy Republicans have no spine and would never otherwise do anything about Trump even though he’s nuts.

I don’t know how, exactly, this would play out. It would be extra-Constitutional, to say the least do such a thing formally, but maybe a year from now the Republicans in desperation, might announce that effectively a regency has been announced and Trump will get to play with this tinkertoys and tweet all he wants but without any real power behind it.

It would be pretty insane in some respects because it would acknowledge that we’re no longer a Republic, but we’ve finally lurched into something like a quasi-imperial system. Since about 2000 we’ve had this situation, but announcing a Regency, even informally, would pretty much be the end of the traditional American system of government.

And, yet, it would have its advantages. A Regency would be a ready fix to Trump. It’s something that would, at least for the amount of time it took to figure out how to finally get rid of Trump, placate both sides and maybe begin the healing process. Maybe.

The Constitutional purists would scream bloody murder, but if everyone else agreed to let this happen de facto, then maybe we might be able to put this tragic era of Trumplandia behind us sooner.

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.