Eleven Christmases ago, a student boarded a Northwest Airlines plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on a unique mission.
When the plane crossed the United States border, he spent 20 minutes in the bathroom and then returned to his seat. There he tried to detonate his underwear, but only managed to burn his leg. the probable The reason Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn’t kill nearly 300 people was because he was sweating too much.
The United States has often been fortunate that its enemies are too incompetent to detonate their own devices. But instead of relying on good fortune, successive presidents have spent billions of dollars building a post-9/11 military order that is supposed to protect our freedoms.
After hearing the outgoing president’s call with Georgia officials, it is painfully clear that Donald Trump is the underwear bomber of our democracy. We are lucky to have such incompetent enemies, but the next assailant won’t sweat as much, nor as obviously. We can’t wait for someone who knows how to light the fuse.
How incompetent is the soon-to-be former president? Trump wields the awesome power of the presidency with all the subtlety of a gavel trying to open a safe.
“So what are we going to do here folks?” I ask Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “I only need 11,000 votes. Friends, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. You know, we already have that in abundance. Or we can keep it, but that’s not fair to Georgia voters because they’re going to see what happened, and they’re going to see what happened. “
By “keeping it going,” Trump meant he would wield his delusional mallet on the scene of his rally in Georgia on Monday night, the day before the crucial second round of the state elections that will determine which party will control the US Senate. United States for the next two years.
It’s not that Trump doesn’t try. Yoda He says There is no trying, but Trump really does try. Try to sound accurate with all the votes you dream of. Attempts to threaten state election officials with unspecified crimes and political punishment.
“Well, according to the law, you are not allowed to give wrong election results, okay? You are not allowed to do that. And that’s what you did. This is a flawed electoral result, ”Trump warns his fellow Republican.
“He should meet tomorrow because a big election is coming up and because of what he’s done to the president, you know, the people of Georgia know this was a scam, and because of what he’s done to the president. President, many people will not vote. And many Republicans are going to vote against it because they hate what you did to the president. Okay? They hate it. And they will vote. And you would be respected. Really respected, if this could be fixed before the elections. “
One of the many challenges of this era is the field of distortion surrounding Donald Trump. Because he only cares about himself, and because he represents such a grotesque distortion of leadership, we focus on the individual. We try to understand his sociopathy and talk about Trumpism, assuming that everything will dissipate after opening day.
But at this point, our concern shouldn’t focus on whether Trump and his allies can still derail Joe Biden’s inauguration – they can’t. Instead, we should be deeply concerned whether this cult may derail our democracy.
Long after Trump gets his feet down ramp to his post-presidency, there will be another: a Josh Hawley or a Ted Cruz or a Tom Cotton. We will not call their autocratic politics Trumpism, but they will be like Trump.
The roots of this ideology run deep and the network is extensive. At the end of this post-9/11 era, we are waking up to a series of far-reaching and insidious threats to our democracy and way of life. Some of its agents are led by leaders like Trump; others are independent actors who start themselves. Some are internationally inspired and organized, but many are now homegrown.
The racist and undemocratic wing of American politics briefly moved to the eccentric periphery after the civil rights movement. But he reappeared on the main stage in the Obama years with the Tea Party and its growth in Congress, the so-called Freedom Caucus. At the heart of the caucus were Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows, past and present chiefs of staff of one Donald Trump.
It was Meadows who was polishing up the poop while responding to Trump’s call to Georgia state officials on Saturday.
“What I hope is that there is some way that we can, we can find some kind of agreement to look at this a little more thoroughly,” Meadows ventured. “Mr. Secretary, I was hoping that, you know, in a spirit of cooperation and compromise, is there something that we can at least have a discussion about to look at some of these allegations and find a way forward that is less litigious? “
By less litigious, Meadows meant less engaged with those pesky judges who threw out all those Trump campaign lawsuits. When the Georgia secretary of state said that the courts decide these matters, Trump himself sounded puzzled.
“Why do you say that? I don’t know, ”he said. “I mean, sure, we can play this game with the courts, but why do you say that?
The funny thing about this Freedom Caucus ideology is that it does not respect the freedom of the judiciary.
Trump was planning to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to another Freedom Caucus president, Jim Jordan. And he was traveling to Georgia on Monday with another member, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who simply supports the QAnon conspiracy.
A dozen senators openly challenge their leader, Mitch McConnell, by vowing to challenge the electoral college votes this week. They won’t be able to stop Biden’s presidency, but they are managing to divide their own party between Trumpist autocrats and conservative Republicans.
McConnell should have seen the threat from the tea party breakaway group from the start, but chose to keep them inside his tent. Now he faces the impossible task of pleasing people who are neither conservative nor sympathetic to the republic.
It’s easy to dismiss this kind of nonsense as a passing fever that will surely one day go away. Biden often seems like he thinks he can help administer some centrist medicine with a dollop of personal charm.
But today’s autocratic politicians don’t wear black or brown, and they have learned to appear normal at times. Hungary and Poland remain members of the EU. Turkey still has newspapers, but not as many independents. Russia still has elections, but its opposition leaders tend to be jailed or poisoned.
The only reason American democracy survived 2020 is because of historic voter turnout, a handful of principled Republican election officials, and an independent judiciary. None of those factors is guaranteed to survive, and without one, the entire system would collapse.
We don’t know precisely why so many former defense secretaries warned Trump and his supporters not to involve the military in their latest effort to destroy democracy and the results of the 2020 elections. But we do know the widespread fear and the name of the organizer: a certain Dick Cheney.
It may seem strange that the man who led so many abuses of power in the post-9/11 era should seek to warn us about abuses of power in the post-Trump era.
But the underwear bomber was no less real to all of Cheney’s war promotion and torture. And the threat to our democracy is no less real for all of Trump’s buffoonery attempts at autocracy.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism