Trump: Turning Losing Into Winning

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Donald Trump’s political career provides top-notch evidence that the US political system is designed to keep wealthy white supremacists in power. Several million more voters voted for his opponent in the 2016 presidential election yet he became president. In 2021, fourteen more Senators voted to convict him of incitement to insurrection in his impeachment trial, yet he was not convicted. He didn’t even have to rig the jury; it was conceived and built to help him get off. He understood that better than any other president and played it well. He knows it wasn’t just his arrogance that got him off. It’s the way the forefathers wanted it to be. He may have lost the presidency and failed in his most recent attempt to override the popular will expressed in November 2020, but he is still politically viable. He could still run again. The combination of a system set up to give men like him power and the criminality of those who surround him mean that the only thing that might stop him is prison or eternal damnation. I’m good with either.

It’s not that the Senate trial wasn’t riveting at times. Even so, the highlight of Thursday’s prosecution wasn’t all the video and tweets drawing a line from Trump to the attack on the Capitol. It was when Representative DeGette compared Trump to the Nazi who murdered the anti-fascist Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. That is truth, no matter what the academics will argue regarding what constitutes fascism and whether or not Trumpism is a fascist movement. When it came to the presentation of attacks on police, it’s clear the intent was to call out those Trumpists in the Senate who claimed to be for police, especially when it came to their brutal acts against non-whites and anti-racist protesters. The point became clear in this testimony: to the Trumpists, the leader is the nation. All others are pretenders to the throne they have enshrined.

In comments outside the chambers reported by the Washington Post, Schoen, a slimy and angry individual and one of the lawyers for Trump, once again decried the prosecution, telling the press that it was delaying something they call healing. If the concept of healing applied to politics—which it really doesn’t—it should not be up to those who turned a blind eye to the acts and actors that created the wound to determine the terms of that healing. We don’t need healing as much as we could use some justice. In the matter of Donald Trump, that justice only begins when he is inside a prison cell. I am not holding my breath.

The impeachment manager Castro’s litany of comments by nations the US thinks are its enemies was fairly obnoxious. The underlying message was that Trump’s proud boys were a threat to national security. In other words, this trial was about maintaining the national security state’s status quo. As if the Trumpists were revolutionaries or something. They weren’t and they aren’t. They were and are a combination of reactionaries, conspiracists and fools led by fascists and white supremacists. In other words, they are the underbelly of that status quo, somehow convinced that liberals are baby eaters and anarchists instead of the proselytizers for the US and its empire they are.

Friday’s defense of Trump was another GOP stooge act. Indeed, the evidence presented had less meaning than that presented by Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit in the knave’s trial over the Red Queen’s tarts. The GOP strategy wasn’t about interpreting the facts, it was about ignoring them, despite the photographic evidence millions have seen.  Instead of talking about the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the Trumpist attorneys talked about anti-police brutality protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police in Minneapolis. To hear these law school graduates and members of the bar tell it, Democrats encouraged property destruction during those protests and helped bail out arsonists. While that might have been nice if it happened, it didn’t.  Of course, Portland, Oregon was mentioned. Not because it had any connection to the trial at hand, of course. Besides the fact that it was federal law enforcement that provoked and sustained the riots there, the simple fact is the mayor of Portland is a Democrat who has sicced his police on protesters numerous times

The defense argument was simple. Trump said he didn’t do it and we believe him.  That’s the summation of their defense. The entire presentation was just mind-numbing stupidity. I mean it makes one wonder what the hell goes on in law school when this defense is considered legitimate.  A key element of the prosecution argument was that Trump’s rejection of the election results was part of the incitement.  In other words, his claim that there was massive fraud and his harping on that claim for weeks was essential to the charge. In response, the GOP shills tried to limit the incitement to a sentence or two from Trump’s January 6 speech and ignored the rest of the inflammatory rhetoric from Trump and his co-conspirators over weeks.  Schoen’s theatrics were as pathetic as his lies. What I watched wasn’t a defense. It was a mountain of manure spoken by sycophants with shit on their tongues, contempt in their hearts and missing their souls.

We all know there’s been an aura of criminality around other presidents; there’s also been an aura of autocracy around at least a few.  But only Nixon and Trump truly emit the stench of fascism. Nixon’s pride and arrogance actually had its limits. Trump’s doesn’t. To paraphrase Shakespeare, this impeachment was full of sound and fury and ended up signifying nothing.  The Trumpist phenomenon continues to prove just how reactionary a very sizable minority of this country truly is.  Or maybe it proves how gullible they are. The vote against conviction doesn’t mean Trump isn’t guilty and it certainly doesn’t mean the system works in the name of justice. It does mean it is on the control of some of the most anti-democratic forces to ever hold power in the United States.  In a country based on the sale, breeding and enslavement of human beings and a history of genocide and war, that’s saying quite a lot.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: