The Defendant, Donald Trump

Image of a Trump sticker.

Image by Jon Tyson.

Naturally, I have rejoiced with each indictment filed against Donald Trump. His boorish misogyny and racism is commonplace among certain residents of the United States, but it is his ongoing criminality that I hoped would take him down. After all, misogyny and racism are not illegal in most respects in this country. Indeed, not only can they help someone like Trump become president of the US, they are part and parcel of mainstream US culture and the underlying truth of its history. There are some on the left who reject the multiple prosecutions of Trump as sideshows and therefore irrelevant. Others seem to side with trumpists who claim they are purely political and some will tell you that Biden is the real criminal because of his insistence on escalating the war in Ukraine and the rhetoric of war around the world. The last sentence is certainly true. Biden’s warmongering is criminal.

However, that does not stand in place of or in opposition to the truth of Trump’s criminality or fascism. I understand and appreciate these arguments, but still think that if there’s chance to put a man and his fascist and racist party on the ropes, than I’m supporting that effort. That doesn’t mean I have to ignore the neocon warmongering of Joe Biden and his pack of war profiteers. Nor does it mean I have. I just figured hoping Trump goes down for good gives us a little more space to fight the system that birthed him; the same system that keeps Joe Biden in a position of power while turning the economy over to the banks and energy industry. The same system that forces us to occasionally align with liberals against the fascists just to keep them out of power.

Even though this approach does not eliminate the overwhelmingly rightist trend in US politics, it can eliminate the power of the trumpist wing. Likewise, even though is does not eliminate the fascist trend in US politics, it can eliminate the trumpist element of that trend, hopefully diminishing its numbers and appeal. One thing most students of fascism agree on is that a successful fascist movement requires a charismatic leader. Donald Trump fits that description, while Ron Desantis does not—at least not yet. I personally believe Desantis’ reach is smaller than Trump’s apparent core of the electorate and that Desantis’ public persona is incapable of holding Trump’s activist coalition of right-wing business people, outright fascists and white supremacists, religious fanatics, and Qanon types together. In other words, Desantis comes across as a bit of a self-righteous prude while Trump appears as some kind of sinner seeking salvation through a religion that is more carnival than it is prayers. In other words, a religion that exists comfortably inside the US love of confidence men and cheap salvation. A religion where heaven is a place full of shiny objects, cheesy gospel music and easy money to the chosen.

Already, the mainstream media is running op-eds by Trump apologists questioning the charges filed against Trump and featuring his latest attorney’s manipulation of the law. I suppose the argument for publishing this nonsense is some warped idea of fairness as if Donald Trump and his oversized ego didn’t already get enough media attention. Between the constant hype regarding Washington’s proxy war against Russia in the Ukraine and Donald Trump’s life of lies, I can’t recall a time since I started reading the papers when so much of what is published just didn’t ring true. I’m writing this on the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. That act caused most mainstream journalists and politicians to proclaim that this proved the US system worked. In fact, it was the pardon of Nixon by his surrogate Gerald Ford that really showed how the system worked.

The Nixon supporters were few in number by August of 1974. They were not provided platforms to defend him in the press. Nor were there partisan protestations of Nixon’s innocence treated as if they were newsworthy. The reason was simple. In the newsroom of the 1970s, they weren’t newsworthy. Unfortunately, given the very different nature of today’s popular media, it doesn’t seem to be the facts that matter when politicians and other public personalities speak, but the volume of their words. For example, many members of Congress do their work, represent their constituents and attempt to make rational decisions within the context of their political beliefs. Then there are those, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose public statements are not just outrageous, but often just plain ignorant. Yet, like Donald Trump, she is the one who gets the coverage. The con is the thing. The marks are everywhere and the media places the dollars it earns from covering the con over any concerted effort at reporting the truth. One result of this so-called journalism is that everyone chooses who they want to believe or they believe no one at all. Either way, the confusion that results serves the rich and powerful. Coincidentally or not, it is the rich and powerful that own these media outlets. Coincidentally or not, it is their investments that profit from the coverage.

Like most observers, I don’t know what outcome to expect in the trials of Donald Trump. Given the nature of the US “justice” system, I will be more surprised if he gets convicted in the federal cases than if he skates. I will be even more surprised if he sees the inside of a jail cell for even a second. No matter what occurs, the public will be told the outcome is proof that the system works. The fact is that it does work—if one happens to be a member of the ruling class. Like millions of other US residents, I have spent more time in jail cells for marijuana possession than Donald Trump ever will for anything illegal that he did. That’s the true nature of the system.

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: