“The seller of lightning-rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.”
When I was younger, likely during my teenage years, I read Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury’s allegorical tale of good versus evil begins with the lightning rod salesman who foreshadows a malevolence to come, a “bad moon rising,” as the once popular song goes.
A storm has been a brewing in America. A bitter wind carries rancor, revenge, greed, wrath, and treachery. Dark clouds of deception. A hailstorm of lies and duplicity.
Our national tempest was preceded not by a lightning-rod salesman but by a knave, a man elected to the presidency, a man who retailed hate and divisiveness, jingoism and racism delivered with a sales pitch that featured equal amounts of venom, equivocation and hokum. Like any self-serving scammer, he recognized his marks and played, not on their better angels, but on the demons they’d long kept hidden.
It was just over thirteen months ago, election day when we thought the storm had passed. But that was just the eye of the hurricane, the calmness before the fury would begin anew.
Some time ago a friend of mine, an attorney who I’ve always known to be politically savvy, pronounced the death of the Republican Party. I can’t recall exactly when she called the death or what she determined to be the cause(s) of death. Certainly it was sometime during the Trump Administration.
Maybe it was during the runup to the 2020 election or slightly before, when the administration’s confusing and bungled COVID policy was blaming China for starting a pandemic one week and claiming the following week that the selfsame pandemic was all a hoax conjured up by the Democratic Party. Maybe it was a sitting president suggesting on national television that mainlining bleach might be a suitable elixir to ward off COVID. It could’ve been the “bull in the china shop” miscues like the comical White House reception for the national champion Clemson Tigers football team, where the newly crowned heroes were served McDonalds fast food by candlelight. Or maybe it was just the plain bull; the lies, the fables, the fractured history, the faked Christianity and Trump’s lack of any common decency. Maybe it was the unabashed idolatry by the Republican caucus for a man who was clearly in over his head politically and still managing to get away with one of history’s greatest grifts. Hell, maybe it was just a case of covefe.
There was a time when I shared my friend’s certainty. The once Grand Old Party had doomed itself. The party that in 2015 derided Donald Trump as a dangerous, incompetent, boorish, snake oil peddling confidence man, was, by 2016, falling in line.
Before the midterms of 2018, the party had fallen into forelock tugging sycophancy and later when the world was struck by a pandemic and Trump’s incompetence resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands, and when Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott followed Trump’s lead I thought I saw the party choking on its own bile.
Thirteen months ago I thought that the dragon had been slayed. Trump would disappear into a Floridian self-exile and wait for justice to be served him.
And then there was the “stolen election” scam. Certainly that would doom Trump and most certainly the party would distance itself.
And then January 6th, an insurrection, America’s first since the initial cannonball struck the walls of Fort Sumter. No doubt, the party would disassociate itself with Trump and what’s been called the “big lie.”
Oh, there were a few Republican harrumphs and other displays of indignation but by the end of January, it was clear that Donald Trump still had his claws in the party – or its balls in his pocket.
The days of the impending doom of the GOP are long past. The party didn’t go away, it shape shifted from a party that stood for conservative economies, patriotism, faith, family values and decency into an unrecognizable monster.
The forelock tugging has intensified and far from being in exile, Donald Trump rules the party with fear. Legislators and wannabe players travel to Mar a Lago for an audience and those who incur his wrath, recently Mark Meadows, backtrack shamelessly to save their own political skins.
The next referendum happens in just less than11 months from now and the forecast is for a cataclysm.
I was witness to the growing storm clouds during the spring and fall when I travelled nearly 17,000 miles, many of those through the Midwest, the South and the upper Mountain States.
Iowa is a state with the bluest skies I’ve ever seen in my life. An almost surreal watercolor blue. The clouds billow, dreamy white, balls of cotton that seem within arm’s reach.
But on the ground, I saw a storm coming.
Below those blue Midwestern skies, I saw the dark, foreboding clouds, in towns and neighborhoods where there was more than a sprinkling of Trump yard signs. Rising from the fields in the vast farm country, I saw larger signs, billboards and giant flags all touting a former one term president. Occasionally I’d see a big rig trailer parked in an empty lot, with Trump 2024 painted on the side.
Near a golf course a few miles out of Deadwood, South Dakota, was a Trump store. This was during the spring, months after Joe Biden had been inaugurated. In Indiana, the home state of Mike Pence, the Trump – Pence signs still stood on pristine green lawns, many of them with Pence’s name crossed out.
Pence, a former Vice-President, now a disgraced “traitor” in his own home state. Pence, who on January 6th, 2021 was hunted by a mob in the Capitol. The rabble wanted to throw him the proverbial “necktie party.” And why? Because on one day he put aside his idolatry of Trump and did the right thing.
In all my years of following politics, I’ve never witnessed anything like what I’ve seen during the past five years, going back to the election of 2016.
I’d never seen a presidential candidate cast doubt on the legitimacy of an election, even before the election occurred. Weeks before the election of 2016, candidate Donald Trump declared that Hillary Clinton could win the election only if it were rigged. Four years later he made the same pre-election declaration, claiming that a Biden victory could only be the result of an election rigged by the Democratic Party and various and sundry outside influencers.
Like a western states wildfire the lie has spread, unchecked. America had gone through 44 previous presidential elections, none of them seriously challenged. Certainly there have always been claims of voter fraud, of people voting twice or of votes being cast by people ineligible to vote. But over the course of 44 presidential elections, the loser always accepted the results.
And then in 2016, after 44 elections, a candidate, the winning candidate, claimed the fix was in, sowing the bad seed. Four years later the vile weed sprouted when Trump cried foul again and we saw the result one year ago today.
It’s hard to say when or if that weed will ever die. It seems certain that many elections won by Democrats will be challenged in the courts, the legal ones and those of public opinion. And if the challenges succeed does the United States of America change its name to the GOP States of America? Is that what we want? Do we really want one party to be in complete charge of determining the legitimacy of elections?
There are those who are working towards that end. In a number of states there are candidates for critical offices such as secretary of state and attorney general, candidates endorsed by Trump, who if elected, could alter, challenge or outright void election results deemed unfavorable to the Trump cabal.
Oh yes, there’s a storm coming.
The storm carries a confounding strategy of contradiction that defies reason and seeks to topple unbiased elections. Republican governors and legislatures, even those who publicly called bullshit on the idea that Biden stole the election, are all in when it comes to changing election laws that make voting more difficult and the results subject to whimsical, partisan change.
In states and counties, big cities and little burgs, they emerge from the smoke-filled rooms, where their treachery hatches nefarious ideas. They justify voter suppression and electoral shell games by putting forth the contorted notion that, while the 2020 election wasn’t in doubt, the election laws need to be “fixed” so that future elections are not in doubt. And if the laws don’t straight up put electoral fairness in doubt they certainly are a way of putting a partisan thumb on the scale.
There’s a storm coming.
It’s a gale of idolatry over a president, win or lose, that in all my years of following politics I’d never seen before – at least not in America. I’ve seen from a distance that sort of idolatry in countries like China, and Russia and North Korea, and I’ve read about it in history books that cite toppled failures like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Certainly American Presidents have been lionized but that comes after the president has peacefully retired, when his legacy, his victories and his failures become the subject of history books.
In all my years of following politics, I’ve never seen a president’s policy so suffixed with “ism.” Yet now we have Trumpism. Trumpism isn’t so much about leadership or a policy that lays out courses of action. Trumpism is a nasty stew of other “isms,” nativism, racism, jingoism and populism. It’s a concoction spiced with an in-your-face patriotism and a nationalism that blames the ills of the country on the “elites.”
“Elites,” those shadowy individuals. The Trumpists never really know for sure who the “elites” are, they just know that the “elites” are out there. The “elites” are in fact mythical creatures, boogeymen, made up by politicians who consider no fabrication too great or too vile. The “elites” are the academics, the scientists, the doctors, the bankers and anyone else who the Trumpists are told will steal from them what is rightfully theirs. The world has seen the foul desserts of this recipe before. Back then the elites were the Jews, the Communists and the homosexuals and the place was Germany.
I’m not enamored of a system that’s ruled by two parties, not enamored of a party system at all. But it was inevitable from the founding and was essentially baked into the Constitution with the passage of the Twelfth Amendment.
Given the system that we have I believe that a healthy Republican Party is a good thing. But stress the word “healthy.” The Republican Party as it stands now is not healthy, not even diseased. It has become disease; a foul, festering, malignancy being fed by ignorance, greed, lies, lust for power and unbridled corruption.
There was a time when, though I generally disagreed with the Republican Party’s platform, I found myself in occasional agreement. I was not a party line voter. Those days seem quaint, nostalgic, even downright chimerical.
There was a time when we chose candidates who had some minimal qualifications beyond the ability to spew lies and twisted un-American ideologies.
Those were the times when legislators debated and disagreed but in the end negotiated, compromised and actually legislated.
Now we have a congresswoman from Colorado whose bona fides include a GED, charges of disorderly conduct and failure to appear in court. We have a congresswoman from Georgia who claimed in 2018 that California wildfires were caused by “Jewish space lasers.” A congressman from Georgia said of the January 6th insurrection, “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” How do people like this even become candidates for office, let alone elected?
There was a time when an insurrection such as what occurred on January 6th would have resulted in a reckoning. When Americans of all parties, of all stripes, of all backgrounds would have said, “No, this is not acceptable, not American, not what democracy is about.”
It’s what happened during the days of Nixon’s Watergate when Democrats and Republicans came together as one and said, ‘This will – not – stand.’
And in the hours and first days following January 6th it appeared that the reckoning would actually happen.
And then Donald Trump, Trump the petulant loser, stomped his enraged foot, and his lapdogs came to heel. Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy and the other forelock tuggers, bowed their heads, tucked their tails between their legs and sought their master’s favor.
There’s a storm coming.
It’s coming in the form of more grifters, more liars, more of the power hungry and more of those who would subvert American democracy, seeking election to office in November. Beware if the Trump acolytes are put back into Congress in 2022, if Kevin McCarthy or another sycophant is elected Speaker of the House. Beware, because when that happens Congress will not be run in Washington, it will be run from a resort in Florida.
It’s coming in the form of a cloud in Florida and spreading over the nation again in 2024.
These elections will be pitting two forces. It will be the classic struggle of good against evil.
What if evil wins out? What then?
Bradbury’s tale ends with the defeat of evil but includes a cautionary note,
“Dad, will they ever come back?”
“No. And yes.” Dad tucked away his harmonica. “No not them. But yes, other people like them. Not in a carnival. God knows what shape they’ll come in next. But sunrise, noon, or at the latest, sunset tomorrow they’ll show. They’re on the road.”
“Oh, no,” said Will.
“Oh, yes, said Dad. “We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fight’s just begun.”
Maybe, said their eyes, they’re already here.”
“Evil has only the power that we give it.”