Opinion: America Deserves Every Bit of This Trump Trial Depravity

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

What week are we in on the first (and possibly last) Donald Trump criminal trial? Week 3? Week 4? It’s hard to keep track. One sleepy/farty court day bleeds into another.

As I write these words, Trump’s former thug, Michael Cohen, is on the stand. Last week we had Stormy Daniels. The week before, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. It’s a sad and shabby affair conducted in a sad and shabby Manhattan courtroom, and what began as Shakespearean drama has instead revealed itself to be nothing more than a banal parade of horribles. Less King Lear and more Big Lebowski.

Every network has reporters covering the trial. The New York Times has multiple reporters in the courtroom live-texting testimony. World media is there. All for a sad and shabby business-records case centered around covering up a hush-money payment to a porn star.

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There has been a lot of criticism of Manhattan District Alvin Bragg for bringing this case at all. People questioned the timing and the seriousness of the charges. “A water pistol,” is how former Trump attorney and current Trump critic, Ty Cobb, described the case.

Personally, I’m thrilled this case is the first one up because it’s a perfect demonstration of who we are now, a nation in thrall with its own disintegration.

The Trump carnival is once again on full, garish display. It’s a discordant fantasia of conmen, grifters, and lowlifes. It’s cheap mafiosi tactics and secretly recorded phone calls and disgraced lawyers in ill-fitting suits. It’s bad sex and dark threats from a mystery man in a Las Vegas parking lot. Glowering over it all is our ringmaster, DT Barnum, as he awaits the verdict of a jury of his peers in November.

Here we are now, entertain us.

When the right talks about American degeneracy, they’re usually referring to sexual liberation, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the national slide towards secularism. To me, though, this trial is American degeneracy on full, florid display. I don’t mean the alleged crime, of course. It’s never the crime—we learned that with Richard Nixon and Al Capone. The degeneracy I see on display is the perversion of our so-called American ideals.

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Trump, like others before him*, realizes that our nation is predicated on a good-faith trust in its institutions. If somebody with sufficient resources expends those resources undermining and attacking the legitimacy of those institutions, they can do a lot of damage. The institutionalists then bend over backwards to prove their trustworthiness, which only creates larger gaps for the ill-intentioned to plow through. That’s the degeneracy I’m watching—the contempt with which Trump and the entire political apparatus he controls treat the very institutions they are sworn to protect and defend.

When we talk about a “perversion of justice,” we usually mean that somebody is trying to obstruct the successful conclusion of a case. Trumpworld has taken that concept further, attempting to besmirch not just the opposing side, but the DA, the judge, the judge’s daughter, and the various witnesses he insulted before being issued a gag order—a gag order which he vociferously complains about at every opportunity.

The perversion here is the further denuding of Lady Justice, just as he eroded trust in the electoral system, the military, the intelligence community, and Big Windmill (what with all the cancer windmills cause, and all). The perversion and degeneracy on display are all the high-profile Republicans auditioning to be his lap dog. The perversion is that this fraud keeps getting away with it, and likely will again.

Even if he’s eventually convicted in this case, he’ll never go to jail. More likely is that he’ll be given more fines, these on top of the half a billion he already owes. On the off-chance that he is both found guilty and sentenced to jail, he’d tie the thing up in appeals so long he’ll likely be dead before he ever has to set foot in a jailhouse. That’s assuming he loses the election, because if he wins, he’ll just pardon himself. Who’s going to stop him—Clarence Thomas?

Trump may not be the worst person America has ever produced**, but he’s the greatest symbol of America’s worst impulses.

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We’ve all seen the videos of masked shoplifters taking hammers to jewelry display cases and running off with whatever they can. That is Trumpism: the smash-and-grabbing of America. It’s “steal whatever you can however you can before the other guy does the same.” And, if polls are to be believed, it’s what about half of the voting public wants.

I have no idea whether he’ll win in November. Nor do I have any idea if he’ll be convicted in this first (and possibly last) criminal case. All I know is that the sad and shabby Trump parade continues its exhausting slog across America. It’s stupid and contagious. Here we are now, entertain us.

*Joseph McCarthy, Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden

**Although he might be. He’s certainly in the running. Would love to see some reader nominations for the worst American to ever live.

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