As a businessman, Donald Trump did a lot of terrible things. He stiffed vendors. He hired illegal immigrants as construction workers and abused them. People went into debt paying for his fake university education.
As a president, Donald Trump was awful. He kept children in cages. During the pandemic he promoted quackery and denied science. He stacked the Supreme Court with right-wing cretins. He claimed Biden stole the election, then encouraged his supporters to keep him in office by means of a coup.
The truth about Trump is bad enough. So when Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans describe Trump as an existential threat to democracy, God, apple pie, cat videos and everything good and decent in the world, they’re abandoning high political and moral ground that ought to be easy to hold.
No matter what you think of the former president, one fact belies the overheated handwringing that defines Trump Derangement Syndrome: he served four years, yet here we still are. No World War III. The Constitution remains in effect. Cities are not burning, though they’ve become seriously sketchy. Trump’s coup attempt was, like many of his projects, hardly planned and half-assed executed, and fizzled in a matter of hours.
In some respects, Trump did well. He negotiated and ordered the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He held high-level talks with North Korea. He oversaw Operation Warp Speed, which suspended regulations in the interest of developing the COVID vaccine in record time. It is unlikely that Hillary Clinton would have done that stuff.
When President Biden argues, as he did recently in Philadelphia, that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” even the most fervent Democrat has to ask themself: if that’s true, why is the republic still standing after four years of this dangerous despot? If Trump wanted to replace our system of government with “semi-fascist” authoritarianism, why would he have waited four long years to do so before ultimately missing his chance—unless, and this is reallyinsane, he’s plotting to finally pull the trigger during his upcoming possible second term?
Trump is what he is and what he is is reprehensible: rhetorically divisive and bigoted, rabidly anti-intellectual, callous and disrespectful of the high office he held, the nation whose government he headed and the deep need of the people for leadership that takes everyone who lives here, citizens and non-citizens, into careful consideration. It is not, or at least ought not to be, necessary to exaggerate Trump’s toxic politics or personality.
Yet that is exactly what Democrats keep doing.
Los Angeles Detective Mark Fuhrman claimed he found one bloody glove at the scene of Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder and its match at O.J.’s house, thus justifying a search. That story seemed too good to be true. I believed that Fuhrman found both gloves at Nicole’s place and took one to O.J.’s so he could link him to the killing—O.J. was guilty, he thought. Why not give justice a little assist? The answer, of course, is that the jury didn’t buy the prosecution’s too-neat story. So O.J. walked. Legally correct; cosmically heinous. And it’s prosecutor Marcia Clark’s fault.
Like Fuhrman, the anti-Trump coalition—DNC-aligned media outlets, Democrats, anti-Trump Republicans and their allies in “deep state” strongholds like the FBI—is so determined to nail their quarry that going after him for his actual crimes isn’t enough. They want to be really, really sure he goes down. So they exaggerate Trump’s sins and, in notable cases, make them up out of whole cloth.
January 6th, tax fraud, sleazy business deals, hobnobbing with right-wing extremists—all these offer more than enough grist for a competent political team to kneecap Trump with a disciplined campaign of attack ads and drum up support for civil and perhaps criminal prosecution on the most serious charges. The problem for Democrats is, they keep focusing on lines of attack that were neither true nor could ever have been true—so their credibility is in tatters.
They are the boys who cried Trump.
There was the now-debunked Steele dossier and its sensational—and ridiculous—claim that Trump, a famous germaphobe, hired Russian prostitutes so he could watch them pee on his hotel bed in Moscow…because the Obamas had once slept in said bed. Uh-huh.
During the 2016 campaign Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Watch the video. It was clearly a joke. Yet corporate media insisted for years that Trump meant it seriously—because, obviously, that’s exactly the way you’d make such a covert, fraught, illegal, international request—and, even more absurdly, that Russian government hackers (who, if they existed, were not actually government employees) got straight to work on Trump’s assignment the very same day.
The mother of all disinformation campaigns, still ongoing on a cable-television channel near you, was Russiagate—the conspiracy theory that Trump cheated his way into the White House with the help of those self-same Russian hackers. For a man who was allegedly a stooge of Vladimir Putin, however, Trump’s presidency was marked by deteriorating relations with the Kremlin from start to finish. In the end, of course, what never made sense became perfectly clear; the real conspiracy in 2016 was Hillary’s; it turned out that Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman ginned up the Trump Russiagate hoax and fed it to the FBI with the hope that the ensuing investigation would smear Trump and the Republicans as foreign operatives.
It is entirely possible to look at Trump and his opponents and conclude: they’re both worthless liars, albeit about different matters.
The alternative having failed them repeatedly, it is perhaps time for Democrats to try a new line of attack against Trump: playing it straight.
Why not go after the guy for what he’s actually done?
This article was originally published on the Rall Blog.