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Democracy Might be in Trouble, But Probably Not Today

As I post this piece at my usual time — Tuesday, 7 a.m. — I am fully aware that Trump's arraignment will be taking place at 3:00 this afternoon, and that Trump has posted "SEE YOU IN MIAMI ON TUESDAY" on his social media network. An obvious stochastic provocation.

Since I don't do breaking news, I won't delay my post. But I will make a prediction, and we'll know whether I'm right or wrong by end-of-business today.

I certainly hope I'm right when I say that democracy will not be sorely tested today. Hysteria in the media notwithstanding, I don't expect we'll see much of the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, or anything more violent than Kari Lake spouting QAnon-ish gibberish, which I won't be watching.

That's not because I don't consider Trump a clear and present danger to the nation. It's not because I don't think his zombie followers might want to mix their politics with alcohol and firearms. And it's not because I don't think Trump isn't doing all he can to get the Jan 6 band back together.

Rather, it's that I'm thinking the band has slipped off the charts. Many of the bandleaders are spending the next few decades in prison, and some of them are singing. Yes, new leaders can and will take their place, but it's hard to imagine them taking any more "orders" from Trump, knowing how well that worked out last time.

Moreover, if the prospect of their own twenty-year incarcerations weren't enough of a deterrent, the enhanced security precautions at these hearings will surely get the attention of any aspiring insurrectionist. Many will think at least twice before defending Trump in person. Much easier to just write him another check.

Which is part of his plan. As usual, he's fund-raising — or rather grifting — off his legal problems. He's posting the most psychotic drivel imaginable, desperate to keep stoking the rage of his brain-dead fanboys, and desperate to keep them faithfully tithing to him.

He isn't even coding his messages anymore. His all-caps rants are textbook stochastic terrorism — inciting people with weak minds and too many guns to saddle up and go kill Democrats.

But I don't think Trump has that kind of juice any more, if he ever did. His arraignment last month in Manhattan was, from an insurrectionist standpoint, a total bust.

As for any future feistiness surrounding his appearances in various courtrooms, I suspect there will be too many such appearances to keep up with. Over the next year, they'll be so frequent, they won't even be news anymore. Arraignments, preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions — these will all be happening in what is likely to be five separate criminal trials, possibly more. Security will be significantly enhanced at all of them.

Keep in mind that in each of these trials, the cases against Trump will be virtually open-and-shut. He will have no viable defense, under any rule of law going back to the Hammurabi Code. In each trial, his own words will have contributed mightily to the case against him. His big mouth has made him, in effect, a witness for his own prosecution.

Not surprisingly, he seems to have concluded that the only way he can get himself off the hook is by bringing down the whole republic and installing himself as dictator. And while the chances of him succeeding at this are minuscule, they are not, alas, zero.

So he'll be doubling down, once again, on the stochastic attacks. Or at least trying to. And that will put lots of pressure on the judges in the various trials. They'll need to assert control early, in the preliminary hearings, and make pre-trial rulings based on Trump's behavior, both in and out of court.

When he indulges in acts of incitement — and you know he will — how much slack will they cut him? Where will they draw the line? What sorts of gag orders, or partial gag orders, might they issue? What happens if he violates them? His reputation precedes him, and they'll need to bring their A-game.

But the danger we face from Trump isn't just about what he tries to pull. It's about what he might have pulled already. If you read Jack Smith's indictment, it's clear — and chilling — that Trump was playing fast and loose with some of our country's deepest and best-kept secrets, the ones that should never be read by anyone outside a secure facility, or by anyone without the highest levels of clearance.

What we're seeing — and what isn't generating nearly enough outrage — is espionage on an epic scale. You'd have to be the most isolated, echo-chambered, MAGA-addled nitwit not to see that Trump has put us all in danger.

We will never know what's in those thirty-one documents listed in the indictment, and that's probably a good thing. But we can glean what might happen if any of them were to fall into the hands of a hostile government. This is how intelligence networks get blown and their agents executed. This is how troops in the field get located and targeted. This is how our adversaries nullify our strengths and exploit our weaknesses.

And we can't just hope these things haven't happened. We have to assume they already have. The various security agencies — CIA, DOJ, NSA, and at least four others cited in the indictment — will now have to deal with the fallout.

They'll have to turn their own agencies inside out to assess the damage. They'll have to reverse-engineer their systems and procedures, at monumental expense. They'll have to explain to our allies how our president betrayed their countries, not just ours. They'll have to hope that our friends forgive us and that our enemies don't use what we must assume they know. Neither is a sure thing.

This makes Donald Trump, by a wide margin, the worst traitor — indeed, the worst criminal — in American history. I can't think of anyone who comes close. And to be clear, the crimes for which he is, or will be, indicted are by no means his worst. They're merely the ones that prosecutors feel they can win.

Not included will be his collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. Or his attempted extortion of Volodymyr Zelensky. Or his abuse of the justice system. Or his dismantling of the State Department. Or the mass murder of one million Americans, both through willful disregard of a global pandemic and through conspiracy to sabotage the country's response to it. The sheer breadth and depth of his treachery is exhausting to contemplate.

The indictments have brought the obligatory howls of outrage from Republicans, but we know it's all theater. They're shaking their fists and vowing revenge, but we're on to their dirty little secret — that they hate Trump as much as we do, maybe more, and they can't wait to see him dragged off the stage. They're happy to scream about Democratic perfidy, but that just covers up their glee. They'd love to see Trump dead, but they'll settle for seeing him in prison. And they'll still get to blame Democrats.

In the meantime, they're in a farcical situation. They have only one viable candidate, and that candidate is not viable at all. He's facing multiple trials in multiple jurisdictions, for crimes that include flagrantly traitorous behavior. He's 77, in questionable health, and from some reports, battier than King Lear. And this is the guy whose ring they need to kiss.

No wonder they're so desperate to change the subject. You can always tell they're starting to panic when they bring up Hillary's emails.

That said, they do make a lot of noise, and a lot of deranged people hear that noise. Some might just decide to act on it — so-called "lone wolf" incidents could happen. It's one of the predictable outcomes of stochastic terrorism, and we can't rule it out.

But organized violence? I don't think so. At least, not this afternoon. Or I could be wrong.


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