How did we get here?

by | May 10, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 12 comments

If Donald Trump had never been elected president, almost nobody would be surprised at the jury’s finding that he sexually abused E. Jean Carroll. Trump has been notorious for his sexual adventures since the 1970s. He bragged about his sexual conquests on the radio. He cheated on his wives with little care about the publicity. He palled around with Jeffrey Epstein. He told us in the Hollywood Access tapes that he believes “stars” could do anything to women and get away with it. In any other universe, the majority of people would have just assumed the times caught up with him. 

But we’re not in any other universe. We’re in America, 2023, after four years of Donald Trump turning the GOP into a cult of personality and 25 years of Fox News feeding its audience a steady diet of lies and misinformation. Millions of ignorant and brainwashed Americans believe the whole trial was a political set up. And Republican leaders who know better are criticizing the justice system, not the sexual abuser. The reaction to the verdict says as much about the GOP as it does about Trump. 

Trump is a clearly immoral person who has little regard for others or the truth and yet he’s the leader of the Republican Party. It’s still kind of hard to believe. If you had told any GOP Senator in 2015 that they would be defending Donald Trump after he had been found liable for sexual abuse, they would have laughed at you. Of course, if you told them that he would be President of the United States, they would have laughed, too. And yet here we are. 

So how did this happen? Well, Republican leaders bear most of the blame. They allowed the mob to take over their party. They refused to push back on Trump’s most egregious behavior and sentiments, allowing the party to morph from Reagan conservatism to reactionary populism without a fight. You can thank Mitch McConnell most of all, but almost the whole party is complicit one way or the other.  

When Trump first announced his candidacy, his target audience were the grievance voters who made up a plurality of the GOP in 2015. They were people who had been left behind by the technology economy, saddled with outmoded skills and living in deteriorating areas. They blamed immigrants and minorities for many of their troubles. Trump said out loud what many were thinking. He called Mexicans rapists. He demonized the people his newfound base resented the most. 

Had the GOP had a stronger frontrunner than Jeb! Bush in 2016, Trump might not have happened. But they didn’t. Instead, they had a whole stage full of weak candidates, many, like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, exposed to be little more than naked opportunists. One by one, Trump targeted them and took them down, using insults, lies, and childish nicknames. There was Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted Cruz, Liddle Marco Rubio. He called Lindsey Graham a “nut job.” He called Heidi Cruz, Ted Cruz’s wife, ugly. 

One by one, the primary opponents fell, largely because nobody emerged as the anti-Trump. Opportunistic candidates like Chris Christie threw their support behind Trump instead of uniting around someone else. By the summer, Trump was the inevitable nominee and most mainstream Republicans seemed resigned to losing the presidential election. They underestimated the groundswell of support from people animated by Trump’s racist, homophobic, and xenophobic rhetoric.

Before November, the right-wing media had come around, remaking themselves in Trump’s image. If they distorted news and facts in the past, they embraced lying and outright disinformation as they built a media ecosystem that mirrored Trump’s narcissistic amorality. Facts and veracity were for suckers. The game became creating and destroying enemies while defending Trump against all charges. They found an enthusiastic audience. 

Republicans who once seemed to hold values and a conservative ideology folded under the weight of Trump’s cult. Nobody dared to call him out, no matter how egregious his sins, because of the strength of his base. Mitch McConnell watched as Trump undermined the Constitution, not daring to jeopardize his program to fill judicial appointments and pack the Supreme Court. Paul Ryan tried to hold true to his Randian principles but got steamed rolled by Trump and is generally considered one of the least effective House Speakers in modern history. Trump didn’t just crush his enemies, he bent his allies to his will. 

By 2020, Republicans who could never see themselves supporting Trump in 2015 found themselves on the Trump bandwagon, unwilling to criticize him and often defending him against illegal behavior. The party had numerous opportunities to reel Trump in, but nobody had the courage to do it. They backed him when he tried to blackmail Ukraine into dishing dirt on Hunter Biden by withholding aid that Congress had approved. They backed down after initially calling him out for encouraging the attack on Congress on January 6. They refused to refute his lies about election fraud. The GOP decided that Donald Trump can’t be held accountable for anything, undermining the Constitution and the Rule of Law. 

That’s where we are today. Anyone who looks objectively at Donald Trump’s career would see that the verdict in the case was consistent with the man’s behavior for the past 50 years. Yet, Republicans will defend him just like he has defended himself. They will lie and attack the institutions that protect our freedoms to make sure that they don’t get on the wrong side of Donald Trump, even if they are the wrong side of right. 

To the evangelicals, he’s the dystopian Second Coming, a Christlike figure who shuns humility, disdains the poor, and ridicules outcasts and outsiders. They are people so ignorant they take Marjorie Taylor Greene seriously. Then, there are the people who just want in on the grift. Think Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, and George Santos. They’re in it for the profit and they would embrace the Devil himself it kept them in office. And finally, there are the old line Republicans who decided that tax cuts and deregulation are more important than the country itself. They can live with the grift, the racism, the bigotry, and abuse of power as long as they can appoint people who will protect the wealthy and corporations from what they see as the legal theft of taxation and the interference with free enterprise caused by burdensome regulations like child labor laws and environmental protections. 

In the end, I doubt the verdict changes much. The Republican base that doesn’t know any better, the grievance voters, will support Trump no matter what because they are the people, as Lincoln described them, who can be fooled all of the time. There are the grifters, the people who want to make as much money from holding power as possible. And there are the sellouts, the Republicans who will either support Donald Trump or make excuses for him, even though somewhere in their troubled psyches they know better, because they are scared of alienating the grievance voters who now make up a solid plurality of their base. Come hell or highwater, they will support Donald Trump if he’s their nominee and, right now, he’s clearly leading the field. 


  1. cocodog

    Last night, 5-10-2023, CNN held what was initially labeled a town hall meeting but turned out to be a Trump Rally. What took place at this rally, illustrates the evils Mills writes about and what the Republican Party has become. A party maintained as a vehicle for Trump and his band of grifters and liars to flourish. The audience composed of Trump supporters applauded his lies and laughed when he attacked Ms. Carroll a woman the NY Federal court found he had sexually abused and called the CNN Moderator, a nasty woman. If anything, Trump sent a clear message, if you elect me president, I will promote hate, misogyny, and support for foreign interests that wish to do the United States harm. I believe CNN did this country a service, they brought into the light for everybody to see where this disgusting individual is going.

  2. Elaine B. McCollum

    Thank you Thomas. This article is one of your best.

    • Jay Ligon

      Excellent piece, Thomas!

  3. cocodog

    Ring, just because you are ignorant as to the rules of evidence, does not mean the jury in the NY Civil Case against Trump was not given solid evidence to reach a sound decision. They did throw out the rape accusation, for reasons I choose not to address, they found Trump sexually abused the plaintiff and defamed her injuring her as a human being and professionally.

  4. cocodog

    Thanks, for calling out Trump and his marry little band of grifters and rip off artists for what they are, self-serving anti American, opportunists who care less what they are doing to the world’s most successful currently existing democracy. There is another line in Lincoln’s iconic phrase, “You can’t fool all the people.” Each day we are seeing the system punishing those who have engaged in disgusting shenanigans. Each day, Trump wakes up he is one day closer to spending time behind bars and or suffering economic devastation. He can than claim a new record, the first president to be doing time.

  5. ringlet86

    This really has very little to do with the law. In particular this case was weird In sense that no real facts were shown. The case was He maybe did something around this wide time frame. I can’t believe such unverifiable accusations would ever see a minute in court. This kind of thing is why I’ve no faith whatsoever in the rule of law anymore in the USA.

    So the overall plan is to keep Trump in court, so he can’t really run for President. Why democrats are so worried about him, I don’t understand.

    In my opinion he is too old to run for President. The last thing we need is another geriatric in Washington DC. The t government is full of them.

    We really need someone who is under 60 if not younger. I’d really like it if all the great grandma and grandpas in Washington would retire effective immediately.

    If Trump runs he will lose. So I just don’t understand why Democrats worry about him so much.

    I really wish he would just go away.

    • TC

      You have brought up the factor of age on more than a few occasions. Not in a positive context either unless they are retiring or something else. So, I’m curious what that’s all about with you. From the context of the statements, it seems you have a problem with older people anything. That leaves me to wonder what it is you will do when you are one.

      Age sir, being a measurement of time, leads me to an assumption of experience. Having lived long, they should be wise in their years and able to be of benefit to mankind. That is not always the case though.

      By reading your replies, you seem to subscribe to the notion that Donald Trump isn’t electable on the basis of his age. You also stand on the alter that there is a lack of evidence and relevant facts in any and all court proceedings, criminal or civil, in which he has been charged or adjudicated that demonstrate his culpability beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence. Nope none of that at all, just his age.

      So I find myself in complete bewilderment as to why the only thing that disqualifies Donald Trump for the office of President of the United States is his age with you. How nothing he’s said, nothing he’s done, bears any weight whatsoever as to why this man is and would be again, a woeful disaster as President. Just his age. I’ll leave it to you for further elucidation about that.

      • cocodog

        Ring presents contradictory profiles. He, she, or it claims to be a Democrat, but makes noises like a MAGA Republican. It claims to find Trump unacceptable due to age but praises his ability to give the system the middle finger, while not acting like an elite billionaire. Moreover, it sees no need for social security or Medicare and attacks folks based on their age. Such contradictions make me suspect Ring is a high school kid with a writing program. It would not surprise me if Ring were not old enough to vote, lives with his parents. Perhaps after it graduates from college, gets a job, and starts raising a family it will understand why older folks find the Social Security and Medicare programs as being a great supplement to their retirement.

        • ringlet86

          You assume too much. I’ve not the time to debunk all of it.

          Politically I’m independent. but I don’t fit either party I’m not 100% in the bag for anyone. Which why you guys (who are absolute blue no matter who types) find me confusing. Its ok. Its a foreign culture for you guys. But I think you can handle it.

          Social security should be phased out. Simply because Congress has proven itself incompetent and an incapable of the peoples trust. If they hadn’t stolen them money and spent it (and gave us their worthless IOUs) The program would at least be solvent for a while longer. But it was always going to fail from the start. It should be replaced with something where a person can own their tax money and Congress has no way to get at it. How that is done I’ve no idea. But as long as a politician cannot get their hands on it. That is a place to start.

          Trump is simply too old. So was Reagan, So was and Is Biden and a whole bunch of Congress. Its my opinion, they should retire and let younger men use their experience. Think about it, to some of these jokers a 50 year old is like a child!. 50 year old isn’t exactly a young man anymore. Its enough already freaking retire! Take the 100% income for life gold plated pension (They don’t use Social security and GO!

          Trump’s election was a big middle finger. The The SES and “the establishment” Its true. (I did not vote for him BTW) and he does act a lot closer to the taxi driver etc than say John Kerry ( who IMO is an insufferable snob)

          • TC

            I don’t find you confusing, I find you an enigma. The last time you and I had an exchange like this, we found understanding and points of agreement. My thing here however was the age factor. I think that you can be of benefit regardless of age. I think older people have quite a bit to offer; they’ve seen a lot. Most, rationally know a lot. The elderly are revered in most other cultures across the globe except ours. There are some younger people that can be good stewards of governance. There are many more that wouldn’t be. Most have been raised to be whiney, narcissistic, self-centered, and care little for anything except themselves and what they want. No, that isn’t universally true. I do think across time that most enter politics with good intentions. Over time they got tired of trying to fight a system they see is broken, but there is no consensus to fix or change it. So in the end, they went along too. Solution there is term limits. The problem there however, you run the risk of getting politicians who avoid the burnout of trying to do what is right first and just skip to the ‘what’s in it for me’ phase going in.

            No, I don’t blindly, consistently, toe the party line. Thomas summed it up nicely in a recent article about gender identification, wokeness, and few other things that I consider to be on the lunatic fringe of the left. I didn’t post in the thread because I agreed with all of it. Enough already. Sounded like he was getting tired of all the hoopla too. I know I am. I go entirely in the opposite direction concerning firearms, but not how you might think. We saw how with a USSC vote, what you had can be taken away. there are a growing number of people who think that a Constitutional Convention is necessary. The worst thing that I can think of for this nation. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be restrictions, I’m saying that when you start talking about amending the Constitution for one reason or another, that’s serious business. Change or repeal that amendment, which one is next? What if a plurality decides the 1st, 4th, 14th amendments have lived their usefulness and need removal or changing? Someone is reading this and saying to themselves, “that’s not a bad idea.” When you don’t understand the potential outcome, there is a consequence and price to be paid. Prohibition is the best example of that.

            If you think about it, leaving tax money to the people was what brought about Social Security in the first place. And Congress enacting legislation where they themselves can’t take advantage of it…what kind of a pipe dream is that? But this is what you get when you increase spending and decrease revenues (taxes). You don’t have to be an economist or accountant to understand the outcome of that policy. So you borrow from another pot of money and then you start naysaying it in public calling those programs “entitlements.” I paid into it, by being compelled to, and now they want to do away with it because they mismanaged it? I think social security should be funded and protected from being borrowed from. Of course, that’s a fight yet to come over solvency in the not to distant future. It’s like every other Congressional program. Congress gets tired of paying because they want to use the money for something else. So they will find a way to stop, defund it, and shift the money to what they want to do with it…at that particular time. Something that is beneficial to them and not the people.

            I’m sure Coco will have more to add, so I’ll be quiet. It’s a holiday and people should take time to remember and be thankful.

          • cocodog

            Ring, let me get this straight, you are saying social security should be phased out because congress is incapable of dealing with it. Most folks would find that argument ridiculous. However, this argument tells me you are ignorant of how Madisonian Democracy works and the operative principles of social security. (Social Security is solid through 2035, not on the verge of failure).
            Here is a simple solution: replace those who are unable to effectively deal with the social security system and other matters with folks who have the know-how. In simple words, put those who worship firearms, believers in lizards from outer space, conspiracy types on the bricks. Let them go back to operating the neighborhood bar and supporting their unemployable relatives!
            In other words, give those MAGA folks their walking papers and elect representatives who believe America is not made strong by extending tax breaks to the large corporations and fat cats and passing laws that allow unstable individuals to get their hands on firearms.
            Bush 2 tried to privatize social security, (take the government out of the equation), and put a Wall Street hedge fund operator in charge. This approach would make millions for the fat cat Wall Street operator. Republicans like these types, in fact pass laws which gives them huge tax cuts which drive up the deficit every year. Anybody who has invested their retirement account in a Republican 401K would find that solution untenable as each month they see their funds being reduced by handling fees with little or no gains in the principle. In other words, their retirement contributions are lining the pockets of the private administrator. When Wall street crashed, a lot of folks lost huge amounts of their retirement. Among the losers, not one fat cat wall street operator was found. In Fact, they made money!
            Like any good troll, you will deny this is what you met by phasing out social security, but that is to be expected. I am not calling names, but I stick with my initial analysis of you. You are extremely immature in your comprehension of economics, history, and government.

          • ringlet86

            “Ring, let me get this straight, you are saying social security should be phased out because congress is incapable of dealing with it.”

            No I said… They Incompetent and unworthy of trust. The the money was stolen in the 90s by Clinton) Been that way ever since. I’m sure they will “deal with it” Its what they do. I’d much rather they never entered into the conversation at all since they are incompetent, liars and thieves, and not to be trusted. ( it the whole unworthy of trust thing.

            And if I could keep all my SS, FICA etc taxes from this point forward. I’d gladly take the deal. The gov can keep whatever they have taken from me.

            All the rest. I just skimmed it. Something about lizards and spacemen etc…….. racist crap etc,,,,Rude comments, insults get some help.

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