Featured Illustration: Jack Daly
Donald Trump has said and done many things that would be considered political suicide for any other Republican candidate. From his impeachment, over 26 accusations of sexual misconduct, to his outrageous political statements, political analysts on both the left and right have predicted that he’d lose supporters.
And yet, each time Trump says or does something entirely outrageous, a frightening pattern emerges. Impeaching Trump seemed to help, not harm him. A majority of Americans believe he is a racist, yet many still support him. Journalists have totaled the number of Trump’s deceptions to over 20,000 statements since he assumed the presidency. A staggering amount of women — including one allegation when the plaintiff was 13 years old — have accused Trump of sexual misconduct.
And he still may win the re-election.
Why is it that frontal attacks seem to fail in Trump’s America? Why is it, after a seemingly endless list of scandals, outrageous statements, and political collusions, that nothing has seemed to stick?
The answer: Trump is a backstabber; a pathological liar who is more than willing to manhandle power, shred standards, and bend the customary law in a disintegrating political world.
“He conducts himself like a New Jersey mob boss who is unconcerned about asking the people around him to conduct unethical or legally challenging behavior,” said Kurt Bardella, a former spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Truth and accuracy just don’t factor into his train of thought.”
Trump’s insistence on devotion and fidelity to his reign resembles an organized crime structure. Rather than the John Gotti family, it’s the Trump family and his soldiers, the Republican individuals from Congress, who protect him.
Bill Maher, host of the HBO political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher once stated, “People call this presidency a reality show. It’s more like a Scorsese movie. Everything Trump does is modeled on the mob. When he was accused of sexual harassment, he brought in Bill Clinton’s accusers to sit in the gallery at the debate, just like Michael Corleone brought Frank Pentangeli’s brother into court [in The Godfather Part II].”
A quick glance at Trump’s presidency is enough to see these similarities. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, once stated, “He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in code, and I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade.”
According to Cohen’s 2019 testimony and hearing before Congress, we can deduce six main points:
- By Cohen’s estimate, Trump used him more than 500 times to threaten and intimidate people.
- Everything goes through Trump, including hush-money payments or reimbursements.
- Trump is a pathological liar, one day asking about the Moscow Tower deal and the other day saying to the public, “no Russia deal.”
- Trump used lawyers to shield himself from detection: they are there not to advise as to legality but to enable Trump’s allegedly illegal acts.
- Tactics such as “catch and kill” (a technique used by media outlets to prevent an individual from publicly revealing information damaging to a third party) are standard Trump tactics.
- Defending Trump involves scaring witnesses, finessing testimony, and flat-out perjury.
In Cohen’s telling, Trump rides on a crime factory, operating above the law to enrich its top boss and on the ultimate loyalty of underlings.
Trump’s self-image and organization are very much styled after a Hollywood movie portrayal of a gangster and his crime family.
“It’s called ‘flipping’ and it almost ought to be illegal,” Trump said, in response to Cohen’s guilty plea. “I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years, I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go.” In this statement, Trump displays contempt for the rule of law and honors criminals who refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. He’s essentially the elevating gangster ideology to the status of high principle.
With Trump’s pathological lies, abuse of power, contempt of the rule of the law, and idolization of the “gangster ideology”, we’re left to shudder at what the next four years — and with repercussions echoing far into the future — will look like if Trump stays in power.