Tyranny and anarchy are the twin threats to democracy. Last week, America had tumultuous demonstrations of both — from a manic president who incited violence, and from the primates who rioted because of the lies he fed them.
Those who said it could never happen here now know better. A democracy’s strengths are also its weaknesses.
Here’s how President Trump began last week: Trump draped a blue ribbon around the neck of Rep. Devin Nunes, a California dairy farmer, and in doing so forever devalued the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Trump has further debased the medallion by reportedly promising it to Rep. Jim Jordan, the coatless former wrestling coach from Ohio and pugnacious defender of the president.
Both Nunes and Jordan were accomplices and henchmen on Trump’s seditious path to the destructive and deadly coup as the posse closes in.
Be it known that this is the very same award that had been bestowed by other presidents on Mother Teresa, Pope John XXIII and Martin Luther King Jr.
And to give the honor local cachet, the medal also decked the neck of Maryland’s long-serving senator and Washington hell-raiser, Barbara Mikulski.
But Trump has so trashed the medal that soon it may be included in Crackerjacks, cereal boxes and put up for auction on eBay — which is not meant to demean Crackerjacks, cereals or eBay.
In fact, New Yorker magazine spoofed that Trump has further cheapened the medal by awarding one to himself. It appears that in Trump’s hierarchy of awards, the Medal of Freedom ranks second only to his pardons.
These symbolic gestures from a symbol-minded president are a reminder that Trump regards loyalty as the highest form of endeavor, which is largely what led to the attempted overthrow of the electoral system.
The award was established in 1963 by John F. Kennedy for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interest of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Trump has awarded 23 of the medals, stingy compared to previous presidents, but, then, he’s a one-term president by the will of the voters and a failed insurrection. And he seems to prefer jocks — either that or he has few friends or others he admires for their contributions, other than golfers and grifters. Trump honored three more golfers with the medal on the day after the pro-Trump riots at the Capitol.
One other recipient worth mentioning by name is Rush Limbaugh, a 50,000-watt flamethrower on behalf of Trumpology, a toxic blend of conspiracy theories, demonology, mendacity, and mammonistic theology, which is assigning the foibles of man to the will of God as preached and practiced by the Elmer Gantry of the Trump administration, the Rev. Franklin Graham, and his ilk.
Nunes, Jordan and Limbaugh — along with non-recipients such as Sens. Josh Hawley, of Missouri, and Ted Cruz, of Texas, are as responsible for the insurrection as is Trump himself. They fed into Trump’s big lie and Beer Hall Putsch with the alacrity of gauleiters in search of party recognition and political ascendency. Hawley and Cruz deserve tarnished Medals of Freedom as parting gifts.
So, perhaps, does Maryland’s Rep. Andy Harris, who nearly provoked a fistfight on the House floor over a speech denouncing Trump and the Republicans’ brawling efforts to derail Biden’s certification as the incoming president. Harris has deflected Democratic demands for his resignation.
Politics is a form-follows-function kind of business. As a politician, Trump displayed the skills of a carnival barker. Trump seemed to have a misdirected two-pronged strategy — inspire his enemies and incite his allies to save himself.
Trump forgot to count. One outnumbered the other. He cost the Republican Party the White House and the Senate, with the two losses in Georgia and the presidential election itself emphatic rejections of Trumpism. Trump owns those losses. His short-run political career is over.
Facebook and Instagram have silenced Trump, at least until after Joe Biden’s inauguration, shutting down his main line of communication with his lemming supporters. Twitter has turned him off permanently.
For days and weeks following the Nov. 3 election, Trump ignored the responsibilities of the presidency — as the pandemic with its new mutation spread and the economy tanked — to apply its power and energy to undermining the election results as well as democracy itself.
Rejected by the courts at least 60 times, validated by counts and recounts, defeated by more than 7 million popular votes and 36 electoral votes, Trump insisted, debunked and never once with evidence or justification, that some invisible hand and mechanical phantom had stolen the election from him.
He Tweeted and twerked, railed and fulminated, cajoled and demanded, howled his increasingly lonely King Lear fury, riling up his parliament of street-mob supporters with invitations to travel to the nation’s capital on Jan. 6 prepared to overturn the election — with violence if necessary.
Trump tried to pressure officials in Georgia to “recalculate” the state’s election returns. He badgered Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the electoral college results and declare him the winner, a power that Pence, presiding over the electoral count, did not constitutionally have.
The Proud Boys and MAGA mob responded.
And again, Trump, the tin-pot amateur politician, blundered. The riotous insurrection that Trump provoked backfired. The occupation of the Capitol building, disruption of the certifying of the electoral vote, the hours of destruction and mayhem, the loss of life, the rush to safe locations by members of Congress — altered not a single vote or the outcome, but turned minds and hearts against Trump.
Biden will be the next president, just as 81 million voters intended.
Through it all, Trump remained in his bubble, still sniveling and clinging to his grievances and the fantasy that he was being denied a rightful victory. He resisted pleas to publicly call off the giddy mob — his mob, mostly maskless — and to help restore peace to the nation’s capital as the world watched the chaos of democracy in action in disbelief, and some despots with reassurance that if America can revolt it must be OK.
Trump did acquiesce to a half-hearted “Go home,” which he seemed to undercut with a wet-kiss by tacking on, “We love you. You’re very special.” And he did state that there will be a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20, though he refused to concede the election.
And now Trump, in his trademark ju-jitsu, is trying to soften the demands for his quick departure from the Oval Office. “Now Congress has certified the results,” Trump finally acknowledged in a video recording. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
The very next day, the old, vengeful Trump reared his butterscotch head on Twitter: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Fortunately, Trump will soon have very little to say about that.
Graceless, humorless and bitter to the end, Trump, ever the petty tyrant, announced that he will not attend Biden’s inauguration, the first outgoing president in 152 years to snub his successor’s swearing-in ceremony. The four other presidents who skipped the inauguration ceremonies of their successors were John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson and Martin Van Buren.
Biden is thankful.
So here is the Trump legacy: He is the first president ejected after one term since George H.W. Bush in 1992. He is the first president to incite a riot as a way to retain the presidency. He is the first president to be impeached and later considered for impeachment a second time. Or he could be the first president who is removed from office under the 25th Amendment. He could be the first president to resign since Richard M. Nixon, though backing down is not Trump’s style. He is the first president who faces indictment after he leaves office.
One way or another, good riddance. It can’t be soon enough.
This commentary originally appeared in Maryland Matters
By Frank DeFilippo