“I am not a crook,” Richard Nixon famously said before permanently recusing himself from the Presidency. “The President is not a liar,” Sara Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s loyal apologist, recently declared. With four Congressional committees and a Special Counsel investigating Trump/Russia collusion and obstruction of justice, our President is looking increasingly like a lying crook to more and more Americans.
Trump would like to make it all go away, but his usual methods of dictating reality are not working for him. Ignoring ethical and legal constraints was just another day on the job for Trump the businessman. But at the helm of the U.S. government, oddly enough, it gets called “obstruction of justice” and gets a lot of pushback—from the judicial system, the American people, and even the few Congressman and Senators who have not completely surrendered their consciences. The way of life that bought Trump unpresidented success now seems to be pushing his head in the toilet. He is faced with an untenable choice: either fire the Special Counsel (the move that ruined Nixon) or suffer the slings and arrows of the investigation and possible impeachment.
Why wouldn’t Trump try to bully the Director of the FBI James Comey into forgoing the investigation of Michael Flynn and declaring his loyalty to Trump rather than to the law? As a businessman, Trump’s done a lot worse than bully people into submission and coerce them into giving him what he wants. He’s cheated and bilked people out of what they’re due—from workers to bankers to unwitting suckers of his phony ‘university.’ He’s bought his way out of problems of his own making and refused to pay his bills—including what he owes the lawyers who bailed him out. (Which is why no reputable Washington D.C. law firm will represent him in his current troubles). He’s used whatever means necessary to stay on top, including known associations with the Mafia. He’s lied, routinely and compulsively, as a strategy of manipulation—the signature modus operandi for a narcissistic sociopath.
Trump’s business success is a real American tale: with inherited wealth as his foundation, he parlayed his name into a brand that was too big to fail. Repeated bankruptcies didn’t bring him down because the big New York banks and Trump symbiotically needed each other. Along the way, he spoke openly about his basic business philosophy: “You know in all fairness to Wharton, I love ’em, but they teach you some stuff that’s a lot of bullshit. When you’re in business, you get even with people that screw you. And you screw them 15 times harder.”
Nobody does it better than Trump when it comes to screwing people. The Trump Presidency is indeed a new, highly profitable American product. The billions Trump earned in business are increasing through his office. (A mammoth lawsuit, brought by no less than 200 Democrats, is pending for this violation of the ‘emoluments clause’ of the Constitution). Trump’s ‘best practice’ in business has been his brazen defiance of ethical and legal barriers in the pursuit of whatever he wants.
Not merit but a great talent for con artistry and a huuuge sense of entitlement are what got Trump where he is today.
Who needs justice when you’ve got entitlement?
The sensibility that comes with wealth and power is an embedded sense of entitlement. The entitled run the world. They may be Chinese capitalists, American hedge fund managers, or Saudi Kings. But they are almost uniformly wealthy men.
For the entitled, the world is divided into two groups: the deserving and the undeserving. The logic of entitlement is simple: if you’re a member of the dominant class, gender, or race, you deserve to be on top. If you’re rich you deserve to be rich—even if your wealth is inherited—because you’re smarter, more ambitious, more hard-working and more of a ‘risk-taker’ than those slobs who insist on lying around being poor. If you’re a straight man, you get to feel bigger, better, and stronger than the ‘pussies’ of the world, i.e., women, weak (effeminate) men, and ‘queers.’ You get to sexually harass and assault women at will while simultaneously dismissing and elevating your actions by attributing them to forgivable ‘boys will be boys’ behavior. If you’re white, you benefit from the privilege written on your skin, which goes along with the deeply held conviction that there is something downright inferior about black and brown people.
Entitlement gives members of the dominant class, gender, or race a supreme rationale for their dominance: superiority.
Generally speaking, if you’re a member of the billionaire class, you don’t need to worry about justice or its obstruction because you can buy your way into and out of almost anything. While impartial justice may be an ideal in democratic societies, the fact is that, in practice, justice is not (nor has it ever been), blind. It is routinely obstructed by the entitlements of wealth. From legal tax shelters to routine unethical shenanigans, wealth weights the scales. People like Jared Kushner are accepted into the Harvard University club not on their merits but because they have Daddys who donate big bucks to the school. Getting away with rape has been a prerogative of wealthy white men throughout the ages (and poor ones too). If you’re rich and have a rich lawyer, you can get away with being a drug lord. If you’re poor, you get locked up for 17 years for holding an ounce of marijuana. If you’re rich and famous, you can get away with murder (even if you’re black, like OJ Simpson).
Granted, not every rich white man feels entitled to power. There are feminist white men who ally themselves with social movements like Black Lives Matter. There are men of means who give charitable donations to the less privileged, thereby doing some good while preserving their status and boosting their reputations for generosity. But how many rich white men openly renounce the entitlements of wealth? Doing so would give the lie to the very idea that anyone should be treated better because they’re born white, male, and rich.
Trump didn’t get to be President without the backing of Americans who share his sense of racial, gender, and wealth entitlement. Recent studies confirm that it was not so much the resentful blue-collar poor and unemployed who voted Trump into power as the well-to-do who are fed up with the leeches who feed on public handouts and with uppity women and black, Hispanic and Muslim (i.e. non-White) folks who endanger male domination and white supremacy in America.
Is democracy just another ‘politically correct’ fad whose time has expired?
My 3-year old daughter used to get indignant when she didn’t get something she thought was her due, like the latest My Little Pony: “It’s not fair to me!” she’d pronounce (with an emphasis on the me), thinking she’d clinched the argument. Entitlement is a variant of this childish, narcissistic sense of justice that young children exhibit before they reach the age of moral development. A mature sense of justice rests on the extension of human empathy to people who don’t live in our shoes. It is the basic sense of ‘fair play’ supposedly held dear in a democratic society.
Since the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, the entitlement of the rich and powerful has been cloaked under a veneer of democratic values that the old European Aristocracy didn’t have to pretend to. Under the cloak, the core assumption of the entitled remains: that they deserve what they have and are empowered to do anything to preserve it. Lip service to liberty and justice for all notwithstanding, the ruling elite continue to get away with ignoring these values when it comes to governing the country and running the world. The ruling Republican elite can no longer even be bothered to cover up their gerrymandered power grabs and flagrant money-lust under a cloak of truth, justice, and the American way. In the post-Trump era, to hell with it! seems to be the mood of millions of Americans fed up with the ‘political correctness’ of outmoded democratic ideals—a mood shared by the so-called ‘forgotten men’ who voted for Trump and the wealthy Republican leaders who prop him up.
In TrumpNation today, the entitlement of wealth and the obstruction of justice are working hand-in-hand—to the benefit of those highest up on the chain. I can’t think of a better example of this than the so-called health care bill now making its way through the backrooms of the Republican Congress. Here’s how the entitled press on to get the job done for the wealthy/ruling classes and simultaneously keep the poor in their place. If you’re too poor to afford good health insurance, get sick and die. That’s the rough justice of entitlement.
The entitled are kindred spirits—hence the marriage of Trump and the Republican Congress. This also explains, in part, Trump’s tolerance and admiration for the world’s most despotic leaders. Even if Trump didn’t personally collude with Comrade Putin to undermine our democracy, he has an affinity for autocrats around the world who have attained the sociopathic heights of entitlement. Regardless of what did or didn’t transpire in the run-up to the 2016 election, Trump and Putin are two peas in a totalitarian pod. Putin is the mobster who runs Russia. He doesn’t break the law—he is the law. As for Trump, we knew everything we need to know about his belief that he is above the law when we heard his infamous “Grab ‘em by the pussy” remark. “You can do anything. And when you’re a star they let you do it.”
The latter might well be the motto for the Republican power-mongers currently doing everything they can to grab the poor by the scrotum. When you’re star members of the Republican-dominated Congress, they let you do it. And if they don’t let you, screw ‘em! Let’s just ram this bill down the American people’s throats without any public scrutiny or budgetary reckonings. This is one of the most shameful examples of the entitlement of wealth in our country’s recent history. The bill is nothing more than a legislative cover for padding the pockets of millionaires and billionaires while robbing the poor, women, the sick, the elderly, and the disabled of their entitlement to survive.
This is what entitlement looks like: Republican congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho saying at a town hall that “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care”— an updated version of Marie Antoinette’s words upon learning that the peasants had no bread: “Let them eat cake!” Or Republicans carrying cartons of beer, preparing to celebrate after the House repealed the American Health Care Act. And then making the Trumpcare replacement legislation a clandestine operation, so as to avoid the democratic process which allows irate Americans to hunt down Congressmen in their offices and tell them to their faces that Trumpcare is another word for getting away with highway robbery and conspiracy to commit murder.
What we’re learning from the Republicans backing this bill: when the entitlement of wealth comes up against the people’s democratic outrage, the entitled will do what they want in a dark room, behind closed doors.
One may well ask at this point: whatever happened to the pledge of allegiance? To “liberty and justice for all”? As far as the Republicans in power are concerned, democracy itself appears to be just another ‘politically correct’ obsession of the left-leaning Democratic Party of Sore Losers. Autocracy and plutocracy, hand in hand, have become unapologetic in their usurpation of the power of the people. More brazenly than ever, the entitled are out for themselves and only themselves. After all, if you’re on top, why cater to democracy’s mob mentality? Let’s just do what we want. Because we deserve it. Because we can.
This is the Republican Party that, hand in hand with Trump, rules America. One party under God, united by entitlement. And if this is not the Obstruction of Justice Party, then Trump deserves his wealth.