Two weeks ago, I wrote that the ripping of children away from their parents at the US border, and their consignment to child prison camps thousands of miles away, was a lightning flash revealing the cruelty and rank racism of Trumpism.
This week, the Helsinki press conference was a lightning-flash revealing the Trumpist efforts to create a world-wide Fascist International. The Trump-Putin alliance is today’s equivalent of the “Hitler-Stalin Pact.”
These two attacks are intertwined. They are both attacks on the Spirit. The anti-Spirit cruelty that tore babies from their parents is the same arrogance that seeks to shut up a critical press and send whistle-blowers and reporters to prison, the same cruelty that seeks to deny families health insurance and food stamps and raises tariffs that threaten the livelihood of farmers.
Not only do they spring from the same root, they strengthen each other. Perverting our elections makes it easier to outlaw all abortions. Giving enormous tax breaks to the hyperwealthy makes it easier for them to buy elections.
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for thee.
One anti-Spirit despot and one would-be anti-Spirit fascist are giving aid to each other to strengthen their ability to exert despotic control over their own peoples and over nearby nations in Eastern Europe or Central America.
Trump’s attacks on the democratically elected conservative governments of Britain and Germany, his joyful support of British racists and German neo-fascists as well as of Putin make that clear. Add in his close alliance with Netanyahu, the Saudi Crown Prince, other increasingly successful fascist parties in democratic Europe, and actual fascist governments in Eastern Europe.
Are Putin and the Russian state “enemies” of the United States?
We are faced with the weird situation in which all US intelligence and law-enforcement agencies report that Russia, by making massive secret illegal efforts to control a US Presidential election, has acted precisely like what the Constitution calls an “enemy.” But the President & Congress won’t define the situation that way because they benefit from it.
Putin is the enemy of the American people, but not the enemy of the step-by-step Trumpist putsch. He is its facilitator.
And in Helsinki Mr. Trump did not just evade the question of Russian interference in US elections, but gave that enemy aid and comfort, adhering closely to it. A lot more than two witnesses watched the whole action.
So does that mean the President of the United States committed treason in plain sight?
As a scholar of US history, I have been unwilling to fling around the word “treason.” It is the only crime specifically defined in the Constitution:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
The Constitution tries to prevent “treason” from slopping over into sedition and dissent, as British kings had the habit of doing. So I think we should be careful about the word.
And – being as careful as possible – I think what Trump did in Helsinki was treason. Not treason to the present government of the United States, but treason to the Constitution, to the American people, and the future of democracy in America.
What shall we do?
Much of the US Left wants to focus on the bread-and-butter questions stirring fear and anger in those who responded to their sense they have become the Forgotten Americans by voting for Trump. Perhaps they will change their minds.
But part of the US Left sees doing that as contradictory to focusing on the “Russia Question.”
In my view, a serious mistake.
Why? Because Trump’s various efforts at subjugation are profoundly interconnected. His contemptuous actions toward Muslims, Blacks, Latinx, gays, women, refugees, labor unions, the poor, the farmers who voted for him, the Earth, the free press, the FBI, AND the election system all pursue the same goal – a monopoly of power.
Trump is gambling for despotic power in the USA and is glad to have had and keep having Putin’s support toward that result. In exchange, he helps Putin by encouraging fascist parties and movements in France, Germany, and Britain, etc.
I know that some progressives say, “The US tried & often succeeded in buying, faking, colluding in other countries’ elections.” Therefore – evidently, therefore -- we can’t complain if somebody does it to us. I don’t agree.
Progressives since the US interventions against popular democratic movements in Greece, Iran, and Guatemala in the ‘40s / ‘50s have been opposing those interventions as destructive of democracy. Why would we shut up when another “Great Power” does the same anti-democratic stuff? Doesn’t that also hurt the US poor, Muslims, Latinx, etc etc etc -- and give Trump & his white supremacists more power?
Some progressives – including some amazing leaders whom I enormously respect – are saying that elections should be protected on their own (from super-floods of money, from gerrymandering, from voter suppression), without focusing on Russia.
And they have urged new approaches to peacemaking with Russia. – They seem to be ignoring the malign impact of Russian intrusion in US and other elections on exactly the marginalized people they are worried about. Pressure against Russian interference with elections is not the same as war.
Our demand should be for moving toward democracy in both countries, not accepting either’s imperial designs whether directed toward each other or Latin America or the European Union. We should be demanding that instead of pushing Europe to spend more on death -- as Trump did -- , we and the Europeans should be pressing Trump & Putin to spend less on war and instead meet needs for schools, free colleges, sewers, bridges, clean water, pure air.
The pocketbook issues that move the poor and working poor most sharply and these “democracy” issues need to be connected over and over -- not surgically separated.
They should be connected at not only the political but also the spiritual level.
There are only three remedies: impeachment, elections, and street resistance. The first clearly depends on the second and the second is intertwined with the third. They are all connected.
The Shalom Center is undertaking to strengthen these connections with our campaign to Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote. More about that in the next few days.
Before I leave you for now, let me add: Trump is trying to copper his bet on despotism by appointing to the Supreme Court a judge who has already said we should not “burden” a President even with a criminal investigation, let alone a civil lawsuit or a subpoena. This means the American people would not be able to insist the President be truthfully accountable. Destination: Despotism. What can we do? -- Look below the graphic!
I urge you: Call 1202-224-3121. Ask for your Senators, regardless of party. If you are living in DC and have no Senator, ask for Sen Collins of Maine and then Sen. Murkowski of Alaska. Urge them strongly to vote No, Against on confirming Kavanagh. Call back every day. One day, mention the constitutional right to abortion. Another, the legal requirement to protect our Earth, not burn it. Another, the need to keep millions on health insurance. Each time, the need to insist the nominee answer specific questions.
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for thee.