GELFAND’S WORLD - There are Trump indictments coming soon. They will be serious felonies in violation of federal laws, and possibly including the Espionage Act.
One other point that, although redundant, bears repeating. A normal person would rightly be fearful of being indicted and convicted, and would begin the process of presenting a law abiding face to the public. But Trump's response has been to blame everything on a vast conspiracy that runs through the government and is aimed at hurting him personally. And as usual, he pretends no understanding that people who violate serious federal laws are subject to trial and imprisonment based on established principles of justice.
In the Trump universe, there is no idea of principle. Rather, everything is treated as personal. In his universe, you are either for him or against him, and that is the only thing that matters. It seems to be inconceivable to Trump that a U.S. Attorney would act on the basis of law. Loyalty requires that people act in his interest and violate the interests of his enemies, both personal and political. It's a screwy permutation of the idea of absolute monarchy.
But now, in this summer of 2023, at the moment when Trump is already out on the campaign trail running for reelection, it is the exact moment when things are truly breaking down.
There is one other historical movement that is worth considering in order to suggest that it is on its way to extinction. Trump's followers were, at one time, willing to risk their lives in order to support their chosen leader. They certainly made this clear in the January 6, 2021 Capitol assault. How many such committed Trump followers were there? There weren't a hundred thousand of them on the day; in fact there weren't even twenty thousand. Ten thousand might be a reasonable estimate, and there were never that many who actually invaded the Capitol building. There were enough to beat and maim the small number of Capitol Police who were left to defend the congress, but they were not enough to defeat the National Guard or a contingent of the U.S. Army.
And here's the crux: Donald Trump continues to tell stories and make veiled predictions that an attempt to indict him will result in mass turmoil, with his supporters taking up arms to defend his interests. The supporters talk about Civil War II -- at least they used to talk like that.
But over the past two and a half years there have been all those hundreds of prosecutions of the core members of the Jan 6 attackers. Proud Boys and Oath Keepers alike have been identified, indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced to the federal penitentiary. You would think that if the Trump faction were truly as numerous and as dedicated and as militant as they would like us to believe, this country would long since have been dragged into widespread violence.
It has not.
In fact, the latest VIP defendant has been identified as Jay Johnston, an actor from Bob's Burgers who will now be charged, tried, and likely convicted.
As we have mentioned before, this long slow drip drip drip of charges, trials, and sentencing has had a major psychological effect on Trump's most radical supporters. They no longer promise a new Civil War or military style mobilizations.
It may have been unintentional, but there has been the equivalent of psychological warfare carried out against the insurrectionists, and the message has been, "Mess with us, and we will mess with you, and we have lots more power than you."
The countdown to indictment continues
It's interesting how memory works. There are dates in our history -- July 4, 1776, Pearl Harbor, September 11 -- that in retrospect seem like they were always there. I know that on the day before 9/11 I wasn't imagining any such thing, but in the days since the attack, it is as if it has always been part of our history and was never in question, just as the assassination of JFK was such a shock but now is always there. Why we remember things this way is a matter for the neurobiologists, but it is an observable fact. We assign a sort of inevitability to the past, and an even stronger inevitability to the most dramatic events.
I bring this up because right now, from the perspective of our immediate present, it is not logically inevitable that Donald Trump will be indicted for federal crimes involving insurrection, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. In fact, if you take a look at the comment sections of some of the more widely read blogs, you will find (among anti-Trump folks) a mix between those who cynically deny that any such indictments will ever happen, right alongside frustrated cries by those who are calling for the indictments and wonder if they ever will happen.
It's analogous to the weeks before the D-Day landings. Everybody had the right to imagine and even expect some such event, but the specifics were not yet seared in the public mind.
So, imagine, if you will, that there will be a series of indictments of Donald J Trump sometime in the near future, perhaps the next five weeks. Allow me to suggest that the inevitability of the events will crystallize in the public mind, to the point that they will seem natural, not to mentioned seemingly required by the facts and logic.
And as that sense accumulates in the public consciousness, the likelihood of armed attacks by Trump supporters will dwindle according to a likewise tempo. Simply put, Trump has plenty of people who, even now, would cast a vote for him, but the Jan 6 prosecutions (and substantial prison sentences) have done a lot to tamp down the juvenile fantasies about rising to arms and doing violence to anti-Trumpian people. People have been griping about how long it is taking to indict Trump over the secret documents, but it has been a useful coincidence that the most dangerous of Trump's followers have been neutralized. It is also useful that another contingent of Trump's followers live in fear that they will be identified as being among the Capitol attackers.
The Turkey Shoot
Someone reminded me that it was D-Day on June 6, and it seemed entirely natural to take note of the fact, even though this 79th anniversary isn't a round number or the 75th or whatnot. But it was D-Day, and it is worthy of being remembered.
And then one of my colleagues reminded us that June 1944 was of significance in another part of the battlefield, even if it was the farther reaches of the south Pacific Ocean. The Battle of the Philippine Sea isn't told as often, but it signified the beginning of the end of the Pacific War, if I can be allowed to use that science fictional phrasing. The story involves names like Spruance (familiar to those who have attended Fleet Week in San Pedro over the years). Vast fleets of Japanese and American aircraft carriers and battle ships and their escorts went after each other from vast distances, and the result was the effective end of Japanese naval aviation as any kind of offensive threat. When it was over, one admiral remarked that it had been as easy as shooting turkeys, and the phrase caught hold. The battle between Japanese and American aircraft became remembered as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. It's interesting to read accounts of the battle, as it involves ships and planes fighting over places with names like Tinian and Guam and Saipan.
It's also interesting to consider the huge technological advances that had occurred in less than a quarter-century. When our country entered World War I, the idea of wartime aviation was in its infancy (open cockpit biplanes), and the idea of naval aviation was something for the future. By the time of the Turkey Shoot, we read of an American attack in which carrier-based aircraft knew at the time they left the carrier that they would have to travel more than 300 miles before they could find the enemy fleet. We can consider the trench warfare of 1916 France, where armies might move a few yards, and then consider that in the Turkey Shoot, the combatants began from a distance approximately half the width of France, fought their battles, and still had to make it back an equal distance. It is appropriate that here, in this west coast city, a place which supported the Pacific war, that we take note of the sailors and pilots who won the day, even as other soldiers won the day in Normandy.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)