Friday, 16th February 2018
This just dropped. So the grand jury found enough evidence to charge these with conspiracy to defraud the United States. That means that there’s enough evidence to go forward with a trial for these (doesn’t mean a conviction, but if there’s enough evidence to go forward, it doesn’t look good). This also means that it’s going to be a lot harder to claim a lack of knowledge about all this for the Trump campaign, given what is already known about meetings. Expect more grand jury announcements in the near future, targeting members of the Trump team, including those very close to the president. Expect also more drama connected to attempts to fire Mueller and his team (and, it just got even harder to do so, with these announcements, and not look like the president is obstructing justice).
If this were Russia, it’s pretty clear we’d be seeing more poisonings and other murders. It’s not Russia. But it will be interesting to see how far the reigning party will go to try to derail this (and I do deliberately use the metaphors of kingship here). When one group is absolutely convinced that it is right, no matter what, that opens the door to a lot of means/ends deliberations.
There will at least be charges of fake news, biased media, unfairness of all sorts, as there always are. Behind this is the assumption that if it were a level playing field, the extremist right would win every time. In a “fair fight”, the right is right. And yet, we constantly see that the charges made by the right exactly describe their own behavior. Every charge is met by a counter-charge. Every discussion is derailed, every question is muddied.
We know this. If this was Russia, we would already be further down this path, toward cynicism and a hall of mirrors in the public sphere. It would not be a traditional monarchy, but a shadow monarchy, the fist in the velvet glove, the illusion of participation in democracy without the reality in any way.
Many would argue that that’s what we have in the US as well. Corporations own the public sphere. And it’s true. But it’s worse there. There could be no Mueller commission there. In the US, there can be. Does this mean that it is where all our hope lies? Of course not. Even if we were to get everything we want from that commission, that is, solid gold proof of tampering in the elections, not just charges but convictions against major players, it still wouldn’t solve the problem of discourse in the public sphere in the US. It still wouldn’t solve the extent to which corporate influence, and the influence of a few very wealthy people, have dominated what we think is worth talking about and the range of solutions we are willing to consider. The fact that there are no meaningful gun laws, after all that has happened, testifies to this. The corporate lobbying group known as the NRA has determined what the public conversation is like, despite repeated surveys that indicate that the majority of people want to consider a new set of laws about guns.
So, Mueller isn’t going to solve anything by himself. Trump will not be impeached even in the best scenario, given the current make-up of the government and the courts. Will it change in November? Hopefully, but that too isn’t a solution in itself.
The deeper issue continues to be the widening gulf between worldviews in the US. We continue to be heirs of the Enlightenment, in which deep differences can be discussed, and governmental structures can be set up, to try to bring about the best of worlds to those living with very different worldviews. Those structures are breaking down. How badly are they breaking down? That’s actually a good question. Those who are riding Trump’s coattails right now are very loud, but are they the majority? They weren’t in the last election. They are still very loud, but it is likely that they are still outnumbered. The traditional way to make that difference operative is through the ballot box (and, the special elections over the past year have skewed strongly in favor of Democrats, or put more pointedly, in favor of opposition to Trump and his surrogates), but it is not the only way.
So, is this a good day? Sure. What this commission is doing is setting an agenda for public conversation, and doing so in a way that corporate power can’t touch. To be sure, some specific corporations without question welcome these investigations – lawlessness is bad for business, unless you’re directly profiting from that lawlessness. My hope, though, is that the current administration spends all of its time answering the charges raised by Mueller, and has less time to destroy all that is good in the country.