Donald Trump depicted as orange-faced bully in this cartoon.​

Donald Trump, writes Hartmann as set a tone that has trickled down other Republicans and his army of supporters: "truth doesn’t matter, so long as you can hurt and intimidate somebody for your own benefit or even just for fun."

(Image: AI-generated / StableDiffusion)

Trump and His Political Allies: Fascists and Bullies All

Bullying has now become the trademark behavior of the GOP, the result of Donald Trump’s entrance on the scene in 2015 when he successfully bullied and cowed every other candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Trump dreams of revenge. It’s what fascists do.

Because fascism trickles down from fascist leadership, it’s what Trump’s cult members are dreaming of, too. As are his toady lawyers.

Yesterday, for example, Trump’s lawyer argued before the DC Appeals Court that if Trump became president again he could order Seal Team Six to assassinate Joe Biden or Liz Cheney and nobody could do anything about it. Judge Florence Pan asked:

“You’re saying a president could sell pardons, could sell military secrets, could order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival?”

Trump’s lawyer answered that a sitting president could only be held criminally liable for those crimes the judge listed — which is making me wonder if Jack Smith has proof that he was selling pardons and military secrets — if Congress had first impeached him.

In other words, yes, Trump may have sold those missing top-secret documents to Putin, probably sold all those last-day pardons for $2 million each as Rudy Giuliani said, and could even order the assassination of somebody he didn’t like in the future.

And nobody could do a thing about it, according to Trump and his lawyers, because Republicans in the Senate had failed to convict him.

This open embrace of lawlessness should tell us everything we need to know about not just Trump but the GOP that’s backing him up and hasn’t expressed any second thoughts about his leadership of the party or his bizarre “vengeance” campaign for reelection.

We’ve seen the early glimpses of Trump’s murderous soul for years.

When the George Floyd protests erupted in Washington, DC, thousands of Black people were heading for the White House: Trump, his wife, and his son all fled the building for the president’s underground bunker. Word leaked to the press within hours, and Trump was both embarrassed and furious, demanding the execution of the leaker.

That’s right: the execution of the person who told the press that he was hiding from the protesters.

When he organized his bible photo-opportunity at the church across the street from Lafayette Square, he’d demanded that General Mark Milley have the troops affix bayonets to their rifles and carry live ammunition, presumably to shoot protestors. Milley refused, but apparently went along with Trump’s desire to clear the area with tear gas.

The next time, Trump will make sure his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is somebody willing to repeat Nixon’s Kent State slaughter. Somebody he can more easily bully.

On January 6th, Trump tried to bully Mike Pence into making him dictator-for-life. When that failed, he tried to get Pence murdered. Now, he’s at it again, trying to crank up his well-armed followers to bully or even take out President Biden.

Earlier this week, Trump posted to his Nazi-infested failing social media:

“Joe would be ripe for Indictment. If I don’t get immunity, then Crooked Joe Biden doesn’t get immunity.” He added, “By weaponizing the DOJ against his Political Opponent, ME, Joe has opened a giant Pandora’s Box.”

He’s told us he wants to build concentration camps for “millions” of people, including his political “enemies,” and will “root out” those he calls “the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.”

That would be you and me. We shouldn’t worry about Putin or Kim or China attacking the US, Trump tells us, because Democrats are the real threat to America:

“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.”

From Trump separating mothers from their children and trafficking those kids into “Christian” adoption services that have now vanished (along with about 1,000 missing youngsters), to his followers swatting Judge Chutkan and Jack Smith (among others), the bullying fascist mindset has been growing like a cancer in America.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, an infamous bully who once chased then-17-year-old Parkland school-shooting survivor David Hogg down the street screaming epithets at him, bullied her pooch Kevin McCarthy into threatening New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg with a congressional investigation if he didn’t back off from prosecuting her role model, Donald Trump.

Following up, Gym Jordan, notorious for his bullying any witness who appears before his committees or brings up his alleged coverup history, has now been joined by James Comer (accused of abusing a girlfriend and then getting her an abortion), and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil in demanding Bragg give their committees all the information he’s gathered on Donald Trump’s crimes relating to his paying off porn star Stormy Daniels.

For his part, Bragg is having none of it, pushing back with a statement saying through a spokesman:

“We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law.”

Bullying has now become the trademark behavior of the GOP, the result of Donald Trump’s entrance on the scene in 2015 when he successfully bullied and cowed every other candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

On Tuesday, we learned that House Republicans under MAGA Mike Johnson are hoping to try to impeach Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. And they want to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for his willingness to testify at an open hearing rather than their closed-door bullying charade.

Bullying flows from the top down in everything from gangs to businesses to political parties.

Humans invent political systems, and we base our inventions on our observations of human behavior. It thus makes perfect sense that when Benito Mussolini invented fascism in its modern form, he was simply patterning it after a behavior he knew well because he’d exhibited it his entire life: bullying.

This understanding parallels the rise of fascism as the political system now most vigorously embraced by the GOP, from rigging courts and elections to using naked threats of violence and even the killing of five police officers to try to stop the peaceful transfer of the presidency from Trump to Biden on January 6th.

As the late Madeline Albright wrote in her book Fascism: A Warning:

“Decades ago, George Orwell suggested that the best one-word description of a Fascist was ‘bully.’”

If we don’t take on bullies — particularly fascist bullies — they keep going further and further until either they win or we fight back and defeat them. The best political example of this writ large was Hitler. He pushed around most of Europe and they kept giving in or trying to appease him, thinking at some point he’d have gotten enough.

Neville Chamberlain thought he could negotiate with a bully and came back from his meetings with Hitler believing he’d achieved “peace in our time.” But, of course, you can never actually negotiate with a bully: you can only contain or defeat them. Which is what FDR, Churchill, and Stalin ended up having to do, at the cost of tens of millions of lives.

From that experience, Europe learned a lesson about dealing with fascist bullies, which is why the governments of the continent are largely united in their support of Ukraine against the murderous bullying of Russia’s fascist leader.

Bullies never stop. And, most importantly, every time they win, they set their sights on the next conquest. Giving in to their demands only creates a newer and more elaborate set of demands.

We have so many of these bullies polluting our political waters today that it’s nearly impossible to get anything done that benefits anybody except the morbidly rich bullies themselves and their friends.

As lawyer and therapist Bill Eddy writes for Psychology Today:

“Bullies don’t negotiate; they make demands, they make threats, and they fight for them. They generally lack the modern skills of win-win... So don’t think of their demands as a form of true negotiation. It’s more like warfare. And you don’t want to give in to that.”

Right now, America is suffering from an epidemic of political bullying.

Billionaires started bullying us in the 1980s at the suggestion of Lewis Powell’s infamous memo, demanding that the top 74% income tax rate be collapsed to 25%; Reagan enthusiastically gave in (as did a few Democrats) and now the billionaires — who are paying 3% income tax rates (not a typo) — just used their political muscle to eliminate funding to the IRS as part of their “negotiation” around the debt ceiling.

The morbidly rich funders of the GOP got their way this week, when Chuck Schumer gave in to Republican bullying and said he was good with stripping $10 billion out of the IRS budget, making it much harder for that agency to catch billionaire tax cheats.

Trump, like all fascist bullies, delights in the bullying behaviors his cult followers emulate. He even went so far as to tell a convention of police officers:

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just seen them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’
"When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head you know, the way you put their hand over [their head]. … I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’”

He gets pleasure stripping power away from others while causing fear and pain in his enemies’ lives, and the more successfully he can bully high-profile people the more he puffs up with pleasure.

This is a crisis for America now because presidents tend to establish both the tone, tenor, and fashions of the day.

John Kennedy, for example, established an optimistic and forward-looking tone for our country, while Jimmy Carter made it fashionable to be a thoughtful, compassionate Christian and an energy geek. Bill Clinton turned us all into policy wonks, and George W. Bush transformed himself from an AWOL draft-dodging drunk into a warrior. Barack Obama established a tone of thoughtful, elegant inclusion and diversity, celebrated around the world.

Tragically, what Donald Trump showed us is that when the President of the United States is a bully, being a bully becomes cool. And it persists so long as he holds a national platform.

Political bullies, from the soft-spoken Mitch McConnell to the outrageous Gym Jordan, all surfed the wave of Trump’s bullying style. Right wing media has become filled with outrage-puffed bullies, each reveling in being more brutal, oafish, and outrageously fascistic than the last.

Over the past few years, Trump followers delighted in bullying store owners and people in public spaces by refusing to wear masks. Now they’re bullying trans people, pregnant women, public school teachers, librarians, and drag queens. Bullies, being cowards deep down inside, always pick on those they see as the least able to defend themselves.

Bullying is contagious, which makes the GOP’s fascist bullying a whole-of-society crisis.

Multiple studies showed, in the months after Trump was elected, an increase in school bullying. White “Karens” (female and male) around the country found new validation in their attempts to bully people of color, including children. And Trump’s bullying use of the phrase “China virus” led to a huge spike in attacks on Asian Americans.

Trump set the tone for all these bullies: truth doesn’t matter, so long as you can hurt and intimidate somebody for your own benefit or even just for fun. As Glenn Altschuler wrote for The Hill:

“And like all bullies, Trump traffics in personal insults and group stereotypes. He began calling immigrants ‘rapists,’ complained about ‘shithole countries,’ mocked a reporter with disabilities, said the Speaker of the House has ‘mental problems,’ said four American congresswomen of color should ‘go back’ to the ‘crime-infested places from which they came.’
“He’s peddled the racist idea that immigration is an ‘invasion,’ and retweeted the claim that ‘the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.’ He responded to the #MeToo movement by declaring, ‘It’s a very scary time for young men in America.’ He spread a phony conspiracy theory that Joe Scarborough murdered Lori Klausutis, a congressional aide, in 2001.”

Remember Mitch McConnell bragging, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’” Classic bullying.

The people whose bullying tendencies drew them to guns and violence have joined the bullies in the GOP as well, with the ultimate bullying event being their assault on our nation’s Capitol on January 6th.

Convicted foreign agent, bully, and Trump toady Mike Flynn, who suggested that a wholesale slaughter of minority Americans a la Myanmar “should happen” here, upped the ante by saying, when presented with a new AR15, “Maybe I'll find someone in Washington, D.C.” Spoken like a lifelong bully.

Our world is in flames, as climate scientists have been warning us would happen for at least five decades, but fossil-fuel billionaires here and abroad continue to bully civilized nations into a suicide pact. Just let them get richer and richer selling their poisons, they say…until everything collapses.

Psychologist Shawn T. Smith, author of Surviving Aggressive People, notes that bullies almost always back down when they’re confronted. Bullies, he notes, are both lazy and cowards; preying on people who fight back is too much trouble and risk.

“[B]ullies and predators,” Smith writes, “…test, …prod, and…scan for vulnerability. When they do, responding quickly is more important than responding perfectly.”

The vast majority of Americans don’t want the world these GOP bullies are trying to impose on us.

Most Americans, for example, would like to have the same kind of healthcare and educational system that Canadians, Europeans, Australians, Japanese, and South Koreans have. Everybody covered, not a single medical bankruptcy, and undergraduate student debt largely nonexistent. They’d like good union jobs, a stable environment, quality public transportation, and top-notch primary schools.

So, why don’t we have what Europe got in the 1940s and Canada got in the 1960s? Because wealthy bullies who don’t want to pay their taxes buy off Republicans who, themselves, are willing to bully the American people and the press.

We have “Jan. 6th” bullies, anti-mask bullies, anti-vax bullies, an entire health insurance industry that bullies us, bank bullies who rip us off, Wall Street bullies stealing everything that’s not nailed down, anti-abortion bullies threatening women, and religious bullies threatening our courts.

And we can’t just “stop talking about Trump”: we must confront this.

It’s like we’re having dinner at an outdoor garden party, and somebody notices a poisonous snake slithering around under the table. Would it be wise to simply refuse to talk about it? Would it even be possible?

Pushing back hard is imperative, otherwise we lose.

It’s way past time for average Americans to fight back: we’ve been bullied enough. Democrats and average Americans must follow Alvin Bragg’s example: stand up and put a stop to it.

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