US politics have gotten even raunchier with the country’s first prosecution of a former president.
Just when one might have supposed that American politics couldn’t get any trashier, New York City prosecutor Alvin Bragg and former President Donald Trump have proven that the nation hasn’t yet reached the bottom.
The US political system now resembles a reality television show, and with Trump’s indictment on Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury, viewers should cringe at how vulgar and obnoxious the program has become. In fact, if it were a scripted soap opera, it would be too unbelievable and tacky for daytime TV audiences.
Consider the story line, which begins with a $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star, stage-named Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence on allegations of an affair with the Republican Party’s leading presidential candidate. Then you have the boisterous defendant, a former reality TV star who has been divorced twice and is currently married to an ex-model 24 years his junior. And don’t forget Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, who is financially backed by billionaire Democratic Party sugar daddy George Soros and is so far left that he’s almost allergic to prosecuting alleged crimes – unless they involve self-defense or a Republican suspect.
One of the tenets of a good drama is that it makes the viewer empathize with one or more of the characters, but in this case, it’s tough to root for anyone. For starters, it’s rather distasteful to have a president who might have reason to pay hush money to an adult film actress. He’s apparently the first American president to have done so, just as he’s also the first who: played a role in a ‘Wrestlemania’ skit; became a billionaire while running six of his businesses through bankruptcy protection from paying creditors; got caught on tape boasting about grabbing women “by the pu**y”; and tried to force an elderly lady out of her home to make room for a parking lot next to his casino. The list of unseemly firsts could go on. Suffice to say that if Jerry Springer’s tabloid talk TV show hosted politicians, Trump would be the first to get an invitation.
With Thursday’s indictment, the twice-impeached Trump is also now the first current or former US president to be criminally charged. Team Soros has set a perilous new precedent by using the criminal justice system to take out a political rival. The people who talk so much about protecting freedom and democracy are trying to take Trump off the menu of 2024 election options for US voters, essentially deciding for them whom they can choose. It’s the behavior of a banana republic, and there’s really no turning back.
It’s also ironic that for all his faults, Trump is being prosecuted for the wrong reasons. As is typical in a twisted justice system, the supposed villain isn’t punished for his alleged serious offenses; rather, the case is about something bogus or piddling.
It’s not illegal to pay hush money, even to a porn star. As legal scholar Jonathan Turley has pointed out, Bragg is trying to resuscitate seven-year-old allegations that both the US Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission found unworthy of pursuing. The criminal charge that could have been relevant – failing to declare a political donation – would require proving that the payment was made for the sole purpose of helping Trump’s presidential campaign. It’s not hard to imagine other potential motivations for a married celebrity and businessman to keep such embarrassing allegations from becoming public.
Bragg, who campaigned for his DA office on a promise to prosecute ‘Bad Orange Man’, likely felt pressure to appease his Trump-hating supporters by following through. He faced criticism last year after declining to file charges against the former president, prompting two senior prosecutors on his team to resign in disgust. Turley called Bragg’s case against the former president “long on politics and short on the law.”
As if the whole episode isn’t disgusting enough at face value, we have corporate media outlets doing their usual bit of hyping and spinning, cheerleading the Democratic Party’s latest effort to put Trump in prison. Just as distastefully, Trump has used the indictment as a fund-raising tool and urged supporters to protest on his behalf – disregarding how ugly the strife in the streets could become.
The fact we even have the Trump saga to talk about is a reflection of how much American politics has spiraled downward over the past few decades, making any sense of dignity or decorum a distant memory. Even just two decades ago, it would have been hard to believe that the standards for elected high office in the US would slide this far.
For instance, the political career of former Senator John Edwards, a Democrat presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, was essentially ended by revelations of an extramarital affair. It used to be assumed that such scandals were career killers. The Democrat frontrunner in the 1988 presidential race, Gary Hart, dropped out in disgrace after news of his infidelity broke. Prior to Trump, there had only been one US president with a divorce on his resume, and talented orator Ronald Reagan could charm voters into forgetting about a breakup that occurred more than 30 years before he was elected.
Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, was a political laughingstock after a plagiarism and dishonesty scandal torpedoed his first presidential campaign in 1988. By the time he ran for president in 2020, he was an agedly confused gaffe machine whose lying had only increased in frequency. He had also been accused of sexual assault by a former intern, and all the world could go online and see video footage of Biden getting uncomfortably close to young girls at public events.
Voters apparently didn’t care, and the media took a far different approach than in 1988, running interference for Biden rather than scrutinizing his character. In fact, when a bombshell report exposed the Biden family’s influence-peddling operation just a few weeks before the 2020 election, the press helped squash the story and promote a lie that it was Russian disinformation. The media showed surprisingly little interest in the evidence contained on a laptop computer abandoned by Biden’s son, Hunter, who was kicked out of the Navy Reserve for a failed drug test and fathered a child out of wedlock with a woman he reportedly met while she was a stripper and he was having an affair with his brother’s widow.
If this is the best that America has to offer, the nation has bigger problems than its politics. The US becomes more divided, dysfunctional, debased and degenerate every day. Could the Roman Empire, while in its death throes, really have been any more depraved and corrupt than America 2023? And this should ring familiar: the Romans viewed themselves as superior beings, without equal anywhere, and felt destined to rule the world.
The collapse of Rome, when it came, wasn’t pretty. Constant wars, overspending and political instability weakened the foundation. Inflation ran rampant, wealth inequality widened and democracy crumbled amid increasing political violence and decadence. The degraded republic was ruled by madmen in its latter days, accelerating its downfall.
As we watch American politics devolve like a raunchy reality TV program, it feels almost like we’ve seen this show before.