Last week, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump did this in order to stop Comey's investigation into Russia's apparent interference with the 2016 presidential election. This is a symptom of brazen disregard for the U.S. Constitution and the foundational principle that the justice system should operate independent of the president. Trump's attempts to obstruct justice are not conjecture. They are now documented facts.
For Trump, matters seem to get worse every day. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Comey kept careful notes about his meetings with Donald Trump, and in a series of internal memos detailed the president's request that Comey drop the investigation against Trump's now-disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Not content with "merely" obstructing justice, Trump then demonstrated his contempt for the First Amendment by suggesting that Comey consider arresting journalists who publish leaked classified information.
For these and many other reasons, Donald Trump should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, convicted and removed from office.
But, while many Americans (and the country's news media) are aghast at these events and -- as we are dragged from crisis to crisis -- made numb by the spectacle, none of these happenings under Trump's regime should be in any way surprising.
Why is this?
Donald Trump is a political thug. He telegraphed this behavior during the 2016 presidential campaign. Because he is a plutocratic authoritarian, as well as a racist, a nativist and a fascist, power is both an end onto itself and a means for accomplishing Trump's personal project of self-aggrandizement, greed and political score-settling.
The Republican Party has spent the last five decades building a political bomb constructed of racism, greed, sexism, bigotry and white male grievance-mongering. To those ingredients, Republicans have added an extreme partisanship where empirical reality is jettisoned to fit the political whims of reactionary ideologues. Trump simply pressed the trigger to detonate this political bomb.
A weak Democratic Party that seeks consensus with Republicans, even while the latter become even more extreme and dangerous, in combination with a cowardly and unprepared mainstream news media, also brought the crisis that is Trump's presidency upon the United States.
And of course there were the loyalty oaths. While Trump's demand that Comey pledge personal fealty to him has been the subject of much recent discussion, this habit by Trump is not new. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump demanded that his public do the same thing. At the time, this was treated by too many voices in the news media as just a feature of Trump's professional-wrestling political rodeo routine. In reality, Trump's demand for loyalty was far more sinister. An authoritarian leader believes that he is the embodiment of the state and above the law. The people are to be bent to his will. Truth is something to be remade in the interest of the leader. In total, this is the logic of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and, yes, Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump's presidency is not a professional wrestling narrative or a dystopian movie. It is real life. This bizarre political horror movie will not end when the lights come on.
Once Trump's time in office is over -- however it may end, and however soon -- the American people will not have crawled through miles of human waste and then washed themselves with a bar of soap before escaping to freedom, like Tim Robbins' character in "The Shawshank Redemption." A reckoning remains upon us. By calling forth the submerged specters of fascism and authoritarianism to win a presidential election, Donald Trump and the Republican Party have irreparably harmed American democracy in ways that cannot be easily foreseen. As such, the American people must be prepared for the fact this crisis will not be fully rectified by removing one man from office, or electing one political party in place of the other.
Instead, the United States needs a domestic Marshall Plan where the country's broken schools are fixed; extremes of wealth and income inequality are reduced; money is no longer considered "free speech"; media concentration and monopolies are ended; the Fairness Doctrine is reinstated; the Republican Party's voter suppression and gerrymandering tactics are deemed illegal by the courts and voters; civic literacy is nurtured; and the loneliness, collective bewilderment and white racism that carried Trump to the White House are remedied.
One additional intervention may also be necessary if the country is to successfully counter the forces that birthed American fascism in the form of Donald Trump and his movement. We may require open public meetings and town halls where Trump's voters are invited to explain their decision to support him, and as a political community the American people collectively confront the social and political forces that radicalized their fellow citizens.
For all of the comforting talk about America's "enduring political institutions," are its citizens and leaders ready to successfully meet these challenges? I worry that they are not.
Donald Trump is both the cause and effect of the political and social crisis that has now befallen the United States. Both sides of the equation have to be solved if any semblance of enduring political health and democratic normality are to be found. Are Americans truly an exceptional and great people? We will soon know. Donald Trump is the test.