Yes, President Donald Trump is vile. That’s a given.
Yes, we should focus on the Robert Mueller investigation, particularly since Trump, his congressional cohort and the purely propagandistic Fox News are treating that investigation as an existential threat and actively working to discredit not only Mueller but the entire FBI.
Yes, we should focus on Trump’s misogyny and patriarchy, which continue to manifest in his assemblage of a group of advisers and confidants who include among them a shockingly high number of men who have been accused of assault – sexual or not – against women. Trump himself has been accused of this violence and even admitted to a pattern of sexual assault on tape, but now denies it. Perhaps because of that, he has developed a pattern of response when new accusations of abuse are revealed: Believe the men and discount the women.
Yes, we should focus on Trump’s breaking of custom and convention, his racism and his reactiveness, his Barack Obama obsession and his autocratic impulses.
But while we are focusing on Trump and what he has wrought, it would behoove us to also focus on the titanic moves by the right to literally realign society for the long haul: stacking the courts with virulent conservatives, suppressing voter access, reducing the inflow of immigrants who might lean Democratic, gerrymandering districts, punishing states that lean Democratic in presidential elections and returning to a failed drug policy that disproportionately jails black and brown people.
In short, conservatives are using every possible means to permanently lock in power, wealth and influence for the existing, predominantly white and predominantly male power structure.
Allow me to piece together some of what’s happening.
As The New York Times reported in November: “In the weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, lawyers joining his administration gathered at a law firm near the Capitol, where Donald F. McGahn II, the soon-to-be White House counsel, filled a whiteboard with a secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.” The Times said that McGahn had been “instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary.”
Mother Jones reported in November: “Beyond new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump has already nominated judges to more than half the vacancies, putting forward an astonishing 18 names for federal appellate courts and 40 more for the district courts. Of those, 12 have been confirmed. By this time in Obama’s first year, only two circuit court judges and four district judges had been confirmed. Trump’s nominees are, so far, roughly 90 percent white and 80 percent male.”
Then there’s the enormous issue of voter suppression. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “After the 2010 election, state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions.”
The statement continued: “Overall, 23 states have new restrictions in effect since then – 13 states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place (and six states have strict photo ID requirements), 11 have laws making it harder for citizens to register, six cut back on early voting days and hours, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.”
The American Civil Liberties Union puts it even more bluntly:
“Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly black people, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.”
There is also gerrymandering, one of the greater threats to true democracy. As Brian Klaas wrote last year in The Washington Post, “Gerrymandering, in a word, is why American democracy is broken.”
Klaas continued: “While no party is innocent when it comes to gerrymandering, a Washington Post analysis in 2014 found that eight of the ten most gerrymandered districts in the United States were drawn by Republicans.”
Some of these districts have been challenged in courts, but these are some of the same courts now being stacked by Trump. Districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census, but there are now suspicions that Trump and his Justice Department are even trying to sabotage that.
As The Atlantic reported last month: “A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats.”
This is much bigger that Trump alone. This is the big game for all the marbles. Trump is simply a useful and temporary tool in this endeavor. This is why many of the most powerful conservatives in this country are betraying their supposed values, ignoring the moral conundrum and continuing to support Trump: He is a means to an end, a necessarily piece of the big picture. This is about a tectonic realignment.