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Maxed Out: A light at the end of the tunnel

'Yeah, sometimes it works. More often than not'

June 24, 2016 was the first time I dared to imagine the unnameable Orange Monster might become president of the U.S. That was the day after enough voters in the United Kingdom cast ballots in favour of leaving the European Union.

I thought if enough Brits were willing to shoot themselves in both feet there may well be enough Americans willing to elect a grifter and con artist president.

The last time I took heart in reading anything with his name in it was Nov. 3, 2020, when Joe Biden “stole” the presidency from him.

Until last week.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Thirty-four times over, guilty. Every count under consideration. Guilty. Astonishing. Unexpected. Very welcomed.

I believed the OM when, years ago, he said he could shoot someone dead in Times Square and not be found guilty. I was certain at least one member of the jury was a MAGAcite. A true believer. I never believed 12 people who’d survived voir dire, pre-emptory challenges and challenges for cause would reach a unanimous verdict on any of the counts being tried, given the defendant.

Unanimity is a high hurdle to jump. Huge. Higher than “reasonable doubt.” Especially in the era of disaffected antisocial media. There’s almost nothing I read anymore I don’t have a reasonable doubt about.

When I was a new lawyer, time permitting I’d wander across the street and watch trials. Criminal, civil, I’d watch them like the theatre they are. Inevitably, if the lawyers were doing a reasonable job, I’d have a feeling after the prosecutor or plaintiff’s counsel presented their case there was no doubt about guilt or liability. Until the defence put on their case. Then I wouldn’t be so sure.

So for 12 people to sit through days of testimony—not to mention the glower of the OM sulking at the defence table—to sit through closing arguments, to listen carefully to the judge’s instructions regarding the law to be applied, to argue amongst themselves for a day and a half and to come away with unanimous agreement on 34 individual counts is testament to the underlying strength of the legal system. People listened; people weighed their verdict.

Yeah, sometimes it works. More often than not.

The guilty person’s reaction was predictable. He said the trial was a disgrace. It was rigged. The judge was corrupt. It was a conspiracy of the Biden administration. He was innocent. Pure as the driven snow. After all, he considers himself infallible. Any loss is obviously the result of a rigged trial, a stolen election, a conspiracy at the highest levels.

In the time before the country lost its moral bearing, any politician found guilty of 34 felonies would have mumbled some contrite words and stepped out of the limelight. Resigned. Retired in disgrace. Hell, even Nixon, while underscoring he was no crook, had enough remnants of morality and shame to retire rather than face impeachment.

But the Orange Monster marches on, leading his coterie of sycophants to new territory of depravity. Well, not new, just new to the country that has always paid boastful lip service to democratic principles.

The heavy hitters of the Republican Party lined up to parrot their leader. One after another took aim at the legal system, excoriating it, sure to undermine any remaining belief among the population that fairness and justice could be found in the courtroom. They chimed in, repeating it was orchestrated by the Biden administration and the justice department. Reinforcing the foundation for disbelief in anything but conspiracy theories.

The irony is rife. The victim of this injustice, the OM, is the very person who tried so hard during his term in office to turn the justice department into his private hit team and has vowed to do so successfully if he’s elected in November. Packed with loyalists who will seek retribution against his enemies, real or perceived. Like any tinpot dictator of a banana republic.

Their rhetoric not only undermines the justice system, it undermines the very bodies in which they serve, or pervert as the case may be. All politics is bad politics... unless it’s controlled by us and serves our own ends.

And the MAGA bobbleheads nod in agreement, mouths open, knuckles dragging. The OM is their man. What they aspire to be. Thugs. None were heard to chant, “Lock him up!”

In their brave new world of truthless truth, there is a back door where the federal justice department and the office of the president exercises the power to direct a Manhattan district attorney to bring a criminal action against a former president in a state court. It takes a bottomless void of misunderstanding about the way things work to believe that’s the case.

But these are the people who still buy the myth of the stolen election, despite investigation after investigation failing to uncover any theft. They conveniently overlook the wannabe dictator-in-chief calling the Georgia Secretary of State and imploring him for an hour to find enough “votes” to put him over the top in that state. Because, after all, the infallible can’t possibly lose. Right?

If there is light in this nightmarish tunnel it’s the growing sense among sentient Republican voters that maybe, just maybe, the OM isn’t the right monster for the job after all. The reality of voting for a convicted felon for the highest office in the country, the putative leader of the free world, is beginning to taste like vomit bubbling up their throats.

A poll before the verdicts were rendered showed no meaningful change in voters’ preferences by party. And, inexplicably, some percentage of Republican voters who would be more likely to vote for the OM if he were convicted.

More recent polls are showing a measurable decline in voters who are comfortable voting for a corrupt, convicted, con man... again.

I have just enough hope in the incremental humanity of people in my former home to think it might be possible to exorcise this insufferable fool from public life, recognizing it will take a generation or more to rid the country of the stink he leaves behind, assuming things don’t actually get worse with the upcoming generation of hard-right Republicans foaming at the mouth to take his place.

I have slightly more hope the epidemic of self-righteous, egocentric corruption fails to gain more traction than it already has on this side of the border. Whether the people in the U.S. and Canada prove me right or wrong matters only academically to me. I’m old enough to ride out the insanity. But I weep for the ones of tender years. They’ll have to live with or live down this dark chapter for much of the rest of their lives.