Illiberalism · Gilead · Donald Trump



Donald Trump

Fig. 1. Donald Trump, depicted in an orange jumpsuit, reportedly by the Drudge, date unknown, via Mediaite,[1] fair use. Apparently, no mugshot was taken when he was actually arrested over hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.[2]

Fig. 2. Original caption: “Your Honor, in an effort to insure a fair trial, we move for a change of venue to the defendant’s imagination.” Cartoon by Teresa Burns Parkhurst, apparently February 16, 2024, via the New Yorker, fair use.

That grievance[3] is a significant factor in white Christian nationalism is hardly new. Thomas Frank pointed to the bank bailout in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis, with corresponding neglect for underwater homeowners and the unemployed as fueling a rage[4] manifest in “Fuck Your Feelings” and “Make a Liberal Cry” bumper stickers displayed by Donald Trump’s supporters in his 2020 re-election campaign.[5] Here’s Glenn Beck in the wake of a grand jury indictment in 2023:

Donald Trump is not even a person anymore. He is a symbol. He is a symbol of the average, everyday guy that keeps getting screwed every single time. Watches other people screw up: big banks, screw up their companies and get away with it. They see people all the time doing stuff that they know, if they did, they’d be in prison for 20 years. But because they’re . . . part of the elite, they get away with it.

Donald Trump has taken arrow after arrow. And that’s why this is the way the average American feels tonight. . . . This guy has been taking the bullets. For the average person now for years.[6]

This rage is, in fact, ancient, at least a thousand years old, described by Colin Woodard of what he called the Greater Appalachians socioculture,[7] that I associated with authoritarian populism,[8] and that I now understand as having been subsumed, along with most other tendencies of conservatism, into white Christian nationalism.[9]

Donald Trump marries this with his own unmistakably narcissistic rage,[10] propelling his legal strategy:

[Donald Trump] has neither a law degree nor formal legal training, but over the course of that long history, he has become notorious in legal circles for thinking he knows better than the lawyers he hires — and then, very often, fires — and frequently is slow to pay if he does at all. . . .

Mr. Trump’s intensely litigious nature has made his strategy more visible over the years than it might otherwise be. He has long used delay tactics in legal matters that emerged from business disputes, and since becoming a politician he has repeatedly tried to throw sand in the gears of the legal system, using the resulting slow pace of litigation to run out the clock until seismic events shifted the playing field. . . .

The disputes chewed up time — for briefings, arguments and then the period judges took to craft opinions — and while Mr. Trump often lost those decisions, he would simply appeal again and restart the process.

In that way, Mr. Trump effectively won despite losing . . .

Mr. Trump also has a lengthy history of conflating legal problems with public-relations problems, treating every matter as one that can be dealt with in terms of a media strategy.

While in office [as president], he talked often about investigations he faced — so much so that some of his comments became possible acts of obstruction of justice scrutinized by a special counsel, including tweets in 2018 suggesting that Mr. [Michael D.] Cohen, whose home and office had just been searched by the F.B.I., would never turn against him.[11]

Only the president [Donald Trump] and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.[12]

See also:

Ben Schreckinger, “Trump attacks McCain: ‘I like people who weren’t captured,’” Politico, July 19, 2015,

Maggie Haberman and Richard A. Oppel, Jr., “Donald Trump Criticizes Muslim Family of Slain U.S. Soldier, Drawing Ire,” New York Times, July 30, 2016,

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Thomas Kaplan, “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa,” New York Times, January 11, 2018,

David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List, Updated,” New York Times, January 15, 2018,

Adam Serwer, “The Cruelty Is the Point,” Atlantic, October 3, 2018,

Jeffrey Goldberg, “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,’” Atlantic, September 3, 2020,

Lincoln Mitchell, “New Yorkers knew Donald Trump first – and they spurned him before many American voters did,” Conversation, November 12, 2020,

Nicole Narea, “Donald Trump’s long history of enabling white supremacy, explained,” Vox, November 29, 2022,

Philip Bump, “On a melodramatic night, Fox News makes room for melodrama king Glenn Beck,” Washington Post, March 31, 2023,

William K. Rashbaum et al., “Donald Trump’s Time-Tested Legal Strategy: Attack and Delay,” New York Times, April 2, 2023,

Kimberly Wehle, “Biden Isn’t the Only Official Who Could Pardon Trump,” Politico, May 2, 2023,

Chris McGreal, “Trump rages after sexual abuse verdict but legal woes have only just begun,” Guardian, May 14, 2023,

Corky Siemaszko and Brandy Zadrozny, “‘Trump Bucks’ retailers’ websites taken down, days after being exposed for selling bogus currency,” NBC News, May 31, 2023,

Financial Times, “The cases against Donald Trump,” Financial Times, June 9, 2023,

Jack McCordick, “Donald Trump’s Lawyers: A Guide to the Attorneys Who Signed Up to Defend the Ex-President (And Where They Are Now),” Vanity Fair, June 21, 2023,

James Risen, “Stormy Daniels May Have the Last Word on Donald Trump,” Intercept, July 30, 2023,

Spencer S. Hsu, Carol D. Leonnig, and Tom Jackman, “If Trump is convicted, Secret Service protection may be obstacle to imprisonment,” Washington Post, August 4, 2023,

Trip Gabriel, “Trump Escalates Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric With ‘Poisoning the Blood’ Comment,” New York Times, October 5, 2023,

Tom Nichols, “Trump Crosses a Crucial Line,” Atlantic, November 16, 2023,

Danielle Kurtzleben, “Why Trump’s authoritarian language about ‘vermin’ matters,” National Public Radio, November 17, 2023,

Peter Wehner, “Have You Listened Lately to What Trump Is Saying?” Atlantic, November 22, 2023,

Marina Pitofsky, “Donald Trump repeats comment he would be a dictator ‘for one day’ if reelected in 2024,” USA Today, December 11, 2023,

Isaac Arnsdorf, “Trump quotes Putin condemning American democracy, praises autocrat Orban,” Washington Post, December 16, 2023,

Ed Scarce, “Kinzinger Describes Trump’s Odor As Arm Pits, Ketchup, Makeup, And Ass,” Crooks and Liars, December 29, 2023,

Mike Bedigan, “Donald Trump’s alleged ‘sexual proclivities’ graphically detailed in new Epstein documents,” Independent, January 8, 2024,

Lukas I. Alpert, “Trump is backed further into a financial corner after losing control of his company,” MarketWatch, February 16, 2024,

Lloyd Green, “Trump, the ‘law-and-order’ candidate, is an adjudicated fraudster,” Guardian, February 16, 2024,

Jonathan O’Connell, “Hefty fines, penalties will rock Trump family’s business and fortune,” Washington Post, February 16, 2024,

Peter Baker, “Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last,” New York Times, February 18, 2024,

Kate Sullivan, “Trump avoids condemning Russia for Navalny’s death,” Cable News Network, February 19, 2024,

Kathleen Culliton, “‘That makes him a mark’: Expert explains problem sending broke Trump back to White House,” Raw Story, February 19, 2024,

William D. Cohan, “Sussing the Trump Estate Sale,” Puck, February 21, 2024,

Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, and Josh Dawsey, “Clock is ticking for Trump to post bonds worth half a billion dollars,” Washington Post, February 25, 2024,

Jacob Gershman, Corinne Ramey, and James Fanelli, “Trump Appeals $355 Million Civil-Fraud Ruling,” Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2024,

Philip Bump, “This time, Trump’s going to have to pay his own bills,” Washington Post, February 27, 2024,

Tori Otten, “Trump Has a Hilarious New Excuse for Why He Can’t Put Up Bond,” New Republic, February 27, 2024,

Jennifer Medina and Reid J. Epstein, “Do Americans Have a ‘Collective Amnesia’ About Donald Trump?” New York Times, March 5, 2024,

Marisa Iati, “Trump says some undocumented immigrants are ‘not people,’” Washington Post, March 16, 2024,

Jon Allsop, “Context collapse,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 18, 2024,

Peter Stone, “Putin bromance has US intelligence officials fearing second Trump term,” Guardian, March 18, 2024, Putin bromance has US intelligence officials fearing second Trump term

Michael Kranish, “Shadowing Trump’s attacks on mental fitness — his own father’s dementia,” Washington Post, March 20, 2024,

Peter Smith and Tiffany Stanley, “US Jews upset with Trump’s latest rhetoric say he doesn’t get to tell them how to be Jewish,” Associated Press, March 21, 2024,

Chris Lehmann, “Trump’s New Line of Work: Bible Salesman,” Nation, March 28, 2024,

Molly Cook Escobar, Albert Sun, and Shane Goldmacher, “How Trump Moved Money to Pay $100 Million in Legal Bills,” New York Times, March 29, 2024,

Charles Homans, “Donald Trump Has Never Sounded Like This,” New York Times, April 27, 2024,

James Risen, “These Convictions Thwart Trump’s Plan to Pardon Himself,” Intercept, May 30, 2024,

Lois Beckett, “Donald Trump had lots of negative opinions about felons. Now he is one,” Guardian, June 1, 2024,

Kyler Alvor, “Donald Trump Is Banned from 37 Countries as Convicted Felon, Including Major Allies Like Canada and U.K.,“ People, June 2, 2024,

Aaron Blake, “Trump’s many dog whistles about unrest and violence,” Washington Post, June 3, 2024,

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “Jail-Shy Trump Suddenly Backs Away From Major Catchphrase,” New Republic, June 3, 2024,

John Miller, “NYPD preparing to revoke Donald Trump’s license to carry a gun after felony conviction in New York,” Cable News Network, June 5, 2024,

Matt Lewis, “Trump Can’t Carry a Gun, but He Might Have the Nuclear Codes Again,” Daily Beast, June 6, 2024,

Josh Marcus, “Trump says only a ‘psycho’ would call war dead ‘suckers and losers’ – which a general says Trump did,” Independent, June 9, 2024,

Eugene Robinson, “Is Donald Trump okay?” Washington Post, June 10, 2024,

Jake Lahut and Michael Daly, “Why the Words ‘Suckers’ and ‘Losers’ Bother Trump So Much,” Daily Beast, June 11, 2024,

Paul McLeary et al., “Secret Meetings, Private Threats and a Massive Arms Race: How the World is Preparing for Trump,” Politico, July 7, 2024,

  1. [1]Alex Griffing, “Drudge Puts Trump in an Orange Jumpsuit as Site Monitors His Potential Indictment,” Mediaite, August 29, 2022,
  2. [2]Sarah D. Wire and Alexandra E. Petri, “Trump charged with 34 felony counts in alleged hush money cover-up case,” Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2023,
  3. [3]James Kimmel, Jr., “What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump,” Politico, December 12, 2020,
  4. [4]Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire (New York: Metropolitan, 2012).
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The Donald Trump supporters’ campaign message: Fuck Your Feelings,” Not Housebroken, December 11, 2020,
  6. [6]Glenn Beck, quoted in Philip Bump, “On a melodramatic night, Fox News makes room for melodrama king Glenn Beck,” Washington Post, March 31, 2023,
  7. [7]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’ Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, March 24, 2023,
  10. [10]George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counselling Resource, July 24, 2017,
  11. [11]William K. Rashbaum et al., “Donald Trump’s Time-Tested Legal Strategy: Attack and Delay,” New York Times, April 2, 2023,
  12. [12]Adam Serwer, “The Cruelty Is the Point,” Atlantic, October 3, 2018,