Illiberalism · Gilead · Donald Trump



Donald Trump

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

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]

See also:

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

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

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,

  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,