The FBI’s surprise raid of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound Monday sent the usual folks into a frenzy. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the thirsty wannabe speaker, threatened Attorney General Merrick Garland with retribution. Various Trump toadies in the House and Senate warbled their predictable Trump love songs. Former vice president Mike Pence—who’s been trying to cautiously, maybe indecipherably, separate himself from his former lord—demanded that Garland give “full accounting” for the FBI search “immediately.” Outraged Fox News hosts seemed as prepared for this supposed breach of justice as the BBC is for Queen Elizabeth’s demise. For a while, “Abolish the FBI” trended on Twitter.
Remember when Trump and these same sycophants used to hail Hillary Clinton with chants of “Lock her up!” Now it’s “Law enforcement bad, Trump good.” Of course.
All of that is predictable. What I did not see coming was the avatar of the new Forward Party, Andrew Yang, kinda sorta defending Trump.
“Kinda sorta” is, of course, the Forward Party’s brand. One US political party is going full-on fascist; the other is defending American democracy but sometimes skirmishes about its priorities. But the Forward Party’s message: Nah, don’t go with that boring “defending democracy” party, which happens to go by the name of Democrats. Go your own way!
I’m no Trump fan. I want him as far away from the White House as possible. But a fundamental part of his appeal has been that it’s him against a corrupt government establishment. This raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution.
He went on for a while beyond that, but I won’t give him more free media.
I haven’t written about the Forward Party, founded by the adrift Yang, who ran for president as a Democrat, ran for New York mayor as a Democrat, failed spectacularly at both, and then decided the problem wasn’t him or his politics or his communication skills—it was the Democratic Party.
He found two older, retired Republicans, former Florida representative David Jolly and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, to give him bipartisan cover for what is essentially an attack on Democrats. Because the law of third-party dynamics is: The party the new group is closest to is the party that will suffer if the new group gathers mass. Obviously, that party is the Democrats.
Yang’s sympathetic Trump tweet reminds us that third-party dreams are usually the essence of bothsidesism. Both sides are too extreme; we alone can fix it. Yang’s attempt to vocalize what “millions of Americans” will see as “unjust persecution” is typical for a third-party leader.
Worse, though, is the fact that everyone who covers the far right is seeing growing threats of violence in response to the Mar-a-Lago raid. In his efforts to stay in power, the former president has obviously broken the law. But he and his minions clearly believe that he is above the law and that there is no legitimacy to whatever case the Justice Department might be assembling. There is informed speculation that the raid was to retrieve serious national security documents.
For Yang to even glancingly endorse the notion that the FBI might have unfairly targeted Trump is just one more log on the fire of violent white nationalist extremism. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what he meant. The Forward Party is already in my rearview mirror.