Tonight, the tax returns don't matter

Plus, the difference between a goon and a dictator

Special Issue

I don’t really care about Trump’s taxes. Not tonight.


In a few hours, we’ll be treated to what I imagine cable news will present in its inimitable Monster Truck Throw Down Mega Extravaganza Superpalooza way of going about these things any more, but what otherwise is a very serious moment in our democracy: the first in a series of presidential and vice presidential debates.

Plenty of pundits are blabbing something verging on one or both of these themes: our democracy is on the line and Trump is on the hot seat because of conclusive evidence he is a tax cheat, at the bare minimum. Therefore, we should expect some kind of bloodletting, either because Democratic nominee Joe Biden can spearfish all he wants into the murky waters of Trumplandia and come up with a choice mackerel, or because the King of Trumplandia will be so unhinged, it’s gonna be nuts.


I don’t really care about Trump’s taxes. Not tonight. Anyone with half a brain cell dedicated to bullshit detection knew long ago — as in the 1990s, especially those of us who lived in NYC at the time — that Trump is the world’s greatest Amway salesman, only without the products you might actually find somewhat useful, even if they might be packaged in that special shade of faux Trump gold. Grifting is, and has always been, his vocational pursuit.

And if you actually did think that nearly two dozen sexual assault claims having been made against him over the course of decades (as in long before the Never Trumpers were accused by the Always Foxy of making all that up) might only be the tip of the iceberg on his sociopathic criminality, then yeah, you’ve been paying attention all along.

Which is why all the tax returns really do is prove what pretty much all of us, both those of us who do and do not support him, have known all along: they are a telling record of his big, fat, illegal secrets. They are material, and they are going to really hurt this seriously bad hombre we have in the house.

But tonight, because our democracy is on the line, they should not be the focus.

Since Joe Biden — another dude from yesteryear who, it’s true, could potentially turn out to be a better president than many of us ever expected he was capable of being — comes to us with the baggage of feckless Democrats who wasted the time they had while a two-term, peacefully, non-Russia-supported, nice and decent man sat as our president, time they could have done some very important things that had they done them, would have not made this sick king from Queens look so attractive, tonight I want to hear what Biden has to say.

What does he promise he and other Democrats are doing to do to protect democracy? How will he convince me that even though he was part of the group who failed miserably to wrest the tortured parliamentary process away from its sadistic madam, Mitch McConnell, and was Number 2 in the duo who missed an eight-year long opportunity to pants Wall Streets and defang the global rentier class that has sucked the blood out of the middle class, that I should believe he “gets it”?

And let’s not forget that Biden was part of an administration that could have done more to stop the wackadoodle obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails and focus the FBI on Russia, and to tell McConnell to get stuffed when he allowed the focus to be kept off of Russia for so many of his and his lying colleagues’ own corrupt reasons.

But these things, and many other things, did not happen. We can list them, but that doesn’t matter either. We all know that the vacuum of power was created by a vacuum of dedication to our founding ideals as a nation. It’s been less about the founding fathers and more about the Benjamins for the past 40 years, at least. On both sides.

Which is to say, Democrats are as responsible for this presidency as all the rest. We share this burden, every one of us. Stop pretending we don’t. Stop whining. Yes, vote, but also, EXPECT THESE PEOPLE TO DO THEIR JOBS. If I hire a person who says he will accomplish a task I want accomplished, why would I let him say, “Oh, well. Better luck next time.”

I don’t want to hear more about what a colossal turd Trump is. WE KNOW. Could we please get back to the issues? Let’s think less like monster truck rally attendees and more like voters and upright citizens.

The difference between a dictator and a goon

As for democracy being on the line if Trump gets another four years…the tax returns do bring something nuanced, but important into sharper focus: he’s a criminal hoping to evade a reckoning, not a dictator seeking to expand his empire. That matters. He’s a human wrecking ball because it has served his interests to destabilize anyone who would punish him and hold him accountable. He has not invaded anywhere; in fact, he has shrunk our footprint globally. And he has used our government resources as just another in his armamentarium to avoid jail, bankruptcy (again), being found out to be a liar and a fool.

He just likes to be the biggest, meanest, scariest gold thing in any room. He uses authoritarianism to make that happen, which is to say he uses everything you and I pay for and rely upon as tools for his bullying everyone to let him be literally, thank you Madam McConnell, unimpeachable, but that does not mean he plans on staying in power so he can actually be in charge of everything.

He doesn’t want to be in charge of anything.

I recall watching Trump sit on the chair next to President Obama after their security briefing, and thinking he weirdly seems to sit on a chair like it’s a toilet, but that he probably had just crapped himself to find out all the scary things he had no idea he would be told and that he now had to be responsible for. In that moment, I actually felt scared for him, and hoped against hope he would rise to the moment. And yet…

The man has clearly never taken MAGA seriously. He only wants the power of the office to cover up his crimes.

Keep that in mind tonight when you feel yourself wanting to yell at the TV because you hate the man so much.

We are less in danger of sliding into a dictatorship than we are of our democracy being supplanted by authoritarianism. And that has been happening for as long as “corporations are people too”, for as long as Politicians are United against disclosing to us citizens where their money comes from, and for as long as Big Data monopolies can own, buy, and sell our personal information with no say from us, making us slaves to them and rendering our Constitution moot.

We’ve been okay with the monolithic voice of Washington for so long, to make this all about the Golden Boy is to really and truly not demonstrate we understand the power of our own voice, and that it and not theirs is what is supposed to make freedom ring.

Having P45 can either be the worst thing that has happened to this country in the past 150+ years, or the best: we can either let him be the death knell of what democracy is left, or he can galvanize us to finally demand that Congress not be self-serving.

Biden will have to be the way we start that process, even if he is a relic.

Let’s not make tonight about the past by focusing on what a self-obsessed shit Trump is. Focus on the future by insisting Biden prove he will love his country — and therefore all of us — more than anyone has ever loved our country and us before.

Loving us is no small thing. Love with mercy, love with a heavy heart but a light hand that is open and a willing to take responsibility, these are the healing balms our democracy needs. Not bloodletting, not hate, not fear; and please, no more incendiary anger. I just want this country to be loved by its leaders, not made great or anything else. I, too, am tired of hearing my own voice rage.

Making us great? That’s my job, and your job, and my neighbor’s job, and your neighbor’s job. Isn’t that what the Republican line has been all these years? “Leave us alone, keep government out of our business, let us be the individuals that government cannot ever hope to surpass?”

Yeah, exactly.

Ugh. Here comes the monster mash.