What made Trump can/will break Trump

The promise and peril of American democracy.

Political advisor Roger Stone during an interview in New York
Roger Stone, has been the dark knight of American politics and the "master of right-wing political hit jobs" for the past the past five decades, writes Bishara [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

I’ve just finished watching Get me Roger Stone, a new Netflix documentary about the man who’s arguably produced Donald Trump’s presidential victory, or at least the culture behind his dirty, populist campaign. 

Roger Stone has been the dark knight of American politics and the “master of right-wing political hit jobs” for the past the past five decades. From Richard Nixon’s “dirty tactics” to George Bush’s “fear tactics”, through Reagan and Bush I, and of course Trump, Stone was active in every phase of American politics – producing lies, fake news, and character assassinations.

Informative, entertaining and at times infuriating, the documentary exposes the cynical new drivers behind the victories of the American Right. So disturbing is the chronicle of cunning and deceit that at times I had to pause several times in order to catch my breath.

The film evolves through multiple conversations with Stone and revolves around his so-called Roger rules. Rules such as “if you can’t be famous be infamous”, “hate is stronger than love”, “never apologise”, and “attack, attack, attack” etc Alas, Stone’s pompous and sleazy character is more than suitable for the role.

Producing Trump

You might have noticed how Trump has been getting his cues from Fox news since he was elected president. But during the campaign, he seems to have relied mostly on Stone’s lies, smears, and innuendos for his speeches and interviews.

The Donald appreciates Stone and considers him a friend and a “quality guy”. It’s no surprise then, that Stone has been dubbed a racist sexist bigot who’s been banned from many US networks. 

Frame by frame you see and hear Stone spouting certain outrageous allegations, accusations and claims that are then repeated by Trump and devoured by the US media. You really need to watch it to understand what I mean.

But when Stone took to centre stage with more of the same outrageous smears and the media began to refer to him as “Donald’s brain”, the egotistical Trump finally distanced himself from Stone, but only officially. Trump then hired Stone’s former lobbying partner, Paul Manafort, to lead his presidential campaign, putting Stone back in the action.

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And yet, Stone’s most important discovery is his cynical belief that American politics is irredeemably corrupt and that the US media is two things: “They’re either evil or they’re lazy, or they’re both. And if you understand that, you can do whatever you want.”

Alas, the US corporate media’s hunger for sensation and political acrobatics to make a profit on the cheap fed on Trump’s circus as much as he fed on them, affording him incessant coverage that propelled him to the helm of the Republican candidacy; indeed the presidency.

Fortunately, that’s not the only face of the US democracy.

At the end of the day, the democratic system that allowed Trump to become president has an armoured capacity to impeach him as he and his cronies continue to abuse his position.


The other face of American democracy

Since his elections, Trump has learned rather quickly that running a campaign is nothing like governing a democracy.

The bombastic businessman-cum-politician has finally come face to face with the frustrating checks and balances of the American system that will not allow him to govern like a “Third World” leader.

Each and every move he makes is now unpicked, dissected, and judged by various branches of the American government and the media.

Congress continues to look into his campaign’s shady dealings and its possible collusion with Russia and the Justice Department has appointed a special prosecutor to look into it with the ability to assign a special jury. 

Likewise, journalists are continuing to investigate his possible interference with an ongoing FBI investigation and his controversial firing of its director James Comey. When its journalism trumps its strictly corporate concerns, the US media functions like no other.

Trump has also come to realise that many of his campaign promises, whether to build a wall on the border with Mexico, scrap treaties or ban Muslims from coming to America, are easier said than done.

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Just as one flinches watching Roger Stone (legally) misusing and abusing the American system to advance his and the Alt-right’s agenda and enriching himself in the process, one is in awe watching a democratic system in action. 

Federal prosecutors and judges can freeze the president’s executive action on the Muslim Ban on legal grounds through the US justice system and there’s little he can about it other than make a better legal argument in his defence.

If anything, this shows how democracy is more than the vote or rule of the majority, it is also the rule of democratic values and the protection of minorities as enshrined in democratic constitutions and defended by an independent judiciary.

These various branches of the US government and establishment do not make for a “deep state” ala Egypt; they make up the totality of the US democratic tradition and institutions with all its pluses and minuses.  

America that leads by the power of its example will always trump America that leads by the example of its power, whether military or financial.

At the end of the day, the democratic system that allowed Trump to become president has an armoured capacity to impeach him as he and his cronies continue to abuse his position.

The system that made him is the system that can and perhaps will break him.

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera. Follow him on Facebook.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.