Donald Trump cannot wreck democracy, as my parents used to say, “all by his lonesome.” He needs help and he’s getting it from the Republicans whose legacy once included destroying the careers of those who said nice things about Russians–the same Russians who are now Donald Trump’s pillow-talking bedmates. Trump needs help and he is certainly getting it from some surprising places–like from a nerdy little guy named Rodney Frelinghuysen, the forever Republican congressman from New Jersey’s 11th Congressional district.
Frelinghuysen, at first glance at him and his history, doesn’t look the type who could be an enabler for the biggest threat to American democracy since Yorktown fell to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. His ancestors fought in the revolution. Four became senators–and one a Whig vice presidential nominee in 1844–“Hip, hip hooray, the country’s rising for Henry Clay and Frelinghuysen!”
A Frelinguysen was mayor of Newark–thus the city’s Frelinghuysen Avenue, once my daily route to Newark and The Star-Ledger. And president of Rutgers–I lived in Frelinghuysen 531, a river dorm in New Brunswick. His father, Peter, as a freshman congressman, took on Joe McCarthy and, with his then young son Rodney, was a leader of the opposition to Barry Goldwater’s drive to become the GOP presidential nominee in 1964.
Rodney came from a long line of patriots.
And sane Republicans.
But that was then and this is the now of the intersection of Rodney Frelinghuysen’s ambitions and Donald Trump’s extreme makeover of what we fondly remember as the United States of America, the longest-lasting constitutional democracy in world history.
Forget the Frelinghuysens who risked all to oppose the British. To oppose slavery and the eviction of indigenous peoples from their native lands. To argue against the pathological paranoia of the McCarthyites and the dangers of the Goldwaterites.
Now we have a Frelinghuysen for our time–one who will swill down the Kool-Aid of the cultish minority president, Donald Trump who rules by Twitter and intimidation. Rodney, the blushing handmaiden of the Toddler King of America.
And, boy, does it show. Rodney, unlike his illustrious predecessors, is more patsy than patriot.
Many are already familiar with the fund-raising letter he wrote to a director of Lakeland Bank. To the preprinted plea for more money, he personally inscribed on the bottom a note describing the bank’s senior counsel as “one of the ringleaders” of the effort to stop the GOP’s headlong leap into the Trumpish future.
The lawyer, Saily Avelenda, was called in to her superior to explain her exercise of First Amendment rights–she belonged to a group that wanted Freinguysen to hold a town hall meeting–and the meeting resulted in Avelenda’s leaving her job.
Way to go, Rodney! That’s the way an American patriot acts–trying to destroy a young woman’s career because she had the, well, audacity to express herself freely in Trumpland.
I’ve called him a poisoned toad for what he did to Avelenda. Such a moral cipher certainly doesn’t deserve his position–nor attachment to the Frelinghuysen legacy in New Jersey. He should quit. And change his name to something more appropriate. Like Quisling, or Bannon.
But, oh, no–that’s not going to happen. By smearing Avelenda and threatening her livelihood, Rodney Frelinghuysen was just hinting, just lifting a little bit of the skirt, to show what he could really do for his master in the White House in Trump’s fight against liberal democracy–especially now that he is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Trump in the White House and he doesn’t give a damn about democracy. Rodney in charge of the nation’s purse strings–and he already has compiled a 100 percent pro-Trump voting record, including voting for Trumpcare that will hurt thousands of his constituents in New Jersey’s 11th congressional district–even after teasingly saying he wouldn’t.
If Trump eventually marches American democracy off the cliff–while he takes off for a Black Sea Holiday and round of golf in Trump #1, Aeroflot’s latest edition–Rodney will be paying for the sellout with money robbed from the poor and siphoned off to the rich by Frelinghuysen’s House Appropriations Committee.
You see, if we had all laughed at Trump, he would have gone away. But some in the cheap seats, as a sort of generalized “screw you” to politics, supported him. The rest of us expected apparently decent and sane people–like Rodney–to reject Trump as the gross, profane, semi-literate, obtuse, crotch-grabbing misogynist/racist/ xenophobe that he was. Is. Donald Trump could not now exist without Frelinguysen and Co., limited partners in the destruction of America’s political legacy.
Along with others in the GOP Junker elite, Rodney, the poison toad, saw his chance. A once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve his ambition to be chairman of the appropriations committee and shower billions on those who favored while starving those he did not, like Planned Parenthood, like the uninsured sick. He probably could have stopped Trumpcare on his own and be a hero to history–but a goat to his own slimy ambition. The little guy from Nowheresville, NJ, suddenly became the big guy sitting on Trump’s broad shoulders, gassing himself on hairspray and getting a Trump-eye view of the New American Order.
Rodney liked it.
Hey, it’s happened before. The Cuban elites (and American gangsters) who loved Batista. The big Salvadoran landowners and their death squads. The mining companies that kept apartheid in place. And consider this analysis about who among the cultured Germans supported Adolph Hitler:
“Support for Hitler has long been identified among the upper classes…. Certainly, large non-Jewish businesses initially supported Hitler to counter their fear of communism, and Hitler received support from wealthy industrialists and large companies: when Germany rearmed and went to war, key sectors of the economy found renewed sales and gave greater support. Nazis like Goering were able to use their backgrounds to please the aristocratic elements in Germany, especially when Hitler’s answer to cramped land use was expansion in the east, and not re-settling workers on Junker lands, as Hitler’s predecessors had suggested. Young male aristocrats flooded to the SS and Himmler’s desire for an elitist medieval system and his faith in the old families.”
Old families? Hmmm.
The fascist supporters also included the middle-class business owners–and institutions like small banks. They warned about the decline of the middle-classes–and feared communism. Sort of the way we are supposed to fear The Other now. The foreigners.
Yes, I know. I will receive criticisms that we cannot possibly compare Trump to Hitler. The times are different. The guarantees are in place.
And we can all rely on solid American patriots.
Like Rodney Frelinghuysen.
The way he used to be. Before he traded his soul for chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee.
Before, with Saily Avelenda, he had the chance to show he can be just as thuggish as The Big Man himself.
Just imagine what he can do with him holding the purse strings in a one-party government headed by a guy who is really a man of action .