Big Tent Ideas

PETER ROFF: The Circus Has Come To Town

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Peter Roff A former UPI political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, Peter Roff is a Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network media fellow. Contact him at RoffColumns AT and follow him on Twitter @TheRoffDraft.
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The circus has come to town.

Through his attorney, former President Donald J. Trump pled “not guilty” in a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to a myriad of charges brought against him by the New York County, Borough of Manhattan district attorney. What they are and what Trump is alleged to have done or to have had others do on his behalf is largely beside the point. (RELATED: PETER ROFF: Indicting Trump Has Nothing To Do With The Law. Here’s Why)

Trump likes to engage in what psychologists call “attention-seeking behavior.” Unlike most politicians, he seems to feed off it and takes it as some kind of insult to him personally if people are not talking about him.

It’s like dancing in a ballet troupe with Nijinsky or Nureyev. No matter how good you are, no one is going to notice you unless you slip and fall off the stage because they’re all too busy watching him.

He is the master at capturing attention. Even before the day’s events had concluded, the “Official Trump Store” was already sending out emails saying:

… what better way to PROVE that our campaign will NEVER SURRENDER our country to the Left’s tyranny than countless grassroots patriots proudly wearing their very own “NOT GUILTY” T-Shirts.

T-Shirts with a picture of a mocked up mugshot on them as a vehicle for people to express their solidarity. The Roman poet Juvenal would probably think this was an exemplar of his idea of panem et circenses beign enough to keep the people happy or at least occupied.

Distractions will out over truth most of the time, apparently.

Shame on the people who serve it up and shame on those who devour it. There are serious matters to be dealt with. Inflation. Crime. The crisis in American education that the Covid closures laid bare. The war in Ukraine.

Trump’s indictment pales in comparison to any and all, yet that’s what we’re watching.

It’s like O.J. in a Bronco or a jumper on the roof. We can’t turn away, which may be why concerns are high in some quarters that our democratic institutions are fading into oblivion.

The warning signs are there. The formerly disaffected among us, the kinds of people who believed it was their destiny to get a thorough screwing no matter who was in charge have started to assert themselves. On the left as well as the right. The old order is dying and that may not be a purely bad thing.

Disruption does have its cleansing aspects.

Nonetheless, too little consideration is being given to the management of the change that is coming on a scale rarely seen. We must thing about what comes next.

Some are now pushing, just as their ideological forebearers did for much of the 20th century, to replace the nation’s democratic-republican underpinnings with something else. Even before Woodrow Wilson, they’ve been easing federalism and individuality off stage while ushering bureaucracy and central planning in.

That doesn’t work. Centralization isn’t our national bag. We’ve forgotten, it seems, that America is a hybrid. Our culture is a mixture of the best of the rest of the world added to Jeffersonian founding principles, George Washington’s wisdom, and what Ronald Reagan would probably have called “good old-fashioned horse sense.”

We need to get back to those things before the the mob takes over. Go back as far as you like, history has shown that when systems collapse, tyranny can emerge. It happened in France, it happened in Germany, and it could happen here. The threat exists, and as much on the left as on the right.

It’s time for people to get smart and serious about the troubles ahead. Which means listening to the people trying to be heard among the din that follows in Trump’s footsteps wherever he goes.

Peter Roff can be reached at RoffColumns AT Follow him on Twitter and Truth Social @TheRoffDraft.

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