How the Supreme Court set up the authoritarian takeover of America

Thom plus logo Donald Trump's phone call to Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is the latest illustration of his lifelong criminality. Over the last 40 years, career criminals like Trump have increasingly moved out of the business world and the streets and into politics, something for which we can thank the Supreme Court.

There are, among us, a small number of individuals who are career criminals. They have literally spent their entire lives skirting or outright breaking the law, and not only believe the law doesn't apply to them, but actually delight in getting away with their crimes.

Because all of us have, at one time or another in our lives, broken a law or told lies, we tend to assume that these career criminals are just like us but only got caught in that one unlucky moment, like that time you drove home after a second glass of wine, or made up an excuse to tell your boss.

But they're not like you and me. There's something fundamentally different about these people. And the failure to recognize that goes to the core of the crisis within the Republican Party and our overall political system today.

Back when I was in my early 20s, I got a job as a manager of a GNC store in a mall in Okemos, Michigan. There was a test that I had to give to all job applicants to determine their "honesty."

The test asked really weird questions, along the lines of:

"One of your very best employees just came to you to return some money to the till, money that she had borrowed from the till because a few months back she needed it to help pay for an emergency medical procedure for her child. She has saved up to pay the money back, and is now trying to do so. What do you do?"

Or: "Your mother just called and told to you that she's been shoplifting at the local store when her food stamps run out and your younger sister is really hungry. What do you do?"

The test, from a national testing chain, went on with 20 or 30 similar questions. In almost every case, the only correct answer to the multiple choice test was, "call the police and send them to jail."

I protested to my district manager, saying that I would've flunked the test, or would've had to lie to pass it. There's no way I turn in my mother or call the police on somebody with a sick child.

My manager pointed out to me that the only way to pass the honesty test is to lie on it, and it was actually designed that way. They expect people to say that they will call the police even for the tiniest of crimes. I protested that I thought that was crazy, that we were requiring people to lie to pass an honesty test, and that made no sense at all to me.

What he explained was that there's no test in the world that can tell if a person really and truly will or will not call the police on anyone. But the test does tell whether a person understands the difference between right and wrong.

"I know it's hard for you to realize or believe," he said as I recall, "but there are some people who literally don't know what is right and what is wrong. And the people who don't have that basic understanding, or do know but don't think the rules apply to them, are the ones most likely to steal from us or let their friends come shoplifting.

"The test expects people to lie by representing themselves as being honest, because to lie on the test they would first have to know the difference between right and wrong, so they could lie and say that they would always do the right thing."

One of the big challenges the American media and our political system have with Donald Trump and a number of his enablers is that, like the people I were testing to filter out from our potential pool of employees, they are actually career criminals with no deep understanding of, or respect for, right and wrong.

Donald Trump has been scamming, grifting and stealing his entire life, going all the way back to stealing his father's money from his parents and his siblings. He is a career criminal.

Many of the people he's surrounded himself with are, similarly, career criminals even though they appear to have had high profile, high powered positions in government or industry.

Being successful in the world doesn't mean someone isn't a career criminal. Witness the numerous members of Congress who've been busted or at least outed for everything from giving no bid contracts to their own companies (Cheney and Halliburton) to putting bricks of bribe cash into their freezers (Rep. Jefferson). Even Forbes magazine called Trump's commerce secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross, a professional "grifter" for all the scams he has perpetrated in his career.

While fundamentally dishonest people has been a problem for our society and business community for centuries, it has particularly become a problem in our political world since 1976 and 1978, when the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that billionaires or corporations giving massive amounts of money to politicians and political parties is no longer considered bribery or corruption but, instead, is "free speech" protected by the First Amendment.

Never before in all of American history had bribing politicians been considered free-speech, until the Buckley v Valeo and First National Bank v Bellotti Supreme Court decisions. In 2010, conservatives of the court doubled down on these decisions and even expanded their scope with Citizens United.

The result after these SCOTUS decisions was an ocean of corporate and billionaire money flowing into politics, sweeping Ronald Reagan into the White House. In the 40+ years since then, billionaire bribery of politicians has become the norm, and even institutionalized with national and state-based "policy networks," PACs and SuperPACs, and dark money groups like the ones affiliated with Mitch McConnell that just poured over $50 million into the Georgia runoff election.

All this money now sloshing around in our political system has produced the result the dissenting Supreme Court justices worried about. It's become a giant magnet that draws career criminals into politics, and then helps them become fabulously wealthy as they do the bidding of the corporations and wealthy people who fund their elections and careers.

It's normalized the "revolving door" where people go into government positions, particularly in regulatory agencies, and make decisions that benefit giant corporations while drawing a modest government paycheck, only then to leave government and pick up multi-million dollar a year jobs in the industries they were regulating.

Trump is a career criminal, and he has surrounded himself with career criminals. But he and many of his criminal Republican allies could never have gained power if the Supreme Court, back in the 1970s, hadn't struck down the "good government" laws that came out of the Nixon bribery scandals and other laws to keep money out of politics, like the Tillman Act that dates back to 1907.

Because of these Supreme Court decisions equating money with free speech, our political system is now overrun with grifters, con artists and career criminals.

Job one of the new Congress must be finding ways to overturn or get around these corrupt Supreme Court decisions and get big money out of American politics.


First published at


Robertcd's picture
Robertcd 3 years 23 weeks ago

For now untill that bad Supreme Court descision can be overturned, trump and all the crimanal republicans trying to commit treason by conspiring to try to overturn the election through sedition, need to be arrested! The leaders currently in place in Congress need to issuse a severe warning, backed up with action, that they will be arrested if they try what they say they are planning to do on Janurary 6th.

Rob Lukacs's picture
Rob Lukacs 3 years 23 weeks ago

I fear we are so far gone that very little will ever change. Democrats are so divided within that they wont be capable of effecting real drastic change needed. With Biden you will see a return to relative normalcy however nothing significant will happen. Reaganomics will continue, the court will stay as is, republicans and trump will not be punished for sedition and other crimes, gerry mandering will continue, the electoral college will continue, Biden will do some kind of half ass attempt to build on the ACA. This is why I can no longer be a Democrat. I have no party affiliation although I will vote Democrat in the elections. I just cant be a member of this corrupt neutered joke of a party.

rostasi 3 years 23 weeks ago

What I’d like to see is that on Wednesday morning - after the results of the Georgia election are announced the night before, Pelosi starts impeachment proceedings using this latest phone call as the impetus. No, it won’t go anywhere, but a president in the middle of an impeachment inquiry cannot pardon anyone - including himself (if there’s still some uncertainty about whether he can do this). Get a backbone Dems!

deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 23 weeks ago

Absolutely! Strengthening the spine of the Democratic Party is the best way out of this seemingly endless Republican Party quagmire destroying our democracy.

The modern history of American politics demonstrates clearly and painfully that voters have just two real choices. Third parties with no chance of winning only serve to dilute the voting blocks of the two dominant parties, only spoilers at best.

A parliamentary system with multiple parties, which normally must forge coalitions to create their governments, makes for a better democracy. It's closer to the people and more difficult to corrupt (although obviously not impossible to corrupt with all the private-sector millionaires and billionaires working diligently behind the scenes to buy off every public official possible no matter what type of government stands in their way).

Nowadays, unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to improve the outdated drawbacks hardwired in the American constitution, such as the Electoral College, given the wide political divide. Progressive liberals, therefore, must keep supporting and voting for other progressive liberals until they become the dominant caucus in the Democratic Party.

That means the rank and file must either persuade or out-vote their family members, friends, neighbors, and workmates who are not progressive liberals -- and publicly shame as well as prosecute the Proud Boys, Trumpees, et al. rioting in the streets in their comical "military" attire, waving their absurd, oversized flags and burning Black Lives Matter banners.

And of course, the Democratic Party must utterly defeat the worthless, contemptible, godforsaken, anti-democratic Republican Party at every level of government, from mayor to POTUS.

Only then will it be possible -- maybe -- to enact intelligent legislation and implement worthy policies that truly help the common folk as opposed to mainly helping the wealthy class at the expense of everyday working people, which is the rotten-to-the-core system under which we are presently laboring ...and suffering.

Armed revolution is not an option; that only plays into the hands of fascists. Any fundamental change for the better has to be a radical revolution of the mind, which is what has always steered the course of history toward progress -- a complete rejection of the ruthless greed-mongers sucking up all the wealth, the endless warfare of kings and queens, and the blind stupidity of authoritarians like Trump the Liar and his wingnut enablers.

alis volat's picture
alis volat 3 years 23 weeks ago

I too have taken and administered those "personality tests". Some of them were much sneakier; they were centered around risky behavior. I really hated them and questioned just how ethical they were. Worst of all, the people that created them made a killing off selling them while assuring corporate customers they were valid.

Back in the day, I also took courses in loss prevention which included internal and customer-based theft. Some of this made a great deal more sense. It included the percentages of society that were inclined to steal, much of that had to do with opportunity.

Humans most likely have a sliding scale when it comes to conscience. We all know folks who are remarkably able to "compartmentalize", those who can do some very bad things and then just decide that it was a one-of, "not me", or even walk away from their own children. But, what we are dealing with on the radical right are people no longer tethered to reality. This too is just a percentage. We have to continue to expose how crazy they are acting by thinking others believe their shit.

Another remedy is to reduce the opportunity we give the thieves and grifters. That's what laws are for. Every crime can be argued to be a theft including stealing someone's life. We will always have to fight for our laws, their enforcement, and to update them. On a more personal level, I do this: I try to convince young people that politics effects everything they do every day of their lives. Cynicism and non-participation will only hurt them, their family and loved ones.

Old Dave 3 years 23 weeks ago

As long as the oligarchs and billionaires control all three branches of our government, Congress is unlikely to do anything of substance that would make our democracy into one that other countries would want. We need a critical mass of our citizens to unite with strategic nonviolent resistance and use that power to compel our elected officials to promote our general welfare and abolish the factions (the oligarchs and billionaires) that are destroying our nation.

I heartily agree that we need a "radical revolution of the mind" like deepspace has proposed, and we need to start with defining our government's purpose and then teaching our fellow citizens why that purpose is not being met. (Hint, read Thom's Blog above.) Then we need to collaborate with our elected and appointed officials to use best practice-based solutions to promote our general welfare and manage our commons. If money is no longer considered free speech and corporations are no longer treated as citizens, our government will be much less likely to engender corruption, if only because the grifters will find a new mark or two to shake down. Perhaps in Scotland.

Legend 3 years 23 weeks ago

If you have not listened to the Trump tape, you should. When you listen to it you have to realize that he has done this to every close voting state. His Evangelical Lawyer is in the backgound at times and does not advise him that what he is doing is illegal. The Republicans should be demanding impeachment, just to save their soul.

Legend 3 years 23 weeks ago

I think that people that want to buy weapons that are designed to kill humans should have to take the MMPI. It is used at a lot of industrial sites to allow people to work. Because I have been to a lot of different sites I have taken it a lot. Personally I think it is good to know if you are considered crazy, depressed or normal.

vincentperillo's picture
vincentperillo 3 years 23 weeks ago

The comments, if considering them of any intellence at all, from Trumpers here in Prescott is that the people in government are running the country down and those that support the "game as it exists" a democratic government are corrupt and they should be flush out with the swamp. Turning the tables its called.

The logical falsies abound here. Guilt by Association. Switching or turning the tables. Red Baiting, and more.

The most harmfull of them being duped by their criminals in politics buddies is that falicy of " The Life Boat Mantality" where what ever mental healthiness they might have posssesed from their parents is destroyed by the threat that their is only enough room for some in the life boat and some have to be pushed into the deap.

The serious problem, as in place where Nazism started, is that once they drain the swamp they are the snakes in control. Their is no better place to be then in a healthy and growing democracy.

cavanaught1 3 years 23 weeks ago

Watching the Georgia Senatorial election summary. The infux of Democratic voters moving into the state for the better job opportunities gives hope to watering down the Republican stronhold in the sunshine states. As a comparison the stale ecomomy here in Ohio still is occupied by old line Republican ultra conservative voters. The odds are Rev. Warnuck may win the day, but Sen. Perdue will win re-election against Osroff. We must look forward to 2022 and capturing the senate at that time when more opportunities present themselves.

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