Taking down two random and unrelated events from the shelf of history for comparison and contrast, say, the 1941 Empire of Japan attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, and the 1973 Alexander Butterfield revelation that Richard Nixon recorded all phone and personal conversations in the Oval Office, two striking similarities stand out. First, that both were epoch-making inflection points in history. Second, that both were deeply shocking and surprising to the American people. Such are the commonality of the more prominent features of historical inflection points. In fact, one might even go so far as to say that shock and surprise are usually the sine qua non of historical inflection points.
But not always. When I first learned of the likelihood that Donald Trump had attempted to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into manufacturing a scandal against Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, I wasn’t just shocked – on a deeply fundamental level I was in fact sickened – but I wasn’t the least surprised. It is easy for me to imagine Donald Trump doing such a thing. What is more, I would even be more surprised than I am right now if he hadn’t done such a thing before, and that this is just the one we happen to have reasonable suspicion about.
Nor can I imagine anyone else being surprised that, in some order of events this past summer, Donald Trump slow-walked $250 million in military aid to Ukraine and informed its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that he would withhold that aid outright if Zelensky didn’t assist Trump with manufacturing dirt on Biden. This is probably what, in substance, has been alleged to the Inspector General by an anonymous whistleblower. Apparently the White House and the full might of the Department of Justice, under Attorney General William Barr, are attempting to remove federally mandated whistleblower legal protection from this anonymous source and threaten him or her with prosecution. Naturally this represents witness intimidation at its most egregious.
If all of this is true, and there is every reason to suppose that it is, this is the historical inflection point that will transform the political landscape of the United States of America forever. Donald Trump has conspired with a foreign power. He has, under the color of authority, abused his position to attempt to force that foreign power to subvert the 2020 presidential election. This shocking but unsurprising revelation is, I believe, the one that will end his presidency and see him sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.