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What Would Tuesday Have Looked Like if the Bombs Detonated?

What if all those bombs actually went off? In the midst of the fear and outrage sewn in the wake of poorly made pipe bombs showing up at political targets across the country, few people took a cold, still moment to consider where the United States would be right now if every single one of those explosive devices detonated upon delivery.

A little more than one week ago, federal authorities arrested 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc and charged him with mailing 13 pipe bombs to prominent Democrat and progressive officials and commentators. Investigations indicate he may have sent 15 or more such devices, and additional charges could be imminent.

The list of intended recipients includes the absolute pinnacle of the Democratic Party and those supporting it: Former President Barack Obama; former Vice President Joseph Biden; former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former Attorney General Eric Holder; Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Congressman Corey Booker; Senator Kamala Harris; former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; billionaire George Soros; Academy Award-winning actor Robert DeNiro; and Congressman and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The menagerie of targets all shared a single, prominent trait. They aggressively and vociferously opposed President Donald Trump in multiple public forums. They are the heads of the loyal, if very critical opposition. Since Sayoc was dedicated to supporting Trump via obsession and psychosis—going so far as to cover his van in a collage of Trump paraphernalia and to follow the President to multiple rallies—anyone who opposed the current administration was an offense to his unbalanced worldview.

Fortunately for all of the targets and those around them, Sayoc’s rage and insanity was outmatched by his incompetence. While his frequent misspellings and sloppy residual fingerprints led the FBI to his door, the bombs he allegedly sent were so poorly constructed and disguised that each were detected before arriving in their targets’ hands—and not a single one of them detonated.

With the midterm elections tomorrow and the horrifying synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh ravaging headlines mere days after the would-be bombings, Sayoc and his violent Trump madness retreated from the headlines to the bottom fold—leaving questions unanswered and a nightmarish possibility unconsidered. What if Sayoc wasn’t as big a fool as he was a lunatic? What happens to the country and the world if his bombs did the damage he allegedly intended?

The first and most fantastical scenario has the explosive devices getting to the very people Sayoc reportedly sought to kill. Only the fevered imagination of the mad bomber could envision such “success” as every one of his targets lives behind layers of security. First of all, the shipping services now examine suspicious packages as part of daily procedure. Since the days of the Unabomber, it’s been next to impossible to mail an explosive.

Even if the pipes slipped through the cracks of the USPS, former denizens of the White House like the Obamas and Clintons receive Secret Service details for life. Members of Congress work behind armed officers and X-ray machines in the Capitol Building and Congressional office facilities. Soros can afford the best protection money can buy. In short, only an idiot might believe Obama, Clinton and company open their own mail.

What if Sayoc wasn’t as big a fool as he was a lunatic? What happens to the country and the world if his bombs did the damage he allegedly intended?

In the red mist of Sayoc’s hateful delusions, he supposedly envisioned ripping out the heart of the Democratic Party, eradicating the top minds behind progressive policies and executing anyone who frequently attacks the president in the media. Once his prime targets fell, who would be left to step forward as the leaders of the DNC? Bernie Sanders? Chuck Schumer? Nancy Pelosi? It wouldn’t matter to Sayoc as he could send explosives their way eventually. No doubt believing he’d never be caught, Sayoc allegedly planned an ongoing series of terrorist attacks to kill more than 100 of Trump’s opponents. No Democrat, no progressive and no media critic of the White House would be spared.

Incidentally, these crimes presented us with the single most incompetent bomb maker imaginable. More than 13 devices went into the mail. None got anywhere near an intended target, and not a one detonated. Still, consider the aftermath of 13 actual explosions from Washington, D.C. to New York, Florida to California.

The average pipe bomb involved in the Sayoc-charged attacks were six inches of PVC pipe filled with explosive powder and shards of broken glass. Anyone in direct contact with one of these mail bombs when it went off would have died instantly or suffered critical, permanent injuries. The glass packed inside the tube would’ve also injured anyone within several yards of the blast. The tubes included a timer, but lacked any sort of trigger if the packages were opened.

Still, lest anyone think the bombs were little more than cruel jokes or intimidating tricks, authorities preemptively detonated the devices. These things were intended to blow up, but were too amateurish to function.

Take that amateur element out of the picture. The bombs arrive and explode. In some cases, security personnel and staffers die. People making the deliveries don’t survive in other locations. Even civilian passersby feel the wrath. America ends up with numbers of dead and wounded that easily surpass the amount of individual pipe bombs sent. Most of the victims work in some way to support the Democrats or the progressive agenda.

The initial response is worldwide shock. The attack rates as the most significant terrorist attack on American institutions since 9/11. It’s not close in terms of lives lost and physical damage done, but the coast-to-coast political scope of the assault makes it the most aggressive plot aimed at former and current U.S. officials.

America’s enemies celebrate the bloodshed and revel in its “no fault but yours” aura. Allies don’t know what to say beyond the predictable “thoughts and prayers” platitudes. On the one hand, the U.S. is under attack. On the other, it’s attacking itself. On top of all that, it’s Trump’s America that’s bleeding, and there’s isn’t another national leader on Earth who likes him, wishes him well or wishes his administration peace. The 24-hour news cycle feasts on the remains of this attack for days as bios of the victims and their families blend with updates on the criminal investigation. The major networks air every memorial service for each victim—intensifying the nation’s grief and rage exponentially from day to day, while padding Emmy nomination reels.

While most of the country takes a moment to mourn the dead—trying out a sort of “moment of silence” between 300 million people—the most politically obsessed citizens use the tragedies immediately to further their agendas. Commentators on the left insist the attacks are the final, bloody example of the tide of anger that brought Donald Trump and a Republican majority to power. Conservative pundits dismiss the bombings as the act of a lone nut in an era of snowflake narcissism brought on permissive liberals.

Deep down, even the most dedicated politico realizes something went deeply wrong in an American culture that can’t forge political change without violence.

Debates shift everywhere to fuel the endless cycle of blame. The bomber’s intended pattern is clear: Kill Democrats and anyone who dares to criticize Donald Trump. Republicans blame Dems for their endless assaults on the policies and words of the sitting president, insisting that it stoked the vengeful ire of this passionately loyal, but explosively unbalanced defender. They also take time to hang one on Hollywood, pointing out that the progressive Shambala with all of its protests against guns and violence makes most of its money glorifying both concepts.

The DNC’s accusatory attacks are fueled by the president’s consistent inability to express anything resembling grief in an eloquent or sympathetic manner. Democrats blame Trump (as they did in the real-world version of all this) for fostering the sentiment that his opponents are enemies of the people—therefore making the murdering of Democrats somehow patriotic. Strangely, it’s difficult to argue that any of these shaming points of view is entirely false.

“Make America Great Again” goes from one party’s rallying cry to a permanent reminder of slaughter. Once Sayoc is brought to justice and images of him in his be-slogan’d red cap flood the news, the MAGAbomber puts to rest Trump’s most effective catchphrase. Each time it’s uttered, it does more than just remind the president’s opposition of how simpleminded his purest supporters are. It conjures up the faces of bombing victims. In keeping with American political tradition, rather than serving as a sharp wave of cold water to cool everyone’s heads into seeking more reasoned, compassionate discourse, the violence empowers only the rabid animals on the farthest fringes of each political extreme. Trump support hardens for the reddest of the red, while the bluest of the blues fail to let the bodies cool before each becomes a martyr for impeachment.

The Never-Trumpers and the ever-shrinking tribe of moderate Republicans finally stop hedging their electoral bets and publicly abandon the president. While the stereotype of any Trump voter always and unfairly amounted to some poorly educated, racist, old-fashioned rube, the tide of accelerated political violence finally leaves the commander-in-chief with only his most easily led attack dogs. The Obama voters who hit the switch for Trump in 2016 leave him to starve.

The most extremist progressive troops finally find themselves emboldened to follow through on the threats they’ve made since Trump took power. Militant civilian groups such as Antifa who somehow held off from fulfilling their promises of attacking their most hated public targets and American institutions finally let their bile flow. Citing the Sayoc murders as full justification, they lash out at conservative pundits and GOP staffers in a brief series of attacks. People die. Buildings burn. The United States sinks into a flood of public violence not seen since 1968. The FBI eventually rounds up the leftist forces and sits them down next to the MAGAbomber. But, the victims on both sides remain very, very dead.

While the bomber no doubt thought cutting the head off the Democratic Party and the collection of Trump’s most prominent foes would leave the Republicans running against a lost and confused enemy in the 2018 midterms, the extent of the tragedies fuels a massive shift in the electorate sea. The donkeys take back not only the House of Representatives they expected to seize before the bombings, but also the Senate—by healthy, filibuster-proof margins.

With not enough rabid followers to carry the day, too few moderates to watch his back and too many enemies standing on the opposite shore from bridges Trump willingly burned, the president faces a death march to impeachment. Seeking some effective stew of treason or high crimes and misdemeanors, Congress relies on the sketchy details of the final Mueller report to build a cracking brick wall of accusations. On its own, no brick would be enough to break a White House window. But mortared with national fatigue, the wall is strong enough to cut off any plans of the current administration.

Realizing his fate is sealed, and sporting an ego surpassing even that of his White House predecessor, Donald Trump resigns—taking a page from Richard Nixon in dodging public humiliation. He leaves office as the first sitting American leader pried from office simply because almost no one could stand him anymore.

Mike Pence becomes the 46th President of the United States. Compared to Trump and his blend of fiery rhetoric and media mastery, Pence comes off like a hyper-religious turnip. Under the assault of his unrelentingly grim dullness, the nation’s disgust dies down into acidic boredom. Pence pardons Trump against the vague accusations that ousted him. The new C-in-C rides out two more years of gridlock before losing the White House in 2020 to one of the people the MAGAbomber originally targeted. Take your pick. Republicans take back the House from the ineffective and intra-party bickering Democrats, maintaining the status quo of checked and balanced governmental ineffectiveness.

In the end, the total victim count of 13 bombs includes everyone caught in the blasts and what’s left of the national soul. Deep down, even the most dedicated politico realizes something went deeply wrong in an American culture that can’t forge political change without violence.

It’s a question of philosophy and character whether you prefer this violent fantasy timeline, or the less bloody, but equally bitter real world scenario we live in today. Regardless, we should all just take a breath and give thanks that Cesar Sayoc or anyone like him cannot get away with hurting anyone. Shared sentiments like that might motivate the first steps out of the kind of endless partisan acrimony that eventually puts bombs in our mail. 


John Scott Lewinski
John Scott Lewinski
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