I can’t begin to describe how much I would rather discuss something else. But I don’t control the universe, why, I don’t know.
1 Is this Plan K? Oh, probably. Sigh.
With the rapid demise of Plan E, this time around, anyway—that’s the “let’s remove President Trump because he’s mentally disabled” plot, which was quickly reactivated once Plan J (“Let’s force the President to resign like Al Franken because of unverified sexual misconduct accusers that voters knew about when they elected him”), the over-heated reporting of alleged vulgar and arguably racist comments the President may have made in a non-public meeting would suggest that “the resistance” and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) will be fulminating and demanding dire consequences for the foreseeable future.Plan K will be “Vulgarity and undiplomatic statements about immigrants pretty much exactly like how Trump began his Presiential campaign is grounds for impeachment” or something similar. Please send me the link to the first appearance of this argument, will you?
This obviously will never end, and I despair. Democrats will never accept their obligations as citizens and regard the elected leader of the Unites States as legitimate and entitled to do his job until he is either defeated or prevails in the next election. They would prefer to dangerously divide the nation and undermine its institutions, perhaps doing permanent damage.
Yesterday, Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristoff wrote another Trump/hate/fear-mongering piece indistinguishable from dozens—hundreds?— that have been written and published since January of last year. “Trump’s Threat To Democracy,” it was called—ironic, since the only current threat to democracy is not the President, but Kristof and his fellow travelers seeking to overthrow an elected government “by any means possible,” via Plans A-J and whatever’s next. His screed is an appeal to the authority of two Harvard profs, because as we have seen in the sad cases of Larry Lessig and Lawrence Tribe, you can find previously distinguished Harvard professors who will say almost anything to polish their progressive creds in the age of Trump Derangement.
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have a book coming out–no, I won’t plug it—that argues that Trump displays what they call “the four four warning signs” that a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:
1.The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules.
2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents.
3. He or she tolerates violence.
4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.
“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” they say. Of course, as the professors show in their examples and Kristoff proves in his column, what constitutes evidence of those “warning signs” is a subjective judgment that can be manipulated and built on biased political calculations. He writes,
“President Trump followed the electoral authoritarian script during his first year,” Levitsky and Ziblatt conclude. “He made efforts to capture the referees, sideline the key players who might halt him, and tilt the playing field. But the president has talked more than he has acted, and his most notorious threats have not been realized. … Little actual backsliding occurred in 2017.”
That seems right to me: The system worked.
For all my confidence that our institutions will trump Trump, the chipping away at the integrity of our institutions and norms does worry me. Levitsky and Ziblatt warn of the unraveling of democratic norms — norms such as treating the other side as rivals rather than as enemies, condemning violence and bigotry, and so on. This unraveling was underway long before Trump (Newt Gingrich nudged it along in the 1990s), but Trump accelerated it.
It matters when Trump denounces the “deep state Justice Department,” calls Hillary Clinton a “criminal” and urges “jail” for Huma Abedin, denounces journalists as the “enemy of the American people” and promises to pay the legal fees of supporters who “beat the crap” out of protesters. With such bombast, Trump is beating the crap out of American norms.
Nah, claiming that firing an incompetent and untrustworthy FBI director is ‘sidelining key players–“players?”–who might halt him’ is nothing but a fair and objective assessment without any partisan bias at all! And “capture the referees”—you mean like trying to hijack the Electoral College? Did Trump do that? How did President Trump “capture the referees”?
Treating the other side as enemies? This was a trademark of the 8-year-long Obama administration—his critics were racists, you know, and a rogue IRS agent in Cincinnati is why conservative groups were hobbled during the 2012 campaign—as well as Dick Cheney’s tone on behalf of President Bush, and the Clinton stance (via Hillary) during Monica Madness and before. Oddly, Levitsky, Ziblatt and Nick didn’t sound any alarms when the Democratic Presidents were doing using “enemy” rhetoric. No, it’s TRUMP who is violating “norms.”
Trump has condemned violence and bigotry, he just angered the left by not agreeing that the Left’s violence and bigotry wasn’t more benign than the Right’s. There is a deep state Justice Department: when was the last time you saw a Justice Department official refuse to enforce a legal executive order, a la Sally Yates? When was the last time an FBI director leaked classified information to undermine his boss? How often have FBI agents plotted in secret about needing “an insurance policy” to ensure a Republican President wasn’t elected? Maybe this has always gone on in various forms, but it should not, and a President who rightly condemns it is within the power of his office and being consistent with his oath of office to do so.
I’ll give Kristoff a pass on Trump still urging prosecutions for Hillary and Huma, but this, as I explained in this post, is a bad response to a serious problem created by that “deep state” Justice Department under Obama.
But the mainstream media has become the enemy of the American people, because it decided to slant the news rather than report it, making informed citizenship impossible and our democracy dysfunctional. Since the news media won’t tell us what it is trying to do, the President is the only one with a megaphone loud enough to counter their disinformation.
And the President of the United States has never promised to pay the legal fees of supporters who “beat the crap” out of protesters. What a perfect example of how journalists manipulate facts to undermine democratic institutions.
Oh, right: the President’s alleged “shocking” remarks… I’ll get to those (finally) in Part 2.