America verges on an abyss. Compromise essential to governance is scorned as firewalls against tyranny are knocked down. Members of the ruling party, serving an entrenched minority, trample everyone in their way without a trace of honor, decency, or any identifiable standard other than power at any cost. Long-held norms and values are cast aside.
More people are awakening to the threat. We are like the woman in a horror movie when the policeman tells her, “We’ve traced the call… it’s coming from inside the house.” We must do more than scream.
The brazenness of the GOP’s vandalism is at least clarifying. Every branch of government is now aligned with our cut-rate Napoleon. His court packing absolves him of all sins in the eyes of his base, while any hopes for post-confirmation epiphanies of moderation are as likely as the president being struck by a meteorite on the 18th green.
This raging, heedless tribalism stems from what Times columnist Charles Blow calls White Extinction Anxiety, interwoven with misogyny, xenophobia, and religious bigotry. The battle by a shrinking demographic to maintain its historical supremacy is impervious to reason or feeling. Why care about children ripped from their mothers if you consider both less than human? Why hold your team to standards you apply to your opponents? For the sake of fairness? That is precisely what Trump’s mob rejects.
Trump demands that our NATO partners pay up, as if the alliance were a protection racket. That is not how it was set up; but coming from a mobbed-up New York real estate market, that’s all the juvenile delinquent in the executive mansion knows.
Allies who sent their soldiers to fight and die alongside ours do not deserve such high-handed treatment. Real strength requires respecting allies and understanding the role of soft power; but all that matters to Trump is his swagger. As exiled Putin critics continued to be murdered, Trump considered recognizing his pal’s annexation of Crimea, and eight Republican lawmakers spent Independence Day in Moscow brown-nosing Russian officials.
Last week, attorney Alan Dershowitz slammed friends on Martha’s Vineyard who shun him for defending Trump. I suggested that if Dershowitz is concerned about civility, he should take a long look at the man he is defending. A friend scolded me, “If we are not defending the constitution, we are no better than Trump. If attorneys are allowed to refuse to represent those they find despicable, none of us are safe.”
This high-minded pose is like Robespierre defending the guillotine. All of our necks are under the blade. Dershowitz effectively argues that Trump is above the law and cannot obstruct justice. A president has many powers, but not the right to use them for criminal purposes. Rather than acknowledge this, Dershowitz pretends he is Joseph Welch staring down Sen. Joe McCarthy.
Treating a bully as a victim, and attacking those who call him to account, turns truth on its head.
Some protests against Trump officials do reveal more passion than planning. We are a diverse movement. But protest is constitutionally protected just like due process rights, which Trump would abolish as cavalierly as he breaks promises made to immigrant soldiers. Autocratic behavior is not protected. If Dershowitz loves the Constitution so much, he should condemn the attacks on Robert Mueller. Instead he joins in.
Speaking of bullies, Rep. Jim Jordan, co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, reacted like a coward to the Ohio State wrestling scandal. Credible claims that his late former colleague Dr. Richard Strauss committed sexual abuse are not erased by inventing a “deep state” conspiracy. The wrestlers who came forward expressed fondness for Jordan and dismay at his claimed ignorance. Instead of threatening to impeach Rod Rosenstein, Jordan should check a mirror.
Trumpists wear down the opposition with endless lies, conspiracy theories, and deflections. In the face of this onslaught, it is colossal folly to let Trump win the low-expectations game while chastising Maxine Waters for being harsh or Patricia Okoumou for inconveniencing tourists by climbing to Lady Liberty’s feet.
Enough with one-way calls for civility. As Frederick Douglass said in 1852, “We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.