Do Trump’s liberal critics seem increasingly unhinged?
Last week’s anniversary of Trump’s election sparked widespread teeth-gnashing by the nation’s pundits. Trump is supposedly the gravest threat to American democracy since the secession of the Confederacy. His presidency, probably, continues to be a boon for antidepressant sales across the land.
New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, in a column last week headlined “Anniversary of the Apocalypse,” lamented the “terror-struck and vertiginous days” after Trump’s win and the ongoing “metaphysical whiplash” and “hideous interregnum,” which leaves her “poleaxed by grief at the destruction of our civic inheritance.” Professor Henry Giroux of McMaster University frothed that Trump’s “ascendancy in American politics has made visible a culture of cruelty, a contempt for civic literacy, a corrupt mode of governance and a disdain for informed judgment that has been decades in the making.”
It is understandable that folks would be riled by Trump’s bluster about revoking the broadcast licenses of his critics or calling for the firing of protesting football players. His administration’s rhetoric on trade and the drug war threaten to revive moronic policies that should have been banished forever by perennial failures. But while Trump poses plenty of constitutional perils, many of his opponents are even more authoritarian.
Anti-Trump fervor is making liberals far more illiberal. Commentators in the Washington Post and New York Times have called for selective censorship of ideas and doctrines they abhor. A recent Washington Post article touted 38 fixes for democracy including mandating three years of compulsory labor for young people in the military of AmeriCorps-like programs, outlawing private education, punitively punishing gun owners, and vastly increasing redistribution to end racial inequities.
Thanks to Trump’s firing of James Comey, Democrats are exalting the FBI as if J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO never existed. Political mob violence by Antifa against conservatives was vindicated in the Washington Post and cheered by prominent Democrats as the moral equivalent of the American soldiers who stormed Normandy beaches in 1944.
Some liberals believe the federal government should become domineering to vanquish the fascist tendencies of Trump supporters. But this is imprudent unless liberals irrevocably control all three branches of the federal government.
Unfortunately, Trump’s biggest follies (thus far) have evoked the loudest cheers from his Washington critics. Trump’s finest hour, according to much of the media, was sending 59 cruise missiles to blast the Syrian government based on mere allegations that it had carried out a chemical weapons attack. Pulling the rug from under the Iran deal (one of Obama’s solid achievements) was cheered by much of the foreign policy elite as if destabilizing the Middle East was akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea spurred no effective resistance on Capitol Hill. But blundering into another war would do more harm to American democracy than 10,000 raving Oval Office tweets.
Many Democrats sound ready to rush to impeachment regardless of what Trump has actually done. They seem inspired by the Soviet secret police chief who declared: “Show me the man and I will show you the crime.” Desperate assertions that $3000 in Russian-linked Facebook ads swung the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are indicative of the pathetic logic of many Trump critics.
Many Trump opponents are the same type of zealots who, in the late 1700s, proudly labeled themselves “Friends of Government.” In their eyes, Trump’s greatest sin is tarnishing the majesty of the presidency and the federal government. Trump is exposing the sham of a Leviathan Democracy which pretends that presidents will be philosopher kings — instead of merely talented vote catchers. However, Trump cannot be blamed for destroying Americans’ trust in Washington. This was already achieved by presidents such as George W. Bush and Obama who the media occasionally exalted to the skies.
Trump’s critics are correct that the president has too much arbitrary power. But many people happy to believe the worst about Trump will heave all their skepticism overboard when the next political savior is anointed. Such naivete is being encouraged at the highest levels of Democratic Party. Recall that Hillary Clinton’s recent book declared that the lesson of George Orwell’s 1984 is that people should trust their leaders and the media.
Hysteria remains the 2017 political badge of honor. Last Wednesday, thousands of people gathered across the nation to shout at the sky to protest the anniversary of Trump’s victory. But righteous rage is no substitute for focusing on the real perils that Trump and any other president poses to our rights. The Friends of Freedom need to keep their intellectual ammo dry.
James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).