Sunday, September 29, 2019

Trump's Opponents: Naive and Dangerous

Trump’s Opponents: Naïve and Dangerous
Peter Schultz

            As noted in a previous posting, Trump’s opponents seem often to be oblivious to the implications of some of the arguments they put forward when criticizing Trump.

            For example, they like to refer to “the rule of law” and how Trump is undermining that rule. But it seems they haven’t noticed that the rule of law was undermined long before Trump took office. Where was the rule of law when Reagan was president and funding the Contras in Nicaragua even though the Congress had forbidden that? Where was the rule of law when Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, was facilitating the importation of drugs into the United States by the same Contras Reagan was supporting? Where was the rule of law when Bush Sr. pardoned Caspar Weinberger and several others in order to protect himself from being exposed as a main character in the Iran-Contra debacle? And where was the rule of law when Obama decided to have an American citizen assassinated by drone because he was a Muslim who allegedly posed a threat to the United States by preaching jihad? The rule of law has been hard to find of late.

            But more importantly perhaps, Trump’s opponents seem unaware that the rule of law, even when honored, doesn’t guarantee justice, freedom, or equality.  Anatole France, I think, said that the majesty of the law prohibits both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges. Anyway, some one said it and it is correct. The rule of law invariably benefits the most powerful because the most powerful make the laws. In the United States, for a long time the law protected slavery and then prohibited interracial marriages. The latter law did formally treat both races equally, as did the concept of “separate but equal” which underlay our apartheid regime after the Civil War. Nonetheless, every one knew these were racist laws, through and through. So much for the rule of law as the basis of a decent political and social order. Laws often are racist, sexist, or homophobic, as well as being the foundation of tyrannical regimes.

            Moreover, the rule of law easily becomes law and order and we should all be aware of how this apparently worthwhile concept was used by Nixon and a host of others to suppress dissent, to repress individual liberties, and to crack down on those whose politics were considered unwholesome or un-American. Law and order led, I think had to lead to mass incarceration, as well as to children being kept in cages throughout the nation. There is a lot about the rule of law that is suspect, but Trump’s opponents seem to have forgotten that.  

            Of late, Trump’s opponents are all over him for compromising what they consider to be “national security,” apparently without giving any thought to how arguments justifying government action because of national security have been used repeatedly throughout American history in vindictive, punitive, and oppressive ways. The internment of all persons of Japanese descent, even US citizens of Japanese descent, after the attack on Pearl Harbor was based on the need to protect national security. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI used arguments based on the need to protect national security to erect an impressive bureaucracy devoted to sabotaging, and in some cases killing, those who were allegedly a threat to our national security and the “American way of life,” including black power advocates, the American Indian Movement, and of course the Communist Party. And much of this repression was undertaken by the CIA, NSA, and other agencies of the government as well without showing any respect for the Bill of Rights and the dignity of individual Americans. And yet today Trump’s opponents naively accuse Trump of not respecting these institutions as if these institutions have been blameless and have always acted responsibly with regard to fundamental American values like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right of privacy, due process, or the dignity of persons regardless of their race, religion, or politics.

            The point is this: Many of Trump’s opponents are making arguments with implications that extend far beyond Trump and far beyond arguments that show any discrimination about basic concepts like the rule of law or national security. Of course, those in power, those who are most invested in the status quo, most invested in the Orwellian oligarchy that governs us are quite content with these arguments because they fortify their power. What government official who is devoted to preserving the status quo, whether elected or appointed, doesn’t endorse the rule of law or actions taken on behalf of national security, no matter how suspect those actions may be? I can’t think of one.

            In opposing Trump, it would be beneficial for people to take care that the arguments they make don’t lay the groundwork for repression or oppression once Trump is no longer on the scene. This would mean opposing Trump by focusing on his policies and how those policies serve to undermine the republic by creating an ever-greater disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us, as well how his foreign policies create death and destruction throughout the world. But, of course, to make such arguments against Trump, those making them most not agree with Trump’s policies and their after effects. And this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, because we know that some Democrats not only agree with Trump’s policies in these ways but have recommended them in their own name.

            So be it. But if you are interested in an alternative to Trump’s politics, his vindictive, punitive, and oligarchic politics, take care how you criticize Trump. Take care that you aren’t fortifying the very policies, the kind of politics that Trump represents.

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