Opaque unaccountable resistance within the White House removes any semblance of democratic accountability and only confirms Trump's suspicion of a vast conspiracy working against him.
Like a flaming zeppelin airship, a New York Times editorial crashed to the ground Wednesday afternoon in Washington, anonymously announcing that a Republican “resistance” network is at large in the White House, keeping President Donald Trump’s worst impulses in check. The author, a “senior administration official,” only managed to reveal the ignorant incompetence of this “resistance” and the mortal danger his brain-dead greed poses for the republic.
Although they boast of their own ability to restrain Trump, they reveal how much pain they let him inflict on the poor and vulnerable. Like a police dog on a short leash, Trump lets his Republican party sniff out tax cuts and feast on defense spending, while he enacts policies intended to spread fear, hate and confusion across the planet.
Indeed, the piece fails to even make a token mention of the intense suffering caused by Trump’s grotesquely racist immigration policies or the evil scourge of white supremacy he nourishes worldwide simply through his presence in office. Unless you’re rich or well armed, this Republican “resistance” doesn’t care.
The author expresses a sincere concern that Trump is not mentally fit to be president, “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective,” facts obvious to billions around the world. However, the author and his or her confederates decided that all was not lost.
“To be clear, ours is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” the author writes. “Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”
And more! Presumably, “more” means the terrorising of children fleeing violence and the merciless strangulation of Palestinian livelihoods through aid cuts. These subjects warrant no mention by the Republican “resistance,” who are far more concerned with “free minds, free markets and free people.”
Although forgiving or unconcerned with the president’s racist cruelty, that didn’t stop Trump from casually accusing the author of a crime for which the federal government reserves the death penalty.
“TREASON?” Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon, followed by a barrage of attacks on the The New York Times and threats against the author.
“Does the so-called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
To be fair, some observers have called this an 'administrative coup', or an undermining of democratic legitimacy. The irony is that "the resistance" is trying to counter what it sees as "detrimental to the health of the republic" by undertaking an entirely undemocratic route. The blind leading the blind, if you will.
Of course, it’s also not helpful for the cause of investigative journalism to remind the president he can try to coerce the identity of an anonymous source out of a publication, by having a judge threaten them with contempt of court if they refuse.
President Obama’s Justice Department tried to do exactly that to the Times on “national security” grounds. The reporter, James Risen, didn’t yield and Obama’s effort failed, but still this set a troubling precedent, one that could keep confidential sources from coming forward with information about government abuses in the future.
The last thing American journalism needs is for Trump, already pathologically hostile to the press, to start slamming that button for fun.
So the Times itself might have thought this through a bit more, but it’s easy to see how a rebuke by a senior administration official is too juicy to pass up. Ultimately, it’s the author who bears responsibility.
Writing this anonymous editorial was an extraordinarily stupid decision by a person who probably thinks they’re smart. Let me count the ways.
First, for someone who's supposed purpose in government is to control a paranoid lunatic with nuclear weapons, taunting the paranoid lunatic with their role in a secret conspiracy to undermine him only worsens that paranoid lunacy.
Second, the editorial only serves to strengthen the narrative that some shadowy Deep State is seeking to thwart Trump from Making America Great Again.
For Trump’s base, this only intensifies their loyalty to him and suspicious of any information that the president does not himself emit, no matter how unmoored from reality it is. Trump is set to hold a rally in Montana on Thursday night, where he’s certain to slam the editorial along with the forthcoming Bob Woodward book “Fear,” describing a White House gripped by chaos under a mad man who would be king.
Third, the editorial successfully solidifies, even more than the patriotic theatrics of Sen. John McCain’s recent funeral, that “the resistance” is something for professional politicians, those fabled “adults in the room,” not the responsibility of ordinary Americans themselves, through protest and engagement in the political process. Indeed, the editorial sneers at “the popular ‘resistance’ of the left.”
This is the ultimate danger to democracy: creating the illusion that bureaucrats are capable of keeping democracy alive on their own. The editorial itself shows how little interest, such people in the current administration have for the rights of the disenfranchised or the vulnerable. As long as their rich friends can get their tax cut, Trump can keep sending migrant children to camps. Such monstrosities are not their problem.
Trump will succeed in achieving his authoritarian ambitions if Republicans like the author of the editorial are content to look the other way while he abuses asylum seekers and emboldens hate speech under the banner of free speech. Politics will become an alienating hassle in the eyes of most people, who will try to avoid its viciousness and just get on with their lives, hoping for the best.
That’s how democracy in America will die.
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