Just to be clear: this is not a left/right, Democrat/Republican issue

A few commenters recently have expressed some surprise or dismay that I have been so very negative about the Trump regime. Sorry, folks: I never set out to write a political blog, but Trump is without question the biggest problem facing the world. I can’t ignore it.

Rally And March Held On May Day In Los Angeles

But I do want to make one thing quite clear: my fear and loathing of Trump is not a partisan issue. It’s not because he is a Republican and most Americans I know are Democrats; it’s not because he’s on the right and I lean towards the left. It’s because he is a dangerous, delusional psychopath with no understanding of how government, diplomacy or anything else works; and because is too arrogant to make up for this ignorance by consulting experts.

I’ve said this in a comment already, but I want to get it out there in a post:

Yes, as it happens, I disagree with Trump’s policies. But that is really not the point. I would disagree with Pence’s policies, too, but I would much, much, much rather he be president — because he understands what a president is. Because he’s a grown-up. That’s why the list of Trump-regime disasters I posted contains virtually nothing about his actual policies. At this stage, they are almost beside the point. The issue is the assumption of the role of dictator. In other words: if a Democrat president had been elected and started behaving the way Trump is behaving, I would be just as alarmed as I am now.

It’s clearly in the interests of America (and the world) to impeach a president who, eight days after inauguration, has violated the constitution repeatedly and who apparently has little control over his own actions. The only way that can happen is if Republicans in the American government take action: Democrats alone can’t do it. That means that liberals need to get used to the idea of President Pence — because if Trump is removed, Pence will be the one who steps up. (Anyone hoping that the removal of Trump will result in a Democrat president is simply fantasising.) However distasteful American liberals find that idea, that is what they need to be agitating for right now.

Remove the ignorant psychopath; install a competent person, however much you disagree with his policies.

17 responses to “Just to be clear: this is not a left/right, Democrat/Republican issue

  1. Hey Mike, I almost 100% agree with you on Trump. However, like many people I follow on the internet, I wonder about the effectiveness of what you’re doing.

    It seems to me like you’re preaching to the choir. There’s very few people here that will deny that Trump is terrible. And the only discussions are about how much worse things are than before, or whether we’re making too much about it.

    While interesting, that may be beside the point because you’re not reaching the people that need to hear those things.

    Preaching has always mildly annoyed me, even more so when it is unnecessary. Like many people I’m starting to get Trump fatigue. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about the issues, but that’s quite different than having 30% of my news feeds occupied by arguments against Trump that mostly just bounce around in echo chamber populated by people already in agreement.

    I don’t watch the news because there’s so much stupidity and fear-mongering in it, even though I may miss interesting things. Similarly I have already unsubscribed from people who just kept spamming about Trump. Getting informed and even caring about the issues does not require me to be reminded of Trump each time I want to do some light reading.

    This is not against you, I’m just saying that when a lot of people do as you do, we get a situation where Trump occupies an inordinate amount of brain bandwidth, even while I can do nothing about him, and that doesn’t sit too well with me.

  2. I sort of agree – I’m starting to understand what folks in the “other position” felt like with Obama in their newsfeeds for the last eight years (the same mix of excitable exaggeration and reasonable complaints) but obviously filtered through a different world view.

  3. Mike, I just don’t buy it, and I find this post disingenuous. I hope you know that I hold you in high esteem in all other respects, but I don’t think much of this post, or of the posts about Trump that have preceded it.

    I’d like to say, first, that I am neither surprised nor dismayed that you or anyone else might say something very negative about Donald Trump. I realized a bit earlier than most (though later than some) that he might actually become President, and my reaction to that realization involved enough profanity that I don’t imagine you’d like me to repeat it here.

    But I am very concerned with procedure, though I do not really have an identifiable side in modern politics- my politics are essentially Treebeard’s: ““I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me.”

    I don’t like being put in the position of having to defend Trump (and I’m not really defending him,) but when people lose their damned minds over him I have to quote something very old, because I care about procedure (name that quote…)

    “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

    Over the last eight years we’ve cut down every damned law that might have sheltered us from the Devil.

    You say that the Trump administration has issued executive orders that violate the constitution and so he should be impeached? This is, in fact, a part of our current procedure- the Executive (Legislative too) proposes and the Judicial disposes (there is some argument over what was originally intended, but that’s how it works these days.) If we impeached everyone from those branches who had ever proposed or signed onto something the Supreme Court eventually found against we’d be impeaching almost everyone in government. In other words your recent post is just… idiotic, to be perfectly frank.

    And, the Obama administration lost an unprecedented number of cases before the Supreme Court, more than any other administration in history. Clearly grounds for impeachment, right?

    Beyond that, while I do not like Trump, his adversary promised, as part of her campaign to essentially eradicate the 1st amendment. I think there is a reason it comes first in the Bill of Rights- it is the right from which all others flow.

    Trump is a brute, and his most recent executive order is badly thought out, cruel, capricious, and indiscriminate, which is about what you would expect from Trump. But this does not make him particularly worse than his opponents and your outrage is so selective that I can’t take it very seriously.

    This is especially true since you are so eager to blame Trump that you make a mountain of things he had nothing to do with (hint: Trump had nothing to do with journalists being arrested by the D.C police on inauguration day, and implying that he did is both dishonest and reduces your credibility with people who understand… well, who understand anything at all.)

    The thing is, Mike, a lot of people are completely fed up with the sort of frothing at the mouth you’re engaging in, and that’s a but-for reason Trump is President right now. So, if you want more Trump, keep doing you, I guess.

  4. Beyond that, while I do not like Trump, his adversary promised, as part of her campaign to essentially eradicate the 1st amendment.

    When was that? I’m honestly not sure what you’re talking about there.

    The thing is, Mike, a lot of people are completely fed up with the sort of frothing at the mouth you’re engaging in, and that’s a but-for reason Trump is President right now. So, if you want more Trump, keep doing you, I guess.

    Mike can speak for himself, but, as an American interested in politics, I’d like to respond. I think there’s some truth to the fact that, partisan polarization has reached a disturbing point and that, whoever wins, the other side is going to be looking for reasons to be unhappy with them. You’re not wrong to think that of the political frothing at the mouth that goes on, not all of it is justified. That said, I disagree with the main thrust of your argument.

    I think, first of all, that Trump is deeply unusual and frightening in the degree to which he is dismissive of both the very idea of good government, the idea of reaching out to the opposition, or towards generally respected norms of behavior (political or otherwise).

    I also think that, most likely, the majority of people in the US will be broadly fine during a Trump administration, and won’t suffer much direct impact. But, at the same time, an awful lot of people are going to be directly affected, and part of the reason for demonstrations and protests is to make clear that people have a stake in defending civil society and the welfare stake even if they aren’t suffering personally.

    Finally, it’s always cheap to say, “they started it” but, they started it. As a liberal I’d say that when GWB ran as, “a uniter not a divider” there were an awful lot of Democrats in Congress who would have been willing to work with him, and then he pushed a strongly partisan agenda — which is within his rights, but did a lot to discredit the idea that of Democrats trying to negotiate and compromise with Republicans. Then, when Obama was elected he invested a lot in trying to pursue compromises (both the stimulus act and the ACA were STRONGLY influenced by his desire to appeal to Republican legislators and have the chance to pass bipartisan legislation) and he was met with not only political opposition but with having his citizenship challenged (by Donald Trump). So, given that history, when Trump doesn’t even make a gesture at bipartisanship there are a lot of people on the left (who thought Obama was too nice) who are ready to draw a line in the sand.

    That’s a bit of a secondary argument that is less important than, “we cannot rule out the possibility that Trump is, politically speaking, a maniac” but it’s an important part of the dynamic.

  5. Nicolas, I hear you on this — you make a good point.

    But —

    1. Of course I write these pieces partly for myself — as a way of getting my own thoughts in order, and as a pressure valve to let off steam. You’re welcome to skip over the admittedly numerous Trump posts (but please stick around for the other stuff!)

    2. I think it’s still important to hammer home the This Is Not Normal quality of Trump. I am still seeing plenty of pieces saying “What’s the panic, he’s just a Republican president like any other”. He’s not. Things like this and this really do represent the breakdown of the rule of law, and the assumption of king-like powers. I see a great danger in allowing the normalisation of what Trump is doing. (And yes, for any conservatives out there, I do acknowledge Obama’s role in contributing to the normalisation of Executive Orders.)

    Most importantly —

    3. You say “I wonder about the effectiveness of what you’re doing”, and I get that. But what do you think I could be doing that would be more effective?

  6. Tagore,

    I don’t have a lot to say in repsonse to that except that you are flatly wrong in reading this post as disingeneous. I know what you can’t, which is my own internal state, and I am telling you that my issues with Trump are not partisan — which is why I have said on multiple occasions that I would (relatively speaking) welcome a President Pence.

    I am surprised you would start lecturing me about the rule of law, given that that is precisely what the Trump administration is now breaking down. When your Attorney General, whose job is to tell you what you can and can’t legally do, points out that you can’t legally do a thing, you don’t sack her for bringing bad news. When Federal Judges find that an order is unconstitutional and must not be enforced, you do not instruct marshals to enforce it anyway. Yet these are precisely the things we now see happening. (Whether because a brilliant evil plan, as the linked article suggests, or from sheer ignorance, we can’t tell.)

  7. I don’t know what we can do, that’s part of the frustration. Nothing really effective, I think — besides things that only work when aggregated on a huge scale. It’s even worse because we are not U.S. citizens.

    And sure, I’ll withstand a bit of Trump :)
    About the other stuff, do you plan to write anything on Doctor Who any time soon?

  8. The truth is I have not really felt moved to write about Doctor Who much in the Peter Capaldi era. I can’t put a finger on what it is. It might be that he feels a bit like an actor playing the role of The Doctor, while Matt Smith felt like The Doctor. It might be that Moffatt has reached the natural end of his term (much as Davies has by Doomsday) and has nothing really new left to say. It might be that I am just too worn our by the sheer mundanity of Clara.

    But while I can recite the names of all the Eccleston episodes off the top of my head, and could do the Series 5 episodes given a moment to think, I have no clear mental model of how the Capaldi era has unfolded. Even though I have watched every episode, and thoroughly enjoyed most of them, I can’t even remember offhand whether there have been two series or three. (I just checked: it’s two.)

    So rather than force myself to write pieces where I am actively having to sit and think of things to say, I’ve just been writing about other things: more about books, and non-Doctor Who TV, and of course more recently politics.

    We’ll see if the forthcoming series grabs me more strongly.

  9. @NickS: Please take a close look at the oral arguments in Citizens United. Here’s an interpretation of one small part of those arguments:

    ‘On March 24, 2009, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart told the U.S. Supreme Court that the federal government had the lawful power to ban books if those books happened to mention the name of a candidate for federal office and were published in the run-up to the federal election in which that candidate was competing.

    “It’s a 500-page book, and at the end it says, so vote for X, the government could ban that?” asked an incredulous Chief Justice John Roberts. Yes, the deputy solicitor general conceded, according to the government’s theory of the present case, the government could indeed ban that book.’ (source: http://reason.com/blog/2016/07/25/what-you-wont-hear-about-citizens-united .)

    Let’s note that Citizen’s United was a case specifically about banning speech critical of Hillary Clinton (speech that, I would argue, is incontestably protected speech,) and that one of her campaign promises was to appoint only Supreme Court Justices who would agree that that speech was not protected.

    I mean- I think the whole calling people “just like Hitler” thing is a bit overwrought, but Clinton literally ran on a platform that included, as a central plank, banning certain speech critical of Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t make her “just like Hitler,” but…

    Invading Poland, igniting a world war, gassing millions of people to death, having a funnier mustache, having enough humanity to love a dog and a lumpy girl from Munich, etc, would be required to make Clinton just like Hitler, I suppose. But it makes her more like Hitler than most of the people her partisans accuse of being like Hitler, doesn’t it?

    I’m particularly amused/dismayed (there should be a word for that combination of feelings) by the recent ‘anti-fascist’ protests in California and New York. Apparently being anti-fascist now means wearing a mask and beating people in the streets because they disagree with you. I mean, call me crazy, but that’s what we didn’t like about fascism in the first place, isn’t it?

    This is all of a piece. The left has had it their way for a while, and has acted on that power in really noxious ways. The penduluum swings, though, it always does.

  10. And Mike: soon no one respectable will talk about climate change, just as everyone stopped talking about acid rain and blind rabbits due to ozone depletion a while back.

  11. I’m not very fond of the “I fucking love science” crowd, for instance, because I know what they are, and what they expect from science- confirmation of their biases.

    Here’s the thing Mike: I imagine you know a lot about your little corner of science, and I respect you for that. I also imagine that if I came along and asked you to explain it to me you could. I might not understand you, if I were not that bright, but that would be my fault.

    The onus is on you to show that changes in Co2 concentrations lead to significant differences in, say, surface temperatures (something I know quite a lot about.) But Trump removing references to climate change from the White house web page seems reasonable to me. You might or might not understand why I think that if you queried me on the subject. This is mainly because you are less informed than I am on the subject.

  12. @tagoresmith: It’s obvious that we don’t agree, and probably never will. So there’s limited value to trying to has this out in Mike’s comments. But I do want to point out that your comment about the Citizen’s United case makes a couple of leaps which might be true but are not logically justified.

    1) You take the Solicitor General’s comments as an affirmative position. The use of the word “conceded” in your quote makes it sound like it was a position that he was logically forced to take, but would have preferred not to. Not only that, it was a losing position — they lost the case and that moment was seen as a bad exchange for the government. So it isn’t obvious that people are actively pushing that.

    2) Even if Hillary Clinton, in her heart of hearts, wants to be able to ban books, it doesn’t count as a campaign plank unless it’s something that she actively campaigned you.

    3) You point out that she campaigned on wanting to overturn Citizen’s United, but just because she opposed it that doesn’t mean that she agrees with every argument that’s been made against it. If somebody said, “the Broccoli family should be killed in their sleep” and GHWB said that he didn’t like broccoli, both of them may have an opposition to the same entity, but it doesn’t mean that Bush wants to kill the Broccolis in their sleep.

    All of the things that you believe might be true, but the evidence is not sufficient, logically, to draw that conclusion.

  13. Tagore,

    soon no one respectable will talk about climate change, just as everyone stopped talking about acid rain and blind rabbits due to ozone depletion a while back.

    Sorry if I am being dense, but I am not at all clear on what point is being made here. Are you somehow suggesting the the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change is going to dissolve? I’m going to assume for now that I must have misunderstood you.

  14. I had a look at the court transcript from the Citizens United case, and tagoresmith’s description seems … rather tendentious.

    So, first of all, here’s what it was actually about: There was a US law prohibiting corporations and unions from putting out certain kinds of political advertising within 30/60 days of a primary / general election, unless it was paid for from funds raised and managed in the restricted ways permitted for electioneering. An organization called “Citizens United” made an anti-Clinton movie and wanted to have it on TV, which that law prohibited. They filed a complaint asking to have that law declared unconstitutional on free-speech grounds.

    (So, *tendentious point #1* in tagoresmith’s comments. “Citizens United was a case specifically about banning speech critical of Hillary Clinton” — along with comparisons with, ye gods, Adolf Hitler. No. It was a case about restricting how corporations are allowed to fund political activism in a short time window running up to an election. The only thing it had to do with Hillary Clinton is that the organization that brought the case wanted to run an attack on Hillary Clinton and this law prohibited it; but the same law would equally have prohibited an attack on anyone else, or for that matter a pro-Clinton piece.)

    It’s maybe worth being a little more specific about what this law said. It applied to corporations, not individuals. It didn’t say “they mustn’t do X”, it said “if they do X, the money for doing it has to be handled in particular ways”. It didn’t say “these limits apply to all cases of doing X”, it applied them only for a total of 90 days every four years. It applied only to “cable, satellite, and broadcast communications”. And (I think as a consequence of another Supreme Court decision, rather than of language in this particular law) it applies only to material that is “the functional equivalent of express advocacy”, meaning that it essentially says “vote for X” or “don’t vote for Y”.

    (So, *tendentious point #2* in tagoresmith’s comments. Unless I have misunderstood — always possible, since he hasn’t been very explicit — it is Clinton’s pledge to amend the Constitution to overturn the CU decision and make this law constitutional again that he calls wanting to “essentially eradicate the 1st amendment”. Twaddle: no amendment that did that would have a hope of getting passed, and Clinton’s smart enough to know that. It’s hard to know exactly what she would have proposed, but if e.g. it said “the First Amendment doesn’t apply to corporations”, which is about the broadest thing I can imagine it being, that would have been a long long way from eradicating the First Amendment. In particular, I’m pretty sure it would leave >99% of all First Amendment cases ever brought completely unaltered.)

    OK. So, the case made its way up to the Supreme Court, and that’s where the arguments tagoresmith quoted some fragments of took place. John Roberts proposed a hypothetical situation and raised two separate questions: first, on the government’s theory of the case, would such-and-such be illegal under the law in question? and second, do the government’s arguments for why the law in question isn’t unconstitutional also imply that such-and-such likewise wouldn’t be unconstitutional?

    Since book-banning is guaranteed to get the blood pumping, his hypothetical situation involved publishing a book, and he asked: suppose a book is published within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election; it’s a long book but one bit of it is “the functional equivalent of express advocacy”; it’s an ebook distributed over the internet by satellite (this rather artificial condition is to shoehorn the situation into the area covered by the law, which otherwise would obviously not apply to books); it’s published by a corporation (which, to be fair, most books are). Would that, he asked, (1) allow for the book to be banned according to this law, and (2) make the constitutional right to free speech not apply to it?

    The government’s lawyer said: no, this is not a matter of banning anything, but of restricting how it can be paid for …

    (Ah, *tendentious point #3* in tagoresmith’s comments. He quotes a page that says the deputy solicitor general “conceded […] the government could indeed ban that book”, but in fact he repeatedly refused to accept the word “ban”. Quite right too; this has nothing to do with banning anything. The most the government could do was to say “you have to delay publication of this book for a couple of months”.)

    … but yes, he agreed, the government’s understanding of the law was that if the book was not paid for using campaign funds then its publication could be restricted in that manner. Much discussion ensued — it’s quite interesting reading, if you like that sort of thing — and none of it involves anything like the deputy solicitor general saying “oh yeah, we can totally ban books if we want to”. It’s all about exactly how to weigh the general principle of free speech (which everyone involved clearly thinks very important) against the harm that can be done by corporately-financed electioneering (which everyone involved also clearly accepts is a thing that matters), and it’s a million miles from anyone wanting to annul or eviscerate the First Amendment.

  15. g, many thanks for doing all this background research — much appreciated!

  16. “I’m particularly amused/dismayed (there should be a word for that combination of feelings) by the recent ‘anti-fascist’ protests in California and New York. Apparently being anti-fascist now means wearing a mask and beating people in the streets because they disagree with you”

    This isn’t true either. (Though I suspect most have figured that out already.)

  17. Pingback: Why Trump matters to me: I love America | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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