Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Donald Trump's Law and Order Campaign

Donald Trump’s supporters often cite their candidate’s respect for “law and order” as a key feature of his appeal.  Trump centered his dark convention speech around the same theme.  And his criticism of Hillary Clinton is based on her administrative malfeasance, which the contract-breaking, bankruptcy-declaring, charity-cheating, fraudulent university-opening Republican tries to spin into a narrative of serial corruption and impunity.

However, unless you have crawled out from beneath a rock within the last five minutes, portraying Trump as the “law and order” candidate takes extraordinary delusion or dishonesty.  
Donald Trump has pledged to commit war crimes in violation of international law by carpet bombing cities, murdering civilians, reinstituting torture, and waging aggressive war (one of the criminal charges levelled at Nazis at Nuremberg).  Rudy Giuliani, a leading Trump surrogate, recently went so far as to claim that “until the war is over, anything is legal,” echoing Trump’s own suggestions that the U.S. should invade Iraq, “take the oil...declare victory and leave.”
Most U.S. administrations have broken international law in one fashion or another, as have virtually all global powers.  But Trump would mark the first time since the 1930s that the leadership of a major world power has openly advocated aggressive war and the casual conquest of other states for their resources.
Lest we think this is Trump’s only point of similarity to the fascists who won power in Europe during the 1930s, we should remember that at the core of Trump’s campaign is an effort to ruthlessly exploit racial and religious differences between people in the United States.
In Trump’s case, this takes the form of upending the Constitution by denying U.S. citizens rights--civil liberties, their equality before the law, the right to serve in certain capacities--on the basis of their ethnicity and faith.  
Like all authoritarians, Trump is troubled by the free press, and has mused openly about how best to abuse other sections of the Constitution that protect the rights of journalists, and citizens more broadly, to write and speak freely.
Trump has on multiple occasions suggested that he will not be bound by the results of an election.  He has made a habit of suggesting that his opponent should be assassinated.  Supporters have outlined a specific pattern of behavior for their candidate to stoke uncertainty in the democratic process to lay the groundwork for post-election sabotage.
His campaign has suggested that Trump and his supporters could engineer either a “constitutional crisis” or a “bloodbath” if he loses the election.
The celebrated “law and order” candidate is not only threatening to tear up the consensus around international laws and norms that has made the world a better place since the 1940s.  He is taking aim at fundamental components of the Constitution, offending any tenable interpretation of the document.
For those who think the Constitution’s primary function should be to shackle us to the cultural and political mentality of the late-eighteenth century, its most fundamental significance is often overlooked.  “Nationalism,” the stuff that binds a nation together, comes in two broad forms.  Ethno-linguistic nationalism defines membership in a state and the rights associated with that membership in terms of race and language.  Expressions of this sort of nationalism exploded in fascist Europe, and have enabled genocides on multiple continents.
Civic nationalism, in contrast, defines membership in a national community by dint of shared values and institutions, specifically repudiating the notion that the most binding forms of solidarity must be race or language.  
Donald Trump’s assault on the Constitution, and his threats to overturn laws and norms that protect people domestically and globally from indiscriminate violence, mark a turn to ethno-linguistic nationalism.
Our country, with its inescapable diversity, can literally not function if we adopt Trump’s version of nationalism.  But Trump is telling people that it is okay to discuss stripping people of their rights based on language, religion, and race.  His entire campaign is premised on unleashing violence: by the predatory capitalism that made him rich absent any discernable talents; by our military against civilians around the world; by the state and his supporters against his political opponents and journalistic critics; and by the perversion of the law against non-white, non-Christian citizens of our country.
Don’t pretend that you can support Trump just to secure conservative justices on the Supreme Court.  That Court will have precious little salience if Trump launches his constitutional crisis or bloodbath.  And in no way is that an excuse for backing a candidate whose signature policies involve stripping people of their rights and unleashing violence around the world.  Trump would presumably look for justices who would be sympathetic to the most horrific components of his agenda.
Don’t pretend that you can support Trump because he “tells it like it is.”  Otherwise, you and your fellow Trump supporters wouldn’t have to spend so much time interpreting your candidate’s words and explaining why the fundamentals of sentence structure and verbiage don’t pertain when he speaks.
Don’t pretend that you can support Trump because he’s “anti-establishment.”  He made his career due to his proximity to the “establishment”, political and economic alike.  And he’s not going to so much “shake things up” as upend the laws and norms that his supporters like to claim “make our country great.”
There’s a saying, “You are what you eat.”  I think you are also who or what you vote for.  And be very clear that if you support Donald Trump, you are more than deplorable.  You are taking part in a campaign that is committing to slaughter innocents abroad and rob countries of their resources in clear violation of laws the U.S. has signed and enforced on others.  You are taking part in a campaign that has committed to single people out for modification or denial of their rights and abilities to participate in civic life based on their religion and race.  You are taking part in a campaign that is already complicit in fostering post-election violence, and has threatened to launch what amounts to a coup if it loses.

Think long and hard about whether these are mindsets, policies, and enterprises with which you want to associate.  Because you can’t vote for Donald Trump and keep these things clear of your conscience.

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