What If The Tr-mp Were On The Other Foot?

Posted June 12, 2017

I was recently asked a question that I have thought about many times since Tr-mp stunned us with his Russian-supplied “victory” last November. The question is essentially this:

What if Tr-mp were a liberal?

I can only speak for myself: I would attack Tr-mp even more fiercely if he were a liberal than I do now, if you can believe that. I’ll explain why in a minute.

I know that if the situation were reversed, there would be some people on the left who would invent some of the same excuses for Tr-mp as, say, Paul Ryan has disingenuously invented: he’s “new” to governing and all that utter nonsense. It’s nonsense because it is not his inexperience with government but his inexperience with ethics and truth and mental health that is the problem with Tr-mp. Most Americans can see that by now, as polls show.

Surely others on the left would invent similarly ridiculous arguments as part of their willingness to defend the indefensible and rationalize the irrational, although I don’t think you would find anywhere near the willingness to defend a liberal Tr-mp as you do a reactionary Tr-mp. There simply isn’t the left-leaning equivalent of the conservative media complex, what uber-journalist Claire Wardle believes is part of a disinformation ecosystem.”

I have been writing about Tr-mp at least since 2010 and there is no ideological switch he could make, no policy proposal he could embrace, no change of heart he could undergo, that would make me defend him in any way. Why? Well, one reason is that nothing about him is real—except his narcissism. He couldn’t be trusted to do what he said he would do, or that he was genuinely committed to any world view, except one he believed would serve his own interests.

But the most important reason a liberal Tr-mp would be indefensible is because of what we have seen happen to conservatism and the Republican Party within which that conservatism lives. Ideological conservatism has been corrupted for a long time now, as I have chronicled over the years. And Tr-mp didn’t start that corruption process. He represents (hopefully) the end of it. Conservatism is now thoroughly and, I believe, irredeemably corrupt. Conservatism is Tr-mpism and Tr-mpism is conservatism. The two are one and the same. And what we used to think of as principled conservatism is unlikely to ever recover from this moment, so long as the things that made Tr-mpism triumph—talk radio, Fox “News,” Drudge, Infowars, etc.—are with us, and so long as so many leaders of the Republican Party are afraid to take them on.

I wouldn’t want that same thing to happen to liberalism or the Democratic Party. I wouldn’t want Tr-mp to be the face of an ideological posture that I think the country needs, and needs desperately, to embrace. I wouldn’t want a liberal form of Tr-mpism, or a Tr-mpian form of liberalism—with all the attending corruption and chaos—to flourish, even if it meant getting a single-payer health system or realizing any other liberal dream. Why? Because the integrity of our political system, the integrity of democracy itself, is more important to maintain than any one or two or ten policy goals. It’s that simple for me.

I am as fond of President Obama as one distant voter should be. But if he, a highly intelligent man with impeccable ethics, were a conservative Republican, I might pay grudging respect to his intelligence and his ethics, but I would abhor his ideology and resulting policies. The policies do matter a great deal to me. But not as much as the underlying system of government and political institutions through which they can be applied. If that system and those institutions were to tolerate the level of disorder and corruption that even a liberal Tr-mp would present, it wouldn’t serve any of us, including liberals, in the long run. A liberal Tr-mp would still mean there is something seriously wrong with our democratic system and the institutions that support it. Even if a liberal Tr-mp championed progressive policy goals that would make Bernie Sanders blush, a sad and disturbing fact would remain: a sick and disordered man, a demagogue without a trace of ethics, had managed to con a Image result for pee in the poollot of people and debauch the system, severely threatening our experimental democracy.

To put it rather crudely, we all swim in the same democratic pool. And whether it is our political friends or our political enemies who pee in that pool, it doesn’t matter. The result is a piss bath.

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10 Comments

  1. Great post, Duane.
    But let’s get real: Anson’s posit borders on inane. Another false equivalency. The nature of liberalism is this sort of thing doesn’t happen. We tend to err in that direction.
    That said, here’s a real life answer: I’ve mentioned before that in in 1972 I was a member of the Committee to Re-elect the President (Richard Nixon, for you youngsters). I worked hard on his campaign. I was a member of the Young Republicans. And then came Watergate.
    Now, if I had been a Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell/Trey Gowdy/Roy Blount, etc. Republican, I would have doubled down and made excuses for Nixon, the scumbag. The thing is, in those days there were thoughtful, honest people in the Republican party.
    I chose to look at the facts, weigh the evidence and renounce my support of Nixon — and apologize to people for having made the initial mistake of being one of his ardent backers.
    My next step was to examine the GOP at large — and discover it did not speak for me any longer — in fact, it flew in the face of what I believed. Like so many, I had not critiqued my position as a conservative. I thought I was supposed to be one. Watergate gave me the opportunity to discover I wasn’t really a conservative or a Republican at all.
    I say this not to tout some sort of moral superiority, but to suggest the current GOP is either criminally mean spirited or a pack of dishonest thugs — or (probably) both. As Socrates aptly put it: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And from Mr. Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

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    • I’m glad you’re no longer a CREEP. 

      Of course you are right about the nature of liberalism and the almost certain fact that, these days, a racist and a bigot could not rise to such heights. But it wasn’t all that long ago that Huey Long, with his Share-Our-Wealth populism, enjoyed much success in Louisiana, and we will never know how well he would have done nationally, since he was assassinated before his plans to run for president could be realized. I suspect he would have been trounced or that he would have found a way out of running.

      My small point here was to consider the fact that it is possible that someone as ridiculously unfit for office as Tr-mp is (in terms of knowledge and mental stability, etc.) could be ridiculously unfit and espouse policies we liberals would be tempted to agree with. I can guarantee you that such a person, absent the racism and bigotry, would have at least a few intellectual supporters and some supporters in Congress. 

      My larger point is that our democratic system (I’m not talking about the particulars like the Electoral College or other flaws that need to be corrected) ought to be our number one priority. We shouldn’t tolerate anything that threatens our democracy, even if the threat is policy-friendly. Again, a liberal Tr-mp would have some apologists, which is a shame. But that he wouldn’t have all that many is a truth you and I can be proud of.

      As for the current state of the Republican Party, I’m afraid I can’t argue with your assessment. I wish I could, but I can’t think of any sound argument to refute it.

      Duane

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      • OK. I get it. If a liberal candidate got elected and required civics competency as a prerequisite for voting; if he/she felt non-voters might have to pay — say a $2500 fine for not voting; if he/she determined that proof of racism or intolerance precluded the right to vote; if that candidate believed a voter’s allegiance to deplorables like the Koch brothers or Fox news was a threat to American democracy and such a voter would be banned from casting a ballot — would I be tempted to support such a politician through all the legal challenges that might follow an attempt to implement those aforementioned ideas?
        I would be tempted. Yes, I would.

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  2. This is a worthy discussion. Few voters, I think, appreciate the distinction between issues and the structure of governing derived from the Constitution. It is significant that the oath of office for military officers is not to their superiors but to that Constitution. The same is true of Civil Service leaders such as cabinet officers, which makes it all the more peculiar when they are gathered together, as just happened, and encouraged to laud and express gratitude to a single man for their jobs. This corruption of principle is downright Orwellian.

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    • That cabinet meeting, which will go down in history as one of the most embarrassing moments in presidential history, was indeed Orwellian.

      I think anyone who worked under the old Civil Service system had to take something akin to a loyalty pledge to the Constitution. I took mine in 1979 and I think it was similar to that taken by elected officials. I don’t know if it is required under the newer FERS system, though. You are right that people should understand and appreciate the distinction between policy issues they might prefer and the system in which those policy issues play out. Without the integrity of the latter, the former mean nothing.

      Duane

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  June 13, 2017

    Duane and The General,

    Thanks for the response, Duane. It is a thoughtful one. If I might try to summarize it seems to me you are saying that “American democracy” is the fundamental issue you will support and defend at all costs and if either party puts someone like Trump in the presidency you would react as you have done against the man, the character of the man if you will, regardless of party affiliation.

    The General however hedged his pledge to a degree in saying if “Frank Underwood” (fictional character in House of Cards) tried to violate basic freedoms to reign in Fox News, he would tend to support “Frank Underwood”. Is that a stretch, General, or do I read you correctly?

    As well, Duane, you seem very confident that “Frank Underwood” would NEVER gain enough influence in the Democratic Party to become President. The only kind of person that could ever win that nomination would be the equivalent of another fictional character, the President in the very popular (I liked it a lot) series, West Wing. I can only point out that the “character” you nominated the past election cycle had huge character defects, admit it or not. I would not trust Hillary any more than I trust Trump. To a degree there is strong equivalency between those two “characters”. Of course that is exactly the reason I did not vote for either one of them.

    The General called my posit “inane”. Well here is another such question. Arguably the two greatest Presidents in American history were Washington and Lincoln. Assume that is correct as far as character goes. Then assume both are running for office today; one (either one) is a liberal that would agree completely with your approach to policies and the other would support my conservative approach. Assume Lincoln was “my guy”.

    My guess is you would write a blog calling Lincoln “The most Corrupt Man in America” or some such title. In other words the “character” of a man is dependent upon his politics. You would also argue that Lincoln has “too much character” to EVER be a Republican today. Neither of us could ever prove or disprove that point, for sure!

    Another example, if I may. You have defended Obama, lock, stock and barrel since he emerged on the political landscape. Of course Obama is not “Trump”, but was he manipulative, did he surround himself with a staff in the WH that were only liberal, yes men and women, was he only willing to tolerate his views and reject, out of hand, counter politics? Did Obama ever “lie”? Did Obama ever try to circumvent the traditional American systems to get his way, politically? Where you as amazed as I was when SCOTUS ruled that ACA complied with the Constitution ONLY by assuming that a “penalty” was in fact a “tax”. Had the use of government force to compel Americans to buy health insurance been correctly labeled as a “new and higher tax” would it have ever been passed as a law in either House of
    Congress? As well, don’t get me started, again, on the utter failure of America’s national command authority during the tragedy called Benghazi or the “red line” in Syria.

    Finally, my take on “democracy”, as opposed to yours. I believe the genius of American government enshrined in our Constitution was the simple fact that a Republic was created, not a pure democracy. The correct decisions to govern are ofttimes never popular. I don’t care how much “good” can be done with a particular tax increase; do you really think any tax increase that forces ALL Americans to pay “more” would ever pass a popular vote?

    Your style of “democracy” relies on class distinctions, rich vs. poor, etc. and you like it because there are far more poor than rich and become confounded when politics fails to reflect that overwhelming “majority”. As well when American “democracy” puts a man like Trump in the WH you become unhinged and claim it is not “democratic”. The Electoral
    College is a clear American constitutional tradition that has survived for 240 years or so yet now it must be repealed because it is undemocratic. Had Hillary won the EC vote but lost the popular vote would you then call for eliminating the EC???

    BREXIT was a policy decision that is about as “democratic” as any country can get. No electoral college, no accusations of manipulation, etc., just a straight up yes or no democratic vote a year ago. Hold the same vote today and we can all be assured that the people of Great Britain would vote NO if another vote was held. How can any country govern based on popular votes on each and every major issue confronting a country? Impossible I say.

    One final note. As your party thrashes around trying to understand why you lost the last presidential election you miss an important point. Americans desperately want “winners”. Like it or not Americans want their country to be “great” (but no one will define what that means other than rich and get its own way). My guess is every person voting for Trump liked Tony Soprano simply because he won every round against opponents. Deplorables all, right?

    As I view the American landscape trying to understand American politics today I see a whole bunch of people, many of whom used to be in your political camp, that voted Tony Soprano into office, legally, whether you like the “law” or not. Winning trumped character in that election even when both major candidates were really “bad characters”, which of course you will never admit about Hillary.

    As for the immediate future, if Trump is ever impeached (and that won’t happen unless Dems gain a majority in the House) the defense will be identical to Bill Clinton’s defense. Yes, Bill Clinton lied under oath to save his own personal ass BUT such did not “rise to the level of impeachment”. But no one that I recall ever said the Democrat majority in the Senate was a bunch of low life scoundrels willing to sacrifice “principle for politics” to keep a Dem in the WH!

    Interesting philosophical exchange I suppose but it does nothing to get a HC law in place that will work, or tax reform, or immigration changes, etc., etc. must less a reform of our domestic legal system that Black Lives Matter will ever agree upon!! And of course that crowd (BLM) will claim such a failure is “undemocratic”.

    Anson

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    • Ha. Anson — my response was “I would be tempted.”
      It was a tongue in cheek answer. I think we’d all like to see the destructors go away, but in reality, the strength of democracy is also its curse. you have to suffer some assholes.
      To thrive, everyone must participate. Voter suppression is a bad thing. Voter apathy is a bad thing. Voter stupidity is a bad thing. Voter manipulation by hostile foreign governments is a bad, treasonous thing. Doubling down on support for a crook, pretending to be president because of the embarrassment of having been so emphatically wrong in how one cast their ballot is also a bad thing — and in a broad sense: treasonous. I think the idea of “my country right or wrong” is nationalism, not democracy.

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    • Anonymous

       /  June 13, 2017

      It is a given that WJC perjured himself regarding a personal matter of adultry, in no way related to Whitewater. A “High Crime & Misdemeanor”? Only to Jeff Sessions. Sessions perjured himself to Congress on his involvement with Russians prior to the election, as a Trump campaign member. Not a high crime or misdemeanor? You do understand this investigation has gone from a counter-intelligence to a criminal investigation since Mueller’s appointment? You pose hypotheticals but offer no position on the matter of Trump’s actions, or his repeated claim that the investigation is a hoax by “sore-loser” Democrats?

      Instead of your repeated digs at Black Lives Matter, why don’t you give your opinion if Trump has obstructed or interfered with a federal investigation? Many in your party refer to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Washington Post, the New York Times, etc…as fake news, do you agree? If the Russia investigation proves collusion amongTrump associates, but no direct link to Trump, should he pardon them? Anyone can pose hypotheticals and avoid stating their opinion, what exactly is your position on the obvious observation that Trump obstructed an investigation? Your opinion would be valued, but more hypotheticals just deflect what should be a simple question. I’m not asking for the legal opinion, I making for your personal opinion.

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    • Anson,

      Not to be picky, but Lincoln would be “my guy.” He was, by today’s standards, more liberal-minded than anything else.

      That being said, you have it wrong, in terms of how I ultimately judge people’s character. Political views may be part of such a judgment, but not necessarily decisive (except in some extreme cases, like anarchists or fascists or, as we face today, some number of Tr-mp cultists). I can tolerate opposing political views and admire (or at least not deprecate) the character of the holder, if the holder is a person of integrity. If a person holds opposing views and is a liar and otherwise a scoundrel then it is not his political views that matter that much or at all; it is his lying and whatever else he does that I find immoral or amoral.

      As far as Obama, I admire(d) him both for his political views (most of which I shared), and his integrity. He was a man of character, despite, like all of us, imperfect sometimes in his behavior. And I did criticize him from time to time (even did so today in another comment). I wasn’t a cultist. I was especially disappointed in Obama’s failure to do all that much for organized labor, for instance.

      Of course this is a Republic. No one disputes that. But we all use “democracy” as a way of describing our system of self-government. We use that concept of self-government to choose our representatives, which is how all complicated modern societies that value “we the people” have to do. But each of us must decide what we want those reps to do. Is it to vote their conscience, after studying the issues? Or is it to do the will of those who sent them there, no matter how uninformed or stupid or dangerous their views are? In the case of tax increases, you are right. No politician these days will tell voters the truth: if we want to create and maintain nice things for our country and its people, we have to be willing, the rich more than everyone else, to pay for them.

      As for Tr-mp’s illegitimate “victory,” I am not “unhinged.” I am sober about it. It was undemocratic. There is no coherent definition of democracy that includes “the winner of the vote loses the race.” That part wasn’t Tr-mp’s fault. But asking the Russians for help was. As I have told you before, that in itself makes him illegimate. Always will be. And Pence will be, too. Sorry.

      Finally, I challenge your comparison of Clinton’s ordeal with this one. It’s not even close. Not the same thing. Bill Clinton lied about an extramarital affair. Tr-mp lies because he can’t help it. He really can’t. That is what the word “pathological” means when we put it in front of the word “liar.” You can find a lot of flaws in the head of Bill Clinton, or Hillary for that matter, but you won’t find the kind of pathology that makes Tr-mp a thin-skinned narcissist who not only can’t tell the truth, but misleads his followers to the point where they can’t tell the truth either.

      Duane

      P.S. You have a weird fascination with BLM. Other than from you, I rarely here that group mentioned anymore. It appears they have moved into a more organized mode, more able to actually get stuff done, as opposed to just protesting (although that is important). What is up with your rather routine focusing on them?

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