I don’t know if you heard about this. But our nation is in horrifying crisis right now. Earlier this week, Donald Trump … and I can hardly believe I’m writing these words about a President-elect … last night, Trump ditched the media pool so he could enjoy a steak dinner.
Wait, what?! Seriously?
Look, I’m a big believer in transparency and they way Trump attacks the media makes me nervous. But .. this is really a non-story. Maybe if the press spent more time checking politicians’ claims and investigating their corruption and less time finding out how they wanted their steak cooked (Trump apparently likes his well-done. You know who else liked his steaks well done?), we’d have more trust of the media and a better government.
Ben Shapiro, who was driven out of Breitbart and been the target of vicious anti-semitism, has a great piece up deflating a bit of the hysteria currently surrounding the Trump campaign.
This week, the media have gone nuts over the appointment of Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon for White House Chief Strategist. I share their disapproval, but the allegations they’ve made about Bannon are unsupported by evidence. It’s not enough to say that Steve is a nasty human being (he is), that he’s interested in burning down Republican leadership for his own political gain (he is), that he wants to hollow out the traditional constitutional conservative movement in favor of a European-style far-right nationalist populism (he does), or that he pandered to the despicable alt-right at Breitbart News and mainstreamed them by doing so (he did). No, they have to claim that he’s Goebbels. They claim that he’s personally anti-Semitic and racist and a white nationalist and anti-Israel, without evidence.
This is ridiculous. And all it does is provoke defense from the right. For God’s sake, I’m now defending Steve Bannon! The media can’t stop their overreach, because everybody on the right is Hitler to the media, which means that Bannon must be Super-Duper-Hitler.
Considering the history here, this is admirable intellectual honesty from Shapiro. I share his dislike of Bannon and his having any role in a Presidential Administration. But do we need to pretend that the promotion of an Alt-Right asshole heralds a Fourth Reich? Is Bannon not bad enough just being what he is?
Even as a NeverTrumper, this all seems to be a bit hysterical. I made this comment yesterday on OTB:
I do think there is a problem with distinguishing between the very real dangers of a Trump Administration and the not-so-real dangers. Right now, we are being fed a broth of random floating fears (many of which could be applied to any Republican) rather than focusing on what specifically is dangerous about Trump.
Example: One of the things I’ve been hearing a lot over the last week is that marriage equality might be in danger. I understand the fear (to the extent that I can, being straight). But there are many things that have to happen in order for that to be in danger. The Courts are not going to want to revisit it any time soon (they revisit abortion, a much more contentious issue, maybe once a decade). The GOP has little interest in it anymore. So, yeah, I get it that people are nervous. But it’s really low on the list of things we should be worrying about right now. We need to focus on things like civil liberties, the budget deficit and the dangers to illegal immigrants, things that could become critical issues immediately.
This week, there have been numerous anti-Trump demonstrations on my campus. But they often seem to be protesting generic Republican stuff (abortion, immigration, spending cuts) rather than stuff that is specifically alarming about Trump (temperament, disregard for the Constitutional process, the Alt-Right).
Look, everyone needs to take a deep breath here. Donald Trump is going to be President for four years. Let’s not exhaust ourselves by obsessing over random names floated as potential cabinet members, steak dinners and hypothetical policies. If Trump does bad things — and I’ve never seen a President who didn’t — we need to fight him then, not burn up our energy now. Any fight for freedom — whether it’s lower government spending or civil liberties or marriage equality or whatever — is a marathon not a sprint.
Being worried is good. But being prepared is better. Look at what the ACLU is doing right now. They’re not suing Trump over vague rumors of policy. They’re husbanding their resources, raising funds, marshalling lawyers. That way, if Trump does something to violate civil liberties, they’ll be able to unleash a full arsenal of legal and political challenges. Look at Rand Paul. He’s open to working with Trump but has also made it clear that he will filibuster cabinet appointees he considers dangerous to liberty.
Look at the Tea Party. For all the criticism lobbed at them, they understood that opposing a President (and a Congress) is a long slog. They didn’t really get organized until specific policies like Obamacare came out. And, ultimately, this was why they were a powerful political force. They saved their energy for when it mattered. And while they didn’t stop Obamacare, they did help keep a public option out and did get the GOP to hold Obama in check.
Donald Trump has been President-elect for a grand total of eight days. Now is not the time to panic. There will be plenty of time for that later.
Look, I welcome anyone who is willing to oppose government power, no matter who is wielding it. I am willing to join hands with anyone of any political stripe who will support freedom. If there is a silver lining to this awful election, it’s that maybe our nation will become more vigilant, more aware of what’s going on, more supportive of checks and balances, more willing to descend on Washington when our government does something inimical to freedom. But mindless blasts of post-election panic are not the way to do that. Ken White, wrote this must-read the day after the election:
Donald Trump will be the President of the United States in January. I support and defend the United States of America. That means that, though I do not support Trump personally or based on policy, he is my President. He is the President delivered by the Constitution I love and want to defend. I wish him well — meaning that I wish for him the health and strength and resolve to meet the challenges he’ll face. I do not wish him success on many of his stated projects, but I hope that he will perform his Constitutional obligations effectively and to the benefit of the country. I will not be saying “not my President” but “for better or worse, my President.” Though I hope he will not succeed in many parts of his stated agenda, I do not wish failure on his Presidency, and I do not think that defeating him in the next election should be his opposition’s top priority. Our top priority should be opposing bad programs and policies he proposes, making the case for the rightness of our positions, and trying to use what consensus we can find to better govern America.
It’s a big, complex country. There are a lot of issues. You won’t be able to stand up for them all, nor should you try. I submit that every American appalled or outraged by President Trump’s election should pick an issue that is important to them, educate themselves thoroughly about it, and come together with fellow Americans to fight for that issue — to defend people in various circumstances who cannot defend themselves. The First Amendment remains my issue, and I will continue to ask for help defending it. More on that to come.
Look, I understand that a lot of people are nervous right now. A lot of Latinos wonder what’s going to happen with immigration policies. A lot of LGBT folk are worried about attacks on their freedom. Trump’s stances on law enforcement issues make a lot of black people nervous (and really should make everyone nervous).
But at some point, nervousness and hysteria have to give way to resolve. At some point, you have to focus your concern on specific issues and at specific times. I opposed Trump. And while I am willing to give him a chance, I suspect that he will propose policies I oppose vigorously. When he does, I will oppose them. Until then, it’s time to watch, wait and prepare.
Update: (More on the Trump hysteria from Slate Star Codex.)