Monday, February 20, 2017

Opposing Trump the Right Way

Though I have said some sympathetic things about the man, I am not a Trump supporter.

During the election the only argument I would have considered for voting for him would have been the idea that he was the lesser of two evils. Had I voted, it would have been for a third party since I was a resident of New York and there was no contest for the electoral votes.

The only issue where I think Trump is mostly right is immigration. Nations need secure borders, and relying on an underclass of millions of illegal migrants for cheap labor is socially and economically unsustainable.

However on most other issues I oppose Trump. His economic policies, a grab bag of protectionist Keynesian palliatives, seem unlikely to restore America's middle class. His criticism of the media, while justified, has been done in a divisive, hyperbolic, and irresponsible way (Biased as they may be, the media are not the 'enemy of the American people'). His disbelief in climate change could prove disastrous to the environment in the long term. His opposition to net neutrality could threaten the very idea of a fair and open internet. His desire to 'destroy' ISIS along with his unquestioning support of Israel and Putin suggest he will get the United States into even more mischief in the Middle East. His support for the use of torture I find despicable.

So it goes without saying that I want Trump to have effective opposition. I want all of his bad ideas to be discredited and discarded. However it has to be done the right way. The Left and the democrats spent 18 months trying to disqualify Trump by branding him a racist, misogynist, xenophobe. This is a common tactic. Instead of debating, end the conversation with an accusation. However they underestimated both Trump's shamelessness and just how unlikeable Hillary Clinton was. So Trump was not disqualified; he was elected president and inaugurated. So now they have no choice but to fight his ideas and policies. Yet some still wish to avoid this debate and are seeking other ways to beat Trump.

The 'Deep State' is not the right way.

To those unfamiliar with the term, the Deep State refers to the ever rent-seeking Washington bureaucratic establishment. It includes all of the big government agencies including the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, and myriad others. The downfall of Michael Flynn was a demonstration of the Deep State's power. By selectively disclosing bits of phone conversations from high level officials, intelligence and law enforcement agencies can politically assassinate people at will. This is a common tactic in police states.

We should make a distinction here between these sorts of leaks and whistle blowing. The latter refers to the revelation of illegal or at least unconscionable behavior. It would apply to someone like Edward Snowden or Deep Throat. The revelation about Flynn's conversations with a Russian official do not really count. Flynn did nothing illegal (though you could make a weak argument for a Logan Act violation). In any event, he is not under investigation and has not been charged with anything.

So we're not talking about whistle blowing or forcing our representatives to follow the law. What we are actually talking about is empowering unelected bureaucrats to undermine the democratically elected president and his administration. The argument from people like Evan Mcmullin is that they are actually protecting democracy by working against it. And even better from the perspective of the mainstream media: McMullin is a conservative. So now the Deep State's behavior can be wrapped in a flag of patriotism and bipartisanship.

This is a bad road to go down and the Left needs to realize it. We do not want to set this precedent. Once we explicitly empower anonymous unaccountable government operatives to overrule the people's elected representatives, the logical result is tyranny. It is very dangerous to think that this is something that can only happen one time because Trump is so unique. Trump is just the beta test. He was elected because the people wanted change. There are a lot of people in government that do not want change. Do progressives honestly think that this could not happen to a leftist democrat president? What if Bernie Sanders is elected in 2020? Remember, it is conservatives that are supposedly attacking Trump. What if some republican intelligence operatives decided to sabotage Bernie's administration in 2020? You know, because patriotism and the constitution and all that.

We must not let this become the new normal. Through a mess of leaked memos, manufactured scandals, special prosecutors, congressional hearings, senate committees, federal investigations, damaging headlines, and forced resignations - the Deep State has the power to cripple any administration at any time. It is death by a thousand paper cuts. The only thing that stops them is a longstanding gentleman's agreement across generations and presidential administrations. That and the basic understanding that once the intelligence sector and bureaucrats take power, there is no nice way to put that toothpaste back in the tube. If we look at history we see that a common solution is a military coup with a strongman ruthless enough to keep the rank and file in line.

So lets keep opposing Trump - online, in debates with friends, in classrooms, at protests, on television, in state legislatures, in appeals courts, in the halls of congress, and most importantly, in the battlefield of ideas. But let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater and blow up the concept of representative government just because a powerful minority are still bitter about an election loss. If we do not oppose Trump the right way we will be left with a permanently dysfunctional banana republic of a country. Even on his worst days Trump is far better than that.