The Shame Trump Brings to The Right and the Shame They Bring to Themselves
I will not name the guilty. Perhaps I should. There are, however, too many. Readers will easily be able to identify the villains of the piece. Those villains are both great and small. They reside in Congress, chancelleries across the world and the media, but also they might live next door to you. The greatest failure in modern democracies is the lack of responsibility voters assume. It is much easier to cast blame.
Without names we can still be clear: Trump is laying waste to our ideas of what a modern democracy is, and he is being defended both by commission and by omission.
His election was a surprise and there are many reasons for it. It is often a mistake of journalism to see in disparate motivation a clear narrative. One thing we can say is that his victory represented a “whitelash” against a black president and female presidential candidate whose agenda was seen as favouring a “privileged” minority over an “ordinary” majority.
Nobody is saying this is the sole reason for his electoral college victory but can we deny that it is a factor?
Upon his election the excuse for the lack of resistance from the right was the refrain to take Trump seriously not literally, as if politics was performance art. When that rationale evaporated, there was silence. What defines the right at the moment is not its coherence but its resentment at a progressive agenda that seeks to promote women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community as equals.
Having won the popular vote once since 1988 they conjured an enemy of virtue signallers and uppity civil rights activists. In victory they now distract, as all threatened powers do, with phantasmic enemies. Like Cato, they shout: “Carthago delenda est.”
The casualty is democracy.
Every one of Trump’s attacks is against a pillar of modern democracy
He has attacked the independent judiciary. Silence. He has complained about checks and balances that hold up his incompetent Cabinet nominations. Silence. He has banned "enemies of the people” such at the New York Times, CNN and the BBC from press conferences. Silence.
As a candidate he wanted to jail Hillary Clinton, as president he accuses his predecessor of wiretapping him. No evidence is provided and the charges are denied but the lack of condemnation from his own side is striking. One speech - however well delivered - does not a presidency make. Château Pétrus could bottle piss, but it would still be piss.
Adlai Stevenson once said, “That which unites us... is far greater than that which divides us.” Every one of Trump’s attacks is against a pillar of modern democracy. It is an attack on the meta-identity that should serve as a bond both within a democratic nation but also across all modern democracies. The silence from his own side has been cacophonous.
I do not mind admitting that I have more in common with George W. Bush than Fidel Castro. Equally, those on the right should have no problem saying they share more values with Barack Obama than, say, Vladimir Putin. Neither statement means resiling from strong opposition. It means we accept that opponents are democrats: we believe in free speech, democratic process, equality before the law.
The rest is just a series of turf wars.
Castro’s death saw many on the right lead the charge against those who praised the dictator as a progressive who improved education and healthcare. They were correct. The left that ignores Castro’s crimes as they ignored Stalin’s crimes is one that places an anti-capitalist ideology above people, but also above a wider ideology: democracy.
They ignore the damage his attacks do to the state’s institutions upon which its democracy rests. Just because he hasn’t burned down the Supreme Court does not mean an attack lacks potency; because these are centuries-old institutions does not mean they are not inherently fragile.
They accuse liberals of sneering but they are the real anti-democrats
The shame becomes worse when one considers the emerging evidence of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian authorities. This is not some new conspiracy theory to excuse electoral defeat but something for which there was circumstantial evidence before his election, and for which there is an increasing body of proof that threatens his presidency - or at least the last shreds of its moral legitimacy.
Where are the Congressional investigations? If Caesar’s wife had to be above suspicion, then surely the same can be said of the supposed leader of the free world.
To call out untruths - such as those that Jeff Sessions stands accused of - is not the duty of prissy liberals, but of every democrat. The voices on the right condemning Trump should not be lone voices but a united chorus. Defenders accuse liberals of sneering but they are the real anti-democrats, the cowards who won’t defend it.
“Is liberty worth giving up even if everybody has good teeth and reads Cervantes?” A dear friend asked of Castro’s regime. A similar question can be asked today: is it worth tearing apart democracy just to stop transgender people wandering into the "wrong" toilet?
There is something repellent about accepting democracy’s benefits then lacking the self-knowledge to defend it. It is a charge that could fairly be laid at the door of ideologues who excuse anti-capitalist but anti-democratic leaders. Now it is one we should put before every one of the president’s appeasers and defenders.
About the author
Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).
A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.
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