October 22, 2017

NICE TO SEE SUCH A SENSIBLE PIECE ON THE PBS SITE, OF ALL PLACES: Why your alarmism over Trump is dangerous for democracy.

Even when we can’t quite summon the energy, we’re expected to be outraged. Our outrage is then presented as a badge of honor, evidence of virtue at a time of historic challenge to the Republic. But the nature of the outrage – overwrought before even Trump took office – has taken a new turn.

We are confronted daily not simply with outrage, but a kind of end-of-worldism: America is on the brink of dictatorship; Trump is going start World War III; the president’s access to the nuclear codes might actually destroy the universe; if he manages to control his impulses, then his withdrawal from the Paris climate change accords will still destroy the universe, just a bit more slowly. . . .

The argument amounts to something more simple and sinister: that presidents who express ideologies that we find outside the bounds of acceptability can be removed, despite being democratically elected by voters. Posner is also quite explicit that he is talking about political, not mental, incompetence. The entirely subjective criteria, which could easily be applied to any president going forward, include: “[His] values fall outside the mainstream… he lacks the interest or attention span to inform himself about issues; or he lacks management abilities and is unable to govern effectively.” Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen makes a similarly ideological argument for impeachment that bears no relation to anything the constitution says: “If the president can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us.”

Ironically, the arguments made by the likes of Posner and Cohen represent a greater long-term threat to American democracy than anything Trump has done so far.


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