Among the most serious harms are those to liberty and physical well-being. One can compensate adequately for many injuries, but damages at law are slight compensation for lost liberties and physical injuries.
We’ve a new national environment, in which actions once impermissible are now encouraged, and redress once required is now no longer recognized. If asked to list the three gravest concerns for this small town, these come to mind, in no fixed order:
Harm inflicted intentionally against immigrants peacefully settled in their communities,
Harm inflicted through overzealousness against other residents (often disadvantaged) but peacefully situated in their communities, and
Unacknowledged harm from sexual assaults against residents on campuses or nearby.
There’s an obvious difference between risk (the chance that something might happen) and harm (what results if it does happen). The harms that might befall some in this community have always been clear; the risks of these harms has grown as Trumpism encourages force where it was once properly discouraged, and discourages peaceful resolution where it was once encouraged.
These greater risks did not begin with Trump. In towns across America, including Whitewater, one can see That Which Paved the Way. Those who have ignored or denied past wrongs have left their communities vulnerable to those who would, with satisfaction & delight, commit new and worse injustices, all the while declaring their actions the very height of order and propriety.
The worst risks, of the worst harms, fall on some of our fellow residents more than others. The moral burden of lessening risks, and of redressing harms, falls on all of us.
More than one small town has struggled for years under the debilitating influence of political & economic conflicts of interest, misguided priorities, and dodgy or grandiose claims. These conditions where those that That Which Paved the Way for Trumpism. Those locally who carried on this way made Trumpism more likely, the way a moderate illness might weaken one’s immunity and make a deadly illness more likely.
Trumpism’s national champions contended – falsely – that America in 2016 faced an existential crisis. On the contrary, America’s existential crisis began not with Hillary Clinton’s campaign but with Donald Trump’s minority-vote victory. One might have had conventional, normal politics with Clinton; there was never a possibility of that with Trump.
Trumpism didn’t then face and existential threat – it created an existential threat.
On their own, many of these local problems would have lessened, slowly but inevitably; those who created these problems would have faded, slowly but inevitably. There’s little energy left in the dwindling ranks of those carrying on this way. I was right – then and now – when I once wrote in reply to a prominent social & political figure in town, predicting that ‘not one of those practices will endure to this city’s next generation.’
And yet, Trump’s national success will probably embolden more than one local man or woman to carry on a bit longer than he or she might otherwise have. Their political end will come, nonetheless.
What to do about all this?
First, Trump and his ilk himself will have to go, through whatever lawful means is available.
Second, America will have to assure both full adult access to the ballot, and the integrity of elections against foreign interference (both as foreign propaganda on domestic media and as hacking). One would prefer few laws to many, but even we’ve now many states legislating against easy ballot access. Better a single standard assuring access. We’ll need a policy of automatic voter registration. No one should be required to vote; no one should have to struggle to register to vote.
Third, and the most difficult of all, we’ll have to carry out a long period of a third reconstruction (the first being after the Civil War, the second being during the civil rights era) to assure that we do not again find ourselves in the situation that now plagues us: forces domestic and foreign united to undermine the American constitutional order. That’s a long project, and I’d imagine – or at least hope – that the Rev. Dr. Barber, and so many other men & women, will guide us through that new, necessary reconstruction.
There’s a new podcast from Atty. Preet Bharara, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
On March 11, 2017 President Donald Trump fired US Attorney Preet Bharara. Preet tells the story in detail for the first time. Then, a conversation with former Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta about how to clean up a chaotic White House, trade Russian spies, and stand up for what’s right, even if it means defying a president.
One could write about the recent Twitter statement from Trump that “[a]fter consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” but there’s a broader question than military service. To be sure, I believe that transgendered soldiers should be permitted to serve, that their service would have no meaningful costs (it’s false to say as Trump has said that their service would be burdensome or disruptive), and that there are meritorious legal arguments in favor of transgendered soldiers’ continued service & against Trump’s rash declaration.
(It’s also worth noting that the president cannot unilaterally change military policy via a tweet, no matter how much he might like to do so.)
But it would be evasive, I think, to couch one’s position so narrowly (on matters of military service alone, however important that service is).
I’ve no claim to understanding the particular experiences of the LGBT community, but then one needn’t have such familiarity to see that there are political, ethical, and (indeed) religious arguments firmly supporting equal treatment for LGBT Americans. (On this latter point, there are those, for example, like Fr. James Martin, S.J., who are working to advance a more inclusive view.)
A well-ordered society is one in which all people have equal, fundamental rights at law, and where those fundamental rights are respected and protected.
These are not merely national matters.
It was only four years ago that a politician in this city, when writing about a Wisconsin supreme court race, highlighted (unfavorably, to be sure) the support one candidate had among two small LGBT groups. Nearby, more recently, one can find a trolling reactionary sure to complain about the LGBT community one way or another, all the better to endear himself to those whose only problems are fabricated cultural ones.
One would have hoped that Trump would not have opened yet another battle against another minority group, but then the more one sees of Trump, the worse one expects from him. There’s so very much to despise about Trump — after today, there’s even more.
More important, however, is a firm acknowledgment that many of us in this small community welcome all people, of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or orientation, as our friends and neighbors.
Raquel Rutledge reports that Eric Haertle knew the medical products he sold were infected:
The former co-owner and chief operating officer of a Hartland pharmaceutical company — once among the nation’s largest manufacturers of alcohol wipes — has pleaded guilty to shipping a product he knew was contaminated with dangerous bacterium.
Eric Haertle, who owned Triad Pharmaceuticals and its sister company, H & P Industries, along with his two siblings, made “false representations to FDA,” allowing hundreds of cases of alcohol pads labeled as “sterile” to be sent out when he knew samples from the lot had tested positive for bacillus cereus, a potentially deadly bacterium, according to the plea agreement filed in federal court….
Triad and H & P were named in at least 10 federal and state lawsuits claiming their products sickened and in some cases killed someone, including a case involving a 2-year-old Houston boy.
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in 2011 found the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had been in the company’s manufacturing plants repeatedly during the previous decade, citing the company for numerous health and safety violations.
At one visit, months before the Houston boy, Harry Kothari, died, FDA inspectors warned the company its product sterilization process was insufficient. But the agency took no formal enforcement action. It wasn’t until April of 2011, several months after Kothari’s death from a bacillus cereus infection, that U.S. Marshals raided the company and seized $6 million worth of product, essentially shutting down its operations.
See, also, full coverage of this matter in the Journal Sentinel‘s Shattered Trust series.
There’s an oft-repeated quotation that one should ‘never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.’ (The remark is commonly misattributed to Napoleon; its provenance lies elsewhere, and is more recent.)
In any event, self-professed incompetence is an all-too-easy (and often false) defense among sophisticated wrongdoers.
Eric Haertle wasn’t merely negligent.
Over at the Gazette, there’s an editorial about whether a local school superintendent should have sent a message about immigration to residents without consulting his school board. See, Our Views: Superintendent sends the wrong message.
I’ll set aside the issue of immigration, and address the deeper issue of the Gazette‘s reasoning on obedience to the law. Here’s what the publication contends:
We’re certainly willing to concede problems with current immigration law, but we cannot support breaking laws we don’t like. That’s not how our democracy works.
Under this view, the law – indeed any law passed with a majority in its community – must be obeyed. There’s no room for civil disobedience here, so Parks should have stayed at the back of the bus, and King should not have marched in communities where a majority insisted against marches.
The Gazette may truly believe this, of course: that one must live with majoritarian rule, no matter how unjust, with no measures of civil disobedience. There’s something selfish, however, about men who (presumably) would claim a right of their forefathers to use military means to secure independence from a British majority who would now deny to living residents on this continent the right even to use the peaceful measures of civil disobedience.
It’s worth observing that the editorialist doesn’t confine the paper’s view to immigration only, but to all political and legal matters without qualification (“we cannot support breaking laws we don’t like”). That the paper ties support of the law not to justice but to the rule of the whole population begs the question of how the Gazette would object – if at all – to majority rule by legislation in places that oppress political, ethnic, or religious minorities. Shh, hush, hush: you mustn’t make a fuss, it just won’t do!
My forefathers fought in support of the Revolution centuries ago to establish the American Republic, and my family today recognizes a natural right of civil disobedience within the Republic for people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
I’ve written before that most local publications are useful now not in themselves, but for what they tell about how local insiders think (however poorly) about political or social issues. The Gazette’s editorial is one more example of how shallow that thinking truly is.
Good people don't listen to, acknowledge, nominate or elect people like Senator Jeff Sessions.
— Axl Rose (@axlrose) November 18, 2016
Nancy Brown, mother of 22-year-old John Brown, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee in May 2013 alleging Deputy Wayne Blanchard used excessive force when he shot her son a year earlier at her town of Lyons home, according to court documents.
She had called police because her bipolar son was suicidal and had locked himself in his room with a knife, according to the complaint she filed.
The settlement, signed Jan. 23, brings the case to a close with the county and Blanchard denying any misconduct, according to a copy of the settlement document obtained by The Gazette.
The payment “is being made for the sole purpose of avoiding the substantial expense of further litigation,” the settlement states.
The settlement will be paid by the county’s insurer, Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance, County Administrator Dave Bretl said Monday.
The shooting is among seven fatal shootings by law enforcement in Walworth County since 2010….
Phil Koss, the district attorney at the time of the shooting, said Blanchard’s actions were justified as self-defense.
[Plaintiff’s attorney Antonio] Romanucci said he and Brown were glad the legal matter was resolved.
“We’re very pleased with the conclusion of this matter, and that we were able to avoid trial with a very substantial settlement,” he said.”
See, also Thursday shooting is eighth by Walworth County law enforcement since 2010 (“The incident [on 2.2.17 in which twenty-six year old Kris Kristl was shot to death] was the eighth shooting–seven of them fatal–by law enforcement in Walworth County since 2010 and the third in 13 months”).
Conservative Jennifer Rubin describes, in E Pluribus Unum vs. Trump, both the building coalition against Trump and the powerful nature of that coalition.
She’s right that what seemed unlikely a few weeks ago is real now:
Just a couple of weeks ago, critics of post-inaugural protesters argued the anti-President Trump movement lacked coherence. Too many small, identity-politics issues, the marcher-watching pundits sniffed. Well, as we imagined, Trump has provided the unifying theme and emotional inspiration, one that can galvanize Americans from many walks of life and political persuasions.
That coalition has more than numbers behind it. Rubin sees that those in opposition to Trump, wherever they may stand ideologically, are capable, talented, and accomplished:
Just as Trump forged his coalition with a nationalist, xenophobic message, opponents have now found their common cause — protecting America as a tolerant, dynamic place that derives real benefits from — and in some instances cannot operate without — international talent, markets and travel. Productive, innovative and modern Americans now have a common cause. Regardless of ideological differences on a host of issues, they now see defense of the international liberal (small “l”) ideal as critical to the country’s economic, political and psychological health. They do not want to be dragged back to the 1950s (as if such a thing were possible) or lose talent and capital that will go elsewhere if the United States turns inward.
Where does this leave us? Rubin concludes:
A wide and deep coalition of students, teachers, scientists, high-tech and industrial workers and CEOs, state and local leaders, religious leaders and Americans of all political stripes now has its message and calling: America is great because it is free, welcoming, dynamic, generous, exerts leadership in the world and has institutions (e.g., an independent judiciary, a free press) that promote inclusion and success (however we define it). If anti-Trump Americans aim to reinforce those qualities and the institutions that promote them, then the know-nothing populists and xenophobic characters who occupy the White House will not destroy what makes America great.
See, also, from Javier Corrales, Five Reasons the Opposition Is in Good Shape to Fight Trump (“The Opposition is Not Confused…The Opposition is Not Demoralized…The Opposition is Not Fragmented…The Opposition is Not Alone…The Opposition Won’t Be Blamed.”)
There is a long road ahead, and there will be significant setbacks, but this campaign is politically existential, and there will be no relent.
Conservative David Frum (with whom a libertarian would have many differences) yet asks and answers rightly the question, Should a Patriotic American Work for Donald Trump?
Frum draws a distinction between personal service to Trump and government positions that are removed from the president:
A law-abiding person will want to stay as far as possible from the personal service of President Trump. As demonstrated by the sad example of Press Secretary Sean Spicer spouting glaring lies on his first day on the job, this president will demand that his aides do improper things—and the low standards of integrity in Trump’s entourage create a culture of conformity to those demands.
After considering service at different levels within the government, Frum concludes with two questions for a potential applicant. They’re both important, but it’s the second one of the two that’s truly telling (my emphasis):
So maybe the very first thing to consider, if the invitation comes, is this: How well do you know yourself? How sure are you that you indeed would say no [to injustices]?
And then humbly consider this second troubling question: If the Trump administration were as convinced as you are that you would do the right thing—would they have asked you in the first place?
It’s tragically plain: what Trump expects of others a just man or woman would never do.
Rubin quotes McMullin on Trump’s use of lies:
“Undermining truth is a typical authoritarian tactic. It is incredibly dangerous,” McMullin explains. If truth is up for debate, then leaders “cannot be held accountable.” He continues, “Accountability depends on Americans’ ability to know the truth. Undermining truth is a way to undermine other sources of information. If they’ve done that, they can provide their own narrative.” Welcome to the era of Trump, and the response it is evoking. “We never thought we’d be talking about this in America,” he says with the same incredulity many are expressing about Trump’s attachment to easily disproved lies.
Gaps on many issues between conservatives, liberals, and libertarians (as I am) probably are as Rubin notes ‘unbridgeable,’ but McMullin’s more general critique of Trump is, and will be, welcome. She writes of McMullin’s insight on this point:
While he is conservative, McMullin has confidence that his message will have resonance on both sides of the aisle. “We saw this very interesting thing. Most of our support in the campaign was from constitutional conservatives,” he tells me. “Since the election we have gotten a ton of people joining from the left. They came because we are standing up for the Constitution.” Despite real, unbridgeable differences on policy issues, he says, “We see an existing common ground to defend these [democratic] institutions. It’s organic. We don’t have to compromise anything.”
We’ve likely a long and hard path before us, with more than a few setbacks along the way. A grand coalition will serve well for all of us who share a common commitment in opposition & resistance.
We’re early in this new political era, with a long time ahead of us, and there’s a need to get a sense of one’s bearings. (The sound way to approach the new politics that has overcome America through the three-thousand-year traditional of liberty to be found in many places, the Online Library of Liberty being only one. But that’s the reading and study of a lifetime; there are essays contemporary to us that are both useful and readily distilled.)
These recent essays and posts consider, or a useful to understand, the incipient authoritarianism of America’s next administration. They are a good basis for a beginning, for a distillation of one’s thinking.
Some recent essays for consideration:
- A Discipleship of Resistance.
- Evan McMullin’s Ten Points for Principled Opposition to Authoritarianism.
- Autocracy: Rules for Survival.
- A Yale history professor’s powerful, 20-point guide to defending democracy under a Trump presidency.
- Republicanism without Principle.
- How Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.
- The independent center-right’s Trump survival guide.
- Libertarians and Democrats Need to Fall in Love Again.
- The Key to the Conservative Split on Russia.
- Winter is coming: prospects for the American press under Trump and Prospects for the American press under Trump, part two.
- How Journalists Need to Go Beyond Fact Checking Trump.
- Here are 28 ideas for covering President-elect Donald Trump.
- How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News.
- For years, I’ve been watching anti-elite fury build in Wisconsin. Then came Trump.
- I watched a populist leader rise in my country. That’s why I’m genuinely worried for America.
- The Radical Populism Phenomenon in Politics Offers a Kind of Magical Thinking.
- The Five Lessons of Populist Rule.
- The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections.
- 12.29.16 Dept. of Homeland Security & FBI Report on Russian Hacking.
On the Diane Rehm Show of 12.19.16, former Speaker of the House Gingrich offered that a Trump Administration could simply pardon its own advisors to remove those advisors’ unlawful conflicts of interest:
I think in the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon. I mean, it is a totally open power, and he could simply say look, I want them to be my advisors, I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules, period. And technically under the Constitution he has that level of authority.
An administration like this would be – not merely technically, but in fact – a lawless one (where law was used to negate the demands of the law).
Two days later, Gingrich repeated his assertion that a president could act this way (revealing it as a trial balloon of sorts, “I’m not saying he should. I’m not saying he will’):
The Constitution gives the president of the United States an extraordinarily wide grant of authority to use the power of the pardon. I’m not saying he should. I’m not saying he will. It also allows a president in a national security moment to say to somebody, “Go do X,” even if it’s technically against the law, and, “Here’s your pardon because I am ordering you as commander-in-chief to go do this.”
Under this reading of the Constitution, what couldn’t a commander-in-chief do, in the name of national security? The answer is that there is nothing he could not do, or (affirmatively formulated) that he could do anything and thereafter pardon those responsible.
Note also the change in circumstances on which Gingrich grounds his remarks: on 12.19 he’s talking about conflicts of interest within an administration, but by 12.21 he’s discussing use of state power under a claim of national security. Perhaps Gingrich thinks the change in circumstances limits the scope of how a president might use the pardon power, but it fact his later example actually expands dramatically the power of the chief executive.
The 12.19 example’s use of pardons might involve wrongful but non-violent business conflicts; the 12.21 example’s use of pardons would exonerate the use of violent force (whether used abroad or domestically) of any possible magnitude against supposed national enemies.
Gingrich’s new second formulation is worse than his first: any location, any amount of force, thereafter subject to pardon by the president of the United States.
When I was a child, we would – as students and politicians do today – recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It sticks in my memory, and so it’s easy to type its words without looking them up: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Among those thirty-one words, there’s mention of liberty, but not so much, so vividly, as the first thirty-six words that declared to all the world America’s deepest, founding principles:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Someday, a time that will be a better day, I believe that we will wisely begin our affairs with a declaration over a pledge.
Charles Blow writes of the work ahead for those many citizens who now find themselves compelled to defend their rights:
I fully understand that elevated outrage is hard to maintain. It’s exhausting.
But the alternative is surrender to national nihilism and the welcoming of woe.
The next four years could be epochal years in the history of this country. They could test the limits of presidential power and the public’s passivity.
I happen to believe that history will judge kindly those who continued to shout, from the rooftops, through their own weariness and against the corrosive drift of conformity: This is not normal!
One cannot say that this will be the work only of the next few years, knowing that often a few years stretch into several. There will be some moments of weariness; they will prove nothing as against the vigor that comes from being in the right.
Writing at Commentary, Noah Rothman has a short, but powerfully insightful, post entitled Republicanism without Principle. The essay is, immediately, about Trump and the Republican party, but it applies as nicely to republicanism as a form of government under the pressure of radical populism. (It’s worth noting that Commentary is a conservative publication; one finds some of the strongest critiques of Trump from steadfast, free-market conservatives.)
Rothman observes the absence of ideology in Trump:
The fatal conceit of any populist movement is that it is non-ideological. It is entirely practical, its advocates insist. It has no use for theoreticians and philosophers. After all, what have they ever produced? The urgency of the present crisis demands of us the resolve to use every tool in the toolbox. What crisis, you ask? And what tools? The questions alone betray a suspicious lack of revolutionary consciousness. They mark the incredulous inquisitor as unfit to share the fruits of the new enlightenment….
Rothman rightly sees the danger – to liberty, to safety, to well-being – in such movements:
A nihilistic detachment from ideology is also the abandonment of principle, and that is a dangerous condition in leaders vested with the kind of awesome power that American presidents enjoy. The ideology that informs principle serves as a check on that power. Pragmatism is its own philosophy, one which justifies every manner of behavior with little regard for its morality or long-term consequences….
If principle grounded in an intellectual framework comes to be seen as an impediment to progress, any manner of remedy to that condition is soon justified in the populist mind. And pragmatism necessitates the kind of ugly remedies that principle often proscribes….
Here we now are, in America. There’s more to Rothman’s essay that I’d easily recommend, about the views of the clique surrounding Trump. (They are, to be sure, men who would set aside concern for any particular meal or view for the sake of a place at the table and a window seat.)
Rothman’s success, here, however, is more universal: a concise description of government without ideologically principled limitations.
In August, Timothy Fader, the former wrestling coach at UW-Whitewater, filed a federal lawsuit against former chancellor Richard Telfer and then-Athletic Director Amy Edmonds (she has since been demoted), alleging defamation & constructive termination stemming from a dismissal because Fader reported an alleged sexual assault committed by a recruit directly to Whitewater police rather than a campus supervisor. See, Former Coach Fader Files Federal Lawsuit Against UW-Whitewater Officials.
Although the complaint names Telfer and Edmonds in an individual capacity, both are receiving a defense in this civil matter with state resources (and so at taxpayers’ expense).
Whitewater is a city with a median household income of $30,218, where 36.7% of all residents, 15.2% of all families, and 18.6% of all children live below the poverty level. Telfer’s last publicly-paid salary before retirement was a reported $212,600.
I’ve promised to follow the case, and immediately below is a copy Telfer and Edmonds’s answer and Fader’s complaint.
Carl Higbie, a Trump surrogate, while speaking to Megyn Kelly on Fox News suggested the internment of the Japanese during the Second World War as a precedent for a registry of Muslim immigrants to America. Kelly rightly rejected the precedent, as the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and the Korematsu decision upholding that internment have been considered – at least until recently, it seems – among the worst civil liberties violations of that era.
What was unmentioned only weeks ago is now part of our political discussion; what is part of our political discussion now may yet become policy in the new administration.