No president since Richard Nixon has embraced the weaponized rhetoric of “law and order” as avidly as Mr. Trump. “When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country,” he said during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2016. “I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job properly done. In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.”
Time and again, the president denounces “illegals” and “criminals” and the “American carnage” they wreak on law-abiding Americans. He even advised an audience of police officers to rough up suspects they were arresting.
.. Yet this tough-guy stance disappears when the accused are in the president’s inner circle. In defending Rob Porter, the White House senior aide accused of abuse by both of his ex-wives, the president wondered whatever happened to due process while praising a man accused of giving his wife a black eye. (Mr. Porter denies the abuse.)
.. Where was this concern for due process, they asked, when the president and his supporters chanted “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton, who hadn’t even been formally accused of a crime? Where was his devotion to due process when he called for the Central Park Five to be executed, and then, after their exoneration, still maintained that they were guilty?
.. The president’s boundless benefit of the doubt for the Rob Porters and Roy Moores of the world, combined with off-with-their-heads capriciousness for immigrants accused of even minor crimes, is not a contradiction. It is the expression of a consistent worldview that he campaigned on and has pursued in office.
.. In this view, crime is not defined by a specific offense. Crime is defined by who commits it. If a young black man grabs a white woman by the crotch, he’s a thug and deserves to be roughed up by police officers. But if Donald Trump grabs a white woman by the crotch in a nightclub (as he’s accused of doing, and denies), it’s locker-room high jinks.
This view is also expressed by many of the president’s staff members, supporters and prominent allies. During the same week that the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, repeatedly vouched for Rob Porter’s integrity, Mr. Kelly also mused that hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants who did not fill out the paperwork for DACA protections had refused to “get off their asses.”
A political movement that rails against “immigrant crime” while defending alleged abusers and child molesters is one that has stopped pretending to have any universalist aspirations.
The president’s moral framework springs from an American tradition of cultivating fear and contempt among its white citizens against immigrants, indigenous people and people of color, who are placed on the other side of “the law.” It’s a practice that has taken on new strength at a time when many white people fear they may be outnumbered, outvoted and out of time.
This is the opposite of what we like to tell ourselves is the traditional American civic creed: one symbolized by a blindfolded Lady Justice who applies the law without fear or favor to whoever may come before her. It is one of Mr. Trump’s most insidious victories that he has given his supporters permission to drop any pretense of insisting that their actions and views should conform to this principle.
If all that matters when it comes to “law and order” is who is a friend and who is an enemy, and if friends are white and enemies are black or Latino or in the wrong party, then the rhetoric around crime and punishment stops being about justice and is merely about power and corruption.
And this is what “law and order” means: the preservation of a certain social order, not the rule of law.
.. The history of the United States is the story of a struggle between the desire to establish certain universal rights and the countervailing desire to preserve a particular social order.
We are now witnessing a president who wholly embraces the latter. America can have that kind of social order, or it can have justice for all. But it can’t have both.
.. As part of our continuing effort to resist the exhausting and numbing effects of living under a relentlessly abusive and degrading president, we present, for the third time in nine months, an updated guide to what Republicans now consider to be acceptable behavior from the commander in chief. As before, these examples, drawn from incidents or disclosures in the last three-plus months, do not concern policy decisions — only the president’s words and actions.
Imply, without evidence, that a television anchor was involved in a murder.. Call the American justice system a “joke” and a “laughingstock”
Have your lawyer pay $130,000 in hush money to a porn star with whom you had an affair while your wife was at home caring for your new son
.. Continue to call for a criminal investigation of your former political opponent, whom you call the “worst (and biggest) loser of all time” a year after the election.. Tell your rich friends after your tax bill passes, “You all just got a lot richer”.. Defend your mental competency by saying that you are “like, really smart” and a “very stable genius”.. Threaten to take away a TV network’s broadcast license for reporting on your deliberations about the nation’s nuclear arsenal.. Threaten to use federal tax law to punish a professional sports league for letting its players express political opinions
Tell reporters that “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it”
Warn American citizens in Puerto Rico, only weeks after a catastrophic hurricane, that the federal government can’t help them out “forever,” even as you tell victims of a hurricane in Texas, “We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to restore, recover, and REBUILD!”.. Spend one-third of the first year of your taxpayer-funded presidency visiting your own golf courses or properties.. While debating policy with lawmakers on live television, accidentally agree to a deal that is the opposite of what your party wants, get corrected by the House majority leader, and then release an official White House transcript that omits the exchange
.. Claim that a new tax bill you support will “cost me a fortune,” even though it will probably save you millions, but who knows since you refuse to release your tax returns.. Try to stop the publication of a book that says critical things about you and your administration.. Accuse an F.B.I. agent of treason without evidence.. Watch four to eight hours of cable television a day, mostly the channel that feeds you self-serving propaganda.. Choose for federal judgeships nominees who cannot identify or explain basic legal concepts, and who were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.. Falsely claim that you have signed more legislation than any first-year president, when in fact you have signed less than any post-World War II president.. Taunt a foreign leader who claims he has nuclear weapons by saying your “nuclear button” is “a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”.. Criticize a law that your party firmly supports, then, two hours later, reverse yourself.. Pick nominees to the federal bench who call a sitting Supreme Court justice a “judicial prostitute” and refer to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan”.. Campaign hard for a Senate candidate; then when he appears likely to lose, say “I might have made a mistake” and later delete your tweets supporting him .. Behave so erratically and irresponsibly that senators of your own party resort to saying you’re treated like someone at “an adult day-care center” to keep you from starting World War III.. Spend one of every three days as president visiting at least one of your own properties.. Publicly and privately humiliate your own attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation into your campaign.. Say nothing when a foreign leader’s bodyguards brutally attack peaceful protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C... Encourage police officers not to be “too nice” when apprehending criminal suspects.. Help draft a misleading statement about the purpose of a meeting between your son, other top campaign aides and representatives of a rival foreign power intent on interfering in the election
Deliver a speech to the Boy Scouts of America that includes mockery of a former president and winking references to sexual orgies, and then lie by claiming that the head of that organization called and told you it was the best speech ever delivered in Boy Scout history
Hang a framed copy of a fake Time magazine cover celebrating your business acumen in your golf clubs around the world
Mock a female television anchor’s appearance, saying the anchor was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at a holiday gathering at your private resort
Force your cabinet members to take turns extolling your virtues in front of television cameras
Continue to deny that Russia attempted to influence the presidential election, despite the consensus of the American intelligence community — and yet also blame your predecessor for not doing anything to stop that interference
Grant temporary White House press credentials to a website that, among other things, claims that Sept. 11 was an “inside job” and that the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.. Pardon a former sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey the law
Continue to repeat, with admiration, a false story about an American military general committing war crimes
Mock the mayor of a world city for his careful, sober response to a terrorist attack.. Admit to trying to intimidate a key witness in a federal investigation.. Profit off the presidency, accepting millions of dollars from foreign government officials, businesses, politicians and other supporters who pay a premium to patronize your properties and get access to you — while also attempting to hide the visitor lists at some of those properties from the public.. Promise to drain the swamp, then quietly grant ethics waivers to multiple former industry lobbyists who want to work in your administration
Accuse a former president, without evidence, of an impeachable offense.. Allow White House staff members to use their personal email for government business
Claim, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally
Fail to fire high-ranking members of your national security team for weeks, even after knowing they lied to your vice president and exposed themselves to blackmail
Refuse to release tax returns
Hide the White House visitors’ list from the public
Vacation at one of your private residences nearly every weekend
Use an unsecured personal cellphone
Criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products.. Hire relatives for key White House posts, and let them meet with foreign officials and engage in business at the same time
Promote family businesses on federal government websites.. Compare the U.S. intelligence community to Nazis.. Share highly classified information with a hostile foreign power without the source’s permission
The Trump administration hopes “Democrats will react by defending immigration and look ‘soft on gangs,’ ” aware that “if they push the envelope on this issue they can get coverage for their efforts and drown out Democratic efforts to change the topic.”
.. Brodnitz described Trump’s tactics as offering “ideas that sound really outlandish but that they believe have popular support — at least with their core voters” and that the Long Island speech was based on “the hope that Democrats would look more concerned about criminals than about crime and its victims.”
.. it has been difficult for the Democrats to recruit key white voters to consider an economic agenda in the face of concerted efforts by the Trump campaign and his administration to shift the focus to crime.
.. the percentage of Americans who said they had “great respect” for the police had risen from 64 percent in 2015 to 76 percent in 2016.
.. I think, yeah, a lot of people, whites anyway, think that the police are too constrained. When I watch the anarchists tear up Oakland, which happens pretty regularly, a part of me thinks “where are the 1968 Chicago police when we really need them?” These thugs behave the way they do in part because there are no consequences. Also, we see a lot of cases on TV where someone is resisting arrest, the police wrestle him down and hit him a few times, and then there are complaints about excessive force. Heavens’ sakes, if someone doesn’t comply with an order, what are the police supposed to do?
.. “Trump is endorsing the lex talionis — an eye for an eye,” Jonathan Haidt, the author of “The Righteous Mind” and a professor of ethical leadership at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business, wrote in an email. In his own surveys, conducted at YourMorals.org, “only a subset of people on the right endorse such beliefs; it’s basically the authoritarians, not the Burkean or ‘status quo’ conservatives.”
.. One question Haidt’s survey asks respondents is whether they agree or disagree with the idea that “a criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victim suffered.”
Haidt said “progressives strongly reject it, and it correlates fairly well with politics — the farther right you are, the more you endorse it.”
.. It appeals to one of our worst angels, the desire for “rough justice” — quick and brutal revenge inflicted on a suspected wrongdoer. The ultimate evolutionary rationale for revenge, vendettas, blood feuds, mob violence, summary justice, lynching, vigilantes, deadly ethnic riots, the code of the streets, and other forms of rough justice is deterrence: if a person anticipates getting beaten up for exploiting people, he’ll think twice about exploiting them.
Trump, in Pinker’s view, has focused on the most primitive and regressive emotions among voters:
.. Pinker sees this as part of an ongoing struggle.
The appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance.
at times in history the darker forces prevail — the two world wars, the American crime wave from the 1960s to early 1990s, the rise of civil war in the developing world over that same period. These darker forces, moreover, are not just raw instincts, but often rationalized in ideologies.
.. This puts the Democrats in a dangerous position. The more they succeed in pushing Trump up against a wall, politically speaking, the more they risk the possibility that the he will inflict real damage, whether it is hostile engagement abroad or increasingly aggressive attacks on democratic institutions at home.
.. In an excerpt that was published by Politico, Flake describes
the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives — who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union — that it was almost impossible to believe.
.. What Flake recognizes, and what Democrats are only coming to realize, is that Trump represents a systemic assault on the legitimacy of America’s democratic processes, an attack that needs to be countered by far more that a modest collection of economic policies organized under the rubric “a better deal.”
Over just a few days last week, President Trump and his allies stepped up attacks on Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the campaign’s connections to Russia. They tried to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office. They thought out loud about whether the president can pardon himself.
This all points to the same conclusion: Mr. Trump is willing to deal a major blow to the rule of law — and the American Republic — in order to end an independent investigation into his Russia ties.
.. In their first years in office, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Viktor Orban in Hungary claimed that they wanted to fix, rather than cripple, democratic institutions. Even as it became clear that these strongmen sought to consolidate power, most of their opponents told themselves that they were saving their courage for the right moment. By the time the full extent of the danger had become incontrovertible, it was too late to mount an effective resistance.
.. But in other respects the United States is already well on the way to what I have, in my academic work, called “democratic deconsolidation.” Mr. Trump is increasingly emulating the playbook of popularly elected strongmen who have done deep, lasting damage to their countries’ democratic institutions.
.. around 40 percent of voters — and some 80 percent of Republicans — approve of his performance. A number of Republican senators and congressmen have reportedly objected to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Sessions and voted against parts of his legislative agenda, but most have yet to oppose him publicly.
.. If Mr. Trump fires Mr. Mueller, Congress can ask him to continue his investigation under the auspices of the legislative branch.
And if Mr. Trump pardons himself, disregards court rulings or blatantly oversteps the boundaries of his legitimate authority in some other way, Congress should impeach him.
.. There may never be a time when we know for sure that this decision, today, will determine whether the American republic lives or dies.