Forget the Norms

Of course I’m disappointed with the SCOTUS ruling upholding Trump Muslim travel ban. But I can’t help but remember that President Obama, having nominated a moderate to the Supreme Court, did nothing to fight the Congress that stole the nomination from him. Even if he sincerely believed there was no way Trump was going to beat Clinton, why would he have thought that a Republican Congress would be any less obstructionist to Clinton than to him? I realize there’s a lot to be said for maintaining “norms,” but where are those “norms” now?

We can’t look to courts to save us and America. The Right has done too good a job of getting its people appointed to the courts. And it’s also the case that we can no longer look to “norms” to save us.

For a long time the reality has been that Democrats, on the whole, respected the norms while Republicans did not. The Right has counted on the indulgence of the Left to continue to undermine democracy. When I say “indulgence” I mean the reluctance of elected Democrats to firmly counter nonsense like Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow the Senate to consider the Merrick Garland nomination.

So time and time again, Republicans behave badly, and Nancy Pelosi gets in front of a camera and sputters about it, but nothing is done. Somebody has to follow the norms or everything falls apart. So the Left remains unilaterally disarmed.

At this point it’s gotten so bad that even George Will is telling people not to vote for Republicans. David Brooks got his ossified brain out of the attic and coaxed it into a few thoughts about the difference between conservatism and the Republican Party. Whether either of these, um, people realize the degree to which they helped create the current crisis is unlikely, but at least they seem to have found a line they couldn’t cross.

They must feel like people who spent their lives saving for and building their dream house, but then realizing too late they foolishly built on a flood plain. And it’s all washing away.

I was at least gratified to read an article at the Weekly Standard, of all places, that acknowledges the Right played a role in breaking down the norms. After quoting an article at the Federalist in which some whackjob seriously suggested taking liberal scalps. From the Federalist:

So, back to scalping thing. When you make that long trek to the reservation the leftists have set up for you—and make that trek you will—what memories do you want to take with you? When living in the liberal utopian nightmare of 57 genders and government control over everything in your life, you will want to have been a Lakota. You’ll want to know, to remember, even just cherish the knowledge that, one day, you rode out onto the plains and made them feel pain.

To which the Weekly Standard writer answered (to my astonishment),

I would tell you, Fred Thompson-style, that this sort of talk will eventually get someone killed, but perhaps you’ve forgotten about Heather Heyer. You shouldn’t have.

No, none of us should have. Blood is already in the streets. We must not forget that.

After I published yesterday’s blog post about civility, Charles Pierce wrote this:

For the benefit of those people also living in Fred Hiatt’s Land Without History: abortion providers have been stalked. Their children have been stalked. Their places of business have been vandalized. And, lest we forget, doctors who perform abortions have been fucking killed! They’ve been gunned down in their clinics, in their kitchens, and in their churches. They have not been allowed to live peaceably with their families, Fred, you addlepated Beltway thooleramawn. They haven’t been allowed to live at all. I’m no expert, but I’m fairly sure that a bullet in the head is far more uncivil than a complementary fucking cheese plate. What is wrong with these people?

I’m old enough to remember the raucous town halls of 2010, when the AstroTurfed forces of the Tea Party shouted down members of Congress while men with automatic weapons strolled around the perimeter of arenas in which the President of the United States was speaking. I’m old enough to remember when N. Leroy Gingrich, Definer of Civilization’s Rules and Leader (Perhaps) of The Civilizing Forces, was working out his Universal Lexicography of Insult for the benefit of a party that ate it up with an entrenching tool. Newt also emerged on the electric Twitter machine over the weekend, leaping to SarahHuck’s defense, and that was nearly enough to make me give up English as a hobby.

You know who would’ve been baffled by this sudden debate over “civility”? Samuel Adams and John Hancock, that’s who. They were a helluva lot less civil to the crew of the Dartmouth than Stephanie Wilkinson was to the Sanders party, and the citizens of Boston did not comp Thomas Hutchinson to a cheese plate when they ran his sorry ass across the pond. And, who knows, maybe if Elliott Abrams had been chased out of a few DC bistros in the 1980s, Archbishop Oscar Romero and four American nuns would still be alive.

This debate is stupid. It’s also dangerously beside the point.

The Democratic Party has been in a state of pathological denial about the dangers we face from right-wing extremism. They still seem to think a little better messaging and a couple of successful elections cycles will put everything back, right as rain. Most of ’em probably still don’t get it, Maxine Waters being an exception.

Note that both Pelosi and Schumer have, in effect, told Rep. Waters to chill. Waters is being blasted because she called for the public shaming of Trump officials. She didn’t call for violence.

Paul Waldman wrote,

Just over three years after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president claiming that Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals, then proceeded to cut a swath of resentment, anger and hate across America, we’ve all become terribly concerned that a Democrat here or there has been uncivil to the people who work for this least civil of presidents. I can almost hear the cackles of glee from the White House.

It’s as though I stood outside your door for years blasting death metal through gigantic speakers at 150 decibels, and when you finally shouted, “Hey, keep it down!” I demanded that the police arrest you for disturbing the peace. Have we gone nuts?

Of course, the reason the Left gets penalized for incivility and the Right does not for much worse is that the Right punches down, but the Left punches up. We make the establishment nervous.

Update: Milo Yiannopoulos Encourages Vigilantes to Start ‘Gunning Journalists Down’

12 thoughts on “Forget the Norms

  1. There's a great line from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". A member of the gang is challenging for control of the gang with a knife fight. The actor confronting Butch with a knife is 7 feet tall.  After Butch counsels Sundance to "bet on the other guy", he delays the fight momentarily asking his opponent about the rules. "RULES? There are no rules in a knife fight!" is the reply. At that moment, Butch kicks the other guy in the nuts so hard it looks like his toes go up about ankle deep. 

    The fight is no longer between liberals and conservatives. It is between patriots and authoritarians who believe there are NO rules! Now that we have that settled, let's get to it. I don't believe in violence and I sure as hell won't start a physical confrontation. Nor will I back down. 

    If there are rules in a fight where the president has declared himself above the law, explain to me what they are. If you want me to abide by them you have to FIRST impose them on everyone on your side. Those who won't play by the rules you want me to accept have to be penalized by YOUR side. I do see some evidence of that with George Will. Krauthammer spoke out before he died. Even Beck has seen the light. (Scary, but true.) I'm not saying they are liberals – but they see Trump and Trumpism as a threat to America and to their ideals.

    I'm playing by your roles. That is NO rules, except that I reject violence unless it's forced on me. But until you denounce YOUR side for incivility EVERY time, like every time Trump gets insulting, don't ask me to be civil. There's one set of rules – Trump has declared them, asking his supporters to beat up protesters. You don't like the rules? Talk to your fascist leader or reject him before you bring up civility.

    Last thought – not that anyone is reading this far. I AM open to welcoming conservatives who are still completely conservative in their ideology, but clearly reject Trump for the Anti-American tradition he's trying to glue the American flag to.

  2. All is lost. I have no guns here, nor any fallout shelter.

    Some friends might help us for a little while. I'll help them too, until it's over.

  3. It's a very scary sign that people like George Will, Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, others are repudiating Trumpism. It doesn't mean that these voices have changed, it does mean that Trumpism is becoming bolder and more radical. It's moved to the right of these people. The gloves are coming off.

    Fascism is a series of steps. We're already seeing the courts abandoning any sense of fairness w/rt gerrymandering or the immigration ban against Muslims. Mitch McConnell is working overtime to seat more radicals in the judiciary, while there's nothing to stop him. He considers this his crowning achievement.

    Maxine Waters is presently the most vocal in opposing Trump. What do you think Trump would do if her house was fire-bombed, or some other violence was directed at her? Probably shrug. The next step in fascism is when people commit violent crimes against the opposition, and the law looks the other way. Trump has given every indication that this would be OK with him. 



  4. "Obama…..did nothing to fight the Congress that stole the nomination"

    What could ne do ( the article you link reads like monday morning technical law), unlike trump Obama considered the constitution. I blame the win at all costs republicans, they manipulated the senate, Mitch McConnell is the bad guy.  What about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, they have the congressional tools, what did they do? Obama doen't deserve the blame for Trumps nazi on the court.

  5. Vidal Sassoon was man enough to deck a few Fascists in his day. I kid you not. The Left likes to be civilized. The Right (other than the raised pinky set, like Brooks), like to be bullies. I am more than willing to take any bully down. They are all really glass-jawed weaklings, like their Orange Mob Boss.

  6. I feel it is erroneous to say that violence is never justified.  Everyone has the right to defend him/herself even if it requires being violent and most likely will.  Violence is not the problem, it is the intent, the cruelty and the bullying that is wrong.  Look at nature, a thunderstorm, a hurricane, an earthquake, a volcano erupting.  That is violence but it is simply natural on an earth that is maintaining balance.  Even childbirth is violent.  True, it is wrong to behave violently in an attempt to hurt and we should always desire peace but for those who believe in the Bible there is a passage in Ecclesiastis (sp?) that says there is a time for everything.  Violence is a part of nature and has its place.  There is a need for love on this earth and we must protect the vulnerable and those that can't protect themselves like the children.

  7. I agree Grannyeagle on the right of self-defense. We have the ethical right to protect our homes and families on our turf. I can't own a gun but my wife can and if I was threatened in my home, the prohibition on guns might get muddled and settled in court later.

    The law may not say it, but you can't take guns to a protest or demonstration. Freedom of Assembly and the right to petition government for a redress of grievances looks like anarchy and revolution when guns are introduced in the mix. No court has ruled it, but the 1st Amendment is exclusive of the 2nd.

    Before this is settled, there will be martyrs. I do not mean in a rhetorical way. We will plant bodies in the ground. But the outcome of the conflict ahead will not be settled by street violence. At least I hope not to have a repetition of the Civil War. Six hundred thousand Americans died in the most lethal war we ever participated in. By far. So far.

    If it gets settled outside of warfare in the streets, it will be settled by public opinion and the media will have a big hand in the result. Trumpsters will show up armed at demonstrations – we must show up unarmed. That's the only way people who lean conservative will see the difference clearly enough to oppose Trumpism. City cops have to know who is the aggressor and who is the victim. National Guard troops have to know they are responding to a clear moral directive to defy orders from the White House.

    A fifty-fifty split in public opinion may plunge us into Civil War. I hope I'm being melodramatic and vastly exaggerating but it won't be long before we know. Governors pulled the Guard this week from the border on ethical grounds. Most cops are pros – not thugs. Cops will get shot because they will be placed between them and us. If cops know which side shot their brothers, I know they will be on our side. If the anti-Trump side is unarmed, there is no doubt where the cops will come down.

    I'm saying we can protect our homes and neighbors but we have to show the world who is on the side of the angels. We will take it on the chin at times in public for the cameras to make the point clear. And we will bury our dead – it will get that bad before it gets better.  

  8. Well said everyone!  I hope that  I won't muddy the waters with my yammering, so I'll try to keep it short.

    As I wrote before, I live in a very red county, rural enough that there are a number of people with shooting ranges nearby.  Most days, and weekends especially, the peace and quiet is broken by a few hundred gunshots.  Much of the fire is very rapid, so I would lay money that the gun enthusiasts are honing their skills with America's favorite, the AR-15, or something similar.   Fortunately, my closest neighbors, who belong to a church that founded our neighborhood, are not into guns.  

    But, my sense of the larger area is that there are a lot very disturbed, very well armed people out there, just waiting for a little nudge, a little excuse to "do God's work."  It's a tinderbox, and if I'm here when the sparks start to fly, I won't last five minutes.  

    But, it's been a good life, and who wants to live forever?


  9. goatherd…Just put out an American flag and they won't know who's side you're on. It's the equivalent of putting blood on your door post when the angel of death passes over.

    … and it wouldn't hurt to have a MAGA hat stashed in a closet just in case the uber-patriots do a house to house search rooting out bleeding heart liberals.

  10. Democrats play by the rules, the GOP does not.  And they’ve been getting away with it for so long that everything they do, from racist, sexist personal insults to calls for armed violence via “second amendment solutions” while freely ignoring every rule and custom is accepted as normal for them; i.e. “that’s just how they are.”  In the face of this, Democratic leadership and some members have too often acted like craven cowards, and   consequently their leadership is treated as unworthy of the same level of respect republicans routinely expect and get.  Just look at the Sunday morning round tables on any given Sunday to see the dynamic in play; democrats are simply not treated as serious players.  The danger for the Democratic Party is this has become institutionalized.

    Self-enforcement of “civility” on the part of the democrats is not going to change any of this.  It is simply not reasonable to expect those who have gained at the expense of their opponents by being uncivil without consequence to be moved by calls for civility from their opponent.  The republican tea party had heavily armed nutcases threatening outside of health care town halls in 2010.  Dems “played fair” and lost.  Trump ran probably the most openly racist campaign in the modern era, personally insulting anyone who opposed, displaying unprecedented ignorance.  Democrats “went high” and still lost. 

    Democrats need to understand and be willing to operate in the real world, not the world they hope for. It’s a world in which you can’t win by being “polite” all the time.  Leadership turning on Maxine Waters and adopting the phony characterization being pushed by the right of what she said is not going to win them any converts nor bring them closer to singing Kumbayaa with a chastened GOP.  If they throw her under the bus while Ryan and company move to censure it will be a huge mistake.

    There are those, on both sides unfortunately, who now seem to salivate at the chance to put the burden of the current uncivility on the democrats, while conveniently ignoring that big orange gas bag of an elephant of uncivility in the room and white-washing him of responsibility.  They mischaracterize the pushback being called for, equating it with Charlottesville-level violence, when it clearly is not.  

    My question for the civility police is simply, then what would you have them do, when being civil and bipartisan, as Obama obsessed over or eight years, has moved neither the GOP nor the media?

  11. CSM bravo.  Charles Blow today just killed it too in the NYT.  A tease:

    Conservatives want to reserve the right to use religion as a weapon, to control other people’s bodies and to judge some people as less worthy of full participation in the American experience because of whom they love, how they identify, where they are from or which God they worship.

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