There is a group of people who are constantly offended. They detest objective reality. Instead, they make their judgments on the basis of feelings, not facts. Their unhinged behavior is destroying civic discourse in America.
I am speaking, of course, of Donald Trump and the Republican establishment. While many conservative social critics train their fire on liberal social justice warriors, Trump more perfectly embodies the very things they (rightly) rail against.
It’s true, of course, that political correctness by progressives is a problem. But saying that doesn’t excuse Team Trump for its own political correctness. Donald Trump occupies the White House, has a megaphone to communicate his hysterical comments and emotional grievances, and has real power to influence laws and attempt to write new ones via executive order. A college student has a fist and a megaphone. The truth is Trump and the Republican establishment have become a bigger problem than illiberal liberals.
A college freshman protesting Halloween costumes is annoying. A president who revives Stalinist slurs against the free press, advisors who state that the president’s power must not be questioned, and a national security advisor who must be purged because he made calls to the Kremlin about lifting sanctions and lied about it — these things are dangerous.
Trump, moreover, has been spared the same level of criticism by many on the Right and anti-PC Left. Often the conversation focuses on how some group of anti-Trump liberals did something deemed to be crazy — they wore pussy hats or carried signs with overheated language, or maybe a Democrat “counterpunched” with a witty comment at Trump’s expense.
Conservatives cheer Trump’s statement that reporters are “enemies of the American people,” while ignoring any analysis of the facts behind specific news articles. It’s enough that Trump is triggered for conservatives to close their ears. Trump attacked CNN and others for weeks for reporting news about the ties of various members of his administration to Russia simply because the stories were inconvenient for him. Lo and behold, multiple outlets were right. Trump’s initial National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had to resign. Then in Congressional testimony on March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI had been investigating Trump and his associates all along for potential connections to the Kremlin, including “whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” just as a number of outlets reported the FBI was investigating. Furthermore, Trump lied about having been wiretapped.
Rather than keeping watch on power, conservatives are keeping watch on the watchdogs of power. Case in point: When conservative columnist George Will criticized incoming-president Trump for his crony capitalism deal with Carrier to keep a factory open in exchange for tax breaks and a Trump photo-op — essentially using the power of his office to coerce companies towards political goals — Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly slammed Will for criticizing the president.
Want to talk about unhinged Nazi comparisons? On January 11, Trump tweeted:
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Want to talk about ignoring facts for the purpose of serving a pre-existing agenda? At Trump’s February press conference, he claimed to have won the largest electoral college victory since Ronald Reagan in 1984. He won 306. Obama won 332 in the last election and 365 the election before that. That’s something you can check on Google. You don’t even need to do a survey on that.
Add that to, “I had the largest inauguration crowd ever,” “3 million people voted illegally,” and “the Bowling Green terrorist attack was ignored.” (No, but the terrorist attack on Indian diners in Kansas was largely ignored by Trump, which is strange for a man who pushes a narrative that crime is rising to hellish levels. Indeed, Trump has cited ordinary murders as terrorist attacks when the victims are white Britons).
It is worth emphasizing: Those are the words of the most powerful person in the world. Trump supporters tell us we shouldn’t take his comments “literally,” but then they will get into a fuss about signs held by ordinary people at a rally of hundreds of thousands.
Breitbart considers it news when, “A Twitter user attacked Texas Governor Greg Abbott for his religious faith and asked him why God has never helped him walk again.”Is it news when a Twitter user — who just happens to be the president — attacks a “so-called judge” just because he ruled against one of Trump’s likely unconstitutional executive orders and says, “If something happens blame him and the court system”?
Conservatives raised righteous hackles when Obama made an offhanded comment that liberal voters should “punish their enemies” and that “voting’s the best revenge!” Breitbart‘s John Nolte called Obama the “Divider-In-Chief.” Now Nolte says, “The Media IS The Enemy” and retweets messages questioning whether mainstream media outlets should have free speech protections.
Joel B. Pollak was absolutely right to take Obama to task for his “hubris” and his “hostile treatment of Fox News.” The very same conservative media criticism outlet, Newsbusters, which criticized the Obama administration for its policies towards the press, is now cheering Trump’s unhinged vitriol against the press.
The contrast is embarrassingly stark:
If conservatives want to get back to a civilized discourse where we are able to disagree with our opponents without calling them “socialists,” “Nazis,” “sleazes,” “losers,” and “enemies of the people” then it needs to start from the top. The president must realize it is his job to be the president of the entire nation. He needs to stop attacking anyone who disagrees with him with every vile slur in the book. He needs to take responsibility. He needs to be a leader.
Conservatives, moreover, need to hold him accountable. As long as he has a good number of defenders, he will continue to divide the nation and destroy our discourse with little consequence to his political standing.
The consequences to the nation, however, could be grave. Once conservatives refuse to believe any news that is critical of their leader, they will have no basis on which to hold the government accountable. When the president refuses to take seriously his national security briefings, and when the administration disbelieves anything counter to its narrative and adheres to conspiracy theories of the kind Trump and Bannon have repeated, it will have no basis on which to make sound policy.
Social justice warriors caused the University of Michigan to cancel a screening of the war film American Sniper. A president who denies facts and attacks the institutions of democracy could do much worse than banning costumes or movies.