Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Michael Sean Winters on This Year's Grim Fourth of July: “The Entire Republican Establishment Has Caved to Trumpism”

Author and social commentator Michael Sean Winters has an insightful piece in the latest issue of the National Catholic Reporter in which he provides a concise though grim assessment of "the health of our republic and its more than 200-year experiment in self-governance" this Fourth of July "in the age of Trump." Following is an excerpt.

This time last year, there was cause for concern but also reason to think our Constitution was up to the task of confronting Trumpism. President Donald Trump had been in office for some six months. The courts had blocked his effort to enact a ban on accepting refugees from certain Muslim countries. The Senate had just postponed a vote on its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act because the recent analysis of the Congressional Budget Office showed that millions of Americans would lose their insurance. That was a bridge too far for at least three Republican senators. Bob Mueller, longtime Republican and almost universally respected former director of the FBI, had begun his investigation into Russian interference in our elections.

. . . This Fourth of July, however, the picture is far less sanguine. The Republicans passed a tax reform law that was light on the reform and heavy on the lower rates for rich people. They also included in other legislation the abolition of the individual mandate, a key part of the Affordable Care Act. Congressional Republicans have been willing to abuse their oversight role to frustrate the Mueller probe, their questioning of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein demonstrating a fondness for conspiracy theories that would do Oliver Stone proud.

Worst of all, three developments the last week of June showed the degree to which the entire Republican establishment has caved to Trumpism.

The Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, made me angry, but it was the decision in the Muslim ban case that was really shocking. The justices made clear they have no desire to restrain Trump's racist use of executive power, and that lack of such desire is shocking. In a courtroom, you will hear a lawyer say, "I object. The question assumes facts not in evidence." The court assumed facts not in existence, namely, that there was a legitimate government function, national security, and that the ban was not based on anti-Muslim animus of the kind prohibited by the Constitution.

Trump v. Hawaii was not, like Janus, built on a faulty legal theory. Like the infamous Dred Scott case, which was built on the lie that Scott was not a person, this decision was built on a lie. It was pitiful to see Chief Justice John Roberts puff up his little chest in moral rectitude, insisting the court was overturning the Korematsu decision permitting the internment of Americans with Japanese ancestry during World War II. At least the court in 1944 wrestled with the facts in the case. Despite the president's repeated public statements that his travel ban was directed at Muslims, and — what is worse because it harder to ignore in this instance — despite his repeated statements that he was making cosmetic changes to the Muslim ban so that the ban could pass judicial muster, the court looked the other way and accepted the lie that this ban was about anything more than using the power of the presidency to rile up Trump's base by stoking their fears of Muslims.

The oral arguments in the Muslim ban case were held in late April. Within weeks, the attorney general announced his plan to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border as a deterrent. Which leads to our second reason to fear for the country this July Fourth: Whatever the court's initial thinking about the Muslim ban case, the new policy of separating children, even toddlers, from their parents demonstrated that the Trump administration had no internal constraints in their willingness to demonize minorities through inhumane public policy.

The normal human sympathy for those in vulnerable situations is not normal in this White House: The vulnerability of the immigrants is exploited. It was against this backdrop that the Supreme Court indicated its unwillingness to demand the president's actions pass a test of strict scrutiny.

Finally, the decision of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire indicates that the Republican legal establishment does not intend to defend the constitutional order from this orange rogue of a president. They have seen the Republicans in Congress cave. They have seen the court cave — even after Trump has spoken about the rule of law with more disregard than any president since Andrew Jackson famously, if apocryphally, said, "The chief justice has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

The Republican legal establishment will now let Trump appoint whomever he wants because that person, likely, will follow enough of their agenda that they can abide his or her willingness to look the other way if the government discriminates against Muslims and Latinos. Separating children from their refugee parents did not make them take a stand. What will?

To read Michael Sean Winter's commentary, “A Grim Fourth of July in the Age of Trump,” in its entirety, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
This July Fourth, Americans Should Rebel Against GOP Economic Policies – Frank Clemente (The Hill via Common Dreams, July 4, 2018).
Patriots Still Called to Throw Off Yoke of the Political Machine – John Nichols (Capital Times via Common Dreams, July 3, 2018).
Frederick Douglass' 1852 Speech Still Resonates in 2018 – Syreeta McFadden (Think, July 4, 2018).
How Donald Trump’s Schizoid Administration Upended the GOP – Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone, January 23, 2018).
July 4th: No Time for Celebration for Indigenous Peoples in U.S. – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (teleSUR, July 4, 2018).
“Betrayal”: Queer Native Americans on the Fourth of July – John Paul Brammer (Them, July 4, 2018).

UPDATE: “Out of a Dictator's Handbook”: Trump Threatens to Adjourn Congress to Unilaterally Install Judges, Political Nominees – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, April 16, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“What We're Seeing Here Is a Tipping Point”
Opposing the Trump Administration's Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families
Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's “Pathologically Sick” Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Something to Think About – June 14, 2018
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Quote of the Day – March 12, 2018
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

Image: Victor Juhasz.

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