The rule of law under President Trump, as witnessed by the assault on a free press in Montana, is slowly being eroded
By Brett Arends [marketwatch.com]
There are two great dangers when managing your own money and, indeed, the rest of your affairs. The first is reacting too much to recent events. The other is reacting too little.
And when it comes to what’s now happening in this country, the second danger is every bit as risky as the first.
To cut to the chase, it is becoming increasingly clear that Americans should be taking reasonable steps to diversify their investments outside the U.S., including holding assets in currencies other than dollars, and where possible to acquire a second passport.
Yes, I’m serious. Jewish-, Irish- and Italian-Americans, for example, should be checking out whether they qualify automatically for dual citizenship. Others should be looking into their options too. It is always a good thing to be diversified globally and to have the option of leaving the country and living and working elsewhere. But right now it is more important than usual.
Sixty-two million people voted for Trump. The Republican Party and the people of Montana have now legitimized violence. The next step in the sequence is obvious.
It is no longer a certainty that America will remain a stable country governed by an impartial rule of law. You could argue it no longer is.
I am not saying that a further breakdown is guaranteed or even likely, but I am saying it is possible. Maybe things will end happily, but maybe not. What we are witnessing today is exactly how it has happened historically. It goes in steps. Countries do not leap from civilization to barbarism in a single bound. You do not wake up one morning to discover mobs burning books in the streets. The decline happens by degrees. Each step enables the next.
And what is being normalized here now is not normal.
The voters of Montana have just rewarded Greg Gianforte for beating up a reporter by electing him to Congress as their representative. Many on the right are crowing. Gianforte was reportedly swamped with extra donations following the attack. Republican congressman Duncan Hunter of California said the attack was merely “inappropriate” — unless, he added, the reporter “deserved it.” The president has celebrated the result. Popular right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham actually mocked the reporter and suggested he should have fought back against Gianforte and his aides. (One can only imagine what she would have said if he actually had done so.) She was not alone.
None of these people are being subject to moral sanction by the market or their supporters so far as anyone can tell. Gianforte has only been cited legally for a misdemeanor by the local sheriff, who was a campaign contributor. The smart money says he will get away with it, and take up his lucrative sinecure in Washington.
And as every conservative knows, human beings respond to incentives. If this sort of action is rewarded and not punished, it will happen more often.
The reporter in question, the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, was doing exactly — not roughly, but exactly — what people like Thomas Jefferson were thinking about when they included the First Amendment in the Constitution. He was trying to ask the Republican congressional candidate for his view on the new health-care bill, which according to the Congressional Budget Office will cost 23 million people their health insurance. There is, literally, no more legitimate function of a reporter in our democracy than asking a congressional candidate for his position on a new law just before an election.
Yet there is no longer even a consensus in defense of this.
What I personally find most depressing is the tribalism. People on the right are defending Gianforte because he’s on their “team” and Jacobs is on the “other” team. Their reaction would have been exactly the opposite if it had been the other way around. If you want to see how commonplace this is, check out social media — or, indeed, the likely comments below this article.
But such thinking is the logic of soccer hooligans. It should have no place, zero, in public debate. To witness people in public life incorporating this into their reasoning and behavior is more than ominous.
How do you get here? First you lay the groundwork with a long-term, cynical marketing campaign against the “mainstream” press. Then a presidential candidate urges his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors.
Then he gets his supporters so mad at the press that a reporter needs to be escorted from a rally by the Secret Service for her own protection.
Then the candidate jokes about whether he would ever kill reporters. Then he calls them the “enemy of the people.” Then one of his colleagues physically attacks one of them.
And at each stage along the process, some people cheer him, others defend him, and others shrug it off. Each unsanctioned outrage enables the next. Sixty-two million people voted for Trump. The Republican Party and the people of Montana have now legitimized violence. The next step in the sequence is obvious.
When you travel abroad these days, it’s like a cloud lifts. Stepping outside Trumpland, even for a few days, reminds you of what life is like in the normal world. You and your family should have that option as a matter of right.
The point about a stable country is that it has the rule of law, and the point about the rule of law is that, above all, it is impartial. This is why the traditional figure of justice is blindfolded. Assault is assault. There aren’t “teams” or sides.
Partisan justice is not a feature of a civil society. It is a feature of a civil war.