American president Donald Trump and his supporters have learned one lesson of the Iraq War: To quash legitimate concerns about an ill-advised military operation, call the patriotism of your critics into question.
Republicans in the United States are ramping up their attacks on norms and institutions in pursuit of partisan interest. That is a danger to the whole country.
Journalists and universities have for decades been disparaged by the right as hopelessly biased to the point where only 15 percent of Republicans trust the mass media anymore, down from 46 percent two decades ago, and 73 percent believe higher education is going in the wrong direction.
There is no doubt American president Donald Trump tried to extort Ukraine into launching an investigation of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, did work for an Ukrainian company. The impeachment inquiry conducted by the House Intelligence Committee has established the facts in under two months.
Trump held up congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine (which is fighting a Russian-backed insurgency in its east), asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” by investigating the Bidens, and aid was restored after news of the attempted blackmail broke.
Remember when Trumpists were up in arms in 2016 about internal Republican attempts to deny their man the presidential nomination?
I defended such attempts at the time, arguing that Republicans had every right to use every method at their disposal to stop a candidate so patently unfit for high office and one who didn’t even share their views on foreign policy and trade. (Most Republicans have since come around to Trump’s views.)
But Donald Trump’s supporters saw an “establishment” plot and demanded that the “democratic” will of the Republican electorate be respected. (No matter that only 45 percent of primary voters supported Trump.)
I haven’t written much about Donald Trump this year, because what’s the point? As I reported in December, the scandals keep piling on — from corruption to illegal payoffs to making apologies for white supremacists to Russia — but half of America either doesn’t believe it or doesn’t care.
Trump campaign officials have been arrested, indicted and convicted; migrants have been treated so abysmally at the southern border that seven children have died in detention; the president launched a disastrous trade war with China and threatens to unravel the entire world order that has kept America and its allies safe for seven decades, and still members of Trump’s Republican Party would not speak out.
When he signed the PATRIOT Act and launched the Iraq War, reasonable left-wing Americans voiced reasonable objections. The far left reached for Hitler.
Republicans dismissed this as over the top, because it was. (And it made it easier for them to dismiss reasonable objections as well.) So when the real thing came along, and this time not only the far left but commentators on the center-right warned that Donald Trump had a lot in common with the worst leaders in European history, many Republican voters once again shrugged.
If anything, it made them support Trump more. As one voter told The Atlantic in 2016:
Give people the impression that you will hate them the same or nearly so for voting Jeb Bush as compared to voting for Trump and where is the motivation to be socially acceptable with Jeb?
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump joked he could shoot somebody on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose voters.
His racism, his ignorance of policy, his shambolic business career and two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct (which he denied in public but admitted to in what he thought was a private conversation) didn’t move voters.