Saturday, October 5, 2019

Who Is Violating Democratic Norms?

How many times have we heard that Donald Trump violates basic democratic norms? And thus, that he has not been sufficiently presidential. Often enough, I daresay.

We have heard it from the left and the right, from liberals and conservatives. One should note that the conservative intelligentsia, even those who are not NeverTrumpers, has not hesitated to call out Trump for his derelictions.

It distinguishes the American left from the American right. American leftists will never utter the least disparaging word about Barack Obama. They will spew outrage at whatever Trump has done while never saying a bad word about Hillary Clinton. 

We and many others have often pointed out that Hillary Clinton has led the nation in her defiance of democratic norms. Calling the opposing political candidate “illegitimate” violates the first and most basic of democratic norms. 

Other Democrats have happily called Trump a Nazi and a traitor. They have done so since the moment he was elected. Holman Jenkins calls them out for violating basic and fundamental democratic norms:

Donald Trump is rightly smacked for calling his impeachment antagonists traitors, spies and lowlifes. Unfortunately we don’t have benefit of a clear experiment on whether, by now, Mr. Trump or his enemies are more responsible for this erosion of standards. From the moment he was elected, many journalists, Democrats and veterans of the Obama administration were happy to throw around the term traitor for Mr. Trump….

As for norms of human decency, of civil behavior, of moral conduct, Jenkins remarks that Democrats, led by their squad of America-haters, have violated all democratic norms, all the norms that make for a civil political society:

I haven’t heard many promoters of the Russia collusion narrative say “We were wrong. We made a mistake. We got some bad information.” Universally—you know this is true—their attitude has been one of disappointment, of teeth-gnashing because their play to sink his presidency didn’t come off.

As it happens the ink-stained wretches of the fourth estate have not uttered a word in defense of democratic norms. They have become propagandists and polemicists, cowards who refuse to defy leftist dogma:

Journalists, by and large, are not the irascible free thinkers of lore, going their own way without fear or favor. Corporate institutions as a rule have limited use for such people. Especially in today’s electronic environment, journalists are creatures of availability bias, to borrow a term from social science. They believe what others in their milieu believe, say what others are saying, because it’s in their interest to do so.

Even though the full powers of government were employed on the allegation and found no evidence, you never saw headlines announcing that the Russia collusion theory had been discredited. The opposite is true in the Biden case because it supports the rush to impeachment. Mr. Trump may put the worst imputation on the few known facts, but passed from journalist to journalist already is the tropism that the Biden allegations have been “debunked” as if the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

Today, supposedly objective journalists have circled the wagons to defend Joe Biden’s indefensible behavior. You do not need to be a Republican partisan to understand that Biden’s son got rich off of his father’s position, without having anything resembling a qualification for the jobs that enriched him.

Happily, there is an exception:

An honorable throwback to when ours was an epistemological profession—concerned with how we know what we think we know—is Adam Entous, author of the New Yorker’s lengthy July article on the Bidens. He told an interviewer a few days ago: “The editors wanted me to make a firm pronouncement one way or the other on the allegations. And where I came down was it’s legit to question [ Hunter Biden’s ] activities, his decision to take the money from these companies at a time when his father was active. But at the same time I didn’t know enough to be able to say outright that the allegations are false. I find it hard to do that as a reporter.”

Of course, Jenkins continues, the difference is that Trump never pretended to be bound by democratic decorum. For that reason, some thought it a bad idea to nominate him. Among them Holman Jenkins:

This column recommended in 2016 that the GOP convention throw open its nomination rather than award it to a man with questionable character and allegiances who received the most votes without being the clear favorite of a majority of primary voters. But disagreeing with Mr. Trump and even disliking him does not make him illegitimate.

The glory of our system is that it can throw up a candidate who is willing to be out of sympathy with the establishments of both parties, who plainly pronounces that he will not conform, who advertises his desire for better relations with Russia, who pooh-poohs Kremlin election-meddling because the U.S. has done the same.

His norm-busting, in that sense, is a lot more legitimate than the norm-busting of his opponents because, unlike them, he is exactly the person he sold to voters. It was possible even to entertain hopes for his presidency because he arrived without fixed political attachments, touting his skills as a dealmaker. So who really is most responsible for throwing away the opportunity his election might have represented for the country?

At least, Jenkins adds, Trump is not a hypocrite. He is not crying out for norms while violating them willy nilly. We cannot say the same for his detractors.


Sam L. said...

There are democratic norms, and then there are Democrat "norms",

UbuMaccabee said...

Stephen Hunter called it "the narrative."

"Let me tell you what's going on, and why this one is so touchy. We are fighting the narrative. You do not fight the narrative. The narrative will destroy you. The narrative is all-powerful. The narrative rules. It rules us, it rules Washington, it rules everything. Now ask me, 'What is the narrative?'

"What is the narrative?"

"The narrative is the set of assumptions the press believes in, possibly without even knowing that it believes in them. It's so powerful because it's unconscious. It's not like they get together every morning and decide 'These are the lies we tell today.' No, that would be too crude and honest. Rather, it's a set of casual, nonrigorous assumptions about a reality they've never really experienced that's arranged in such a way as to reinforce their best and most ideal presumptions about themselves and their importance to the system and the way they have chosen to live their lives. It's a way of arranging things a certain way they all believe in without ever really addressing carefully. It permeates their whole culture. They know, for example, that Bush is a moron and Obama a saint. ... And the narrative is the bedrock of their culture, the keystone of their faith, the alter of their church. They don't even know they're true believers, because in theory they despise the true believer in anything. "