Monday, November 23, 2020

Maybe Don't Lock Him Up

I agree with this outspokenly anti-Trump and anti-corruption former federal prosecutor that as much as we'd all thirst to investigate the Trump administration - and as convincing as some of the arguments to do so might be - in the end, not investigating would better serve the greater public good. He makes a well-rounded case for it, so please check out the op-ed (it's a very quick read) before you read my uptake (which doesn't restate all his points).

1. The very worst aspect of these past four years, psychologically, has been the fulfillment of Trump’s fondest wish: an entire nation (supporters and opponents, both) entirely obsessed with Donald Trump. We ate Trump for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The next four years can’t continue to be all about Donald Trump. We must not extend the lease on a madman's inhabitation of our psychic space.

(That said, we’ll see whether mainstream news can resist the ratings candy of his tweets and utterances as a private citizen - which they’ll no longer have a duty to report. If they do remain locked on to that stuff, we’ll see whether weary viewers can create pressure on them not to. It's not a necessity. Alex Jones, for example, has been saying horrific crap all day every day with very little of it reamplified by mainstream media. Trump could and should be relegated to similar irrelevance, though it will likely require viewer/reader/reporter boycotts to convince networks and publishers to do so.)

2. “Lock him/her up” can't become our new normal refrain. Defeat and disgrace must be sufficient (plus less publicly spectacular legal proceedings in, for example, New York State - if litigation and punishment are what you wish for this guy, fear not). As I wrote in "Some Real Talk About Face-Eating Hyenas”:
Here's a simple adjustment to avoid getting your face eaten: satisfy yourself with milder punishment for your perceived opponents and oppressors.”
I may have also offered this observation a time or two:
History always unfolds via a succession of immoderately reactive pendulum swings. Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?
Anti-Trumpers must unravel a few mental knots. We want to purge Trump from our psyches, but we also want to be consumed for years by big flashy investigations and trials that would make OJ and Mueller look puny. And we've been profoundly shocked and outraged by the dismantling of norms and institutions, yet we bristle at the proposition of maturely reassembling and abiding by old norms in his aftermath. Reciprocal extremism is notoriously alluring, but the antidote to extremism - the correct move after the extended rat-fucking we've just experienced - is the least satisfying and most boring of all options: restraint.

I never claimed that restraint in the face of extremist excess would be easy, or satisfying. Restraint does not give your gut what it's certain it needs. But civilization means not always indulging gut instincts. Done correctly, civilization is tantamount to an extended case of blue balls. We don't rape attractive people, we don't smash and grab people's cameras and jewelry, we don't shoot people when they're rude to us. We often must decline to take the action that would bring immediate satisfaction. Cool dull repression is the price we pay for the perqs of human civilization. Civilization is moderate; extremism is barbaric. At this juncture, I'd implore you to choose wisely.


econterms said...

Yup: Restraint, and reform. Minimize focus on him, but lock the doors against such a character in the future. We need to see candidates' tax returns. Subpoenas to testify need to work eventually. Clean up real estate finance. Reduce frivolous lawsuits. And most importantly, prevent Team Putin (or the next attacker) from putting 100 million political posts on Facebook and Twitter. These things can be done. I agree it is not necessary to lock him up, and that it would extend the pain and conflict of this period, and provoke his fans.

Jim Leff said...

Assuming the Dems have a clear path for enacting sweeping reform legislation, all that and more should be done.

But it is more than likely that the senate (unless GA flips, which it probably won’t) will block even modest and bipartisan legislation, and even Biden’s cabinet picks, and absolutely this stuff.. If, by chance, McConnell decides to work a little with Biden, not one of these reforms will be instituted because Trump will continue to dominate R politics (by claiming to want to run in 2024, which he probably will not finally do) and these steps are direct affronts to him.

None of this will happen unless Senate flips.

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