Trump's 'State of Emergency' Is Your Fault

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” - H. L. Mencken #buildthewall

If you’re outraged by the President declaring an ‘emergency’—one that he totally didn’t need to do—to fund his vanity wall, you might want to deflect that outrage to one of the key culprits, yourself. I know I’m partially to blame for it. Why? It’s highly unlikely that you’re totally innocent of what fuels this demagoguery: a cult-like loyalty to your political ideology or party.

It’ so easy to blame President Trump, but what if you are part of the problem?

It’ so easy to blame President Trump, but what if you are part of the problem?

Remember when President Obama said “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone[?]” Did you cheer? Were you happy? If you felt that our former president was right to go around Congress to ‘get shit done,’ you’re definitely to blame in part for Trump’s ‘state of emergency.’ Technically, the President has the right to declare such an emergency, but this is clearly a norm breach that’s bad for our democracy.

Look, you can retreat to the safety of picking apart The Presidents ‘logic’ in declaring this ‘emergency,’ but not only is that the coward’s path, but it cements demagoguery as the winning political strategy in our country. This phenomenon didn’t start with Trump though. Take DACA, the executive order President Obama signed that gave temporary reprieve to illegal immigrants who came here as children. It might appeal to your sense of justice. It appeals to mine. But like this wall, DACA was executive overreach. Immigration reform needs legislation. Congress’s inaction on the topic isn’t an excuse to erode the checks and balances of our divided government. By commanding DACA, President Obama built upon President George W. Bush’s legacy of concentrating power in the executive branch, taking it away from Congress. W. didn’t start it either.

Big picture wise, Trump is merely following the logical extension of an idea most ideologues support: ‘When my side has power, squeeze every bit out of that moment.’ As much as I believe the GOP has gone off the deep-end in almost every conceivable way, the other side played a supporting role in creating our current political climate too.

Yes. I said it. Trump’s antics are absolutely the fault of many Democrats, liberals, socialists, leftists—frankly, anyone who believes that their side should always do whatever it takes to get something done. Not only is this arguably undemocratic, since taking power away from Congress through executive orders deliberately undermines the Constitution, but it fuels the polarization that allows demagoguery to be the most valuable currency in political debate. It’s honestly not that surprising Trump won if you think about our past through this lens. (Some of us needed a lot of whisky to handle the fear on election night 2016.)

While I loathe Trump and his politics, it’s a waste of breath to attack a lot of his bad ideas. He wants you to blow your top, it’s the source of his power. But it’s just not worth the synapse activity, and it plays directly into his hand. What we really need to worry about is this: How do we stop the demagoguery? How do we up the level of debate towards practical policy? How do we convert the currency of politics from demagoguery to results?

That’s a ‘uuuuuuge task, but it starts with this: If you’re worried about the motivation of the person sitting in this oval….

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Then you might want to start reflecting on this one…

Without some deep introspection, we’re doomed. Seattle politics is no exception to this either.

Nathan Chaffetz