You argue with Republicans. You punch Nazis. Illiberal times call for illiberal actions. The plea from some progressives to defend decorum while our institutions are systematically disassembled is understandable, but ultimately inaccurate. Am I cheering the deep state? Absolutely not. But, I will not pretend to act surprised or saddened as a fundamentally illiberal institution takes down a fundamentally illiberal petty tyrant. The CIA, NSA, and other organs of the deep state have been political for their entire existence. Partisan? Not usually. But, they will act illiberally when their interests or existence is threatened. Every time. But, this is not just about the eventual toppling of Trump.
It is a mark of the privilege of our times that we feel that the ideas of fascism aren’t threatening enough to be challenged forcefully in the effort to remove this conversation from our discourse. It is also a mark of privilege when one doesn’t feel an existential threat from these ideologies.
I have never had my house lit on fire because of the color of my skin. I have not had a weapon pointed at me because the bearer “didn’t like Mexicans in his town.” I haven’t been assaulted because I dared to dress like how I felt, regardless of my anatomy. My ancestors are not buried in a mass grave because they had the gall to be born Jews. I bear the mental scars of perpetrating and receiving physical violence, and have felt threatened by words to the point of panic, but I have never, ever been threatened existentially by a group of people with a fascist ideology. Others have, and are.
I dabbled in pacifism, but I had to come to the conclusion that it requires a willingness to sacrifice oneself and one’s loved ones in the pursuit of justice, ultimately requiring death in the most severe circumstances. In this way, it is not a humanist construct. It requires that we accept the suffering of others as means to an end. It requires the empathy of the powerful to be effective. And despite partial-adherents claims of effectiveness from a purely pragmatic perspective, they ignore the diversity of tactics that have pushed all positive social change. So, what we are left with is this confabulation between democracy and status-quo supporting behaviors masquerading as pacifism. If the left continues to believe in this false joining of politeness and democracy, or even illiberal acts and democracy, we run the risk of being dominated by the forces of fascism. These forces throughout time have feasted on a docile, tame public. It’s like playing chess with a three-year-old. They knock all the pieces off the board and declare victory while we are contemplating Knight to King’s Rook 7.
You attempt to investigate the Trump administrations ties to Russia via official, liberal means, and when they refuse to open an investigation and the house judiciary panel declines to pursue a special inquiry, then what? Trump issues an unconstitutional Executive Order and ICE and CBP decide to go nuts and round up every brown person they can find and then what? The sheriff departments determine after the next terrorist attack that they are in fact the highest office in the land, and we… Write postcards to our representatives?
This is the problem with illiberal politicians. If they are not stopped by the norms and institutions of our democracy, they then require an illiberal response. The time to snuff this was in the republican primary, when it was clear what this man’s puppet-master’s intentions were. It’s not too late. But, we need help. We need help from the GOP and from reasonable people who voted for this man. They are the best hope for preserving the institutions and norms that make up our country.