California Democratic Party chair Rusty Hicks ruined it for everybody.
Things were going so well for the Democrats. Big tech companies were banning conservatives from social media. The anti-Trump Lincoln Project launched a blacklist aimed at permanently denying employment to anyone who worked in or near the Trump administration. Major corporations including Marriott cut off political donations to the House Minority Leader and more than 100 lawmakers in the GOP caucus.
Yes, it was going well, this project of convincing everybody that the political opinions of Trump supporters were exactly the same thing as the indefensible break-in and riot at the Capitol.
Then Hicks and other Democrats decided to link the growing effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom with the Capitol rioters. But it didn’t work. News coverage dripped with skepticism bordering on outrage.
“State Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks and a lineup of Democratic elected officials claimed the recall effort was a ‘coup’ to remove Newsom, led by far-right extremists including white supremacists and neo-Nazis. However, they provided no evidence to support the allegations. The scattershot of claims and inflammatory language even drew criticism from fellow Democrats,” reported the Associated Press.
This is an extraordinarily bad sign for Newsom. If he was expecting a free pass from the press, tech suppression of negative stories, and a Twitter mob viciously doxxing recall supporters and trying to get them fired by nightfall, he must be disappointed.
Hicks’ news conference exposed the strategy that has been used to manipulate opinion in national presidential politics. And it’s about time. It has always been offensive nonsense to characterize Trump supporters – 74 million Americans who voted for the president’s re-election – as some sort of subhuman species of bigot, or in Hillary Clinton’s words, “a basket of deplorables.”
It is equally offensive nonsense to characterize as insurrectionists the eight Republican senators and 139 Republican House members who voted in favor of objections to counting the electoral votes from some states. Like the California recall, the process for objecting to the certification of electoral votes is lawful, authorized by the Constitution, and has been used in the past multiple times without anyone calling it “sedition” or an attempted “coup.”
It has been alarming to see how easy it has been for Democrats to lump the objectors in Congress with the rioters and then watch innocently from the sidelines as lives, reputations and careers are threatened and perhaps destroyed by the smear.
Thankfully, Rusty Hicks has now demonstrated that there is a limit to the usefulness of slander, even in politics.
If you studied film in college, you may have seen “Rashomon,” director Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece that tells the story of a murder from four different perspectives. A sequel could be made examining the Trump administration.
Some people see the Trump presidency as a “norm-breaking” atrocity that unforgivably disrespects experienced voices. Some see a wild horde of Klansmen running through the halls of government. Some see a besieged president who has been relentlessly victimized by false charges and biased news reporting. Some see a record of great accomplishments for the American people.
It’s possible that no one’s mind will ever be changed about Trump. But what does this mean for the next election and the one after that?
In a recent “60 Minutes” interview, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the goal of the second impeachment is to prevent President Trump from ever being allowed to hold office again. It looks a lot like a scene in a costume drama in which a deposed king and his family are beheaded to prevent a restoration in the future.
Even if Pelosi succeeds in this effort, it won’t solve her Rashomon problem, otherwise known as 74 million Americans who voted for Trump’s re-election.
It’s not hard to understand why so many people support President Trump. They want to live in a free country, they want the nation to be prosperous and at peace, and they want their government to put the interests of the American people ahead of the wish-list of foreign governments.
This was formerly known as “being an American.”
Trump voters generally think it’s a good idea to reject trade deals that harm American workers, to stay out of unwinnable and endless foreign wars, to keep taxes and regulations to a minimum, and to protect the rights guaranteed to the American people by the U.S. Constitution.
Labeling this movement is unnecessary. It doesn’t matter whether this is or isn’t populism, nationalism, conservatism, Trumpism or something else. It’s just the simple fact that people want to live in freedom.
However, not everybody wants to live in freedom. There have always been people who are more comfortable being told what to do. These are the people who support the worship of expert opinion even in the face of repeated failures of policies put forward by those experts. These are the people who support expanded or unlimited government control, and who find new justification for it in every problem or challenge.
To their dismay, people who want to live in freedom are not afraid to question “expert” opinion, to criticize the government or to stand up for the rights of themselves and others, even when elected leaders and their many allies try to discredit and demonize those who dare disagree with approved or prevailing views.
If that’s insurrection, arrest us all.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley