06 February 2018

'Can we call that treason?'

Yesterday I mentioned in passing that the President has suggested that Democratic congressmen who refused to applaud his annual message to Congress were treasonous. To clarify, Trump cited unnamed others who gave him the idea, and asked, 'Can we call that treason?Why not?...They certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.'  This could very well be the most despicable thing Trump has said as president so far, and he was instantly flamed by both Democrats and dissident Republicans like Sen. Flake, who preemptively shot down the inevitable, 'he was joking' defense by saying, 'Treason is not a punchline.'  Nevertheless, you can still see where Trump is coming from. He believes credit is due him for objectively verifiable improvements in the American economy since his inauguration. He presumably sees the Democrats' refusal to praise him as a refusal to acknowledge that the nation is better off than it was in January 2017. It follows, for Trump and his supporters, that Democrats are less interested in the state of the Union than in expressing their disdain for Donald Trump. Of course, Democrats will dispute whether the country is better off, no doubt mindful that the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the unemployment rate improved steadily over a period characterized by Trump as a time of hardship and 'carnage.'  It can't be denied, however, that there is an irreducible element of ideology and prejudice to Democratic perceptions, just as there is to Republican perceptions. Regardless of whether supply-side economics show the best results by some objective standard, it's clear that Democrats don't want the economy to be governed by supply-side policies that appear to give CEOs and stockholders priority over the working class. Whether or not the world works that way, they don't want it to work that way, just as Republicans refuse to acknowledge even the possibility that collective cooperation might work more efficiently and fairly than competitive individualism because they prefer to live in a competitive, individualistic society. It can be said that the true patriot should embrace whatever works for the nation regardless of ideological prejudices, but that only begs the question of what the nation and the national interest are. President Trump no doubt would like to be seen as a non-partisan, non-ideological, pragmatic patriot, but whether he likes it or not he gave up any claim to be seen that way when he made common cause, in however heterodox a  fashion, with an ideological party. That doesn't mean that anyone else is automatically more patriotic than he is, the inevitable carping from the likes of Sen. Duckworth over his lack of military service notwithstanding. Nor does it absolve anyone from thinking him incapable of objective patriotism by virtue of his social class or line of work. It's a paradox of democracy that it ought to be easy to say what such a nation is and what patriotism means, but because we're a democracy -- or a democratic republic, if you insist, or simply a free country -- it is not.

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