Malacandra.me

The problem of Bizarro World

The problem of Bizarro World

by digby




Here's a little thought from Dahlia Lithwick that will keep you up tonight:


Like most people on the left, I have spent the past year putting great faith in the courts and legal institutions to act as a check on Donald Trump, maintaining this faith even as Trump fired career lawyers like James Comey and Sally Yates and replaced them with ideologues and thugs. And like most people on the left, I placed an enormous amount of confidence in Robert Mueller as the embodiment of the principle that Trump could not escape the oncoming steamroller of justice and legal liability. Even as we remained uncertain whether our political leaders were up to the task of sidelining the Trump train of destruction, we took solace in the fact that the last grown-ups in America were hard at work in the special counsel’s office. And no, they don’t spend their weekends on the golf course.

In recent weeks, and most especially in this past week, I’d begun to suspect that the forces of chaos and nihilism that stand against Mueller’s project might swallow whatever outcomes he produced. The shocking norm-and-truth defiance of the GOP tax bill, the refusal of the GOP leadership to criticize or even comprehend the enormous violence done by Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets, the president’s staggering support for the candidacy of Roy Moore, the silent Republican collusion to the seating of demonstrably unfit judges, and the virulence of the White House’s attacks on the press all contributed to a general sense that absolutely everything was broken and that Democrats had lost whatever momentum they had to halt this chaos.

In our ongoing national nightmare of creeping authoritarianism, we talk a good amount about normalization and the numbing effects of a barrage of shocking daily news. But I have also tried to be vigilant about all the ways in which magical thinking about law and lawyers—this is a nation of laws, not men, we’re told—can also numb us, and lead to a declining sense of agency or ownership.

Maybe it’s too late in the slide toward authoritarianism for any major legal outcome to change the game.
Democrats don’t like giving up on their institutions easily, and the Mueller investigation has served as both the best and the worst manifestation of that alluring Democratic reasonableness. So long as he is working away, filing documents and convening grand juries, nobody needs to take to the streets. But as the year has progressed, it’s become clear that absolutely nothing will persuade Trump supporters and Republicans in Congress that it’s time to disavow the president—not lying, not spilling state secrets, not abject failure in crisis management, and not openly performed corruption. Given that reality, it often feels like it wouldn’t be enough for Mueller to hand us a smoking gun and an indictment. What if they threw a conviction and nobody came?

It seems as though truth and law are forever losing ground in the footrace against open looting and overt totalitarianism. The more abjectly deranged Trump’s behavior and the more Republicans in Congress cover for him, the less likely it is that anything Mueller can magic up in his underground hall of justice will matter. Trump’s legal antagonists like to think that the next legal “tick, tick, tick, boom” will be the one that ends all this chaos. But with every passing day, as Trump escapes consequences and attacks the courts and the press, the chances that a “tick, tick, tick, boom” will be played off as #fakenews also increase.

I worry about this too. I don't know what it would take for the GOP to turn on Trump and I think this base will stand with him no matter what, largely because they have basically been brainwashed. I don't pretend that this couldn't happen on the left as well, but right now it's the right that's living in unreality not the left. And as long as the GOP leadership are opportunists and cowards who both fear their ignorant base and use their ignorance as an excuse to reward their rich benefactors and destroy the safety net this isn't going to change.

The problem is Bizarro World. Until that's dealt with the only thing Democrats (and other sane people) can do is win on their own terms and be prepared to fight the other side. I don't see how we can come to political consensus about anything as long as we are living in different realities.

Yeah, I worry. Bigly.