This article is eye-opening, but not necessarily in the way it was intended. What Happens When We Don’t Believe The President’s Oath makes a number of observations and claims about the new Trump presidency, but what’s most revealing about it is what it reveals about the writer’s world, and the way his class interacts with power.
“If you’re a liberal, one who voted against George W. Bush twice, do the following thought experiment: Did you ever doubt, even as you decried the Iraq War and demanded accountability for counterterrorism policies and actions you regarded as lawless, that Bush was acting sincerely in the best interests of the country as he understood them? Yes, people used the slogan “Bush Lied, People Died,” but how many of them actually in their hearts doubted that Bush was earnestly trying to do his duty by the electorate, even if they differed in their understandings of what that duty entailed?”
Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, I view Bush as the hapless pawn of Cheney. But I’ve never for one second viewed Cheney as even the slightest bit concerned about the country. Nothing but his own self-interest, and a very myopic one at that. Doing his duty my ass.
“Conversely, if you’re a conservative who voted against Obama, do the same thought experiment in reverse: Did you ever doubt, even as you decried Obamacare and fumed that Obama was weakening America, that he was acting sincerely in the best interests of the country as he understood them? Did you ever doubt that he was earnestly trying to do his duty by the electorate?”
I have in-laws that are the polar opposite of me. And yes, they very VERY much believed Obama was intentionally destroying the country.
The article quotes Obama:
“first of all, George W. Bush, despite obviously very different political philosophies, is a really good man.”
I have a lawyer friend/acquaintance. He’s pretty good at his job, to the point that he’s argued before the US Supreme Court. He displays an attitude similar to that of this article’s author – a belief that the system is fundamentally well-intentioned. He can (and does) often disagree strongly with law makers or judges on political matters… but there is (almost) always a belief that the disagreement is due to philosophical differences or different ways of assessing available information. IE – they are wrong, but they are not reprehensible. These are all reasonable men and women, and we can address our differences like adults in good faith. The System is here for all of us, we’re doing the best we can, even if we differ.
I have never felt that way about The System. It is not For Me. Sometimes its interests align with mine, and I hope to maximize the occasions where this is the case. But I’ve never thought that the group served by those who are in power (ostensibly “The Country”) includes me. Most people I know feel the same. We exist in this system, under these rules, but it is not a system For, By, and Of us.
Every single paragraph of the Lawfare article drips with inclusion. With, dare I say it, privilege. “Sure,” it seems to say, “we may squabble a lot. We may have drag-out fights. But in the end we’re all in this together. We’re kinda a big, dysfunctional village.” They all belong to a class that interfaces with the government. They are, for the lack of a better term, The Represented Class. They believe the government actually has some concern for them and their situation.
And Trump doesn’t belong to that class. At the end of both the questions quoted above – querying the reader about their opinions of Obama/Bush – there is this thought:
“Now ask: Would you answer this question the same way about Trump as you would about Bush [or Obama]?”
For what looks like the first time, the author doesn’t feel that those in power have any interest in taking his life into consideration. He is no longer Represented. He goes on for thousands of words about how bad this is, and the repercussions it has.
To which most of us can only say – welcome to the party. Not quite as nice down here, is it?
I must admit, there is a feeling of schadenfreude about this reversal. There was a period of a few weeks, before it became clear just how awful Trump is, that I kinda entertained the thought of voting for him. For exactly this reason. It’s satisfying to say to those ruling “This is what it feels like to be the rest of us. I wish you could internalize and remember this forever, since I know you’ll be back in power soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy your stay, haha.”
Not that Trump represents me either, of course. Not even close. But the fact that he also doesn’t represent those who’ve spent their entire lives being Represented does, sometimes, bring with it a feeling of joy.
Of course the article has some very good points, and I do recommend reading it. It really does have major repercussions when the entire class of people who work in the Government Apparatus do not feel like they are being represented. As incompetent and awful as Trump is, the fact that he’s working in a system that is hostile to him certainly isn’t making things easier. He needs to replace the entire Represented Class currently working the system with people from his own class, and there aren’t nearly enough of them with the skills and experience needed. Could be Interesting Times ahead if he doesn’t assimilate eventually.
Bush was ineffective for himself and not too smart, but he meant what he said. Cheney maybe wasn’t working for the country – I’m actually not sure he’s nearly as evil as his reputation, he’s too close of an party-switched analog to Hillary and she isn’t – but Bush, however he actually did, was trying. Politicians largely tell the truth. (You can verify that yourself, with a bit of research.)
Actually believing this would be a test I’d be willing to enforce on anyone who wanted to cast a vote: that the opposition are not evil mutants. If you can’t accept that, you’re too irrational to be allowed to steer policy at all; that’s what the “politics is the mind-killer” is meant to warn against.
I thought it was clear how awful Trump was from the first time I heard him talk.
Isn’t this sort of thing pretty much exactly what Dylan Alvarez said to Mark McCarthy (in Unsong) about why he framed him for murders and let him go to prison for 10 years? To make Mark see the system from the point of view of the ones it oppresses?
It is. :) I <3 Dylan, he's a fantastic villain. I kinda wanna see him win, but my brain keeps saying "No! That is bad!"