With all those Washington politicians chewing the scenery at Trump Impeachment Theater, you might consider taking a step back and picking up a most thoughtful new book: “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America.”
Kimberley Strassel, a Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member and columnist who writes the Potomac Watch column, didn’t write a book on President Donald Trump.
She focuses on something more important: What happens after Trump?
Especially since vital American institutions have been damaged, perhaps irreparably, by the rage-filled efforts to delegitimize Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.
“When the publishers first came to me, they wanted the subtitle on the book to be ‘How Trump Critics Are Breaking America,’ ” Strassel said on my podcast “The Chicago Way.”
“And I said no, no, no, oh, no, I am a Trump critic at times — at the editorial page we try to look at the office of the presidency, this president, as we have any other. Is he in favor of free markets and free peoples? Then we are supportive. And when he is not, we are critical.
“My point here is that, nonetheless, there is a group of people, from the moment Donald Trump was elected, they viewed him as an illegitimate president, an occupying power.”
“The Resistance” is a political pose, yes, and quite heavily romantic, like a college freshman reading Camus for the first time while smoking French cigarettes. But its impact upon American institutions has been severe.
“Think about those words, ‘the resistance,’ which is a reference to World War II fighting against the occupying Nazis, and as a result their attitude is that they are allowed to take any action, no matter how far out from our standards, no matter how bad they are for our institutions, in order to stop him.
“And that for me is what has been really worrisome, for our republic, over the last three years,” Strassel said on “The Chicago Way.”
Many thoughtful Americans on the left, center and right can’t help but be worried. Because what happens to the republic when the people lose confidence in its institutions?
It begins to wobble.
The rage that shook the Democrats — and Washington establishment Republicans — when Trump beat Hillary Clinton has been staggering. Democrats had thought they’d use Clinton to cement the liberal gains they’d won over eight years of Barack Obama in the White House, and they were certain they’d be able to shape the Supreme Court.
The Washington establishment media has always been thought to be center-left. But since the 2016 election, it has become openly partisan at a time when journalistic credibility is most needed.
The spurious attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh through uncorroborated allegations that he was a sex predator helped delegitimize the high court in the eyes of half the country.
And former FBI Director James Comey has damaged the credibility of the bureau, perhaps irreparably, with many believing the Obama administration weaponized intelligence services to take down an opposition presidential candidate.
“And look at impeachment,” Strassel told me. “This is the watering down of a very sacred process in the Constitution, and we are setting ourselves up to, at some point, decide we’ll use impeachment anytime we want to settle political differences, and it was never supposed to be this way.
“These are all boundaries that have been transgressed by a resistance that is allowed to take these steps because they just don’t like Donald Trump.”
Strassel is careful to distinguish between Trump critics, including voters who don’t like him and loathe his policies and manner, and leaders of “The Resistance,” those government, media and political elites who pull the strings and incite the mob.
Trump incites his voters, too, often at the expense of established norms, and this horrifies and disgusts many. But Democrats and their allies in the Republican establishment are simply smoother in doing the same thing.
America once got through tough elections without trashing the system. Every four years, someone was elected president, and the other side would grumble, lick their wounds and think about how they could improve its messaging to win four years later.
But “The Resistance” has ended that, hasn’t it?
“The way our country has operated up until about three years ago is that one side was truly disappointed, but at the same time they’d step back and say, OK, I’m going to have another shot four years from now. The political parties would do an autopsy and say, ‘What did we do wrong? How do we go back and make it better next time? How do we win?’”
Strassel argues that many Americans who opposed Trump — even despised him — did just that. But not the elites of “The Resistance.”
“They’ve never accepted the results of that election and believe they can take any action they want, and they’ve been trying to overturn the results of that election, whether it be through impeachment or the Mueller investigation,” she said.
We’re so full of rage now, partisan rage on all sides, as if we’re armies seeking conquest and forcing the other side to bend the knee.
But that’s what happens when institutions break down and you don’t consider the long term.
“I keep reminding my friends on the left, that at some point, maybe in the near future, there’s going to be a Democratic president and a Republican House,” Strassel said, “and the standards they are setting here are very scary for the nation.”
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him e-mail at email@example.com.