State of Disunion

Trump has helped turn America into a tinderbox.

Wendy Kaminer
columnist

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Topics Politics USA

‘Let the American people decide’, impeachment critics proclaimed, including those Republicans who acknowledged what practically every member of Congress knew – that the president wrongly (and probably illegally) withheld congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine in an effort to extort dirt on his 2020 political opponent, Joe Biden. On the surface, it seemed like a democratic excuse for inaction, but when politicians invoke ‘the American people’, you should always ask ‘which American people?’, especially in our excessively tribal times.

Numerous polls consistently showed ‘the people’ evenly split between support and opposition to impeachment, mainly according to their partisan affiliations, of course. So, when Republican impeachment opponents insisted on letting the people decide Trump’s fate in November, what they meant was let half the people (mostly Republican) decide. The other half, mostly Democratic, had already decided: they wanted him impeached. The Constitution, after all, contemplates impeaching a president in either term for gross abuses of power.

Besides, ‘the American people’ don’t necessarily decide presidential elections, if by ‘the people’ we mean a majority of voters. Sometimes small numbers of people in a handful of states decide. Fewer than half of all voters gave Trump his first term, when Hillary Clinton lost the essential Electoral College election after winning three million more popular votes. In 2000 and 2016 the majority lost, and the minority decided.

No one knows what will happen in 2020. Will our mob boss president of perpetual grievance be helped, hurt, or affected indifferently by his impeachment? It’s too soon to tell, partly because we don’t know how much additional evidence of presidential abuses or crimes will emerge in the coming months, or how the small but crucial number of swing voters in a three or four decisive states will react to it. Will the thugs that Trump and his fixer, Rudy Giuliani, employed to ‘take out’ America’s ambassador to Ukraine and smear the Bidens reveal damning documentary evidence of their scheme? Are there tapes? Will Trump successfully suppress former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book, and if it presents strong evidence that the president shot someone on Fifth Avenue will his followers care? Maybe not, but no one knows for sure.

Nor do we know how swing voters will react to Trump’s anti-religious rant at what was previously an unfailingly civil, nonpartisan national prayer breakfast. This year, Trump used the occasion to mock the faiths of Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney, after dismissing the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount. What will swing voters think about his vituperative White House campaign rally and vengeful, banana-republic crusade to prosecute or otherwise retaliate against his critics and opponents? Will they ignore, excuse or applaud his division of Americans into one group of ‘good’ people, who unfailingly support, praise and even revere him, and another group of ‘terrible, evil’ people who criticise or oppose him? Who knows?

Here’s what we do know: the 2020 election results will be suspect, tainted by voting-machine failures, manual-count disputes, and voter suppression in the form of onerous ID laws, reduced early-voting hours, or impossibly long lines on election day. Maybe insecure state-election systems will be hacked. Maybe reliable results will be placed in doubt by false claims of hacking or vote-tampering. Any or all of these problems, reflecting either incompetence or malevolence, will confirm and increase existing mistrust of our electoral system, some warranted, some the rancid fruit of propaganda campaigns.

Disinformation, conspiracy theories and outright lies will dominate election season. In the midst of them, facts will be quite difficult to discern and will matter less than what people hear from sources that are, or seem to be, on their side. Russian propaganda will continue to exploit our cultural and political divisions, through a ‘covert’, ongoing social-media campaign, employing ‘fictional personas, bots, social-media postings and disinformation’, FBI director Christopher Wray recently told Congress.

But Russian disinformation may simply be an add-on to what the Atlantic reports will be Trump’s ‘billion-dollar disinformation campaign to re-elect the president’. In a chilling exposé of what we can expect in the coming year, McKay Coppins writes that ‘a dystopian picture of the General Election comes into view – one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.’

Coppins describes ‘a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratising power of social media for their own purposes – jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this “censorship through noise”.’

You don’t have to believe that voters are stupid to expect critical numbers of them to be swayed by the noise. Whether smart or stupid, educated or uneducated, right- or left-wing, our perceptions of reality are shaped by what we hear from sources that seem to share our values or biases, and from people we respect or with whom we identify. Moreover, widely disseminated fictions successfully obscure actual facts. Don’t believe what your mother may have told you about the perils of lying. It’s a most effective political strategy, especially these days, when so many voters get their ‘news’ from social media. The tangled web that lying weaves successfully obscures the truth, which few people, right or left, have the time, energy or means to ferret out. Instead, they’ll credit the version of reality they hear from sources they trust, or simply want to believe.

And while some are taken in by lies, others embrace them knowingly, as weapons of political and cultural war. Some do so sanctimoniously, in the belief that virtue and justice lie in a victory for their side.

What else do we know? If results show that Trump has lost, he will challenge them and, perhaps, refuse to leave office, with the support of congressional Republicans, some of whom may follow suit and refuse to step down if results are against them. Democrats may challenge results that show Trump retaining office. In any case, we should be prepared for either a violent transfer or refusal to transfer power.

It is hardly unthinkable. Americans have endured periods of political violence before, most recently during 20th-century civil-rights and anti-war movements. Some protesters engaged in violence, many more braved the violence inflicted by brutally repressive policing. Today, when an enraged, vindictive president exploits and exacerbates our divisions and (unchecked by Congress) believes he enjoys absolute power, violence seems almost inevitable. What’s the state of our union? It’s a tinderbox.

Wendy Kaminer is an author, a lawyer and a former national board member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

nick hunt

12th February 2020 at 6:29 pm

I’ve seen many Spiked articles by Wendy Kaminer, and none ever contained a single positive word about Trump. Talk about fanatical hatred! Each one projects the author’s own fear and hate onto Irange Man Bad and his supporters, each exemplifies the Alinsky/Goebbels dictum that you should always accuse political enemies of your own (Democrat/leftist) crimes. Wendy seems even more sneering and spiteful today, and I wish we could convince her that the hate she feels comes from inside her, not from Trump. But as Stefan Molyneux says, ‘hate is a prison only unlocked from inside’

SNJ Morgan

12th February 2020 at 4:23 am

Couple of things you missed Wendy. One, the Democrats started the process of delegitimizing Trump almost before he had taken office.

And two, impeachment was always designed to be a last resort and bi-partisan. This move by Pelosi and Co. was neither.

Finally, do stop with the ‘Hillary got more votes’ claptrap. You lost, be gracious in defeat (and get used to it), and move onto something useful.

William Miller

12th February 2020 at 12:03 am

This is a rant disguised as an opinion piece (I think?). You check off all of the boxes (Trump is a criminal, Trump supporters are stupid, American people are uninformed, etc.), but you said nothing original. You do not like Trump. Leave it at that.

David George

11th February 2020 at 9:41 pm

Quite a rant; unbalanced with an undisguised unreasonable animosity. A little crazy.
Is that you Nancy?

Harold Wiren

11th February 2020 at 8:33 pm

The phone transcripts that the first part of Trump’s impeachment were based on were widely available. If Trump had actually explicitly withheld aid to Ukraine, or even implicitly for that matter, the words would be as well known as “I did not have sex with that woman”. One had to read nuance and intention into what is a pretty bland conversation, and this is not enough to throw a US president out of office.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 6:55 pm

Come on Spiked Ms Kaminer is clearly not wanted here. We don’t mind challenging articles .. but this garbage .. really!

Mark Houghton

11th February 2020 at 5:27 pm

If we’re talking about who divides American, was it Trump or Hilary Clinton who talked about deporables?

nick hunt

12th February 2020 at 6:39 pm

Trump dislikes dividing people into races and minorities, preferring the term ‘Americans’. ‘We all bleed the same blood of patriots’ is his approach. Another line from his inauguration speech was ‘open your hearts to patriotism, and there’s no room for prejudice’. Stephen Miller may have written that, but I’ll treasure it both as Trump’s solution to racism, and as his great gift to the demented, tormented leftists who say they fight racism while excoriating ‘white privilege’ and Trump just about every day.

Ian MacArthur

11th February 2020 at 4:32 pm

Truly dreadful article. Through the Looking Glass stuff. Always interesting to see how the Left projects its own machinations onto others. Whatever they accuse the other side of, that’s what they’re doing. Mystifying why this clown was hired to write this specious, unfounded nonsense.

Brandy Cluster

11th February 2020 at 4:55 pm

Projects its own PERFIDY onto others; ‘machinations’ doesn’t nearly describe it.

Ian MacArthur

11th February 2020 at 8:57 pm

Brandy – ‘perfidy’ is indeed an excellent choice of word.

david rawson

11th February 2020 at 4:22 pm

I have no idea what this article is about, it’s like an overly long email to a former lover, after going to the pub with your mates and returning to an empty house, the worse for wear, where an empty fridge. & empty bed awaits ….

Geoff Cox

13th February 2020 at 10:14 pm

Now that’s poetic! More please.

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11th February 2020 at 3:52 pm

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Paul Duffin

11th February 2020 at 3:38 pm

The article was drivel. The comments are awesome.

nick hunt

12th February 2020 at 8:16 pm

Long may Spiked publish unbalanced diatribes by bigots like Wendy! Her endless fearing and smearing of Trump should boost the determination of many more wavering leftists to finally turn on their old faith. That’s what happened to me; after years of growing frustration and disappointment with leftist politics, the explosion of mindless hate just after Trump announced his candidature was what cured me completely of red fascism.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 3:35 pm

76% of independents thought the POTUS SOTU speech was impressive.
Poor Wendy in a dwindling minority!

Ellen Whitaker

11th February 2020 at 1:44 pm

This woman sound more demented than Trump at his worst.

Matt Ryan

11th February 2020 at 2:39 pm

+1 – tin foil hat wearer.

Alexander van der Meer

11th February 2020 at 1:30 pm

ACLU, say no more…

Chauncey Gardiner

11th February 2020 at 11:21 pm

There was a time, before the Dark Ages descended on us, that the ACLU stood up for things like free speech. And I’d even give the ACLU money. But now we get stuff like this piece. It’s lazy. It can’t do any better than toss around meaningless labels. Trump is a “mob boss” ruling over a clique of “thugs”. Really? That’s the best you can do? You can’t (a) make a point and then (b) illustrate it with examples? Lazy stuff.

Geoff Cox

13th February 2020 at 10:12 pm

The same thing has happened here with Liberty and Amnesty International. I used to give them money, I used to even act with them on certain causes, but no longer. They have both been taken over and corrupted by the far left.

cebajoc cebajoc

11th February 2020 at 1:22 pm

I get paid over $98 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I just got paid $ 8460 in my previous month It Sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it….  Read more

Emmett Elvin

11th February 2020 at 1:14 pm

Nice to see another comedy turn from Ms Kaminer. The serious stuff can get a little overwhelming at times so the light relief is most welcome!

Brandy Cluster

11th February 2020 at 4:57 pm

In Australia we had an absolutely hilarious cartoon in one of our papers. It was Nancy Pelosi standing up in her seat tearing up Trump’s speech for the State of the Union and Trump standing up in front of her, at the same time, tearing in half a huge tome entitled “Impeachment”. GOLD.

Michael Lynch

11th February 2020 at 12:47 pm

It’s high time the Democrats take responsibility for ensuring the likely reelection of Trump themselves. Strike one – They attacked him over his handling of the North Korean crisis the minute he took office. A crisis he successfully dealt with with his non appeasement stance. Strike two – they accused him of being a Russian agent and colluding with a foreign power in order to secure his own election. The FBI found no evidence of collusion whatsoever and the best they could do was to accuse him of obstruction. Strike three – they tried to impeach him. However, the Republican Party saw through the ruse and rejected the Democrat attempt to win the next election by the removal of their most strongest opponent. All of this has been played out under the full glare of public attention and they will decide if all this is strong evidence of a witch hunt; something that the Donald has said consistently throughout his first term. The most damning thing that will hang the Democrats out to dry though, is their undeniable view that half of the American people are somehow stupid and not worthy to vote. The Democrats have caused nothing but division in the House, the Senate and in the entire country by not accepting Trump’s perfectly legal election. How sad that they have been reduced to nothing more than a bunch of third rate rabble rousers.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 3:37 pm

it should never be forgotten that the Democrats tried to get him impeached before his inauguration as POTUS.

Michael Lynch

12th February 2020 at 2:06 am

Good point. I’d entirely forgotten about that. I’m afraid you been consistently right in your posts regarding the doubling down of left wing nonsense since the GE. The madness continues and is gathering apace! The election results over here in Ireland have started to throw up self denial from Varadkar’s lot. It very much looks like they are determined to thwart the people’s demand for a change to the old two party system. It’s bizarre and even though Sinn Fein are left wing socialists they are, first and foremost, nationalists. It very much seems like the people across all of Europe are beginning to reject Federalism and the destruction of the nation state and democracy. The globalists, however, simply can’t face up to these facts are simply acting like tyrants in response. Thank God for the bravery of the British people and their refusal to give in to these dictatorial b@stards; the start of an inevitable route, I hope.

Ven Oods

11th February 2020 at 12:12 pm

“You don’t have to believe that voters are stupid to expect critical numbers of them to be swayed by the noise.”
I’d disagree, there. I believe you’d think them stupid, but not want to admit it.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

11th February 2020 at 11:58 am

Irrespective of your political persuasion, you must acknowledge that Trump is a highly divisive, emotionally immature and unpresidential figure who is incapable of nuance or sophistication. He is a populist saboteur with little or no understanding of the need for constitutional restraints on the power of the executive and/or the proper separation of powers as defined by Montesquieu. Trump doesn’t even understand his own constitution or the history of his own country, let alone the need for an intelligent foreign policy.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 12:15 pm

No I don’t agree.
You are anti empire but support the EU self confessed expanding empire . How does that work ZP?

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 12:16 pm

Oh and ZP don’t try and palm me off by asking what the weather’s like in Clacton.. that’s just running away .

Ven Oods

11th February 2020 at 12:17 pm

On the other hand, considering the low employment figures, the improving economy and wage increases, you would have to conclude that he’s a very lucky dysfunctional figure, or else he’s surrounded himself with efficient advisers.
If things are as obvious as you suggest, he’s electoral toast. My own gut feeling is he’ll be re-elected. But that’s partly based on what the Dems are offering as an alternative.

Norman Baker

11th February 2020 at 2:28 pm

So what you are saying is Trump is great – I agree.

Trump is indeed not a ‘proper’ politician and what a breath of fresh air that is. He doesn’t play the politically correct game and because that is the only game they know it drives leftists and democrats utterly insane.

nick hunt

12th February 2020 at 7:08 pm

What’s really astonishing is that someone so absurdly vain, corrupt, unstable and stupid could beat everyone, outplay the entire Washington establishment and corporate media, rebuild the USA economy into the greatest ever in 3 years, and be described as perhaps the greatest president in US history by so many horrible, dumb, racist, deploreable supporters. My God, even 30% of those dumb African-Americans now intend to vote Trump! All of which has greatly increased predictions of Trump’s re-election this year, a fact which must really disturb all those nice leftists with such vastly superior morality and knowledge, eh Xenops? BTW, your hate is clothed in more than your usual pomposity today, but is just as painfully visible as ever.

harry briggs

11th February 2020 at 11:25 am

Utter nonsense that supposes the voting majority is unable to discern fact from fiction, that Trump and the Russians are going to rig the election, the article does indeed show how deep the partisan divide has become, no doubt the author is a “not my president”, placard-waving chanter.

Ven Oods

11th February 2020 at 12:19 pm

Don’t I remember some investigation into collusion that suggested it wasn’t provable or significant? What was the chap’s name…. began with an ‘M’…

Jim Lawrie

11th February 2020 at 11:18 am

Ms Kaminer is well up on her excuses for 2020. Her take is that the Democrats will lose the election, not that Donald Trump will win it.
In saying support for impeachment is 50/50 among the electorate, she inadvertently concedes that Donald Trump has 50% support, destroying her argument that he is a minority President.

As for divisions, did the left ever take any responsibility for adding to them?

Does it sadden and frighten you Ms Kaminer to see the gravy train you were reared on pull out of the station without you and yours on board? That your lot face making your own way in life?

Can you tell us Ms Kaminer how your article engages with the 50% who support Trump?

“If results show that Trump has lost, he will challenge them and, perhaps, refuse to leave office,” That is what your lot have been doing these last 3yrs, and you show every sign of doing it again.

The only new departure in this article is that she now extends the tag of stupid, easy led and naive to educated Trump voters.
If we had IQ tests for voters the bar would not have to be set too high for Ms Kaminer to be excluded. But the left do not want IQ tests, they want a political test for the right to vote, just like they have done for University education. Then an open ballot, just to make sure.
Her articles are all copy and pastiche.

Michael Lynch

12th February 2020 at 3:19 am

Jim, I’d go further and blame the Democrats for driving an accelerating the division since the day he was elected. Most people would have lost interest by now had it not been for the Democrats picking at the sores over and over again. They have offered absolutely nothing by way of policy to the American people, just the usual empty liberal rhetoric. Not to mention a seething, guttural hated for a legally elected President. It’s bizarre behavior for people who claim to be enlightened. I also fear that they are so eaten up by this hatred that they truly believe that all Trump voters are white, right wing fascists that need to be simply ignored at the very least or dispensed with altogether. These are frightening times indeed.

bf bf

11th February 2020 at 9:53 am

“Trump has helped turn America into a tinderbox.”
And up is now down and black is now white pleeeese

Ven Oods

11th February 2020 at 12:20 pm

Spookily, ‘The Tinderbox’ was one of my favourite childhood stories. How prescient was that?

H McLean

11th February 2020 at 9:24 am

I saw the name instantly knew Kaminer would use her article to attack Trump. I’m not reading this shit.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 10:26 am

You should read this ‘shit’ .. it demonstrates just how unhinged these people are. I am surprised BON can’t get a slightly more sane writer than Kaminer, I really am.

Norman Baker

11th February 2020 at 12:03 pm

“I’m not reading this shit.”

In the interest balance and being informed I feel I should read shit from the left, but, when I try so much is so goddamn retarded I can’t keep it up.

Ven Oods

11th February 2020 at 12:40 pm

By not reading this ‘shit’, you’re denying yourself considerable entertainment. I did read it, and found that the supposition and invention employed were more amusing than most modern comedy scripts. The idea that some people can fulminate sufficiently to create this sort of imaginative wonkery makes me glad to be alive to read it.
Don’t be so censorious – instead, enjoy!

Stephen J

11th February 2020 at 8:51 am

Saw the moniker, didn’t bother to read…

Some of the comments are good though.

Come on Brendan, wake up, you know that your view of Trump has turned out to be wrong…

Just admit it and move on…

Admit that we need another four years of Trump, and we need something really radical here, like a real opposition that stands a chance of being elected?

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 8:12 am

Wendy Kaminer’s article is full of suppositions maybes and conspiracy theories.
She writes pure fiction. No wonder the Democrats are doomed to lose again.
Meanwhile the orange man is getting on with making America successful again.
‘The positive versus the negative’.
Where is that other beacon of insanity AOC these days ?

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 8:06 am

President Trump is the lawfully elected POTUS Kaminer gets more deranged each time she writes here, he got elected by the electoral system yet Kaminer whinges about it, did you whinge about it before or is it because she just didn’t like the result? I’m sure BON puts her articles up for light hearted comedy reading!
The hysteria is a joy to behold.
Wendy destroys her article by these few words ‘and probably illegally’ well… The impeachment found the POTUS innocent.
Kaminer time to get some therapy , the hate is eating you up big time.
You lost and ironically you cannot fathom the way to winning again. How about this, put your case for voting Democrat you have no other alternative.

Ian Davies

11th February 2020 at 8:32 am

Yes, they would have no issue if the electoral college delivered a Dem on a minority, perhaps it has before I do not know. Instead they have a smorgasbord of candidates ranging from socialist (in the US for God’s sake!) to unhinged green morons to grandpas long past the sell by date or a combination of the above.

Philip Humphrey

11th February 2020 at 7:38 am

Come off it. This was a wholly partisan impeachment which the Democrats were determined to do right from the moment President Trump was elected (if not before). It failed because there was simply no credible evidence, only hearsay. (it happened after Mueller and the attempts to block Judge Kavanaugh also failed). And it’s no use the Democrats complaining about Bolton not being called, they could and should have gone through the courts to subpoena him, they chose not to. And of course there would always be some last minute witness with a “bombshell” that they couldn’t call, despite how many previous ones turned out to be damp squibs. The Democrats have wasted the last three years and abused their power.

Childishness was Nancy Pelosi ripping up the State Of The Union address and all the heroes commended in it.

Norman Baker

11th February 2020 at 11:59 am

“there would always be some last minute witness”

The house had already determined Trump was guilty – they impeached him. Claiming they needed more evidence to prove he is guilty when they eventually took it to the senate was ridiculous.

Personally I think it was a republican mistake not to allow witnesses and call a bunch of their own to really rub the democrats noses in what they had just pooped. Now we get claims it was a travesty of justice because X,Y,Z was not allowed to testify and I expect some more X,Y,Zs will show up closer to election time to try to smear Trump some more.

John Lewis

11th February 2020 at 7:23 am

Reading one of Wendy’s articles gives one a sense of what the 19th century practice of visiting Bedlam to gawp at the inmates must have felt like.

Mike Oliver

11th February 2020 at 2:55 am

I think this writer has missed her vocation. With her powers of prophecy she should be writing a horoscope column.

Ven Oods

11th February 2020 at 12:33 pm

As Cassandra?

Mark Williams

11th February 2020 at 2:23 am

TDS at its finest. Trump tweets a meme, and the Left think he won’t leave office if he doesn’t win re-election. Which side has failed to accept the result of the 2016 election?

No mention of Antifa but mentions of political violence? Your narrative is showing.

Norman Baker

11th February 2020 at 2:13 am

Strong the TDS in this one is.

If you don’t want people to laugh at you, you really shouldn’t venture out of the echo chamber in which you live.

Jonnie Henly

11th February 2020 at 2:38 am

In other words: “stop saying things I don’t agree with!”

Norman Baker

11th February 2020 at 4:10 am

Are you related to Schiff? You know making up a narrative you want to hear?

I didn’t tell her to shut up. I told her I and others outside her echo chamber consider what she says to be laughable. Calling Trump a ‘Mob boss’. Blaming the Electoral College for his win. Claiming he tried to ‘extort’ dirt on an opponent who frankly is too senile for anyone sane to vote for. Claiming the 2020 election will be tainted by Russian interference (again – lol) and onerous ID laws which prevent votes for democrats from illegal aliens. Claims she knows Trump will challenge the result and refuse to leave office if he doesn’t win – like Schiff she makes up things Trump hasn’t done then criticises him for them.

The same old drivel we have heard over and over from the far left and the far left are too dumb to understand no one but them believes it.

nick hunt

12th February 2020 at 6:50 pm

Nonsense – show us a single positive word about Trump in any article by Kaminer, prove she is not an unbalanced hater trapped in her leftist bubble. You could do the same for your many, many posts.

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