Vindman, Kasparov and Applebaum discuss the dangers of a second Trump term
Over more than three decades Gary Kasparov has written, spoken and acted courageously in the defense of freedom and liberal society. In his opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and to President Trump’s post-election conduct in office Kasparov has consistently warned Americans – most of whom can barely imagine life under a deeply illiberal regime – that the erosion of a constitutional order does not take place suddenly. In this interview he says “It’s not about tanks in the streets.” That statement rebuts, concisely and vividly, the belief of many conservatives that, absent an explicit defiance of the President’s constitutional restraints, Trump poses no real threat to the historically resilient United States institutional structures of governance. Kasparov is asking us to look beyond the simple mechanics of governance, which for the most part have been mainstream and unexceptional during Trump’s term in office, and see in Trump’s indifference or disregard for “honor… traditions [and] certain political rules that are not written in the law books” a fundamental threat to the republic.
Conservatives, habituated to see civil society through a Burkean lens as an artifact constructed organically across long periods of times by the ongoing testing, stressing and balancing of countless checks and balances, will mostly agree that Trump has, at the very least, brought more stress on this equilibrium than any President in living memory. Said simply, Trump is not a conservative, if by that term we mean someone who respects and conserves the inherited institutional framework. Kasparov argues that Trump is a real and ongoing danger to the republic. He is damaging what is best in the flawed but precious system we live in now.
I happen to agree, but here’s the problem, and I would humbly argue that Kasparov and others who make this argument most convincingly (Andrew Sullivan especially) miss, or at least fail to acknowledge: the ascendancy of identity politics and other extreme progressive political forces also radically stresses our constitutional framework. This short comment section isn’t the place to argue that case; most readers will be at least somewhat familiar with it.
So here’s the point: many of us feel the danger to our constitutional order from both directions, and it isn’t enough to point out Trump’s depradations to indicate a way out of the danger. There’s not much of a market for “the US constitutional framework is in trouble no matter who gets elected” commentary, but it seems closest to the truth. This is a perilous time for liberal society, and it isn’t clear yet what it will take from each of us to preserve it, whatever the outcome on November 3rd.
What we have learned from the last 4 years is that 1) our civil service and our military are subject to serious political pressure, 2) we have very weak system of checks and balances, 3) there is no one person - one vote; we now have minority rule. In all other western democracies Judge Barrett could only be confirmed by a representative body and in general, by more than a one person majority.
I think Mr. Kasparov's pearl-clutching over Judge Barrett's evading Senator Booker's question is -- as you can probably tell from my choice of metaphor -- reading more into that exchange than is there. I don't know that Judge Barrett isn't secretly a fascist, but I certainly have no reason to suspect it and the exchange with Senator Booker doesn't change that.
Why should Amy Coney Barrett be involved in a current political controversy just because a Senator, a political creature, is trying to involve her in it? When you look at the relevant clip on Google, it is clear what Cory Booker was trying to do politically. Judge Barrett's response is totally appropriate. But maybe Mr Kasparov disagrees? Fine. But to say on this basis that the judiciary's independence is being eroded or Amy Coney Barrett is not fit to serve on the Supreme Court is astonishing hyperbole. Is this the Rachel Maddow show or Persuasion? Very disappointed with this kind of rhetoric.