The first step to a season of renewal in our land is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities.
~ Steve Schmidt, John McCain 2008 Presidential Campaign Strategist, on renouncing the Republican Party
There is nothing on face of Steve Schmidt’s tweets explaining his departure from the Republican Party that I disagree with. BUT. The renewal that Schmidt is talking about won’t begin until people like him acknowledge their own complicity in bringing about the scourge of Trumpism. No repudiation of Trump would be complete without that.
People tend to think of the Holocaust as an event, or a constant: Hitler came to power, next stop Auschwitz. This is far from historical fact, however. The Holocaust was a process, with a beginning, a middle and, if not an end, then at least a near-culmination. There was an arc that took European societies from accepting Jews as neighbors, fellow citizens and even prominent members of the community — if with a dogwhistle here and there, and occasional down-home Jew-hating talk — to wholesale slaughter, with a side serving of unbridled abuse, rape, torture and gleeful psychological sadism. It didn’t happen overnight.
The proto-Nazis spent the 1920’s spreading vicious, (literally) cartoonish anti-Semitic propaganda. Those were the Der Stürmer years. Relentlessly, the future “winners” of the German state called Jews animals, vermin, criminals, racial degenerates, ideological enemies of society. The first race laws began to be enacted in 1933. Then, in 1935, Jews, Roma and other “undesirables” were stripped of their citizenship and civil rights. Then came the pogroms. Then came the ghettos. And then the murders began. Sporadic mass executions were followed by systematic, mechanized slaughter of human beings throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
This week, the voters of Santa Clara County, California, recalled Judge Aaron Persky by a large margin. Good riddance.
In 2016, Persky presided over the trial of Brock Turner, a Stanford freshman convicted of
rape assault with the intent to commit rape and “penetration of an intoxicated woman”. The case generated a tornado of media coverage, and featured a shattering victim impact statement, an obnoxious dad and sanctimonious victim-blaming. Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail (he ultimately only served three) and three years’ probation. The sentence was widely condemned as shockingly lenient, considering the circumstances of the crime, and ultimately cost Persky his judgeship.
During the nasty, messy recall campaign Persky’s defenders have been both vocal and eloquent in their opposition. The argument of the anti-recall campaign boils down to the idea that Persky merely followed California’s sentencing guidelines, which enumerate factors relevant to considering leniency.* Another, frankly paradoxical, justification for Persky’s sentence is that the guidelines simultaneously give judges a lot of discretion in sentencing AND somehow tie judges’ hands. If you care about this case, I urge you to read not only the victim’s impact statement, but also Brock Turner’s statement and Judge Persky’s sentencing decision. Having read all those, here is where I believe Persky and his defenders went wrong:
You know what I don’t get? On this 120-ish day of the Trump Presidency, his administration is running around like a chicken without a head, a Special Prosecutor (a good one!) has been appointed to excavate Trump’s sordid Russia stuff, yet most of what I hear in the liberal circles has to do with the tenuous likelihood of impeachment. The pessimism is puzzling. Right now, the Democrats are in as good a position as they’ve been since the election, and impeachment — much less a successful one — is probably the last thing we want.