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:
Why are American colleges and universities so liberal? That’s one college-related question you hear right-wingers ask often. “Why are there so few conservative professors?” is another. Why are conservative viewpoints not being taught? Why are college students so “intolerant” of free speech, specifically speech that advocates white “identitarianism” and “political incorrectness”? Why are the academia such snowflakes?
Now, I could go into great detail about how conservatives actually do have a sizable (and loud) presence on college campuses, and how extreme allegations about colleges “indoctrinating” students or “teaching communism” come from people who have never set foot in the academia. But, while this is true, I want to acknowledge that at the end of the day, the academia does lean markedly left. The purpose of this entry isn’t to dispute the degree of the lean; it’s to explain why it leans left at all. So if you are a conservative and you are wondering why college students and teachers are generally hostile to conservatism, here is your multipart answer.
One of the justifications that Trump supporters invariably offer for putting a bunch of business executives in charge of the country is that the US needs to be operated like a for-profit business. Who wouldn’t like America’s governance to resemble the Trump Organization? I suppose your average well-to-do Trumper dreams of the days when this whole land will be a Trump golf course, and assumes he’ll be among those who tee off in goofy outfits, and not one of the grossly underpaid, ill-treated staff.
My sincerest hope for the eventual aftermath of the Trumpist era is that we can finally put to bed the ludicrous notion that career businessmen make good statesmen for no other reason than their business experience.
I imagine far-off future students of history chuckling at our era, when a big chunk of the country lost its goddamned mind and came to believe that wealth and self-serving dealing alone were the most desirable traits in a political leader; when people who were knowledgeable about their jobs were scoffed at; when the prior President’s experience in public service was invoked as a slur, as if being an actual public servant is a character flaw that should irreparably disqualify one from the Presidency.