Magazine article The New Yorker

State of the Resistance

Magazine article The New Yorker

State of the Resistance

Article excerpt

State of the Resistance

Under normal circumstances, referring to the address that the President delivers each January as the “State of the Union” is a familiar bit of hyperbole. It is more aptly thought of as a summary of the year that was—not unlike the countless news and pop-culture roundups that appear at New Year’s—and as a projection of the Administration’s priorities for the upcoming year. The President gives a pro-forma statement that “the state of our union is strong,” because what else would it be? But these are not normal circumstances.

Trump’s statement regarding the strength of the Union in last week’s address carried about the same credibility as his denial that he cheated on his postpartum wife with a porn star, or his claim that Mexico would pay for his quixotic border wall. Americans, by a nearly two-to-one margin, believe that Trump has further divided the country. Superficially, his speech conformed to the conventional structure of a State of the Union address. But, at the very moment that the President was attesting to the Union’s durability, his Administration and its Republican abettors were actively engaged in a feud with the F.B.I., attempting to discredit the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and to release a secret memo about that investigation, despite objections from senior officials in the Department of Justice. In a new book, “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt argue that democracy does not typically succumb during a catastrophic event, such as a seizure of power by a military junta. It fails more commonly through the gradual weakening of crucial institutions, such as the judiciary and the press. In short, the Union is precisely as strong as its institutions, and those institutions are being assailed in ways that we’ve seldom seen.

It is for this reason that, since the inception of Trump’s Presidency, the members of his opposition have tended to understand themselves not simply as defenders of particular policy positions but also as stalwarts of democracy itself—a resistance. As such, the Trump Resistance has differed from, for instance, the Tea Party in key ways. The latter was intent upon “taking the country back”; the former hopes to insure that the country remains standing. Yet it has been in particulars of policy that Trump’s impact on women, immigrants, and minorities—the groups most antagonized by him during the 2016 campaign—can be seen.

The President who has been accused of sexual harassment or assault by at least nineteen women has also overseen a revision of the Department of Education’s guidelines on sexual assault on college campuses that raises the standard of proof for accusers. He has made it easier for employers to refuse to include birth control in their health-care plans and reinstated the “global gag rule” on abortion counselling. He created an “election integrity” commission that was a thinly veiled attempt to nationalize voter-suppression techniques. He has rescinded deportation protections granted to two hundred thousand Salvadoreans and almost sixty thousand Haitians, and tried to remove transgender people from the military and to ban people in certain majority-Muslim countries from travelling here. His Justice Department has issued new guidance that could lead to more prosecutions for marijuana-related crimes, which will disproportionately affect African-Americans, who are far more likely to be arrested on such charges. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.