Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Mustache of Radical Love

When Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, gets depressed (I think of it as getting back on his meds) he can get insightful: today, on the subject of the bizarre war between the Department of Homeland Security and the municipal government of Portland, Oregon ("Trump's Wag-the-Dog War"), though he's still pretty crazy:

Some presidents, when they get into trouble before an election, try to “wag the dog” by starting a war abroad. Donald Trump seems ready to wag the dog by starting a war at home. Be afraid — he just might get his wish.

Trump's told us all about how he hates endless foreign wars, but he's not opposed to domestic ones.

Listen to how Trump put it: “I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country.”

These cities, Trump stressed, are “all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left. If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

This is coming so straight from the Middle East Dictator’s Handbook, it’s chilling. In Syria, al-Assad used plainclothes, pro-regime thugs, known as the shabiha (“the apparitions”) to make protesters disappear. In Portland, Ore., we saw militarized federal forces wearing battle fatigues, but no identifiable markings, arresting people and putting them into unmarked vans. How can this happen in America?

How indeed? It can happen American-style, inefficiently, without a recognizable strategy or attainable goal, and, fortunately, much, much, much less lethal, with no bombing raids or torture chambers or permanent disappearances, poison gas attacks limited to legal gases (now confronted in Portland by the Dads With Leaf Blowers), hopefully not even real bullets. Though it's bad enough as it is—

it's no worse than the police violence we saw in June, and I don't see how it gets much worse without actual military, which is unquestionably illegal even if the military would be willing to sign up for it, which it clearly wouldn't.

It really is a war in Trump's personal conception, where having a city "run by very liberal Democrats" is a legitimate reason for invading it, like Putin's invasions of Crimea and the Donbass region, which Trump has admired for the way they "outsmarted Obama", and it's a kind of war he's been longing to conduct somewhere, all the way back to the week of the Inauguration, when he threatened to "send in the Feds" to Chicago if it failed to "fix the horrible 'carnage' going on", and a month later, February 2017, when he claimed to be running a "military operation" at the Mexican border
"We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before," Trump said Thursday. "And they're the bad ones. And it's a military operation."
and Kelly (then DHS secretary) had to assure the nation that this was not the case. And he may have learned that he can't exactly do that, but he hasn't given up on the thought, or the hope that, as with his Muslim ban, he can eventually find a way of making it sound in accordance with the mysterious rules that keep restraining him from working his presidential will.

And he's always got henchmen working on these problems, and the latest (5th) DHS secretary, Chad Wolf (actually acting secretary, appointed in November 2019 because, with 9 out of 11 of the top positions at DHS vacant, he was the only person available in the pecking order), and his trusty Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Homeland Secretary (whose amazing title is because he's not even qualified to be Acting) Ken Cuccinelli, seem to have found a way: sending in their own detachments of lightly trained immigrant-bashers to, um, protect Portland's treasured federal buildings from the menace of graffiti. Not that they're doing that in any particular way—it looks as if their job is officially to mount guerrilla attacks on the First Amendment.

And more directly the Fourth and Fourteenth, as Andrew Crespo explains.

It's obviously unlikely that the troops can win this war in any meaningful sense, or that Trump is even especially interested in such an outcome: as Steve says, he's interested in conflict in its own right, and his base is too:
this is perfect for a president who's a Fox News addict and who's trying to appeal to voters sharing the same addiction. Fox addicts don't want to win -- they want conflict. They'd be bereft without enemies to hate. They don't really want to establish a right-wing Utopia. They want to feel contempt, moral superiority -- and fear.
Meanwhile the national discourse is increasingly poisoned by the rhetoric of war, and, as we all of us face together the catastrophes of pandemic and economic collapse, focus on the desires of separatists to whom the need for institutions named after Braxton Bragg and the terror of seeing a kneeling football player before the game starts are more important than life itself.

Friedman's solution to this is, naturally, guided by Murc's Law: the principle that only Democrats have agency:

In the face of such a threat, the left needs to be smart. Stop calling for “defunding the police” and then saying that “defunding” doesn’t mean disbanding. If it doesn’t mean that then say what it means: “reform.” Defunding the police, calling police officers “pigs,” taking over whole neighborhoods with barricades — these are terrible messages, not to mention strategies, easily exploitable by Trump.

I know, I know, but (1) pretty much everybody but Tom Friedman now knows what it means

and (2) does he really think this will fix it? Why can't he ask them to admit that Black Lives Matter?

Today’s protesters need to trump Trump by taking a page from another foreign leader — a liberal — Ekrem Imamoglu, who managed to win the 2019 election to become the mayor of Istanbul, despite the illiberal Erdogan using every dirty trick possible to steal the election. Imamoglu’s campaign strategy was called “radical love”.... reaching out to the more traditional and religious Erdogan supporters, listening to them, showing them respect and making clear that they were not “the enemy”...

Biden will do plenty of that so Portland protesters don't have to, but "radical love" is not a slogan to win the hearts of the Trumpy, and I value my life too much to risk it by hugging some MAGA-headed guy on the street, as Imamoğlu supporters were invited to do with members of the AKP. You're such a hippie, Tom! 

Note that Imamoğlu also won with some Democratic-style identity politics by reaching out to the marginalized Kurdish population, of which there is a big community in Istanbul, and by backing civil rights and condemning Erdoğan himself and his "populism". 
Portland police with a pig rescued by protesters, in the atmosphere of mutual respect and affection that can prevail when the DHS is not involved, via OregonLive.

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