This past weekend I was in Houston, TX to observe the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl — remember that sporting event? Very exciting! — and had the pleasure of encountering a member of Congress, Al Green, Democrat of Texas. You can view our exchange here:
The context of the encounter was a protest that had been organized by the local Democratic party (Harris County, TX) in conjunction with other groups, such as the Democratic Socialists of America. The impetus for the protest was the same impetus for much of the protest activity we’ve seen in recent weeks nationwide: general anti-Trump sentiment, combined with the battery of longstanding left-wing grievances that are voiced at virtually every protest of this nature.
Rep. Green had just got done bellowing into a microphone about how horrible Trump was, and fair enough, but the angle he took was reminiscent of the very kind of Democratic sloganeering that has doomed the party. For example, Green literally got the crowd to chant “Justice For Merrick Garland,” the beleaguered former Supreme Court nominee who was successfully blocked by Senate Republicans. Whatever you might think of the Merrick Garland episode — and sure, the GOP employed extreme, norm-defying tactics to thwart him — the idea that he’s some kind of martyr who needs to have protest crowds chanting in his defense is just on-its-face ridiculous.
But that’s the type of agenda that someone like Green brings to a protest: co-opting the genuine anger out there in the populace to further standard-fare Democratic Party aims and talking points, such as complaining about the mistreatment of a judicial nominee nobody actually liked.
So rather than simply heap praise on Green for attacking Trump, or grant him a platform to attack Trump even more for the TYT audience, I figured what I ought to do is challenge some of the inconsistencies and cliched thinking that obviously underlie his political outlook. He had just stood up to reprimand Trump for instituting draconian immigration-related measures — and again, fair enough. But the policy framework in which Trump is now operating didn’t suddenly come into existence on January 20. It well preexisted him, and is a bipartisan construct. Unless Democrats are made to account for the culpability of their own party in corrupting the political system and making everyone loathe the government, their “Resistance” to Trump will not just be ineffectual, but will probably backfire.
So I asked Green if he saw the Trump actions on immigration as in any sense a continuation of the Obama Administration’s policies. Bear in mind that there is a literal sense in which the Trump administration’s actions are functionally a continuation of the Obama administration’s policies: the seven predominantly-Muslim countries selected by Trump for “banning” had also been selected by the Obama administration for “extra vetting,” which Trump officials have explicitly cited as precedent.
Not only did Green refuse to acknowledge the plain fact that yes, Obama did preside over more deportations than any other president in history — he became weirdly defensive, cut the interview short, and then accused me of being a Trump supporter. Simply for presenting him with a fact. In doing so, he embodied the exact mindset that so many Americans are sick of: vacuous, reflexive political gamesmanship rather than any kind of honest assessment of the real conditions before us. If you’re Green, accusing somebody of being a “Trump supporter” is a sure-fire way to get out of an uncomfortable exchange: because “Trump supporters” can’t be reasoned with, a Congressman can’t be expected to spend his time talking to one. (To repeat the pseudo-McCarthyite mantra just for due diligence’s sake: I am not, nor have I ever been, a Trump supporter. Green simply asserted that with no evidence because he wanted to run away.)
Just because Al Green can spout the correct anti-Trump cliches doesn’t necessarily make him any kind of laudable political force. Stoking outrage about Trump is the easiest thing in the world for Congressmen representing overwhelmingly “blue” districts, such as Green’s. Some of this outrage will obviously be warranted, as Trump does condemnation-worthy things, but some of the outrage will also be cheap, partisan, and mindless. That Green couldn’t even acknowledge the plain fact that Obama presided over a record number of deportations shows that his priority is generating outrage for short-term partisan advantage, rather than taking any kind of holistic look at the system which produced Trump.
Again, denouncing Trump over and over again is incredibly easy; it’ll get you a lot of retweets, and it even might get you invited to speak at one of these Democrat-organized protests. But it won’t accomplish anything of substance. The reason the “Resist.” slogan is so asinine is that it suggests that merely combatting Trump is the solution to remedying the problems that ail the country, when the groundwork was laid for Trump long before he ever began running. If Hillary had won, there would’ve been plenty to “Resist” as well. Ultimately, the point of “Resist.” is to capitalize on the swelling anger over Trump and channel it into staid establishment avenues such that people view “Electing Democrats” as the only viable solution on offer. But that’s a sham.
Trite slogans and nostrums have failed the Democrats and they will continue to fail the Democrats. So that’s why I asked Al Green what I did.