Remember What They Did

Do not allow the enablers of the Trump administration to rejoin polite society, ever.

Hamilton Nolan

From left to right: Nicholas Luna, Dan Scavino, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/ AFP via Getty Images

One day soon, the most vis­i­ble phase of this night­mare will end. The cur­rent occu­pants of the White House will leave, and all of their assort­ed enablers will dis­perse back into the world like fun­gus spores float­ing on the wind, all hop­ing for a cozy spot to flour­ish anew. It is our job, as a soci­ety, to deny them that. To deny them accep­tance, peace, and the unearned sheen of respectabil­i­ty. To always, always, remem­ber what they did. 

Because the vis­i­ble phase of the night­mare is not the whole thing. The past four years rep­re­sent both a begin­ning of fall­out to come, and a con­tin­u­a­tion of long-stand­ing Repub­li­can poli­cies and goals that are being wield­ed more brazen­ly than before. The idea that the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment should pro­tect the rich at the expense of every­one else, use police pow­er to crush pop­u­lar dis­sent, sup­press the vote, steal elec­tions, embrace racism, and ignore the human rights abus­es of for­eign dic­ta­tors in exchange for busi­ness deals is all in keep­ing with the well estab­lished prin­ci­ples of the Repub­li­can Par­ty (and many of its Demo­c­ra­t­ic friends). Trump’s fail­ures as a politi­cian are per­son­al ones. His nar­cis­sism and bizarre per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­ders ensured that he said the qui­et part out loud in every case. The Repub­li­can estab­lish­ment dis­likes this trait of his not because they dis­agree with the sub­stance of his actions, but because his crude­ness can cause momen­tar­i­ly awk­ward pub­lic rela­tions. They have long pre­ferred their class war con­cealed by taste­ful­ly placed flags and their racism swad­dled in Mar­tin Luther King Jr. quo­ta­tions. But Trump just offered the raw sub­stance with­out the faux-gen­til­i­ty. And they were all hap­py to take it. 

The con­se­quences of all of this will be with us for decades. As a direct result of poli­cies that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has enact­ed, inequal­i­ty will con­tin­ue to grow, and cli­mate change will con­tin­ue to wors­en, and fam­i­lies shat­tered by immi­gra­tion enforce­ment will con­tin­ue to suf­fer, and right wing judges will con­tin­ue to restrict our rights, and the cheap cor­rup­tion that has been so wel­comed by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue to leach democ­ra­cy of its pow­er. None of this will be over when Trump leaves the White House in dis­grace. We face the grim task of try­ing to roll back mea­sures that have made already exist­ing crises much worse, and doing so in the face of Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion that will not take a day off. We are about to be like pas­sen­gers on a sink­ing ship who have final­ly been hand­ed buck­ets to bail out the water, after the cap­tain has sailed direct­ly into an ice­berg for fun, and then tak­en a nap. That is, polit­i­cal­ly speak­ing, our best-case scenario. 

A key char­ac­ter­is­tic of bro­ken polit­i­cal sys­tems — a cat­e­go­ry that includes the U.S. polit­i­cal sys­tem in 2020 — that allows them to con­tin­ue to func­tion despite their obvi­ous flaws is this: The peo­ple mak­ing the harm­ful deci­sions are per­son­al­ly insu­lat­ed from the con­se­quences of those deci­sions. Thus, the pol­i­cy mak­ers always end up on the win­ning side of eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty; the vio­lence of the state and its police and sol­diers is nev­er direct­ed their way; racism or oth­er ram­pant forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion nev­er keep their own kids out of the best col­leges; the rav­ages of cli­mate change don’t both­er them much, because they can always move to a more pleas­ant spot. This abil­i­ty to do things that hurt many peo­ple with­out ever feel­ing that pain your­self is an absolute­ly vital piece of all hier­ar­chi­cal sys­tems that pro­duce injus­tice. It fol­lows that if you can make the peo­ple who make the deci­sions suf­fer them­selves in pro­por­tion to how much they are mak­ing every­one else suf­fer, you will cre­ate a pow­er­ful incen­tive for them to stop mak­ing poli­cies that pro­mote suf­fer­ing. If the lives and mate­r­i­al con­di­tions of our lead­ers were tru­ly tied to our own, social­ism would become pop­u­lar faster than you can say But offi­cer, I’m white!” 

Stephen Miller should nev­er be able to dine peace­ful­ly in a nice restau­rant as long as there is one fam­i­ly still expe­ri­enc­ing the pain of his bor­der poli­cies. Jared Kush­n­er and Ivan­ka Trump should not be able to go to fan­cy New York soci­ety events so long as Amer­i­cans are still feel­ing the effects of the Trump administration’s class war. Steven Mnuchin should not be able to have a nice day tak­ing in a ball­game, Bet­sy DeVos should not be able to enjoy a qui­et cruise on her yacht, Mitch McConnell should not be able to have a fun out­ing to the Ken­tucky Der­by. All of these peo­ple should be the sub­ject of ridicule, deri­sion and insults when they ven­ture out in pub­lic. All of them should expe­ri­ence civ­il dis­obe­di­ence designed to pre­vent them from liv­ing calm and lux­u­ri­ous lives while mil­lions of oth­er peo­ple suf­fer in myr­i­ad ways because of what they have done. When you can­not vote for change because the dis­tricts are ger­ry­man­dered and the right to vote is sup­pressed, and you can­not appeal to the courts for change because the bad peo­ple wrote the laws and picked the judges, and you can­not buy change because eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty has been baked in to ben­e­fit a tiny minor­i­ty, you have to get cre­ative. You can and should be part of a move­ment, because move­ments can cre­ate real change in the face of all these struc­tur­al obsta­cles. But in the mean­time, when you see Kayleigh Mce­nany hav­ing a birth­day par­ty in the back of a Wash­ing­ton, D.C. restau­rant, you should gath­er your fel­low din­ers and go back there and yell at her about what she has done until she is no longer hav­ing fun. 

Vio­lence is wrong, but mak­ing bad peo­ple unwel­come in polite soci­ety is the right and moral thing to do. If Dick Cheney is in your golf club, you need to go call him a war crim­i­nal to his face. If Kirst­jen Nielsen is hired at your invest­ment firm, you need to vocal­ly ostra­cize her at work. If Sarah Huck­abee Sanders is in the PTA at your school, you need to stand up and make her account for her lies right there in the PTA meet­ing. And if you aren’t rich enough to run into any of these peo­ple in your day-to-day life, you can always go and protest out­side of their house, or crash their speak­ing events, or start loud P.R. cam­paigns against their future pri­vate sec­tor employ­ers. Though it may be tempt­ing to think of these pow­er­ful peo­ple as untouch­able, you should not under­es­ti­mate the pos­i­tive deter­rent effect of instill­ing in these peo­ple the knowl­edge that their bad actions will result in an equal and oppo­site reac­tion, in the form of them nev­er being able to go out to din­ner in peace again as long as they live. 

In the long run, refus­ing polite pub­lic treat­ment to peo­ple who have not earned it will tend to pro­mote good gov­ern­ment. It is, I assure you, the very least that they deserve. When the many ser­vants of the Trump dynasty return to us, please don’t for­get to do your part.

As a 501©3 non­prof­it pub­li­ca­tion, In These Times does not oppose or endorse can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office.

Hamil­ton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writ­ing about labor and pol­i­tics for Gawk­er, Splin­ter, The Guardian, and else­where. You can reach him at Hamilton@​InTheseTimes.​com.

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