Trump’s destructive incompetence is cause for optimism

    Protesters opposed to Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration march outside of Terminal A at Philadelphia International Airport. (Branden Eastwood for NewsWorks)

    Protesters opposed to Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration march outside of Terminal A at Philadelphia International Airport. (Branden Eastwood for NewsWorks)

    The good news is that Donald Trump is already under seige from a nonpartisan citizen backlash — liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, united in love of democracy and hatred of authoritarianism — that is guaranteed to gain strength in the coming weeks and months.

    Ten long days into his hopefully truncated tenure, ISIS recruiting officer Donald Trump is living down to the worst expectations. That’s the bad news, and for anyone who actually paid attention to his 2016 rhetorical toxicity, his destructive incompetence should come as no surprise.

    But the good news is that he’s already under seige from a nonpartisan citizen backlash — liberals and conservatives, Democrats and (so far a few) Republicans, united in love of democracy and hatred of authoritarianism — that is guaranteed to gain strength in the coming weeks and months. Since the Reagan era, presidents have been in office an average of 787 days before their Gallup approval rating went negative. Trump achieved that feat on day eight.

    As horrific as it was this weekend to witness the fallout from Trump’s incompetently xenophobic executive order, the spontaneous outpouring of support for the innocent targets of his bigotry — as evidenced in airport protests, and, most importantly, at rallies in red states like Nebraska — should make us all proud to be Americans.

    “This is one of the most clarifying moments in American history,” writes Eliot A. Cohen, a neoconservative hawk and former George W. Bush State Department adviser. On policy, he and I would not see eye to eye. But we now live in extraordinary times — which is why, in his words, “Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents.”

    Sickened this weekend by Trump’s executive order — which bars all visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations, but not from those where Trump has business interests (natch!) — Cohen throws down the gauntlet to his brethren on the right: “For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.”

    And amazingly — hang onto your hats — a sizeable number of Republican senators and congressmen have actually begun to speak out. They were blindsided by Trump’s sweeping arbitary order (as were virtually all the federal agencies that should’ve had the opportunity to vet it), and a senior GOP Capitol Hill aide said it best yesterday, telling CNN: “We see the final EO and say ‘Holy shit, what did they do?'”

    I need not recap the repressive details — the handcuffing and long detentions of innocent families — and I won’t catalogue the litany of complaints from Republicans who have shaken off their Trumpy torpor. Just to give you a flavor, here’s Sen. Lamar Alexander: “While not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one, which is inconsistent with our American character.” And here’s House member Dan Newhouse: “[It] appears that some innocent people, including some who have performed brave and valuable service to our anti-terror efforts, are having their lives needlessly disrupted.”

    But aside from the onerous provisions that should make the Statute of Liberty weep, and the sheer incompetence exhibited by the inhabitants of the boy-king’s bunker (permanent residence green-card holders were exempted, then included, then exempted again last night), what’s most disgraceful is that the order will likely betray its core intent. It was supposedly designed to enhance our national  security — but, as numerous conservatives and Republicans rightly point out, it will actually make us less safe, not more.

    Start with the fact that, since 9/11, not a single terrorist act on American soil has been committed by anyone from the targeted Muslim-majority nations. This has long been well-documented by think tank studies and the FBI. As for the Syrian refugees, banned henceforth from entry, the libertarian-conservative Cato Institute crunched the terror stats in 2015 and concluded in a report: “The terrorist threat from Syrian refugees in the United States is hyperbolically over-exaggerated and we have very little to fear from them, because the refugee vetting system is so thorough.”

    One problem with targeting Muslim nations is that it ticks off people we need as allies. Here’s Republican Sen. John Barrasso of red-state Wyoming, “We need to remember that some of our best sources of information that keeps our nation and our troops safe comes from our Muslim friends and allies.” And Trump is sending an “us versus them” message that makes it easier for ISIS and other terrorist groups to recruit new members, in this country as well as abroad; they can claim Trump’s order as proof that America is engaged in a religious war against Islam.

    In the words of Max Boot, a military historian and self-described conservative, Trump’s “irrational” order “is, in short, the best New Year’s present that the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorist groups could have received.”

    The upside to all this — wait, there’s an upside? — is that Trump’s latest authoritarian farce has sparked pushback from still-resilient American institutions: the courts, the free and independent press, even the Congress. The seeds have been planted for burgeoning grassroots resistance. Most Americans are already well aware of who and what he is, and he is cognitively incapable of reaching beyond his base.

    Eliot Cohen, the neoconservative hawk, says that Trump “will do much more damage before he departs,” but in the end, “he will fail…With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment…There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.”

    Promise?

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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