During the Obama years, the GOP liked to posture as the party that had the most reverence for the Constitution. When those claims were boiled down to their essence, conservatives appeared to be of the belief that the Constitution only protected the wealthy and gun owners. I never heard them express any support for the right to a fair trial found in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eight Amendments. Nor did I hear conservatives ever mention any support for the right to a jury trial found in the Seventh Amendment or the right to vote in the Fifteenth Amendment. Instead, those same conservatives who claimed a fealty to the Constitution consistently backed measures that gutted these vital portions of our founding document.
The historical basis for this conservative claim to have some kind of monopoly on support for the Constitution began with a public relations scheme during Franklin Roosevelt’s first term as president. In 1934, the DuPont family and other super wealthy oligarchs retained the services of a high powered New York City public relations firm to help them better market their support for trickle down economics and the rigged economy that existed at that time. These reactionary billionaires were instructed to make a defense of the stratified economy and society by making constant references to the Constitution, freedom and liberty.
Conservative claims to support the Constitution also ring hollow in light of their silence in the face of repeated attempts by Donald Trump to intimidate or otherwise silence criticism of him and his policies. During the campaign, Trump came out for changing the libel laws to make it easier for him to sue media sources that criticized him. Moreover, Trump threatened Jeff Bezo’s Amazon.com with an anti-trust investigation. This was a significant threat since Bezos also owns the Washington Post.
What made this whole episode even more bizarre was the near silence of the mainstream press when they were threatened by Trump earlier this year. Instead, the press maintained it’s obsessive focus on the phony “scandals” about the emails and the Clinton Foundation that were ginned up by the GOP and the conservative media.
The Trump team’s attack on the media has continued since he won his controversial victory in the electoral college last month. Recently, long time Trump aide and CNN employee Corey Lewandowski contended that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet should “be in jail” because the Times published excerpts from Trump’s tax returns during the campaign. Those tax returns indicated that Trump probably hadn’t paid any federal income taxes for the last twenty years. (Oddly enough, while Lewandowski acted as a paid commentator on the CNN payroll during the campaign, he was still receiving payments from Trump and was legally barred from criticizing him due to a non-disparagement contract he had signed with the orange hued mogul.)
Probably even more disturbing than Trump’s attack on the feckless press corps are the attacks he has made on private citizens since the election. When Trump initially announced his Carrier deal, he claimed that he had saved 1,000 jobs and that “only” 1,000 jobs were being shipped to Mexico. (Even though Carrier was outsourcing jobs to Mexico, they were still rewarded with a $7 million payment from the Indiana taxpayers.)
As it turned out, Trump’s deal only saved 750 jobs and 1,250 jobs will be shipped to Mexico. Chuck Jones, the president of Local 1999 of the United Steelworkers union in Indianapolis, called out Trump and said that the orange hued mogul was “lying his a– off.” The notoriously thin skinned President-elect fired off some tweets that falsely contended that Jones was a poor union leader and blamed workers for the outsourcing of jobs.
As a result of this attack on a private citizen by Trump, Jones received numerous death threats from many of Trump’s rabid supporters. To his credit, Jones responded with aplomb stating that he had no regrets about calling Trump a liar. Jones said: “I’ve been doing this job 30 years. I had a lot more serious threats than people are making now. I have a thicker skin than I did many years ago. Everybody has a right to their opinion. I’m not overly upset about it.”
Trump isn’t just content to trash labor leaders, he recently went after a captain of industry. What happened was that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg offered up mild criticism of Trump’s trade policies in a speech he gave to a trade group. In response, Trump falsely claimed that Boeing had overcharged for its contract to produce the next Air Force One and threatened to cancel the contract. As a result of Trump’s dishonest attack, Boeing’s stock price took a big tumble. In making this attack on a private company, Trump was throwing a brush back pitch as a signal to CEOs that they should think twice before they criticize him.
Trump and his team are trying to silence opposition not out of strength – but out of weakness. They know that Trump lost the popular vote by a 48% to 46% margin and by nearly three million votes. They also know that a mere 80,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania out of over 140 million votes cast decided the election.
Trump is also defensive about the fact that he is far and away the most unpopular President-elect in modern history. According to recent polling, Trump’s approval rating is an anemic 41%. In contrast, Obama had a 72% approval rating in December 2008. Moreover, despite a disputed election, Bush had a 50% approval rating during his transition and Clinton’s approval rating was 62% shortly after he was elected in 1992.
Recent revelations that the Russians meddled in our election to assist Trump has put the very legitimacy of his prospective presidency in question. What we have now is a president elect – that 54% of voters opposed – who was elected with the help of a Russian intelligence operation. We are clearly in uncharted territory right now as a country.
I can’t sugar coat it my friends. These are truly dark days for our country. Next month we will have a minority – whose very electoral victory was tainted – that will control all three branches of the federal government. This minority rule was enabled by an archaic system that was devised back in the days when only white male property owners were allowed to vote and human slavery was legal. The GOP will try to leverage that power into enacting radical changes to the budget, Social Security and Medicare against the will of the majority.
As Democrats we have a mandate – as well as a moral duty – to oppose Trump and his minority government. We can’t count on the press to stand up for the majority of this country. The press failed the country this year with its coverage. We must have the courage – like Chuck Jones – to speak out. We will not be intimidated. We will work hard in 2018 to restore majority rule in this country. Now let’s do it!