The following is an editorial by PoliticusUSA’s co-publisher Sarah Jones.
The media and politicians keep addressing the issue of Donald Trump as if it were a relationship problem between him and whoever he is insulting, intimidating, bullying, and lying about on that day. This is not only wrong, but it enables him to continue and misses the far more frightening point that there is no reasoning with Donald Trump, because he does not want the same things for our country as most of us on both sides of the aisle want.
Donald Trump is the domestic abuser, Democrats are his battered wife and the media is the very bad therapist urging both sides to get along and be “civil.” The problem here is that going to therapy with an abuser is contraindicated for exactly the same reason why being “civil” (and by civil, they mean not do what Maxine Waters suggested, which is to peacefully protest, and I ask you, what has already become of a supposed democracy where peacefully protesting is being condemned by both sides of the aisle and most pundits?) is the very worst thing people can do in response to Donald Trump’s many abuses.
The primary reason we don’t recommend couples counseling is that abuse is not a “relationship problem.” Couples counseling may imply that both partners contribute to the abusive behavior, when the choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner. Focusing on communication or other relationship issues distracts from the abusive behavior, and may actually reinforce it in some cases. Additionally, a therapist may not be aware that abuse is present and inadvertently encourage the abuse to continue or escalate.
Yesterday the D.C. elite decided that the grave issue of our time was civility. Even top Democrats urged civility as if this were a pressing issue that they needed to address, given Rep. Maxine Water’s bold call for peaceful protests — the kinds of protests the First Amendment guarantees and our country is supposed to support as a way for citizens to address their opposition and criticize their own government.
Maxine Waters is not the problem. In fact, she might be one of the few who get it.
But in no way is Maxine Waters urging people to speak up and out against the jailing of babies the issue of our time. The issue of our time is Donald Trump doing things that should never have been allowed, were never even considered before – pulling out of the Human Rights Council, randomly making up tariffs, spending millions to kidnap and jail babies in order to bribe Democrats into getting his wall built, detaining migrants on military bases like concentration camps, using Twitter like a drunken teenager to insult anyone who doesn’t show complete obedience… The list of Donald Trump’s infractions is too long to even begin to catalogue, although Sean Colarassi did an excellent job here running down some of the most memorable ways that Donald Trump demonstrated civility is not in his bag of tricks. Maxine Waters herself ran down some of Trump’s grotesque behavior.
Sometimes in life we are faced with grave moments in which we must take a side and take a stand. This is one of them. This is not a moment to pretend that Maxine Waters is the problem, or that a lack of civility is the problem. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, this is not a crisis of manners, but a crisis of democracy.
Calls for civility pretend that this is not the case, and that those responding to Trump’s abusive actions have a choice and a voice in how he behaves. They do not.
No one is responsible for Donald Trump’s vulgar, childish, irrational, violent temper and personality but him. Does he invite the worst from people? Yes. He leads from the orifice between his legs, never from any place higher. Maxine Waters was not suggesting violent response to him, so there is no need to address that non-existent comment. It was, of course, the President himself who threatened Maxine Waters. I have not seen anything trending about this. So it is no big deal for the President of the United States to warn a sitting Congresswoman, “Be careful what you wish for!” as if he were a mob boss, but it is not okay for said Congresswoman to call for people to use their First Amendment rights to interrupt Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she is enjoying a cheese platter.
Peaceful dinners out are the real problem here, according to D.C.
Once again, D.C. allows Sarah Huckabee Sanders to make herself out as the ultimate victim, when in fact she is the voice of the predator and abuser. She makes excuses every single day for Donald Trump, claiming yesterday that due process is not really a thing in this country anymore. She urged people not to use their First Amendment rights to speak out against Trump’s policies, like separating children and attacks on the LGBTQ community. These are not the things someone says who wants to be in a good relationship with you.
The shifting of focus, the slight admission of guilt by inferring that “civility” was harmed by citizens using their First Amendment rights, these things do nothing but enable Donald Trump. I am not suggesting that his behavior exonerates others of anything they want to do, but that focusing our attention on reactions to him rather than the unacceptable behavior he exhibits is not helpful. Lock up babies, yes, your dinner might be interrupted.
Discussing seemingly grave wrong of the interruption that dinner more than we discuss Trump’s threat of Maxine Waters is frightening.
There is one problem here, and that problem is Donald Trump. He is not fit for office because of his temperament, criminal proclivities, and obvious lack of fidelity to this country. We can’t be “civilized” with Donald Trump if by “civilized” they mean silent and obedient, only protesting where the Trump administration won’t be bothered. This same administration has cut the public off from the routes of access they should have, like Twitter, and many Republican lawmakers are not available by phone or town hall. The public is fed up, they are angrier than the Tea Party was when Obama tried to give them affordable health insurance, because this time the President is actually doing something horrible, and it already happened. He already locked up babies.
This isn’t a drill, and civility is not our problem. Our problem is the people who call for civility when they should be calling for Donald Trump to act as if he cares about the ideals that built this country, our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and being a leader worthy of even a modicum of respect. It is the people calling for civility who are the weak link. They are the problem. They are the people who tell the abused woman to go home and try to work things out, because they have never been abused and they can’t imagine that being abused is not a relationship problem. It’s a power problem.
Donald Trump is a power problem, not a civility problem. The answer to Trump is to address his abuse of power. Peaceful protests are the way people are supposed to do that. When leaders try to shame people for peaceful protests, they invite worse. They should take a cue from former President Obama, who made sure to let people talk, even bring machine guns to town halls (a thing I did not agree with) in protest, because he valued their right to protest and be heard.
“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy–not just during an election but every day,” Obama’s spokesman said.
“Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.”
Holding Trump accountable for his behavior, words, and actions is the only response that might save us. Excusing him and blaming others for their reaction to his abuse is not only not helpful, but actually siding with the abuser even if unintentionally. You can’t civility your way out of the fact that Donald Trump does not want to get along, does not want to protect liberties, does not want the United States to “be best.”
Donald Trump wants money, self-glorification, and absolutely unchecked power. You don’t negotiate with someone like that, because you can’t in a democracy. You either give in or you fight.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.