“My God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from deceitful speech,” is a Jewish prayer taken from Psalm 34 and recited three times a day. Yet, the very first act of the designated ambassador to Israel has been to smear and slander the liberal Zionist J Street and its supporters as “far worse than kapos.”
Kapos were Jews who served as lackeys of the Nazis and their role in the Holocaust has remained an open wound in Jewish memory. Regrettably, it has since been used to smear fellow Jews as traitors/betrayers of the worse kind. Right-wingers have used it to vilify and silence liberal Zionists who support peace and a two state agreement.
It may be the most beloved song in the entire Jewish tradition, Dayenu. It is, as Gavriel Rosenfeld points out in his introduction to What Ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism (Cambridge University Press, 2016), edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Judaism’s first foray into counterfactual history, the exploration of how alternative pasts might lead to alternative presents and different futures. Rosenfeld is a reigning expert of counterfactual history, especially the enormous subfield of Nazi counterfactuals. (His recent book, Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture, has to be the funniest title for any historical monograph in recent history.)
Well, during the primaries there were some foolish people, Susan Sarandon comes to mind, who argued that she didn’t care if Hillary or Trump won the election, because a Trump victory would just “heighten the contradictions” and give the left an opportunity. (Note: No need to re-argue the primaries; there were about 500 better reasons to vote for Sanders.) Anyway, Sarandon and all the little Lenins of the left got their wish; the contradictions are being heightened daily, and growing vertiginously.
In The Current Crisis and the Electoral College, Jewish Pluralist, December 16, 2016, the author, Peter Eisenstadt asks: “What would be worse? Allowing Trump to become president, and then watching him violate the rules, principles, and foundations of America’s democracy, or trying, democratically if possible, but extra-democratically [italics mine] if necessary, to prevent him from becoming president?”
His answer, yes: “But in the end, if you ask me, am I willing to do anything, including putting American democracy in peril now [my bold], to prevent a potentially greater peril to American democracy later, I reluctantly must conclude, yes.”
What would be worse? Allowing Trump to become president, and then watching him violate the rules, principles, and foundations of America’s democracy, or trying, democratically if possible, but extra-democratically if necessary, to prevent him from becoming president? I’m not sure how I would answer, but I never thought that I would ever be seriously asking this question. What a tragic day for America.
Here’s the situation: The Electoral College, or rather 51 mini-electoral colleges, in each state and the District of Columbia, will be meeting next Monday. They will almost certainly elect Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. Once the electors meet, and the House of Representatives ratify the result, legally, the only way to remove Trump will be by impeachment, finding him guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The paradox: Can a legitimately elected president be illegitimate? As Ian Millhiser has written, “to declare him illegitimate is to shake the foundations of the American system, to fail to do so is to risk leveling those foundations to the ground.” Both are terrible choices. He is legitimate because, under the rules (and they are of course remarkably stupid rules) governing the election of a president, he won the election. He is illegitimate because it seems clear that he does not feel bound by the rules, written or unwritten; regulations; customary practices and the like that have governed the presidency. Beyond the groups that he has announced he will target, especially undocumented residents and Muslims, the rights of everyone is at risk. He will make the press a frequent target of his attack, and he will ruthlessly attack critics—never has the term “bully pulpit” been more appropriate, and he will use every tactic and gambit available to maintain his power, and vaingloriously magnify himself, a Caligulan presidency.