President Trump called for an end to “ridiculous partisan investigations” during his latest State of the Union address. It reminded me of the private investigation into President Obama’s citizenship he claimed that he began in 2011. Last year, I listened to President Trump talk about a growing and “dangerous anti-police prejudice” in America. Last month, he publicly criticized former leaders of the FBI, calling them “corrupt.” Surely if corruption can exist at the national level, then it can also exist at the state or local levels.
Are baseless claims worth investigating or not? Are remarks that might stir prejudice against law enforcement appropriate or not? What I am searching for are standards. What are the standards that govern our politics? A search for answers could reach outside of the White House and into the rest of America.
Last November, an anti-fascist group called Smash Racism DC gathered outside the home of Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Video footage surfaced online showing the protesters chanting, “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!” The group claims to stand against oppression and intolerance. Why would they use threats of violence against those they find disagreeable or deplorable? Perhaps what is driving them is not confronting bigotry.
These examples are full of hypocrisy, and yet one standard emerges: Power outweighs principles. The idea that power is more important than justice, equal rights, and convention explains much of what we see in our politics. It explains how any action can be sanctified. And how a feminist that promotes gender equality could tweet, “If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.” It explains how a black man that advocates for justice could fail to extend the presumption of innocence to a white teenager accused of wrongdoing. And how a president from a party that spent years warning about the threat of the rising national debt could deliver a State of the Union address without mentioning today’s deficit once.