He said this at a DNC fundraiser, to a crowd of Democrats, so naturally reassurances were in order that the left remains morally superior notwithstanding women getting egged in the face by progressives for the crime of wearing a “Make America Great Again” t-shirt. Obama being Obama, though, the shot at Republicans would have crept into his comments no matter which audience he was addressing. Even when the left is worse, the right is certainly worse.
I can’t tell whether the reference below to “bad habits” is an allusion to Trump winking at roughing up protesters at his rallies — too bad we don’t have a nominee who can’t be accused of that — or to garden-variety political obstructionism by Republican legislators, which O seems to treat as a “bad habit” on the order of sucker-punching someone for backing the wrong candidate. “There’s no room for a politics that fails to at least listen to the other side,” he intones at one point, alluding to the right. Because if there’s one thing the modern left is known for, especially the younger generation, it’s open-mindedness towards the beliefs of its political opponents.
President Obama, talking to individuals at a Democratic National Committee fundraising event in Miami, said, “It is very important for us to remind ourselves of who we are and what is best about American democracy and not slip into some of the bad habits that currently manifest themselves in the other party.”
He explained, “We saw in San Jose these protesters starting to pelt stuff on Trump supporters. That’s not what our democracy is about. That’s not what you do. There’s no room for violence. There’s no place for shouting. There’s no room for a politics that fails to at least listen to the other side – even if you vehemently disagree. Because I believe if you’ve got the better argument, then you don’t need to do that. Just go out there and organize and persuade.”
Obama, never mentioning Donald Trump, then said, “I want our democracy to work in such a way that eventually — and I’ve been waiting a while now – and eventually the Republican fever breaks and they become once again a sensible center-right party that can have a coherent policy debate with us and we can actually get some stuff done. But that doesn’t happen if we start digging into absolutist positions and aren’t willing to compromise and are resorting to some of the same kinds of tactics they’ve been engaging in for quite some time.”
Good for him for speaking up about what happened, although there probably isn’t much overlap between the audience at a ritzy private party fundraiser and the sort of crowd who’d think to pick up Mexican flags and march down to the local Trump rally to wait for defenseless attendees outside. If he wants to drive this point home — and he does want to drive this point home, for selfish reasons if not also altruistic ones — he’s got a podium waiting for him at the White House.
The funny thing about him linking left-wing violence to right-wing obstructionism with Trump at the center of it all is that Trump does not take “absolutist positions,” to borrow Obama’s word. He’s not a Cruz-style ideologue who’s going to give you a my-way-or-the-highway attitude except possibly with The Wall, which is his signature proposal. On the contrary, the guy boasted during the Republican primaries about all of the deals he’s planning to make with Democrats, a promise which his fans on the right smilingly tolerate because they’ve bought whole-hog into the legend of Trump as the superhero negotiator. He’ll make “deals” but he’ll get everything he wants from them and then some because, well, he wrote “The Art of the Deal,” didn’t he? If Obama really wants the Republican fever (by which he means the conservative fever) to break and for the two parties to start making compromises that are salable to the GOP, President Trump is a godsend. It’s just that you’ll have to accept a certain amount of right-wing authoritarianism on certain policy matters as a trade-off. How much, and on which policies? No one knows. Cross your fingers and hope for the best.
While we’re on the subject of blame for what happened in San Jose, here’s an interesting counter at NRO to the predictable claim by some lefties that Trump himself, of course, bears major responsibility:
If you call Trump a fascist often enough, people will begin to believe you. If you insist that this is a “Weimar moment” in which Western democracy is mortally threatened, a Weimar moment is what you’ll get. Given the number of Americans predisposed to believe a fascist with a real shot at the presidency can only be defeated through violent means, the conditional statement that begins with “If Donald Trump is a fascist” can only end one way.
It took millions of lives, trillions of dollars, and untold human suffering to defeat fascism the first time around. People know that; one needs only to look at Robert Capa’s photographs of D-Day to see the struggles of the Second World War are ingrained in our national consciousness. When pundits tell their readers that a fascist is mustering his forces to destroy American democracy, those readers react in a way that might be appropriate if Hitler’s reincarnation were indeed on the way to winning the presidency.
It’s not Trump’s fault that progressive goons are prepared to take “direct action” against his supporters, it’s his critics’ fault! Okay, but that sounds a lot like the “climate of hate” arguments made by the left against the right five years ago after Gabby Giffords was shot. Remember that? Supposedly, if you claimed that America is in crisis under Obama’s leadership; if you insisted that a Democratic stranglehold on government is a threat to the Constitution; if you spent your days arguing that the future of the country depends upon stopping the left before it can do more damage, well, go figure that some mental defective would absorb all that and decide to pull a gun on a Democratic congresswoman. The right-wing response to that charge had two prongs. One was that, as it turned out, the shooting wasn’t political. The gunman was a bona fide nut with his own weird grudge against Giffords so political “hate” was irrelevant. But more importantly, even if it had been political, you can’t use the actions of miscreants to demand that law-abiding political activists silence themselves. The point of the “climate of hate” demagoguery was to get nonviolent commentators on the right, who might actually influence how people vote, to stop speaking out, not because they were wrong but because it was inconvenient to the other party’s ambitions.
If that was dirty pool when the left did it, why isn’t it also dirty pool to blame a law-abiding leftist who honestly believes that Trump has fascist inclinations and wants to raise the alarm to mobilize voters against him for those degenerates throwing rocks at cops outside a Trump rally? I don’t think Trump is a fascist, although he does have moments where he seems, shall we say, fascism-curious. But if you disagree, why shouldn’t you say so? If anything, the obligation to speak out is greater when you fear sincerely that some politician will make a radical break with civic order if handed power. It’s one thing if, like that clod from Vox, you claim that Trump is a fascist and therefore must be engaged violently even though the country gets to vote on him in five months. Encourage riots and you’re on the hook for San Jose. Until you take that extra step, though, the argument above looks like a reprise of Giffords-era “climate of hate” politicking. “You can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater!” But what if there is a fire, and you’re trying to orchestrate an orderly escape?