Here's a question for readers and friends who served in the military, particularly those who worked with nukes (I know you're there). Can a president order a nuclear strike with no intermediating checks in the National Command Authority?
Everywhere else in the military where nuclear weapons are involved, the "two man rule" applies, from authenticating an Emergency War Order and turning launch keys to even being in the vicinity of warheads and delivery systems. I always thought this applied at the top, where the ironically nicknamed "Mad Dog" Mattis would have to authenticate the so-called Gold Codes along with the president. Mattis is the most rational person in the administration. And yet, people have told me this is wrong: Donald Trump can give the launch order on his own. How about it? With the Martin Bormann/Joseph Goebbels clone Steve Bannon now a member of the National Security Council and an unhinged president, this inquiry takes on a certain...urgency.
The progressives have their marches — many thousands in city centers and airports over the weekend — and they believe they are mighty. Farhad Manjoo, the savvy technology columnist for the New York Times, appears to agree:
We’re witnessing the stirrings of a national popular movement aimed at defeating the policies of Mr. Trump. It is a movement without official leaders. In fact, to a noteworthy degree, the formal apparatus of the Democratic Party has been nearly absent from the uprisings. Unlike the Tea Party and the white-supremacist “alt-right,” the new movement has no name. Call it the alt-left, or, if you want to really drive Mr. Trump up the wall, the alt-majority.
Or call it nothing. Though nameless and decentralized, the movement isn’t chaotic. Because it was hatched on social networks and is dispatched by mobile phones, it appears to be organizationally sophisticated and ferociously savvy about conquering the media.
I'm not so sure. Crowd psychology is a funny thing and it can lead to magical thinking. Some have been mentioning 1968, as if that year of famous civil unrest ushered in a new progressive era. Quite the contrary happened, as the American liberal consensus was shattered and conservatives ("law and order") triumphed. Now I am suspicious of the progressive echo chamber on social media and in "the streets."
There's good reason to be. Donald Trump was elected by nearly 63 million votes. Although this was less by a record margin than the tally Hillary Clinton received, it's difficult to believe many of these Trump voters have buyer's remorse. He is doing exactly what he promised, and fast. I suspect they dig it, to use 1968 slang. It's what they voted for. But they are easy to ignore because they don't hold massive street demonstrations and they don't dominate social media. They just vote. And this has left us with the Republicans in charge of both the White House and Congress, 25 statehouses in entirety (including Arizona), and soon the federal courts. The ramifications of this fact are beyond enumeration.
Barack Obama entered the White House with a comfortable victory margin, high approval ratings, and amid a laissez-faire-caused financial crisis that echoed Herbert Hoover. Yet Mr. Obama, the constitutional scholar, was careful to observe republican norms. Continuity was especially important to the first African-American president. He led a mass political party with bare control of Congress, so couldn't snap his fingers on every item of the progressive agenda. He reached out for years to scorched-earth Republicans. Even Obamacare was Republican in origin.
Trump has discarded republican norms unlike any chief executive in history. He didn't even thank President Obama for his service to the country in his inaugural address. But never forget that Trump and the GOP are joined at the hip, their differences may be about degree or timing but not fundamentals. One reason Trump steamrolled his primary opponents was that he was willing to say openly the things most Republicans believe.
Trump capitalized on white anxiety, the hatred fanned against an African-American president and the possibility of a woman successor. He thrived on, and helped create, an alternative, fact-free media universe. Even then, he required scandalous media malpractice in overplaying Hillary's innocent emails while downplaying his very real conflicts of interest and unfitness for office. He required vote suppression in GOP-run states. And help from James Comey and Russian intelligence.
They loved it when he made fun of the disabled reporter. It was a triple: cripples are losers, journalists are the enemy, and they're sick of this "political correctness." They are sick of progressives' in-your-face "diversity," Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, and celebratory counting down the days until those evil white folks are a minority.
They ask, who will keep this a white, native-born majority country? Trump claims he will. For his voters, the 81 million immigrants and their American-born children in the 2014 Census American Community Survey — 26 percent of the overall population, a record high — is an existential threat. The easy comebacks are to dismiss them as racists. And hypocrites: the "European-Americans" took the land from 500 indigenous nations and brought the curse of slavery, too. But a little empathy might be useful. After all, progressives celebrate every other culture, even ones that have their militant outliers.
If you're still with me and haven't closed the window in anger, my larger point is that the protests on television and social media represent part of the country. But almost half voted for Trump knowing full-well what he would do. They saw the debates! So we are divided like no point since the eve of the Civil War. One difference is that Donald Trump and the Republicans control a massive national security establishment that can be turned to mass repression. Another: the right has the guns.
Maybe the protests will burn out and Trump will be normalized. The latter, especially, is a frightening thought. Anything is possible. Trump might be impeached but Pence is no better and we're still stuck with a GOP Congress ready to repeal the New Deal, Great Society, Nixon administration, and Enlightenment. I doubt this will happen because congressional Republicans fear Trump and want him for cover.
Otherwise, progressives are fast approaching a "Chicago way" moment, as in, "What are you prepared to do?" Are you prepared to march to red country and the gates of affluent suburb pods? Are you prepared to apply non-violence in the face of beatings and worse, and fill the jails to overflowing in red suburbs and counties? This what the Civil Rights Movement did (underwent training to do). If not, I have a hard time taking the regular protest-party in deep blue downtowns seriously. They won't flip one red district.
Are you prepared to subscribe to good newspapers and support professional journalism? Prepared to pay attention, because much of what Trump does is a distraction from serious wrongdoing elsewhere? How about fighting vote suppression, which is going to come on like a banshee ahead of the election in 2018, much less 2020? And then will you vote for a winning coalition where everyone has to give a little, called the Democratic Party? Because if you voted for Jill Stein, the libertarian, or wrote in Bernie or your dog's name this past November — you voted for Trump by proxy.
Another time will come to write about the Democrats' future. For now, will they have the spine to stand and fight?