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We’re all familiar with the petulant customer constantly demanding to speak to successive managers at a store until she gets what she wants. And some of us have been there when the final manager comes to put a stop to the commotion.
Ultimately, the customer is trying to get her way and is willing to make a scene until someone comes to tell her she’s right. When that final manager refuses to acquiesce, she will look for any other authority—the corporate office, the wrathful pages of Yelp, occasionally even the police—to force the store to submit to her whims.
Ever since the 2016 election, media pundits and Democratic political operatives have been playing the role of the petulant customer having a full-scale meltdown in the checkout aisle. And it hasn’t been pretty. Initially, they pinned their hopes on “Russian collusion,” a phrase the media repeated so much as to warrant a remix, and their friend—who happened to be a manager—who was going to investigate it.
But when Mueller finished his report and sent it to his manager, the media and the Democrats were confused and upset. They wanted the friendly manager to make the final determination—but ultimately it wasn’t his call to make.
In a press conference coinciding with the release of the Mueller report, Attorney General William Barr had to re-familiarize journalists with the way government works.
The penultimate question Barr answered demonstrates the confusion that journalists seem to have.
Reporter: There’s a lot of public interest in the absence of the special counsel and members of his team. Was he invited to join you up on the podium? Why is he not here? This is his report, obviously, you’re talking about today.
Barr: No, it’s not. It’s a report he did for me as the attorney general. He is required under the regulation to provide me with a confidential report. I am here to discuss my response to that report and my decision, entirely discretionary, to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public.
The media has a difficult time understanding that Mueller was not the free-floating deistic savior they had imagined him to be. Mueller was an employee of the Justice Department and as such he was working for the attorney general.
Members of the press are in good company. Even Democratic politicians have difficulty with this concept.
In a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Barr had the following exchange with Congressman Charlie Crist (D-Fla.):
Crist: Did you contemplate having the special counsel’s office help you with the preparation of your March 24 letter, or did you?
Barr: We offered to have Bob review it before putting it out and he declined.
Crist: I didn’t ask you about reviewing, I asked if you thought about having them help prepare the March 24 letter. I mean they did the report after all.
Barr: No, I didn’t think about that.
Crist: Why not?
Barr: Because it was my letter.
A long, cringe-worthy pause follows this exchange as Crist presumably processes the fact that Barr is, in fact, the attorney general and that Mueller reports to him, not the other way around.
When they do finally process this piece of information, media pundits and Democratic operatives go off the rails and immediately start casting aspersions on Barr’s credibility. If they could, they would no doubt have their own Saturday Night Massacre to find someone who would indict President Trump.
Editorial pages have been littered with denouncements of William Barr and calls for him to resign. Presumably, the media and the Democrats will soon want to speak to Barr’s manager. Unfortunately for them, the Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States who happens to be Donald Trump.
Politics is filled with hypocrisy. Opposition groups relish in digging up old footage of politicians using the exact logic they now denounce. Just think of the competing statements from Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) circling around the internet where they appear to espouse views on impeachment and report redactions diametrically opposed to the ones they hold today.
But the Democrats’ hypocrisy is striking because it is laced with a myopic imprudence that lacks a fundamental understanding of why our system of government is set up the way it is.
They venerate the Supreme Court as an arbiter of morality, not as an arbiter of law. They view the electoral college and the disproportional representation of the Senate as an impediment to democracy, not as a check of smaller states on larger ones. And they view impeachment as a way to reverse a political decision they didn’t like, not as a last resort against a truly despotic leader.
For some, these confusions come from an obsession with power. But for many, they come from an overly idealistic view of morality and politics. And in a group that largely views both morality and politics as merely social constructs, this idealistic view is especially misguided.
Many in the media and in the Democratic party are convinced that President Trump is bad. But since they also hold that morality is a subjective social construct, they do not have to articulate any clear reasons why they think he is bad. And since justice is a subjective social construct, anything they think is bad should be illegal. And since politics is just a subjective social construct, they are happy to warp the fabric of politics to achieve their ends. Which they believe are good. Even though good is a subjective social construct.
This is the same chain of logic most Democrats apply to issues as disparate as immigration, abortion, gun rights, and socialism.
But this logic fails to account for why politics was created.
Politics exists to settle issues without having to resort to violence. We made a calculation that an ordered, authoritative, and nonviolent system to adjudicate political questions was worth the intermittent political losses. Violent battles gave way to far less bloody wars of words and ideas. But the ongoing success of politics requires us to engage our fellow citizens and occasionally to acquiesce to opinions we hold to be misguided or wrong.
When we stop acting within the political systems we built, the kindling builds up. Some may make the calculation that the political system no longer works or that peace isn’t worth preserving at the cost of tolerating these actions by the government. They may write off a group of their fellow citizens as irredeemable and beyond the pale. But when they make this calculation, they must understand that they are inviting violence and civil war.
There are no permanent shortcuts in politics. Any attempt to circumvent actually engaging your fellow citizens will only ratchet up tension and contribute to the political strife that all too easily gives way to violence.
It’s increasingly clear that the media and the Democrats will never be happy with any result from any investigation into the current administration that does not establish President Trump’s guilt. They will continue to exhaust us all with their continued petulant whine on the supermarket floor. They will continue to try to get their way by employing every shortcut they know.
President Trump could have fired Robert Mueller. Congressional Republicans could have cut funding. Attorney General Barr did not have to publish the report. The executive branch could have exercised executive privilege. They did not. They humored the Democrats and tried to engage their “concerns” and address them as best as they could.
But we have patiently humored Democrats for years on the whole collusion narrative. It’s time we politely yet firmly tell them to get stuffed so we can get back to dealing with the problems that actually matter.
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Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images