Adam Gopnik Seems Confused

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Over at the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik suggests that Trump might bring about the end of the American republic:

One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is.

More:

To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

More:

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

More:

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day.

And then, because he’s Adam Gopnik, he also writes this:

Many of us think that it would be terrible if the radical-revisionist reading of the Second Amendment created by the Heller decision eight years ago was kept in place in a constitutional court.

I have grown tired of responding to Gopnik’s unyieldingly ignorant and wildly ahistorical anti-Second Amendment screeds, and I don’t intend to rekindle my habit here in pursuit of a passing jab. But I will say this: If Gopnik really believes that Trump might be Hitler, it is wholly absurd for him to continue his advocacy against the right to keep and bear arms. Typically, the progressive anti-gun argument is: a) that the United States is now a “consolidated democracy,” and that it is therefore extremely unlikely that it will fall to tyranny; b) that the idea that the citizenry needs to retain a cache of firearms has therefore been rendered moot; and c) that, in consequence, many or all of the privately-owned guns should be taken into the government’s care. Naturally, I think this view is naive in the extreme, and I object vehemently to the idea that my inalienable self-defense rights should be subordinated to the transient will of the majority. But as a theory, it is at least intellectually consistent: If, as many progressives charge, the United States is never going to become a tyranny, then provisions that are included in order to give the citizenry a fighting chance against tyrants are inevitably rendered less important.

That, though, is not what Gopnik is arguing, is it? In his view, Trump is a “declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States”; in his view, the “American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history”; in his view, “Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was.” Tyrants, Gopnik proposes, “do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined.” Rather, “they arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.”

Translation? That guy . . . he might just be America’s worst nightmare. And, even more alarmingly, we might not know either way until it’s too late. Sure, Gopnik submits, you might think it would be fun to burn down the political class now. But before you know it you’ll find yourself in the clutches of “an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power.”

All of which raises a question: Namely, “in what universe does it make sense for Gopnik to keep griping about the private ownership of arms?” Even if we assume that progressives do not believe that the people of the United States could defeat an American military that was under the control of a tyrannical leader (I disagree), surely they would consider it preferable for the victims to be accorded a fighting chance? By his own admission, Gopnik is not suggesting that Trump would merely be a “bad” president, that he would make poor decisions within the existing constitutional order, or that he would inconvenience those who did not vote for him; he is proposing that Trump might lead to the destruction of the country as we know it. Even more ominously, he is proposing that Trump might eventually turn into a facsimile of history’s greatest monster — a man whose regime quite literally shoveled millions of human beings into ovens. In all honesty, I can think of only two possibilities that adequately explain how Gopnik reconciles this fearmongering with his continuing opposition to the right to keep and bear arms: 1) He’s a psychopath, or 2) He doesn’t actually believe a word of it.

The Corner

The one and only.