Politics & Policy

The Corner

Do Liberal Writers Really Believe In an Obligation to Oppose Everything Trump Does?

If you follow many liberal/progressive writers or pundits, you hear an awful lot of variations on the argument that there’s an absolute moral obligation to oppose everything Trump and his Administration do – every proposal, every initiative, regardless of its merits as policy. This is generally directed as a lecture to Republicans, often garnished with implicit or explicit references to collaboration with Hitler, descent of the country into fascism, and the like. The argument is, specifically, that Congressional Republicans who go along with Trump policies they agree with are legitimizing him and his various misdeeds. This is implicit in the use of the term “Resistance” to describe what we usually consider ordinary democratic opposition, and implicit even in the citation of statistics about how often various people vote with Trump, as if, say, Jeff Flake is a hypocrite for criticizing Trump while voting in favor of naming post offices.

Well, if the people pushing this line actually believe it, they have their chance, now that Trump is asking Congress for $6 billion in relief funds for Houston and surrounding areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, funds that his Administration would be responsible for dispensing. If you genuinely believe that collaborating with Trump is morally impermissible regardless of the policy involved, you would argue that Congress should refuse this request, or at the barest minimum hold it hostage until Trump accedes to a long list of unrelated demands about his business interests, tax returns, Justice Department investigations, etc.

Will anyone actually argue in favor of this? Most likely not — nor should they — because disaster relief is good and important public policy and people will suffer if it’s not provided. But that’s exactly what shows that the people making this kind of argument don’t actually believe it. They won’t follow their own logic when the policy is one they genuinely support. The whole shtick is really just a smoke screen for disagreeing with normal Republican policies, and using Trump as a club to attack Republicans in Congress for supporting a pre-existing Republican agenda when it happens to be endorsed by Trump.

There are, of course, things that Republicans can do, should do, and are doing to push back at Trump (it’s hard to think of a modern president, even Carter, who faced the kind of criticism and hostility from his own party on Capitol Hill in his first half-year in office). But the argument that Republicans — and only Republicans — have some sort of obligation to oppose their own policy proposals and preferences because of Trump is not a sincere one or one that liberal/progressive commentators would ever apply to their own agenda.

Dan McLaughlin — Dan McLaughlin is an attorney practicing securities and commercial litigation in New York City, and a contributing columnist at National Review Online.

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