Just ’cause your side does it, and it’s popular…

Carrier yesterday, Boeing today, who knows? tomorrow.

Rich Lowry writes:

The Carrier Deal was a political coup for Trump and you have to be glad for the 800 affected workers and their families. But over the last few days a president-elect of the United States has been openly threatening companies for making business decisions he doesn’t like–an extraordinary and disturbing thing. Much of the Republican Party will be quiet about it or accepting of it, which speaks to how Trump could transform the GOP. Even if Republicans wanted to stop him from doing it, they have no leverage to do so and Trump’s tack will probably be popular.

 

Yuval Levin adds:

Republicans in Congress should ask themselves what they would be saying now if Hillary Clinton had been elected and then began threatening and shaming companies when she didn’t like their perfectly legal business practices, making individual “deals” with individual companies who do a lot of business with the government to “persuade” them to change decisions about where to place factories in return for taxpayer-funded benefits (before even being vested with any formal authority), and claiming she would use trade policy and the tax code (including highly regressive tariffs that punish consumers) as weapons against corporations that locate some operations abroad.  Whatever they would have said then they should say now. I’m guessing it would have included “industrial policy,” “central planning,” “picking winners and losers,” and “cronyism” at the very least, and rightly so.

Charles C. Cooke makes the same point, more broadly, about what some fear will be a “slow descent” towards illiberalism begun by Trump.  Funny bit about irregular verbs:

A “slow descent” that began on November 9, 2016, mind you. A “slow descent” that came ex nihilo. A “slow descent” that followed a perfectly flat plane, and for which the president-elect’s predecessor bears no responsibility. Intrigued, I asked Nyhan whether he would consider recent trends toward judicial imperialism, executive overreach, and the abandonment of due process as undermining the “norms of our democracy” – and, in concert, whether as a college professor in 2016 he might have any insight into which “institutions” or “elites” have been most aggressively “accommodating illiberal behavior.” His response? The problems to which I was pointing were “not the same thing.” “This is not an NRO culture-war thing,” Nyhan griped.

It seems that “tyrannize” is one of those irregular verbs: I engage in the culture war; you undermine democratic norms; he’s ushering in Nazi Germany. It is uncontroversial to observe that Donald Trump was a poor choice for the head of a free republic, and I will gladly add my name to those who hope, as Burke put it, to “snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” But I cannot help noticing how silly and how capricious our newfangled doomsayers sound. How quickly did those who have cried “Obstructionism!” for eight years expect to be welcomed as bulwarks of Madison’s Constitution? How seriously did the purveyors of “privilege” imagine they would be taken when they abandoned overnight the claim that neutral principles are but a tool of the ruling class? In what manner did those who praised Obama’s “pen and phone” believe they would be received when the shoe was on the other foot? And, if excesses in pursuit of one’s goal are criticized only as part of a mere “culture-war thing,” why should anyone worry about Trump?

Where, one must ask, have the social scientists been during the overture to our “slow descent into illiberalism”? For almost all of Barack Obama’s presidency, the system of checks and balances that undergirds the unique American order has been treated by progressives as if it were an outdated relic…  And now, in the wake of Trump’s victory? La Résistance is en vogue once again, and the specter of tyranny is divined in each presidential design.

Barack Obama was no Adolf Hitler. He wasn’t even a Woodrow Wilson. But he played with abandon on the slopes that Trump now inherits, and, in so doing, he set precedents that are liable to be abused. When, as seems inevitable, President Trump complains publicly that the Supreme Court has declined to rubber-stamp his agenda, his defenders will point to Obama’s dressing down of Justice Alito during the 2011 State of the Union, and to the bully-pulpit speeches he staged on the Court’s steps, as prologue. When, as he has already in proposing Nigel Farage as the U.K.’s ambassador to the U.S., Trump violates centuries of diplomatic protocol, his cavilers will be reminded that Obama was against Brexit. If Trump attempts to dominate Congress and to usurp its legislative functions, his acolytes will show videos of Obama’s “We can’t wait.” If Trump undermines due process, we will be reminded of the Democrats’ support for restricting the Second Amendment based on the government’s “terror watch” list, and of the kangaroo courts that have been set up on college campuses across the land.

If you would not see your enemies handed untrammeled power, seek it not for your friends.”  That so many are skeptical of an incoming president is, by my lights, a good thing. That they are unable to see illiberalism’s continuum and to place his predecessors on it is decidedly less so.

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