1st September 2020
Here is a tweet from Donald Trump.
This election is a choice between law, order & safety – or chaos, crime & violence. I will make America safe again for everyone. #ImWithYou— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2016
And now look at the date of this tweet: it is from the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
In recent days, Trump has tweeted a number of times about ‘Law & Order!”.
One obvious reaction would be to say that his recent demands for “Law & Order!” show that he failed to keep the commitment in his 2016 tweet.
Another obvious point is that Trump’s misuse of pardons and commutations, his non-compliance with legal requirements and so on are a negation of law, just as his stoking of violence for political ends is the negation of order.
But such ‘reply guy’ points do not really matter.
The potency of “Law & Order!” does not depend on Trump’s record or his consistency.
What is significant about the 2016 tweet is this was how he approached the last election, with the same message as now, and it was effective.
And it may be effective again.
The fact that, in substance and in practice, Trump is not interested in either law or order is irrelevant.
“Law and Order!” has nothing to do with law and order.
It is about coercive power and about those who that power should be inflicted upon.
It is about control and it is about supremacy.
Of course, it is easy to mock Trump, and it is easy to point out the inconsistencies and the lies.
But he has worked out a way to get power, and his opponents so far have not.
Do not underestimate him.
(Johnson and Cummings have also worked out how to get power, and their opponents also so far have not.)
Waiting for the mass of lies, absurdities and inconstancies to somehow self-implode, and thereby eject Trump (or Johnson), is not going to work.
The thing (for want of a better word) is self-sustaining: it feeds off the simple opposition that it creates.
And there is not point ‘matching’ it, as those promoting this thing are better at lies, inconsistencies and absurdities than their opponents.
The thing would have to be defeated some other way.
And that defeat must be political and electoral.
For example, looking to the courts or to special counsel investigations is wishful thinking.
Lawyers and judges are many things but they are not fairy godmothers.
(And “activist lawyers” also feed the thing.)
Pointing out lies does not work when a sufficient number of voters do not mind being lied to.
And so the daunting task for the opponents of Trump (and Johnson) is to get enough voters to care that they are being lied to.
To care about law and order, and not “Law and Order!”.
And that ain’t going to be easy.
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