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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dudziak on Trump on Turkey (Updated)

Mary Dudziak (Emory) critiques Donald Trump's comments about not lecturing Turkey about civil liberties in light of our problems at home. A legal historian, Dudziak describes how this argument--that the United States could not exercise moral authority abroad because of problems at home--was made by the Soviet Union, not Presidents of the United States. Instead, those Presidents responded by seeking to remedy domestic injustice (she points to Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock and Kennedy's response to Birmingham), expressly to bolster international standing.

But as I argued, Trump is not making the same argument that the Soviets made during the Cold War, that we cannot exercise moral standing on matters of justice because we have not corrected racial injustices at home. He is not arguing that we are estopped to exercise moral leadership because of our own failings, failings these other Presidents then tried to correct. He is arguing we should not care about exercising moral leadership until we get our house in order. And getting our house in order means not eliminating barriers to racial equality, but eliminating barriers to police maintaining law and order. Trump does not want to convince Turkey to be more like us; he wants to make us more like Turkey.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 23, 2016 at 03:02 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


Assuming for the moment it is true that “the great mass of Americans” want Trump to be President, that merely reminds us of how “the many,” the masses, the hoi polloi, what have you, can be ill-informed, misguided, and (in this instance) dangerously wrong. Borrowing Erich Fromm’s locution, it is a testament to the “pathology of normalcy.” Simply because errors and vices are (seemingly) consensually validated does not make them true or virtuous: in this case, we have an enormous number of people who, along with their would-be demagogic neo-fascist leader, have egregiously failed to pass what the psychologist terms a “reality test.” It make not one wit of difference if they have legitimate grievances and concerns, if they have, at least in part, warranted reasons for their anger and resentments, for they are unable to think either rationally or reasonably about the myriad and complicated causes that have led to their economic insecurity and psychological anxieties and fears, haplessly indulging in black and white thinking, states of denial, and wishful thinking, all the while succumbing to and feeding the psychological mechanisms that make for Trump’s narcissistic megalomania and messianic complex. Trump is rather adept at exploiting their darkest passions, appealing to what we colloquially term the “lowest common denominator.” Consensus and conformity, along with what is generally termed “false consciousness,” have long been a danger in modern, mass democracies, representing an utter lack of the many to exhibit a “disposition to truth.”

Oh, you say, such diagnostic and evaluative views can and should be dismissed as “elitist,” but they are not at bottom correctly characterized that way (or such elitism is properly qualified and softened) if one grants that, in principle, it is possible (if under current conditions highly unlikely) for individuals to see through their illusions, overcome insidious ideologies, banish their delusions and so forth, as part of a process of autonomous moral and psychological growth or individuation (including what Fromm described as successfully meeting people’s existential needs for ‘rootedness, transcendence, and solidarity with other human beings’). So the question becomes, what has gone wrong? What are the social (including social psychological), cultural, political and economic causes that have brought us to this point? Why have essentially authoritarian character structures appeared with such a vengeance in a capitalist democracy? I should note that I’m not assuming Trump and his supporters sprung up overnight like mushrooms or gopher mounds, for the latent conditions for either mushrooms or mounds long precede their appearance, awaiting fortuitous precipitating factors.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jul 27, 2016 10:08:33 AM

Meanwhile, the great mass of Americsns want him to be elected. Im not your typical right wing Republican voter, but im votinf for Trump and so are many colleagues. I think there will be a big surprise election time.

Posted by: ILikeTrump | Jul 24, 2016 11:42:41 AM

Thank you for continuing to press on this issue, Howard. It's amazing how few people seem to possess the basic reading (or listening) comprehension skills to understand the simple and grotesque point Trump was making. Even liberal media commentators don't yet seem to grasp that Trump instincts are not those of an ordinary politician or pundit, but of a dictator.

Posted by: Dough | Jul 23, 2016 8:03:23 PM

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