Trumpunity: How Democrats Are Adopting Trump Rhetoric and Tactics For The Biden Presidency

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the adoption of Trump-like rhetoric and tactics by Democrats, who seem to believe they have a strange type of immunity in the post-Trump world.

Here is the column:

As Washington prepares for a Biden administration, congressional Democrats are discovering they cannot live without Donald Trump. In controversies ranging from federal investigations to executive orders, they are invoking Trump to justify abandoning the very principles they inveighed against him for four years. There is a sense of immunity from needing to be consistent or coherent. Call it “Trumpunity.”

Trumpunity is the right to adopt the very practices or policies you once denounced, all because you are not Trump. Even the mention of his name magically relieves any duty to follow prior positions.

So, it was no problem when incoming White House deputy chief of staff Jennifer O’Malley Dillon heralded the Biden administration as ushering in a new “sense of unity” while calling Republicans a “bunch of f—ers.” Although Dillon later apologized, figures like Hillary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) publicly supported her vulgar attack as perfectly acceptable given Trump’s past rhetoric. There is now an open license to engage in the very same behavior as he did. AOC (who previously called for a blacklist of those “complicit” with Trump) told Republicans that, after Trump, “you don’t get to sob now” when Democrats engage in vulgar attacks.

This is, of course, little more than a juvenile “he did it first” defense. Washington has long floated on a deep rolling sea of hypocrisy, but now leaders do not even feel the need for pretense — they have Trump.

After complaining for years that Trump acted unilaterally through executive orders, Democrats now call on Joe Biden to do the same with dozens of such orders. Just a few months ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) denounced Trump’s unilateral COVID-19 relief orders as unconstitutional, a circumvention of Congress. Now, he wants Biden to circumvent Congress after his inauguration with such acts as wiping out up to $50,000 in debt per college student — a massive federal subsidy without any vote of Congress.

For years, Democrats and an array of legal experts denounced Trump for dismissing the Russia collusion investigation as a politically motivated hoax. They insisted on the appointment of a special counsel, and described even rhetorical criticism as criminal obstruction or witness tampering. Now, Biden has dismissed federal investigations of his son as just another form of political “foul play.” Various Democratic senators, including Schumer, have called for the Justice Department not to investigate the Hunter Biden allegations, and figures like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called for the termination of the Durham investigation.

With the confirmation of federal investigations into Hunter Biden, the media and Democratic figures dropped their prior claims that such allegations were Russian disinformation — in Schiff’s words, “out of the Kremlin.” Now, the influence-peddling scheme is treated as true but dismissed as no worse than what the Trumps did. In other words, if the Trump kids cashed in on their father, so can Hunter Biden. It does not matter if there were tax or money-laundering crimes, or if Joe Biden lied about his knowledge or role. The same people who demanded investigations of the business dealings of Trump’s children now cite those dealings to denounce any investigation of Biden’s son.

Trump has long had a similarly distortive impact on legal analysis. Both media and legal figures abandoned long-held views on criminal justice to endorse sweeping interpretations of criminal and constitutional provisions to justify charging or impeaching Trump. Flawed theories rejected by the Supreme Court were declared to be perfectly plausible when used against Trump.

Now, with only weeks left in office for Trump, there continues to be a sense of abandon in sweeping constitutional claims relating to him. Consider the issue of a self-pardon: While long viewed as an open question under the Constitution, various legal experts have declared that Trump clearly cannot pardon himself, a view some of us have challenged. One academic, Ken Gormley, went further this week, proposing that not only can Trump not pardon himself but that Biden can “un-pardon” him if he does. Such a view would require one to unlearn the constitutional language which not only does not limit the pardon power but does not create any power to rescind the pardons of prior presidents. Indeed, such a view would run counter to the history and purpose of pardons. Trump, however, seems virtually extraconstitutional — a rationale in and of himself.

Even constitutional terms apparently no longer have discernible meaning if they come in the same sentence as Trump. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told CNN that members of Congress who question the election results “are bordering on sedition and treason.” That would mean more than 70 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats nationwide are potentially traitors for believing Trump won. Shaneen and her colleagues denounced Trump for calling people traitors and sought to protect officials who denounced his use of the label “enemies of the people” against reporters. Just two years ago, Trump was called a Stalin for using such labels by Democrats. It is same position taken recently before the Supreme Court by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who called a legal challenge to the election “seditious.” Of course, the use of the courts or Congress to raise such objections is the very opposite of sedition, which seeks to overthrow the legal system.

Democrats did not accuse their colleagues of treason or sedition when they sought to block the certification of Ohio’s electoral votes in Congress in 2004. They did not call Hillary Clinton traitorous for advising Biden not to concede any Trump victory on Election Night. They did not describe members of Congress or the media as traitors for repeatedly declaring Trump “illegitimate” over the last four years.

Napoleon once said “treason is a matter of dates.” And the key date in the United States, for now, appears to be Nov. 7 — the day the media declared Joe Biden the presumptive winner. It also would seem to be the day that millions of Americans became presumptive traitors for questioning the election results. This, according to the same Democrats who once legitimately denounced Trump for calling his critics “traitors” and “enemies of the people.”

It seems Trump is simply too useful to really let go. Without him, the critics would be forced to live according to the values they claimed to defend for the last four years. Why be civil, collaborative or constitutional when you can act like Trump? After all, you’ve got Trumpunity.

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