Doublespeak, it seems, comes from so many quarters that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. One of the most recent instances came from the “quiet resistance” at work within the Trump administration. Indeed, the frame of heroic resistance appears throughout the anonymous op-ed written by “a senior official in the Trump administration” that appeared on September 6, 2018, in the New York Times.
So much has already been written about this letter. What I would like to draw your attention to here are the ways in which the writer has invoked the frame of heroic intervention in revealing him or herself as one of a group that seeks to “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses.” Those motives that keep this person and others in place are their allegiances to “ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.” And let us not forget the “bright spots” of this administration—its successes in changing policies and laws to usher in “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”
These justifications, among others, appear here as background assumptions for the nobility of their continued enabling of a president for whom they have considered “invoking the 25th Amendment.” These terms, however, draw on metaphors whose source and tenor carry with them ideological conclusions that serve a narrow agenda and work against the functioning of a democratic society.
“Free minds, free markets and free people” appropriates the god-word of freedom to characterize minds, markets, and people that are far from free.
“Free minds” are defended, but only if you are not considering political systems outside of a narrow range of options. No social democrats, please. And definitely not any ecosocialists. And please be sure to stop the communist sympathizers at the door, in spite of their arguments for historical corruptions of the term.
“Free markets”? Only if those markets are supported by tariff policies and legislation exacted by corporations and their politicians.
“Free people”? Not if you protested at the presidential inauguration. Note those individuals who have been jailed for that offense. Even some journalists who covered the inauguration have been jailed and fined.
Of course, the rejoinder would be that one must choose the fights one engages in so that challenges for larger issues will prevail. We have heard little from these administrators, though, in addressing these issues.
Then there are the successes of this administration that the writer urges us to recognize—the policies and laws passed to usher in “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”
Deregulation as a metaphor calls to mind those bothersome constraints that we as a free people must rally against to assert our liberty. But many of the constraints that have been loosed have been those that sought to ensure the well-being of American citizens, like the provisions contained in the Clean Water and Air Acts that are being systematically dismantled by this administration. Approximately one month after taking office, in February, 2017, Trump authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of eliminating portions of the Clean Water Act to allow small bodies of water, such as coal runoff, to go unregulated. Other actions on the part of the Trump administration to dismantle environmental protections soon followed. Controls on vehicle fuel emissions, recently contested by California’s attorney general and governor, along with 16 other states, have also been rolled back by the Trump administration. It’s clear, then, that deregulation has served the needs of corporate polluters, ensuring that the quality of our water and air will decline. For them, deregulation will be effective. For people reliant on clean air and water, not so much.
“Historic tax reform”? The historic aspect of the recent tax laws voted in by a Republican congress is that the warnings issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) were ignored. Their message, that tax cuts to corporations would result in a debt load of 100% of the Gross Domestic Product by 2028 and a two trillion dollar deficit to the government, went largely unheeded. Such “reform” will inevitably lead, analysts predict, to rolling back social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, much to the consternation of citizens who overwhelming rely on them for survival in their later years.
“A more robust military”? Despite the growth of health care costs and the need for universal health care as an alternative to a health care system that is wasteful and greedy, the military receives priority in government funding. Unaccountable in their spending and bottomless in their need for new funding, the military-industrial complex continues to hold sway as a funding priority, with no end in sight, even though arguments for more funding are thin.
In closing, the writer tells us that he or she, along with other quiet resisters, is engaged in “the work of the steady state.” The question remains, though, as to what steady state this writer aspires? The steady state of a government bankrupted by military funding and tax cuts to corporations that will leave the government in debt and unable to operate? The steady progress of a growth-obsessed government that continues to deny anthropogenic climate change and its attendant impacts, such as acidification of the oceans, increasingly polluted air quality, and water unprotected by the release of coal processing chemicals such as arsenic and heavy metals? Or the steady state of a military whose budget continues to grow while funding for social services, education, health care, and the needs of the American people are cut?
What is clear is that regardless of the work being done by this writer, he or she, along with others in the administration, has enabled Trump in promoting policies that are harmful to the American people, while representing them as protecting a “free” nation. What has been characterized here as heroic efforts are in effect self-serving efforts to prop up an incompetent president while enacting a conservative agenda. Intent on “starving the beast” of government, through excessive tax cuts, dismantled regulations for clean air and water, seemingly unlimited funding for military expansion, and a disregard for the people beyond the demands of their corporate funders, they do not deserve our support.