Monday, September 21, 2020

Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming

What did Donald Trump do today?

He issued an empty threat to defund "anarchist" cities.

The Department of Justice, headed by Trump ultra-loyalist William Barr, designated three cities as "anarchist jurisdictions" according to a September 2nd memo issued by Trump. 

The cities—Seattle, Portland, and New York—are all places that Trump tried to make the focus of a summertime culture war about police violence and systemic racism. They're also safe political targets, since Trump stands no chance of winning any electoral votes from the affected states.

According to the memo, Trump's definition of an "anarchist jurisdiction" is one that refused to let him "help" fight protestors with federal forces—like the anonymous, unbadged, and largely untrained squads that he deployed to attack and in some cases kidnap demonstrators in Washington, D.C. and Portland this summer.

Trump claims that he will now have the authority to withhold federal funds from these cities. In reality, he has no such authority, unless Congress explicitly gives it to him in a spending bill. 

As residents of the "anarchist jurisdictions" immediately pointed out, there's not much anarchy to be found. In fact, the New York district attorney's office announced in a court filing today that it had grounds to conduct far more law enforcement than Trump is likely to be comfortable with on the subject of tax fraud he's likely to have committed in their jurisdiction.

Why does this matter?

  • Conservative voters may not like being told that state and local governments have no authority to handle their own affairs.
  • It's un-American to try to pit Americans against each other.
  • Punishing places that don't punish the leader's political opponents is what dictators do.
  • Strong leaders don't make empty threats.