Thursday, October 29, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said it was treason to speak against him.

Trump escalated his attacks today on Miles Taylor, the former DHS chief of staff who revealed himself yesterday as the author of the anonymous NYT op-ed describing the "resistance" within the White House to Trump's erratic and dangerous behavior. At a Florida campaign event today, Trump called Taylor "treasonous" and warned that "bad things" were going to happen to him. He also said that Taylor and the NYT should be prosecuted, although he didn't say what for.

To be clear, nothing in Taylor's op-ed or subsequent book revealed any classified information, nor did he commit any other crime. What Taylor did do was criticize Trump, who is an elected official. This is absolutely protected by the Constitution.

What Trump is describing is usually called lese majeste, the criminal offense of insulting a king or other absolute ruler. It existed in absolute monarchies and dictatorships, where the leader was considered the personification of the government, something Trump frequently seems to believe about himself. 

The ominous reference to "bad things" is a threat. Trump often resorts to "stochastic terrorism," where a prominent figure in a political movement hints at violence he wants his followers to make happen, but then claims he's not responsible when people act on it.

Why does this matter?

  • A president who can't stand being criticized is much too fragile to actually hold the office.
  • Trump is not a king, a god, or above the law.
  • Americans are allowed to say they don't like Donald Trump without fear of prosecution or mob violence.