Since the morning after the Executive Order we’re not supposed to call the Muslim ban, I’ve read at least a dozen articles exploring the question “What is Trump really doing?” Many of them take the position that the order is a distraction from something else, that the administration issued the order not for the order’s own sake but rather to conceal some other, even more damaging action. One candidate for what is being distracted from is the appointment of Stephen Bannon to the National Security Council. I suppose part of the thinking here is that the ban is so stupid as policy, and was so clumsily put together, that it can’t be what’s really going on.
No. I think the order is about the order, though I don’t think it has anything to do with enhancing security or with protecting us from potential terrorists. It will do neither of these things anyway. I think Trump’s purpose for issuing the order is the same purpose that drove Hitler’s early actions against the Jews: it is a way to further bind and control the slavering brownshirts that compose his most enthusiastic, reliable support.
This is also why so few Republicans have come out firmly against the order. Even though the brownshirts are certainly a minority of Republican voters, Republicans in Congress need their votes as much as Trump does. Now that the order exists, they are unwilling to alienate them by opposing it. It’s also why the order was formulated and released by the Trump administration apparently without consultation with anyone in Congress or the departments of State, Defense, Justice, or Homeland Security. Consultation might have delayed the order, or gummed it up with bothersome exceptions and controversy. What the administration wanted was an immediate dramatic gesture to its base, and assurance that most Republicans couldn’t come out against it because it is a fait accompli. They got those things, and nothing that can be done to eliminate or palliate the order will change that. In fact, the administration now can (and has, and will) characterize opposition to the order as anti-patriotic appeasement of terrorism, hoping for a modern Kristallnacht.
Of course the order is wrong on legal, practical, and moral grounds, and of course it should be fought on those grounds. The administration has already backed away from including green card holders in the order (because it’s clear that a travel ban for them is a direct violation of statutory rights granted to green card holders). Other parts of the order may be able to be thrown out or at least watered down on constitutional grounds. The fact that the existence of the order probably serves as an excellent recruiting tool for jihadist groups should have some impact on its future as well, but may not. We need to exert every effort we can not to allow the order to stand. That is clearly the right thing to do.
But…we should not delude ourselves that even a successful fight against this order is enough. Even if this order can be defanged or eliminated, another one — perhaps one less legally laughable — will take its place. We should also expect further Executive Order sops to the brownshirts, perhaps dealing with policing or with LGBTQ issues. What this is all about is consolidating and cementing Trump’s power so that he can begin to exercise his real reason for being in the presidency: enriching himself and his family.
The only real cure for this is impeachment. But in the meantime, until we can get there, we need to throw every monkey wrench we can in Trump’s efforts to stabilize his power: oppose every appointee, demonstrate in response to every action, keep the pressure on Congress with phone calls and letters. Democrats in Congress need to delay confirmation votes for as long as they can, every time they can. Keep Trump and his henchmen insecure, keep their plans from being realized or at least delay their realization as long as possible.
The Germans didn’t do this in the 1930’s. We have to.