“Defining deviancy down” was a Daniel Patrick Moynihan trope. When something once deemed intolerable becomes tolerable. Like births outside marriage. And anything Trump.
His presidency has been a national blow-out of defining deviancy down, shredding previous standards of civic propriety and decency. It’s been sent into overdrive as Trump lashes out against impeachment.
He was always the biggest liar ever. Now he’s unleashing a reality inversion storm. To give his backers something — anything — to say. Irrespective of reality. (While some Trump-loving fools regurgitate his garbage, few Republican officials do. Most are hunkered down cringing in silence.)
Trump’s crime is unarguable: subverting U.S. foreign policy for illegitimate personal aims: unjustifiably holding up Congressionally-mandated military aid to Ukraine to extort help in smearing a political adversary. Seeking such foreign involvement in a political campaign was illegal even without the added element of screwing with our foreign policy to get it. (It’s also emerged that Trump demanded a Ukrainian promise to “investigate” Biden in exchange for his meeting President Zelenskiy.)
But Trump’s war cry is that the real criminal is: Biden! (With his typical penchant for extremist rhetoric, he’s even said Biden deserves the electric chair.) He’s got his claque of defenders braying Biden! Biden! Biden! Never mind no shred of evidence of any Biden misfeasance. It’s simply yet another Trump fraud: reality inversion.*
Russia was proven to have unlawfully subverted our 2016 election. Trump had just finally wriggled out of culpability (thanks to Mueller being an ass before Congress). You might think he’d take care to avoid repeating the ordeal.
Yet the day after Mueller’s testimony, Trump’s on the phone to Ukraine, unabashedly soliciting more foreign election interference.
And when that blows up, bigly, what does he do? Publicly asks yet another country, China, to interfere in our election by “investigating” Biden. That too is part of his reality inversion storm: doing this rotten thing so openly makes it seem not criminal but mere business as usual. Defining deviancy down.
By the way, if Biden really were guilty of anything, is it Ukraine or China we should trust to investigate? Rather than American law enforcement — which Trump has conspicuously not mobilized? More upside-downness.
Let’s look at the rest of Trump’s reality inversion regarding impeachment:
1. The whistleblower’s report was hearsay, second-hand, he didn’t personally hear the Ukraine call. But the White House’s own memorandum of the call’s content confirms exactly what the whistleblower reported. It’s the smoking gun.
2. The whistleblower is partisan, a hack, a spy, a traitor. The person is a CIA professional, whose sober detailed report bespeaks that professionalism and civic responsibility. Trump’s own national intelligence chief vouched for its propriety and the urgency of the concerns it expressed. And anyhow, see #1 above. (Also note that Trump’s threats against the person probably violate the federal whistleblower protection law.)
3. The whistleblower’s report incorrectly characterized the phone call. See again #1 above. Trump and his creep squad have actually never identified one thing incorrect in the report.
4. There was nothing improper in the call anyway. So why did White House officials immediately scramble to cover it up by moving the records from their normal repository to a highly restricted server? Which Trump and company have neither denied nor explained.
5. There was no quid pro quo. If Trump didn’t explicitly mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid that he’d just suspended, this might seem bizarre given its critical importance to Ukraine. But he did stress America does a lot for Ukraine before saying, “Do us a favor though.” President Zelenskiy surely got the message.
6. Adam Schiff lied about what Trump said in the call. Schiff was clearly not purporting to give a verbatim recap, but an interpretation of what was really going on: extortion. Which was accurate. (See #5 above.)
7. Schiff knew about the whistleblower before it became public. If so — so what? How does that exculpate Trump? In fact, the complaint’s public revelation was delayed because the administration tried to bury it — another violation of law.
8. Democrats seek to undo the 2016 election. This has been a constant whine against every criticism of Trump. (And a ridiculous one — as if Hillary could somehow be installed as president.) Meantime, the Constitution prescribes impeachment for presidential high crimes and misdemeanors. That has nothing to do with the prior election. Or do Republicans believe that, once elected, a president is unaccountable for anything he does? Trump’s denouncing a constitutional procedure as “a coup” is a direct assault upon our democratic institutions.
Moynihan also famously said everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. If we cannot cut out this cancer from our body politic, we’re dead.
* Trump also seems to believe a wacky conspiracy theory that Ukraine had some convoluted role in “fake news” about 2016 election hacking, mentioned in his Zelenskiy call. His own reality is inverted.