From the Clairmont Review of Books, WILL THE REAL AUTHORITARIAN PLEASE STAND UP?, an essay by Michael Anton reviewing several books posturing Trump as an existential threat to democracy.
But in recent years who, really, has rejected the hallowed democratic rules of the game? It was not conservatives who insisted on the modern, centralized administrative state whose unelected apparatchiks rule by distant undemocratic fiat. Nor was it the Right that, throughout the West, sought to further outsource sovereignty and decision-making power to transnational bodies.
Who is it, really, who denies the legitimacy of their political opponents? These books were written before the Left recently went into overdrive, heckling and surrounding their opponents in public, at restaurants, even outside their own homes. But that is no excuse. Do the authors not remember the Left’s persistent effort to delegitimize George W. Bush as “president-select” and “not my president”? They point to Donald Trump’s comments before the 2016 election that he might not recognize the result, as if this settles the question. Why should any candidate pledge to recognize a result in advance, before he, she, or anyone else could possibly know if there were any irregularities? Especially since, despite the authors’ handwaving, such irregularities are all too frequent in our system. They point to the scarcity of proved cases, ignoring the reason: leftist and left-allied authorities show little to no inclination to investigate, much less solve, the problem.
Who, really, tolerates, encourages, and commits political violence? One can—as the authors of course do—point to certain inflammatory things candidate Trump said on the trail. Yet during his rallies, when things got out of hand, far more often than not it was anti-Trump “protesters” who initiated or provoked violence. And that’s to say nothing of the rallies that were not able to take place because protesters prevented them through violence or threats of violence. It’s also to say nothing of the many instances of anti-speech violence on campuses around the country, all of it initiated by the Left. Try as the Southern Poverty Law Center might to find brownshirts around every corner, there is no conservative equivalent of Antifa.
Who today indicates a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of opponents, including the media? Again, President Trump has said some ill-advised things on this score. But most of our authors acknowledge, quietly, that he hasn’t actually acted on any of it. Meanwhile, the Left openly argues against, and sometimes actively disrupts, their opponents’ right to assemble. Which side argues openly for curtailing the right to freedom of speech—but only for their opponents? Which side is allied with mega-monopolies that use or threaten to use their outsize media power to restrict their adversaries’ discourse?