Essay On Unwritten Constitution
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De vrijstelling geldt voor bouw-, aanleg- en sloopactiviteiten. Yet one remained an enthusiastic collaborator, while the other could not bear the betrayal of his ideals. In English, the word collaborator has a double meaning. A colleague can be described as a collaborator in a neutral or positive sense. But the other definition of collaborator , relevant here, is different: someone who works with the enemy, with the occupying power, with the dictatorial regime.
In this negative sense, collaborator is closely related to another set of words: collusion , complicity , connivance. This negative meaning gained currency during the Second World War, when it was widely used to describe Europeans who cooperated with Nazi occupiers. Mike Mullen: I cannot remain silent. Since the Second World War, historians and political scientists have tried to explain why some people in extreme circumstances become collaborators and others do not.
The late Harvard scholar Stanley Hoffmann had firsthand knowledge of the subject—as a child, he and his mother hid from the Nazis in Lamalou-les-Bains, a village in the south of France. In the second were the truly active ideological collaborators: people who believed that prewar republican France had been weak or corrupt and hoped that the Nazis would strengthen it, people who admired fascism, and people who admired Hitler. What brought these groups together was a common conclusion that, whatever they had thought about Germany before June , their political and personal futures would now be improved by aligning themselves with the occupiers.
Franklin Foer: The Trump regime is beginning to topple. Only in did he defect, denounce the regime, and dissect his experience. In a famous essay, The Captive Mind , he sketched several lightly disguised portraits of real people, all writers and intellectuals, each of whom had come up with different ways of justifying collaboration with the party. For tormented intellectuals, collaboration also offered a kind of relief, almost a sense of peace: It meant that they were no longer constantly at war with the state, no longer in turmoil.
We all feel the urge to conform; it is the most normal of human desires. I was reminded of this recently when I visited Marianne Birthler in her light-filled apartment in Berlin. During the s, Birthler was one of a very small number of active dissidents in East Germany; later, in reunified Germany, she spent more than a decade running the Stasi archive, the collection of former East German secret-police files. I asked her whether she could identify among her cohort a set of circumstances that had inclined some people to collaborate with the Stasi. She was put off by the question. Almost everyone was a collaborator; 99 percent of East Germans collaborated. Here is another pair of stories, one that will be more familiar to American readers. Air Force. Graham, born and raised in a small town in South Carolina, was devoted to the military: After both of his parents died when he was in his 20s, he got himself and his younger sister through college with the help of an ROTC stipend and then an Air Force salary.
He stayed in the Reserves for two decades, even while in the Senate, sometimes journeying to Iraq or Afghanistan to serve as a short-term reserve officer. It put me in the company of patriots. He also supported a vigorous notion of democracy at home. While Graham was doing his tour in West Germany, Mitt Romney became a co-founder and then the president of Bain Capital, a private-equity investment firm. Born in Michigan, Romney worked in Massachusetts during his years at Bain, but he also kept, thanks to his Mormon faith, close ties to Utah. While Graham was a military lawyer, drawing military pay, Romney was acquiring companies, restructuring them, and then selling them.
Still, Romney dreamed of a political career, and in he ran for the Senate in Massachusetts, after changing his political affiliation from independent to Republican. He lost, but in he ran for governor of Massachusetts as a nonpartisan moderate, and won. Graham had dedicated his career to an idea of U. Both were vocal in their disapproval of Trump. David Frum: No empathy, only anger. Romney went further. On his presidential ballot, Romney said, he wrote in his wife. Graham said he voted for the independent candidate Evan McMullin.
A glance at their biographies would not have led many to predict what happened next. On paper, Graham would have seemed, in , like the man with deeper ties to the military, to the rule of law, and to an old-fashioned idea of American patriotism and American responsibility in the world. Romney, by contrast, with his shifts between the center and the right, with his multiple careers in business and politics, would have seemed less deeply attached to those same old-fashioned patriotic ideals.
Most of us register soldiers as loyal patriots, and management consultants as self-interested. We assume people from small towns in South Carolina are more likely to resist political pressure than people who have lived in many places. Intuitively, we think that loyalty to a particular place implies loyalty to a set of values. It was Graham—a JAG Corps lawyer—who downplayed the evidence that the president had attempted to manipulate foreign courts and blackmail a foreign leader into launching a phony investigation into a political rival. It was Graham who played golf with Trump, who made excuses for him on television, who supported the president even as he slowly destroyed the American alliances—with Europeans, with the Kurds—that Graham had defended all his life.
By contrast, it was Romney who, in February, became the only Republican senator to break ranks with his colleagues, voting to impeach the president. Read: How Mitt Romney decided Trump is guilty. One man proved willing to betray ideas and ideals that he had once stood for. The other refused. To the American reader, references to Vichy France, East Germany, fascists, and Communists may seem over-the-top, even ludicrous. But dig a little deeper, and the analogy makes sense. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own. Almost as soon as he stopped speaking, Trump launched his first assault on fact-based reality, a long-undervalued component of the American political system.
We are not a theocracy or a monarchy that accepts the word of the leader or the priesthood as law. We are a democracy that debates facts, seeks to understand problems, and then legislates solutions, all in accordance with a set of rules. Like the authoritarian leaders of other times and places, Trump effectively ordered not just his supporters but also apolitical members of the government bureaucracy to adhere to a blatantly false, manipulated reality. American politicians, like politicians everywhere, have always covered up mistakes, held back information, and made promises they could not keep. But until Trump was president, none of them induced the National Park Service to produce doctored photographs or compelled the White House press secretary to lie about the size of a crowd—or encouraged him to do so in front of a press corps that knew he knew he was lying.
The lie was petty, even ridiculous; that was partly why it was so dangerous. In the s, when an insect known as the Colorado potato beetle appeared in Eastern European potato fields, Soviet-backed governments in the region triumphantly claimed that it had been dropped from the sky by American pilots, as a deliberate form of biological sabotage. Posters featuring vicious red-white-and-blue beetles went up all across Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia.
No one really believed the charge, including the people making it, as archives have subsequently shown. The point of the posters was not to convince people of a falsehood. These kinds of lies also have a way of building on one another. It takes time to persuade people to abandon their existing value systems. The process usually begins slowly, with small changes. This happens, in part, because most people have a built-in vision of themselves as moral and honest, and that self-image is resistant to change. This process happens in politics, too. In , the Soviet military administrators in East Germany passed a regulation governing the activity of publishing houses and printers.
The decree did not nationalize the printing presses; it merely demanded that their owners apply for licenses, and that they confine their work to books and pamphlets ordered by central planners. Imagine how a law like this—which did not speak of arrests, let alone torture or the Gulag—affected the owner of a printing press in Dresden, a responsible family man with two teenage children and a sickly wife. Following its passage, he had to make a series of seemingly insignificant choices. Would he apply for a license? Of course—he needed it to earn money for his family.
Would he agree to confine his business to material ordered by the central planners? Yes to that too—what else was there to print? William J. Burns: Polarized politics has infected American diplomacy. After that, other compromises follow. When he is asked by some disaffected friends to print a pamphlet critical of the regime, however, he refuses. Meanwhile, all across East Germany, other owners of other printing presses are making similar decisions. And after a while—without anyone being shot or arrested, without anyone feeling any particular pangs of conscience—the only books left to read are the ones approved by the regime.
After all, the early incidents were so trivial. They overlooked the lie about the inauguration because it was silly. One step at a time, Trumpism fooled many of its most enthusiastic adherents. But it would not necessarily have damaged the Constitution, and it would not necessarily have posed fundamental moral challenges to people in public life. In practice, Trump has governed according to a set of principles very different from those articulated by his original intellectual supporters. Although some of his speeches have continued to use that populist language, he has built a Cabinet and an administration that serve neither the public nor his voters but rather his own psychological needs and the interests of his own friends on Wall Street and in business and, of course, his own family.
His tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, not the working class. His shallow economic boom, engineered to ensure his reelection, was made possible by a vast budget deficit, on a scale Republicans once claimed to abhor, an enormous burden for future generations. All the while he fanned and encouraged xenophobia and racism, both because he found them politically useful and because they are part of his personal worldview. His administration is not merely corrupt, it is also hostile to checks, balances, and the rule of law.
He has built a proto-authoritarian personality cult, firing or sidelining officials who have contradicted him with facts and evidence—with tragic consequences for public health and the economy. He threatened to fire a top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, Nancy Messonnier, in late February, after her too-blunt warnings about the coronavirus; Rick Bright, a top Health and Human Services official, says he was demoted after refusing to direct money to promote the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine. Adam Serwer: Trump gave police permission to be brutal. His foreign policy has never served any U.
One former administration official who has seen Trump interact with Xi as well as with Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that it was like watching a lesser celebrity encounter a more famous one. Trump did not speak to them as the representative of the American people; he simply wanted their aura—of absolute power, of cruelty, of fame—to rub off on him and enhance his own image.
This, too, has had fatal consequences. After all, the Communist parties of Eastern Europe—or, if you want a more recent example, the Chavistas in Venezuela—all advertised themselves as advocates of equality and prosperity even though, in practice, they created inequality and poverty. And as they came to realize that the president was not a patriot, Republican politicians and senior civil servants began to equivocate, just like people living under an alien regime. In retrospect, this dawning realization explains why the funeral of John McCain, in September , looked, and by all accounts felt, so strange. But it did clarify the situation. A year and a half into the Trump administration, it marked a turning point, the moment at which many Americans in public life began to adopt the strategies, tactics, and self-justifications that the inhabitants of occupied countries have used in the past—doing so even though the personal stakes were, relatively speaking, so low.
Anne Applebaum: Creeping authoritarianism has finally prevailed. By contrast, a Republican senator who dares to question whether Trump is acting in the interests of the country is in danger of—what, exactly? Losing his seat and winding up with a seven-figure lobbying job or a fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School? Some of these stories overlap with one another; some of them are just thin cloaks to cover self-interest. But all of them are familiar justifications of collaboration, recognizable from the past. Here are the most popular. We can use this moment to achieve great things.
On the contrary, he described himself as a patriot and a true believer. Several months later, I met Mark a second time. The impeachment hearings had begun, and the story of the firing of the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was then in the news. Mark did not apologize for the president, though. Instead, he changed the subject: It was all worth it, he told me, because of the Uighurs.
George Packer: Shouting into the institutional void. I thought I had misheard. The Uighurs? Why the Uighurs? I was unaware of anything that the administration had done to aid the oppressed Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China. Mark assured me that letters had been written, statements had been made, the president himself had been persuaded to say something at the United Nations. Mark made me think of the story of Wanda Telakowska , a Polish cultural activist who in felt much the same as he did. Telakowska had collected and promoted folk art before the war; after the war she made the momentous decision to join the Polish Ministry of Culture. The Communist leadership was arresting and murdering its opponents; the nature of the regime was becoming clear.
Telakowska nevertheless thought she could use her position inside the Communist establishment to help Polish artists and designers, to promote their work and get Polish companies to mass-produce their designs. But Polish factories, newly nationalized, were not interested in the designs she commissioned. Communist politicians, skeptical of her loyalty, made Telakowska write articles filled with Marxist gibberish.
Eventually she resigned, having achieved nothing she set out to do. A later generation of artists condemned her as a Stalinist and forgot about her. We can protect the country from the president. Instead, Anonymous concluded that remaining inside the system, where they could cleverly distract and restrain the president, was the right course for public servants like them. Anonymous was not alone.
This kind of behavior has echoes in other countries and other times. Anne Applebaum: Venezuela is the eerie endgame of modern politics. In authoritarian regimes, many insiders eventually conclude that their presence simply does not matter. But although both resigned, neither Cohn nor Mattis has spoken out in any notable way. Cohn, Mattis, and Anonymous, all living freely in the United States of America, have not been nearly so brave. I, personally, will benefit.
These, of course, are words that few people ever say out loud. Perhaps some do quietly acknowledge to themselves that they have not resigned or protested because it would cost them money or status. But no one wants a reputation as a careerist or a turncoat. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, even Markus Wolf sought to portray himself as an idealist. Many people in and around the Trump administration are seeking personal benefits. Many of them are doing so with a degree of openness that is startling and unusual in contemporary American politics, at least at this level.