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Peggy Noonan: Bring the Insurrectionists to Justice

Summary:
Peggy Noonan is a Republican Wall Street Journal opinion columnist who has become more and more disgusted with Donald Trump. Like her, some other prominent Republicans have begun putting distance between themselves and Trump since his encouragement of the insurrection against the presidential vote counting in Congress. To me it is a very good thing for the nation if a large part of the Republican party distances itself from Donald Trump. I have certainly had other differences with Donald Trump (see for example “It Isn't OK to Be Anti-Immigrant”), as well as some somewhat common views (particularly on the potential value of negative interest rate

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Peggy Noonan: Bring the Insurrectionists to Justice

Peggy Noonan is a Republican Wall Street Journal opinion columnist who has become more and more disgusted with Donald Trump. Like her, some other prominent Republicans have begun putting distance between themselves and Trump since his encouragement of the insurrection against the presidential vote counting in Congress. To me it is a very good thing for the nation if a large part of the Republican party distances itself from Donald Trump. I have certainly had other differences with Donald Trump (see for example “It Isn't OK to Be Anti-Immigrant”), as well as some somewhat common views (particularly on the potential value of negative interest rate policy). But, to put it simply, it is definitely not OK for a president to advocate the violent overthrow of the US government. For, make no mistake, to encourage people to use force to interrupt the constitutionally mandated procedures for determining who won a presidential election is to advocate the violent overthrow of the US government as the US government is defined by the Constitution of the United States. For Donald Trump to send lawyers into court to argue about what the constitution and the election facts on the ground allow is one thing. To inspire an armed mob to attack the Capitol is quite another thing.

I can understand other judgments, but in my view, opposing attempts at the violent overthrow of the US government is not a partisan issue. It is the agreement by both Democrats and Republicans that we should follow constitutional procedures (with the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of disputes about what is a constitutional procedure) that makes our nation a democracy. I am for democracy. Many other systems of government have been tried. Everything else tried so far has been much worse than democracy. (And many things people want to try are much closer to political systems that we have historical evidence on than some people realize.) The democratic power of the electorate to “Throw the bums out,” though not always put in action at the most appropriate moments, is one of the greatest defenses we have against great political ills.

In addition to agreeing with Peggy Noonan’s sentiment that, without hesitation, and without excusing them for what they did, we should bring the insurrectionists to justice, I have flagged her op-ed because of this passage:

True conservatives tend to have a particular understanding of the fragility of things. They understand that every human institution is, in its way, built on sand. It’s all so frail. They see how thin the veil is between civilization and chaos, and understand that we have to go through every day, each in our way, trying to make the veil thicker. And so we value the things in the phrase that others use to disparage us, “law and order.” Yes, always, the rule of law, and order so that the people of a great nation can move freely on the streets and do their work and pursue their lives.

I want to keep living in a free country. Without adhering to constitutional procedures, we won’t stay a free country for long.

Postscript

Let me admit here that I was mistaken in my predictions. I thought Donald Trump would push every possible legal argument he could, but then would grudgingly accept the outcome when the courts said he had lost (while of course saying that he had really won). Donald Trump went a big step beyond that. I was wrong.

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Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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