Many, myself included, have wondered what it might take for Trump’s staunch supporters to waver, what quantity and quality of dirt would be necessary, and what level of malfeasance would rise, in their minds, to impeachable levels. I’m not asserting that such exists, mind you – as a political friend noted yesterday, we really are only in the second or third inning of the Mueller investigation. The minds of Trump’s partisans are the question of the day.

I sought to plumb this question after the recent conviction of Paul Manafort and the Michael Cohen plea deal, and was only able to conclude that we’d witness the Joy Behar Rule in full force.

Kimberley Strassel’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal added a vital ingredient to the stew from which this question will be answered: the perception of fairness. I am generally loath to employ tu quoque arguments in debate, because they’re recognized as logical fallacies for a reason. The other side’s bad acts don’t excuse your side’s bad acts.

Thus, they are fallacies of partisanship. However, there’s a somewhat different dynamic at play here. The matter isn’t that both sides may be dirty, it’s that the system itself, the agencies that are supposed to be (and take great care to project themselves as) impartial are perceived as exhibiting blatant partisan bias.

Two years ago, then-FBI-Director James Comey issued a Delphian statement regarding Hillary Clinton’s classified server scandal, a statement that a rational person would parse as “she did wrong, but she’s too powerful to prosecute.” Much more in the way of questionable actions and outright shenanigans has been revealed since that time, including all sorts of shadiness surrounding the Steele dossier, its provenance, and its role as the crux of FISA warrants. Yet, nary a scalp has been taken. As Strassel’s column points out, as well, we witness very unequal treatment of players on the Democratic side of the election meddling circus. Herein lies the crux of the resistance that Trump supporters have to holding him accountable for possible improprieties or worse: they distrust the fairness of the state apparatus itself, with good reason.

This is a different form of whataboutism, one where the referees themselves are being challenged, rather than the opposition. While it is fair to discount “the other side did it too!” arguments as a defense for bad deeds, the complex, vague, and occasionally conflicting nature of the laws under which the players in the scandal are being charged means that the people doing the charging have a LOT of flexibility in the what, the how, the who, and the when. With great power comes great responsibility, or so we’ve been told by both Voltaire and Uncle Ben Parker, and if the wielders of power that’s supposed to be… nay, needs to be impartial do so with (at least the appearance of) strong partiality, a whataboutism argument starts to carry some real weight.

If a system is deemed corrupt, and the system appears to be working to restore power to the insiders who’ve been traditionally corrupt by prosecuting the outsiders for corruption, outrage is understandable and justifiable.

What actually comes out of the Mueller investigation, as far as Trump goes, remains to be seen, but it’s pretty clear that his supporters have already concluded that the system itself is not playing fair, and they have ample evidence to support that conclusion. That’s the “deep state” we’ve heard so much about, and I’m having difficulty, at this point, reaching any conclusion other than “rules for some, but not for others.”

So, if you’re asking what sorts of revelations it would take for Trump’s supporters to abandon their guy, you need to broaden the issue. It won’t be enough to tie Trump, red handed, to some major shit. They, and the nation as a whole, need to see that justice is being meted out fairly, that dirty deeds surrounding the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and all the other players on the left side of the aisle get the same level of scrutiny and prosecution, and that the scalps that deserve to be actually get taken. A system perceived as corrupt won’t be trusted even if it legitimately concludes Trump did wrong.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

1+

Like this post?