Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Crying Wolf

By David G. Young

Washington, DC, November 24, 2015 --  

Constant cries of outrage by Trump opponents is numbing the public to his future misdeeds.

Wen the Trump administration imposed an immigration ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, the reaction from Trump opponents was fierce. They denounced the act as discriminatory, hateful and against American values.

Never mind that President Obama had two weeks earlier ordered new restrictions on immigrants from Cuba. Never mind that American policy under all presidents for the past 90 years has been to severely restrict immigration from all countries in ways that immigrants from America's first great wave would find appalling. Never mind that the act was not a ban on Muslims (most Muslim countries were not covered, including Saudi Arabia which was home to most hijackers on September 11, 2001), and that reporting it as a Muslim ban only served to make Trump supporters incorrectly believe he had fulfilled a campaign promise.

Trump opponents' outrage has hardly been limited to the travel ban. They have sounded the alarm over his attempts to dismantle Obamacare, to appoint a conservative judge to the Supreme Court and even by his failure to specifically mention Jews in a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. While it's certainly understandable that folks disagree with Donald Trump, are all of these acts really worth firing people up with outrage?

Wise men have learned over the many thousands of years not to pick fights unnecessarily. Countless expressions have peppered our language as a result: Pick your battles. Hold your fire. Keep your powder dry. Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.

And perhaps most importantly: don't cry wolf.

By screaming at the top of their lungs about the outrageousness of every Trump act, the president's opponents are making the public numb to outrage. These supposed outrages happen every day, yet somehow the sun comes up the next morning and life for most Americans goes on as normal. Human brains are plastic and adaptable. When subjected to a bombardment of outrage without any physical reinforcement of the reality, humans will quickly learn to tune them out.

Making the public numb to outrage is a terrible idea. Because in spite of all the ridiculous hyperventilation of the global elite over Donald Trump, the man really is dangerous. The combination of his authoritarian tendencies and populist orientation make it likely that he will ultimately engage some truly despotic acts.

Such acts might take many forms: Perhaps Trump will refuse to comply with a federal judge who blocks implementation of one of his executive orders, forcing his subordinates to execute the order anyway. Perhaps he will threaten extra-legal action against companies moving manufacturing overseas. Perhaps he will order the FBI, military or intelligence services to take action against internal groups who oppose him.

Admittedly, this is all speculation. To date, Trump has not done any of these things. If we're lucky, maybe he never will.

But the risk is high enough that we must be ready to fight back in case he does. If all of opponents' energy has been sapped by battling the administration over lesser misdeeds, then no energy will remain to fight it when it really matters. And if the public has been taught to ignore the administration's outrages, it will be impossible to harness public opinion in the future.

The ultimate check against presidential power remains with Congress. The House may vote to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors, then the Senate may remove him from office. For this to happen, however, it is critical that public opinion support the unseating of the president. Congressmen face re-election every two years and Senators every six. Relatively few members will be willing to remove the president unless public opinion of those in their districts agrees with the action. If the public is unmoved by the president's high crimes and misdemeanors due to numbness over earlier outrages, then it makes it much more unlikely that Congress will act when push comes to shove.

If there is ever to be a chance of removing Trump from office, then the public must know when the administration has gone out of bounds. That won't happen when opponents cry wolf at the signing of every executive order.