Trump — Working the Crowd, Working the Refs

February 25, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

When people criticize or oppose Trump, or even provide information that contradicts him, his main strategy is to try to discredit them, to challenge their legitimacy. They are, he claims, unfair and biased against him. So when Justice Sotomayor noted the unprecedented number of cases where the Court’s conservative majority had acceded to Trump administration requests to fast-track cases, Trump, unsurprisingly, issued a typical tweet. I found it in this NPR story today.

(Click on an image for a larger version.)

Here Trump was trying to discredit specific judges. He has done it before. But many on the left fear that Trump is also trying to discredit American institutions. That’s because he often puts it that way. He attacks not just this or that journalist but “the fake-news media,” by which he means all media except Fox News. He attacks not just a judge but entire courts. “The 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster.”   

Is the Trump strategy is having the effect that progressives fear? It’s hard to know. The GSS shows a decline in confidence in the courts in 2018, but since the previous rates are from 2008, we can’t know when that change occurred.

The Gallup Poll finds a small decrease in 2018 for confidence in the Supreme Court, but generally the percent of those who have great confidence in SCOTUS has not changed much in the last decade, fluctuating between 30% and 40%.  Before that, going back to 1973, confidence in SCOTUS stayed above 40%.

Last May, I posted an audio clip from an interview with Michael Lewis, who had just launched a podcast about attacks on the legitimacy of all kinds of judges, not just those in courtrooms. Here is the relevant excerpt from that blogpost. (The entire post is here.)

Lewis says that one inspiration for the series was what happened after a close play at home in a softball game played by nine-year old girls. It happened ten years earlier. But it can easily be an allegory for tactics and a tactician of the present moment.

The story continues (to hear the rest of it, get the entire episode and push the slider to about 12:40), but the excerpt here is sufficient. It shows a winning-obsessed and angry man using his position of power to bully an impartial judge. I chose to end the clip at the point where the angry bully says, “You’re fired.” (We’re not long on subtlety here at the Socioblog.)

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