Today’s most important story about lasting peace is likely to be lost in the news cycle. In Sudan, where millions have been displaced and more than 300,000 killed through violent faction fighting, a peace deal has been signed with the intent of ending seventeen years of armed conflict. It’s not comprehensive; at least two mid-sized factions have refused to sign. But the largest and most influential groups have come to an agreement and if the peace holds, it will lead to an integrated nation no longer at war.
This matter is getting little attention because something else is taking up all of the attention: President Trump is visiting Kenosha, Wisconsin. He is doing so despite the Governor of the state asking him not to come. He is not going to visit with the families of shooting victims. He is not willing to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man on video shooting two people to death and destroying the arm of a third. He is there for one reason: a political photo opportunity.
It’s worth noting that he is making the correct decision in refusing to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse; the President speaking on a pending case risks tainting the jury pool. But that credit is erased when Trump speaks specifically against the shooter in Portland; instead it illustrates him as a man who views everything only in terms of potential personal benefit.
This isn’t the first time Trump has ignored local officials. He brushed aside concerns about the Tulsa rally and the request of the Mayor and area heath officials, a decision which directly led to the death of Herman Cain. His disregard for local concerns is yet another in a long list of disparities between himself and the prior Republican President, George W. Bush, who accepted the expected political heat for flying over the ravages of Katrina lest he interfere with recovery efforts on the ground.
It is a basic concept which goes to the heart of federalism, and to the traditional heart of the Republican party: that issues are best handled on the level most local to the problem, with larger structures available to help with more expansive concerns. If the district cannot handle something, they appeal to the city, which appeals to the state, which appeals to the federal government, in that order.
Acceptance of the idea of dictates from the top have long been the domain of the left in this country; it’s been the primary difference between the American version of “right” and the “right” seen in other countries. Twentieth century Italian fascism was not defined by the violent repression of its citizenry – that is something which has been seen in a variety of governments – but by the top-down control over local governments and businesses by a dictator who claimed respect for individual rights and free elections (until he could safely shift from elections into single-party rule). What we are seeing in Trump today is not American exceptionalism, it is the latest step (after encouraging violence against citizenry and the steady assumption of more direct control over individual businesses) toward the discredited fascism of Mussolini.
Trump should not be visiting Kenosha today. No matter what he says when on the scene… and it will likely be a speech praising the country and promising strength and retribution… his very presence there is a demonstration that he stands firmly against the roots of the American experience. It will be one more reason to vote to remove him in the fall.