Intransigence

Alan Zendell, January 10, 2019
In most people, intransigence is a symptom of ignorance and/or insecurity. When we’re stuck trying to defend a point of view we know little or nothing about, or we feel unable to support a position we’ve staked out, the last thing we want is to engage in a rational debate. That limits our options: we can capitulate, defer to people who are more knowledgeable, or dig our heels in.

The more self-assured we are, the more likely we are to value finding a workable solution more than worrying about who is right or wrong and who gets credit for the outcome. Such people are more likely to select one of the first two options.

People who are insecure, who are motivated by ego gratification, concern for their public image, or a need for approval tend toward intransigence. And they engage in projection – characterizing anyone who disagrees with them as stubborn and unwilling to compromise. That kind of behavior is an occupational hazard for politicians. It’s never pretty, but when our president acts that way, it’s a serious problem.

The speeches on the government shutdown delivered by our leaders last Tuesday, aka the Donald, Chuck, and Nancy Show, were indicative of the circus our governing process has become. All three were appallingly unimpressive, and the whole thing was a dreadful waste of time.

From the point of view of a sound bite listener who knew nothing about the issues beforehand, it might be easy to conclude that the participants were hopelessly deadlocked over an unsolvable problem. But to anyone who’s been paying attention to anything but football lately, despite the awful responses by Chuck and Nancy, it’s clear that the deadlock is entirely a creation of the president.

Trump based his entire election campaign on a promise that never made practical sense, but had the undeniable ability to tap into the latent fears and bigotries of two out of every five Americans. Experts in border security, and all seven House members who represent districts along the Mexican border are unanimous. Extending the seven-hundred mile long wall that is already in place is the most expensive and least effective way of securing our southern border. The Senate and House both passed bipartisan bills that fund enhanced border controls while acknowledging specifically that there are better ways to spend tax dollars than building a wall.

Today, when Trump tweeted that he was canceling his trip to the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland “because of the Democrats [sic] intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation,” he made my head spun more than usual. His bravado leading up to Davos made it clear that he was looking for a reason not to attend the meeting. The disdain other world leaders have for him would have been obvious on all the world media.

The only players who still cling to Trump’s border wall are the president, who has talked himself into a corner that in his own words would make him look foolish if he backed down, and sycophants in Congress, like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, who believe their best strategy for retaining their seats in 2020 is appeasing Trump’s base. Typically, Trump’s response is to create confusion and distraction, but in doing so, he disparages his base.

He assumes they’re too intellectually lazy to pay attention beyond the sound bites with which he tries to dominate the media, and in that, he is unfortunately correct. The social media culture of tweets, text messages, and Instagram chats trains Americans to lose interest in any conversation that lasts more than two sentences.

To those Americans, I say, “Wake up!” Laziness is the surest way to destroy our republic. Democracy is not an entitlement, it’s a hard-earned privilege. We won our independence by defeating the strongest imperial power in the world, and we survived a civil war that would have destroyed most countries. But the intellectual laziness that enables our president to behave the way he does could result in throwing all that away.

Recent polling shows the majority of Americans believe Trump’s position on the border is untenable. His intransigence on the issue which appears to be driving him toward a flagrant abuse of executive power, based only on his narcissistic need to have his way, demonstrates that he’s unfit for his job. I’ve repeatedly argued against impeachment because it would be traumatic for the country. But Trump’s actions are more dangerous every month. As his desperation impels him to manufacture what will inevitably be a constitutional crisis over executive power, it becomes clear that he must be removed from office before he does serious harm to our country.

I know this is unforgivably biased, but I couldn’t help smiling at the tweet by radio and TV (Bravo and truTV) personality Scott Nevins in response to Trump’s tweet on Davos, “Trump supporters scramble[d] to google the definition of intransigence.” (If you don’t get it, it’s okay.)

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