July 29, 2018
Dear Ms. Dowd,
Several years ago I wrote you a brief note of support; you had made an accurate comment that, in typical fashion, had been purposefully misinterpreted by the bad guys, who were attempting to unfairly pillory your work. You actually wrote back, thanking me. In view of the tide of mail that someone in your position must inevitably receive, I was not a little shocked and delighted, and I remain grateful for that small gesture to this day.
I do not think that will happen this time.
This time, I am writing not to express thanks, but to express sadness. In your latest column, you have taken a posture that is not only unprincipled, it actually denigrates the very idea of a principled position.
Once upon a time, we Americans regarded ourselves as a people who could be counted on to do the right thing. To some extent this has always been a fiction, but it has always been aspirational, and sometimes true, and central to our (outsize) self-regard—that we are the shining city on a hill, the indispensable nation, the moral leader of the world, beacon of freedom and possibility and the primacy of the rule of law. You and I grew up hearing this, and presumably, to some extent believing it. No sane person believes this any longer.
Anyone can do the right thing when it’s easy—when they personally benefit, or get the credit, or are compelled by unavoidable circumstances to unavoidable action. Frequently, things aren’t like that, and they aren’t like that now. Now, doing the right thing requires courage. In your column, you have chosen to dispense with courage in favor of political calculus. What’s worse, you’ve chosen to excoriate those who have not. This may be the stock in trade of the inside-the-beltway crowd, but it is not what has actually made America, to the extent she ever has been, great. As against the right thing, political calculus is cowardice. It’s not about “purity,” it’s about having a spine.
Donald Trump is a virus. The GOP is a plague. Our nation is deeply, deeply ill. Political and civic institutions have failed us, and there is every reason to believe that they will fail in the next election for the same reasons they failed in the last, and again, in spite of the actual will of the overwhelming majority of the American people. This is true regardless of the presence or absence of impeachment. To believe otherwise requires you to believe that a sufficient number of people will vote for Donald Trump if he is impeached who would not otherwise and that this number is larger than the number of people who will do precisely the opposite. I’m sorry, but this doesn’t pass the sniff test.
It is not the politics of progressive purity that make people stupid and nasty, it is the politics of white purity and racism. Honestly, it’s not even close, and in any event, the rule of law is not a popularity contest. This president is a criminal and a racist, and in every way that matters, a fascist. He simply must be impeached—not because doing so will succeed or fail, and not because of some fictional progressive purity test, but because we were once a nation of laws, and a people of integrity, and not so long ago, we wouldn’t have tolerated this shinola for a New York minute.
It’s not a question of righteousness, or purity, or any other half-backed condescension that you would have us believe about progressives, and it sure as hell isn’t a racket. It’s about restoring our character as a nation and honoring the rule of law. It’s about becoming Americans again who refuse to be cowed by the ignorance, stupidity, and abject cruelty of the racist white fools who feed at the Fox News latrine. It’s about believing in the people we once were, instead of fearing the people that some of us have become. It’s about doing the right thing for its own sake, not because we are naive, but because we are courageous.
Our nation is faltering, and for those of us not enthralled by the criminal idiocy of this administration, It may well be that all we have left is our integrity. If we chose to dispense with that as well, then we are finished, and the fascists have finally won.
I am so sad that you have forgotten all of this in the wake of meaningless Twitter screeds about pumps and parties. Perhaps this note will jog your memory.