Punishment and revenge are big motivators for the current president of the United States. It’s one of the things many of us lament the most: Donald Trump’s corrosive, seemingly insatiable appetite for cruelty. That’s been exhibited countless times, in, say, an indefensible policy of child separation at the border, or seemingly using the Justice Department to block a merger of companies he doesn’t like, or his personal attacks on anyone who criticizes him, whether a Gold Star family or a dead war hero.
Many of his most vocal supporters love his bloodlust. They cheer on his ugly invectives and revel in his “owning” of enemies perceived and real. They’ve tricked him into believing, somehow, that this is governing, that this is good for us.
Of course, exacting revenge has always figured prominently in Trump’s business style, both as a means of keeping his own employees loyal and to keep his competitors at bay.
He brought the weapon to the presidency, but hasn’t quite figured out how to wield it as successfully.
For example, he’s promised to punish our trade rivals, like China. But the steep tariffs he’s flirting with are actually a tax on all of us, American consumers.
He’s promised to punish our political enemies. Of course, no one is loving life under the Trump administration more than Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whom Trump has yet to out-play in any meaningful ways.
He’s promised to punish the elites, fight the establishment, drain the swamp. This is utterly laughable. He’s appointed his friends, family and cronies to high positions and protected profitable business partners like Saudi Arabia in the midst of horrific human rights abuses, and the Washington swamp is swampier than ever.
So with the ugly politics of revenge looming so large in Trump’s America, why on Earth would any Democrat double down on it?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Trump. She’s a liberal policy wonk. Yet she’s similarly turned on by punishment politics. For all her talk of uniting the country, she sure seems hell bent on keep it divided.
This week, she turned down a Fox News invitation for a town hall and launched an angry tirade against the news outlet. “I won’t ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in order to see our candidates — especially when Fox will make even more money adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers,” she wrote.
What she concedes in this protest, though, is that she doesn’t think the millions of Fox viewers — otherwise known as voters — are worth showing up for. If she has a message about the dangerous values Fox personalities are proliferating, where better to make the point than on Fox, where those viewers are watching. She’d be their president, too. But rather than trying bring them into the fold, she’d rather malign a news outlet she doesn’t like and its viewers — and that sounds a lot like Trump.
Another of her revenge policies is her break-them-up plan, whereby the government would break up companies she thinks are too powerful, including Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, an idea even one of her Democratic competitors, Sen. Cory Booker, said “sounds more like a Donald Trump thing.” Americans are also emphatically against the idea of the government picking winners and losers — 68% believe these decisions should be left to the free market.
Another one, her Corporate Executive Accountability Act would punish — by imprisonment! — any CEOs whose employees, even if unbeknownst to them, violate federal or state law. You can think that CEOs have too much money and influence, but it’s another level of unhinged vitriol to jail them for crimes they didn’t even commit.
Rather than a champion of the working class, Warren sounds more like a power-hungry despot out for revenge on enemies both imagined and real. That is, she sounds a lot like Trump. And, whether Republican or Democrat, that’s the last thing we need.