Rapidly departing from the message of unity he espoused at the State of the Union, President Trump has said that Democrats who did not applaud his accomplishments could be seen as being guilty of treason.
I’ll just let that word hang for a moment: “Treason.” As in, the only crime explicitly defined by the constitution. A crime whose defining elements are the complete betrayal of America, her citizens, and her principles. And the President equivocated it to a lack of fanfare.
To be fair, the term was an attempt at humor. However, it was a poor one — and humorous intent does not absolve the President of fault. It sets a dangerous precedent when a powerful figure claims that those who don’t cheer every accomplishment that they are betraying the entire nation. That sort of thought-process is patently un-American and shouldn’t be entertained, even in jest.
But while this conversation can appropriately begin with President Trump, it shouldn’t end there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen President Obama labeled “treasonous.” And, lest people mistakenly get the impression that it’s a phenomenon monopolized by the GOP, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen someone claim something distasteful done by the administration amounts to treason (from liberal citizens and politicians alike), I wouldn’t have to worry about my student loans.
If it is unacceptable now, it was unacceptable then. And let me be unflinchingly clear: It is utterly unacceptable.
The popularization of this sort of language is a threat to our democratic discourse. It allows people to not only reject inconvenient evidence but to see it as nefarious and seditious. Something that they must not only vigorously and unfalteringly rebuke but, chillingly, something that they may be inspired to act against.
We cannot tolerate this logic and the language which embodies it. We have to remember that virtually every American wants what they feel is best for the country. And for us to live up to our democratic ideals, we must hold fast to the truth that the inevitable disagreements are in good faith and come from the same love of country.