Masked men roam the neighborhood and everyone is dressed in black. I am writing to you from the wicked streets of Gotham City, which, along with Portland and Seattle, was officially designated as an “anarchist jurisdiction” Monday by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). Those of you who still cling to the old-fashioned belief that words have meaning may wonder if anarchists generally have jurisdictions. Well, the anarchists in New York apparently do. They also have strict side parking rules, and you are fined if you don’t follow social distancing protocols. It’s not the kind of anarchy the Sex Pistols sang about, that’s for sure.
America’s official list of anarchies did not come out of nowhere. A few weeks ago, Donald Trump published a memo asking the DoJ to identify cities “allowing anarchy”; it is the axis of evil that they invented. According to United States Attorney General William Barr – the guy who recently likened coronavirus lockdown orders to slavery – the leaders of these cities have cut police funding and given the green light to violence. To fight against this supposed anarchy, the government threatened to freeze federal funds; in the case of New York, that means revoking up to $ 7 billion (£ 5.4 billion). With a sizable chunk of that money going to the city’s police department, the Trump administration is threatening, rather ironically, to dismantle the police.
Do you know what anarchists do when they are intimidated by the government? Prepare for prosecution, of course. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with the rulers of Portland and Seattle, the other anarchist cities, have vowed to sue the Trump administration if it tries to follow through with the withdrawal of federal funds. Which it probably won’t: This latest move is less about slashing city budgets and more about increasing Liberal hackles and bending to the Trump base. Threatening to do something unconstitutional and illegal is how Trump reminds voters that he is the candidate for law and order. And, of course, that’s a distraction from the fact that the United States is approaching 200,000 deaths from Covid-19.
The idea that New York is a hotbed of anarchy fueled by oat milk and latte would be hilarious if the motivation behind Trump’s stunt weren’t so grim. Far from being a president of law and order, Trump is the president of grievances: his job is not to make policy but to distribute punishments. Last year, The New York Times interviewed Trump supporters about how the government shutdown hurt a Florida city. “I thought he was going to do some good things,” one woman complained. “He doesn’t hurt the people he needs.” This quote is perhaps the best description you can get of Trump’s electoral tenure: he has to hurt the right people. Or, perhaps more precisely, it has to hurt people on the left and minorities. He has to stick to places like New York.
We often use the phrase “culture wars” to describe the deep divisions in America, but I think what is unfolding could be more accurately described as a cold civil war. Americans may not be shooting themselves en masse on the streets (yet), but the Trump administration has made it clear that it doesn’t care about the lives of people in Democratic states. Trump recently boasted, for example, that America had dealt well with Covid-19, “if you do away with the blue states.” It was also recently reported that the young genius Jared Kushner was not concerned about New York’s lack of resources as the state bore the brunt of the pandemic in March. ” [Cuomo’s] people are going to suffer and that’s their problem, ”Kushner reportedly said. Trump and his people have made it very clear that if you are not on their side you will suffer. Trump is not the president of the United States – he is the president of his supporters. There is a word for that sort of thing and it is not “anarchy” – it is “authoritarianism”.