The insidious nature of this idea becomes apparent the closer one examines it. Virtually any act can be said to have “enabled” Trump’s political career and administration. A television reporter who covered Trump’s early rallies clearly “enabled” his rise by spreading his message to voters who weren’t present. Twitter “enabled” his election by permitting his tweets. Anyone in his administration “enabled” his presidency. Anyone with any degree of power, visibility or influence who did not denounce or oppose Trump’s words and deeds can be deemed “guilty” of enabling him.
That holds water only under the assumption that Trump’s entire public career and acts in office were so uniformly horrific that no responsible American could support both them and our nation’s ideals. But that is eminently false. Most of Trump’s agenda has been boilerplate conservatism. He came to power in a free and fair election and will leave power, if he loses, in a free and fair election. He will not have thrown any opponents in prison, shut down opposition political gatherings or suppressed freedom of expression. He may be distasteful or odious to many as a matter of personal character or policy pronouncements, but he and his supporters are not outside the mainstream of American democratic practice or beliefs.
These obvious facts are why so many ordinary Republicans see Reich’s words as malicious and threatening. Such a view make sense only if there is no reasonable way for people of good will to have chosen Trump over the alternative. It effectively casts out the nearly half of Americans who, for whatever reason, decided they preferred the conservative or populist candidate, despite his manifest flaws, to the progressive or liberal alternative. If journalists who backed the president and staffers who worked for him should be outed and shamed, then everyone who held the same sentiments is also fit to be outed and shamed. Small-dollar donors, volunteers and people with hand-painted lawn signs all “enabled” Trump, too.
This is nothing more than an attempt to make ordinary political belief and activity so socially unacceptable that people will be forced by circumstance to renounce their views. This is McCarthyism on steroids, an attempt to use public power to stamp out a particular political opinion. It’s easy to see how Joseph McCarthy’s famous question of the accused — “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” — would find its analogy in such a commission: “Are you now or have you ever been an enabler of Donald Trump or his agenda?”
Modern liberal democracy is like a cultivated plant that requires care to survive. Toleration of views one finds odious is essential to its survival. Democrats have told us that our democracy is at stake in this election. Denouncing ideas such as a truth and reconciliation commission is a good way to show they mean it.