There is an old political gimmick, called “doubling-down,” that certain politicians have perfected. It’s a term for a point in blackjack when, if you’ve think you’re holding a winner, you can double your bet. The politicians have kept the doubling part, while completely changing the rest. “Doubling down” now means, when things are going poorly, just find a louder, more pointed version of the original. It’s like when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, instead of fessing up, you just start yelling at the top of your lungs, “You have no right to infringe on my rights to these cookies!”
In Lyon County, where I live in northern Nevada, a couple of our county commissioners are providing us with a real-life example of this old saw. Just to keep your scorecard up to date, the Chair and Vice-Chair of our commission both have their eye on moving up in the local political hierarchy. Our Republican assemblyman is term-limited out, which means everyone else, county commissioners, county chairs, etc. gets to move up a notch.
The path to this Assembly seat leads through the Republican primary and, conventional wisdom seems to say, the path toward winning the primary leads through the followers of Trump. What better way to shine up your image with this crowd than to name something after the ex-president?
But the first stab at this by the Vice-Chair did not go well. His idea was to change the name of Old Dayton Valley Road, a short stretch of street that goes by the local schools, senior center, and library, to Pres. Trump Way. This sent the local Democrats, among others, into a fury. But more fatally, the Vice-Chair—a California transplant—had zero idea of the historic significance of the road he had targeted, or that its name reflected this significance. The idea was voted down, although he has threatened to revive it via a ballot measure at some later time.
Now, two weeks later, the Commission Chair has taken her turn. She is proposing a proclamation naming the county justice complex, which includes district court, the sheriff’s office, and county jail, the Donald J. Trump Justice Complex. The irony here is beyond stunning, or maybe oxymoron is the better term. There is not room in this column to list Donald Trump’s many and varied encounters with the legal system. Suffice it to say he lives with the very real prospect of being criminally indicted on any number of charges.
But that’s exactly the point. Irony, or oxymoron, is the combination of two seemingly contradictory things. There is no contradiction in the minds of the Trump followers between Trump and “justice.” In fact, it is just the opposite. Trump is justice. This is the reality they live in, and the reality they want to impose on the rest of us by naming the seat of justice in our county after him.
This is what I mean by doubling down. The bad idea of naming a street after Trump was, after all, somewhat passive. You drove along it on the way to other things. Going to court, or to the sheriff’s office on some business, or to jail, heaven forbid, is much more fraught. The escalation, the doubling down, is the demand that—with all that his name stands for—we accept our fate. We might expect justice, but we better be prepared for Trump justice.
And what is Trump justice? It is, we have seen, the abandonment and destruction of the traditions and norms that enable a person to go to court with at least some expectation of fairness. As president, Trump took it upon himself to define justice. He circumvented due process on behalf of friends and political allies and pardoned those who, after investigations and trials which met every standard of fairness, were convicted of everything from war crimes, to arson, to bank fraud and tax evasion.
So who will define justice in Lyon County? It is inconceivable that any law enforcement officer or judge, or prosecutor, or attorney, could walk through the doors of a “Donald J. Trump Justice Complex” without cringing. How could they go to work in a building whose name is a mockery of the very principles of justice to which they have devoted their life’s work? And the rest of us, looking up at a judge, what are we to think knowing he or she has somehow accepted their place in all this?
So who will define justice in Lyon County? That shouldn’t even be a question, and won’t be if the County Commissioners have the good sense to reject the Chair’s proposal.
The Lyon County Board of County Commissioners will take up the proclamation at their Thursday, August 5, 9:00 a.m. meeting. You can tune in via Zoom:
Join Zoom Meeting: Meeting ID: 894 6519 4612; Passcode: 917624; One tap mobile: 1-253-215-8782; Dial by your location: 1-346-248-7799
Erich Obermayr is an author, community activist, and career archaeologist specializing in sharing historical and archaeological research with the public. He writes about Nevada politics and social issues. He lives in Silver City, Nevada, with his wife.
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