Psychologically, resistors must continue to affirm that the administration’s behavior is unacceptable, even as we grow to expect it. We must not normalize the pathological. And in an environment where pathological behavior rains down in buckets, avoiding normalization requires active resistance, both as a mental state and as a practical program. This point, as much as any other, explains why “resistance” is a fitting paradigm. If we don’t resist, we adjust. And to put the next point as non-melodramatically as possible: If we adjust, the republic is lost.
Barr imagines, or at least alleges, that self-identified resistors will use any tactics whatsoever to pursue their goals, because they have convinced themselves that their ends justify any means. That’s false. My resistance seeks to defend common decency and the rule of law, and my methods need to reflect those values. This is not to deny that some people who oppose Trump (like some people of any political orientation) do things they shouldn’t. But as a general matter, the people with whom I have worked in this resistance have not abandoned their ethical compasses, their sense of decency, or their commitment to the rule of law.
When I have litigated against the administration, I and the other lawyers working with me have always thought we were making valid legal arguments. We have not distorted facts, and we have not urged judges to distort the law in order to rule against Trump. Nor do I think it true, as defenders of the president have often charged, that judicial rulings going against Trump are products of a lawless resistance mind-set within the judiciary—that is, judges disregarding the law to hamstring the administration. Judges are human, and they have biases—some surely running against this administration (and others running against people the administration harms). But with a small number of exceptions, the judicial rulings that have gone against the Trump administration have seemed, to me, legally correct, involving no compromise whatsoever of the rule of law. (To take a notable example, the lower courts that ruled against the entry ban were applying the law correctly in my view, and the Supreme Court erred in reversing them.) That is as it should be. I want the courts to hold the administration to account when it acts unlawfully—and this administration breaks the law often enough to warrant many adverse judicial rulings. But I will not ask a court to act against the administration lawlessly, and I would not want courts to do that. The goal, after all, is to protect the rule of law, and a rule-of-law culture, once lost, is a hard thing to rebuild.
Read more: The Resistance media weren’t ready for this
What makes this political engagement different from other forms of political engagement is not that the ends justify any and all means. Instead, what is unusual is the decision to spend our time and resources on this fight, rather than on the things we would do in better times. I personally want to be a teacher and a scholar, not a litigator and an activist. But the imperative to resist makes demands on what we do.