Citizens of the United States made Donald John Trump the most powerful man in the world. Citizens of the United States made a grave, careless error.
A mechanism for removing an unfit, incompetent, shallow president is available only if his or her behaviors rise to the level of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors” (U.S. Constitution, Art. II, Section 4). Currently, that solution requires the United States House and Senate to have more integrity in placing country above party than they have thus far shown.
Our country introduced to the world a new approach to governance and the rights of individuals. For more than two centuries, the design of its public institutions has helped it weather massive storms of change and war. Now, for the first time, a president seems determined to weaken, perhaps even cripple, those institutions. Among his wrecking tools is destruction of the concept of truth, as if in a bizarre enactment of 1984.
The president embarrasses us before the world with his infantile, narcissist, charade of leadership. A recent Pew Research Center study of 37 nations’ confidence in the U.S. president to “do the right thing in world affairs” showed the 64% level attained by President Obama near end of his presidency dropped to 22% in spring 2017 with regard to Trump. To many if not most Europeans and British, our president is a perilous joke.
Trust in what President Trump reports and claims is abysmally low. He lies as a matter of constant habit. In my February 10 post, “Trump and the new American truth,” I presented an argument that nothing Trump says about anything can be trusted. Nothing. Therefore, we can fairly assume him to be either lying, misinformed when he claims to be informed, or dangerously mentally disturbed. Not one of those alternatives is tolerable or forgivable in a president of the United States.
And what about that position? This country of almost 330 million Americans vests extraordinary authority in the presidency. Arguments leading to adoption of the Constitution included how to balance the former colonists’ fears about such enormous executive authority versus the necessity for strength in the new central government. Most Americans understand the apportionment of power among federal branches, one that establishes a presidency that is both strong and limited. For four years at a time we entrust that role to a single human being.
But the presidency does not belong to the president. It is ours, putting the lie to President Nixon’s misguided remark, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” To be sure, the presidency is for a time the president’s to decisively use, but just as importantly, the presidency is his or hers to protect.
We could see this debacle coming: Eligible voters who didn’t vote. Low information voters who did. The steady drumbeat of Fox News and other purveyors of disinformation. Voters easily duped by antics of a crude, deceitful savior. Voters fearful of diversity. Readiness to accept a world of comfortable, but manufactured facts. Normalization of bizarre, indecent behavior. Discounting of a severe narcissistic personality disorder. A party milieu unable to stand against its radical right wing. These were circumstances that created the shameful ethos into which Trump’s lying and fabricated expertise fit so well.
My posts—similar to those of well-known commentators—have detailed the immature, unprincipled, smallness of Trump’s proto-despotic, banana republic version of presidential power. I’ve worried whether Trump’s lack of knowledge or his authoritarianism is the greater apprehension. It provides me little comfort that his incompetence might save us from his autocracy. Although we’ve had good presidents and bad, Donald J. Trump is the first to threaten the balances that safeguard the republic.
Following completion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a lady on the street asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
“A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”
Previous posts relevant specifically to President Trump: “America’s celebration of ignorance,” Sep. 26, 2016; “October relief…sort of, Trump’s still here,” Oct. 28, 2016; “Please, Mr. President-elect,” Nov. 15, 2016; “What does a proto-despot look like?” Dec. 12, 2016; “Trump and the new American truth,” Feb. 10, 2017; “Flirting with fascism in Trump’s America,” Jan. 23, 2017; “Despot Don,” Feb. 27, 2017; “Congratulations, Trump voters,” Mar. 6, 2017; “You and I deserve Despot Donnie,” Mar. 20, 2017.