Donald Trump’s presidency (the Jerry Springer Show comes to mind) stumbles on with the outspoken or at least tacit support of almost all his party. But stumbling doesn’t mean getting nothing done. On the contrary, Trump is getting a lot done. He has degraded our already appalling political discourse to even lower levels. He has replaced any semblance of commitment to truthfulness with daily lies. He has advertised contempt for and attacked Constitutional institutions. He has infected national politics and degraded the presidency with his paranoia. He has normalized a despotic inclination toward dictatorship. He has roused a cult of personality to replace informed policy debate. He has supplanted judicious deliberation with shoot-from-the-hip impulsiveness.
How can newscasters still refer with a straight face to this unfit person as the “leader” of the United States, much less the free world?
(It’s been suggested of late that Trump’s behavior is due to advancing dementia. That’s possible, but makes little difference. Knowing whether Trump is unwell or evil neither increases nor decreases our responsibility to protect the institutions and fortunes of this country from further damage.)
How bad must the situation be before his party—the only resource capable of saving America from Trump’s madness—re-reads the oath of office all senators and representatives take? His party continues to treat the Trump debacle as a partisan matter, one in which Republicans fight with Democrats, like fire fighters arguing about their retirement programs while a building burns in front of them. Partisan advantage (including their re-elections) has been of more concern to them than America’s decaying global leadership and our domestic surrender to the sleaziest and most fact-free traits among us.
What are we to think of the president’s cabinet and White House staff groveling, each in turn, in nauseating obeisance to their king? Their jobs depend on salving Trump’s fragile façade of strength. Perhaps, as it has been said, they fear for the country that jumping this ailing ship would lead to Trump’s appointing even weaker, more ethically pliable servants. Whatever the reason, the White House has sunk to new lows. It appears more energy is spent there repairing the various internal rifts than supporting an atmosphere for careful consideration of policy.
But whatever the excuse for the toadying of that group, the behavior of senators and representatives is another matter. They do not work for the president, though Trump seems to think they do. Even they cower before the authoritarian man-child, though surely they all recognize his ineptness, unfitness, and superficiality. Members of Trump’s party not only accept his incompetence, but offer him their own version of sycophancy with terms like his “elegant” leading of the 2017 tax bill (Speaker Ryan) and “one of the best [presidents]” (Sen. Hatch).
But elected members of Senate and House, must be re-elected to keep their jobs. Whether leadership is really expected depends on the electorate. Perhaps statesmen and stateswomen are too rare a commodity to expect when a great proportion of citizens falls for the hollow messages politicians are skilled at contriving.
If coal miners really believe coal jobs are coming back; if a lifelong blowhard inspires confidence to “drain the swamp;” if a leader is trustworthy who self-contradicts at a dizzying rate; if a candidate is adamant in hiding his personal finances; if we entrust momentous policy choices to a candidate who deals only in ego-related transactions; if Americans are deluded by a supposed leader’s claims of “mental stability and . . . genius;” if voters see no problem that a president’s source of intelligence comes as much from Sean Hannity as the CIA; if voters think there is anything remotely equivalent between the shortcomings of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton . . . we can have little confidence in saving the great American experiment that our Founders left us.
Donald John Trump is not the primary problem in this threat to America and to the world. We are.
Previous posts particularly relevant to Donald Trump: “America’s celebration of ignorance,” Sept. 26, 2016. “October relief…sort of, Trump’s still here,” Oct. 28, 2016. “You and I deserve Despot Donnie,” Mar. 20, 2017. “Prerequisites for the presidency,” May 30, 2017. “Our republic . . . if we can keep it,” July 3, 2017. “Fish rot from the head,” Aug. 18, 2017. “Moral courage and the Trump threat,” Nov. 30, 2017.