Although there’s no excuse for hyperbole . . . well, outright lying . . . in a politically mature democracy, we’ve come to expect candidacies of all persuasions to be fraught with it. But there are degrees of dishonor and we hit bottom with Donald Trump. After his winning the election, it became rapidly obvious that Trump’s childish, ill-informed campaign behavior would continue as a childish, ill-informed presidency. Further, it became obvious that those around him became infected with his paranoia and his disregard for truth. As management guru Peter Drucker warned us years ago, it is impossible to work for an unprincipled boss without becoming unprincipled oneself.
So Trump’s indecency spread further, to close-by aides and then to other elected officials. They had political power to minimize his damage to the country, but increasingly forgot the meaning of “checks and balances,” along with their related Constitutional responsibilities. Republicans—the majority party in both houses—have not only stood aside as Trump sought to weaken critical institutions, but became minions to help with his lies and autocratic leanings. With few exceptions, they thus became complicit in all his endeavors, including his disregard for 2016’s foreign assault on voting and more recent appalling treatment of children at our southern border.
(Public outrage about treatment of underage undocumented immigrants has been so great that it is likely to stimulate some lagging Republican conscience in Congress. That may be resolved, but what will be left unchanged are lies Trump made up about “the Democrats’ law”—we got 2 lies in one claim on that one!—and his unfathomably malicious use of children as bargaining chip. In the Age of Trump, Republicans have misplaced whatever backbones and honor they previously had.)
Our republic has weathered many storms, foreign and domestic. How and whether the United States will survive Trump unscathed depends a great deal on senators and representatives who, faced with a proto-despot in the White House, have shown greater allegiance to party than to country. As a group, they are accountable for their behavior, that is, as a Senate or House. As individuals, each is accountable for his or her personal role in standing up to a dangerous threat to crucial institutions.
That accountability begins with each citizen and from there stretches upward to the highest levels. This accountability establishes a rigorous linkage. In addition to the president, accountable to me (and to you) are individual senators, individual representatives, and the House and Senate leaders those officials choose. These persons are linked to you and to me by a chain of votes.
The personal nature of these links is important, lest the intimate reality of citizens’ connection with their government be lost. Introducing a nowhere-to-hide structure of accountability with a forceful phrase, perhaps I can explain the severity I mean with regard to governmental mistreatment of undocumented children and the lies manufactured to disguise their accountabilities thusly:
- J’accuse President Donald Trump personally; Senator David Perdue personally; Senator Johnny Isakson personally; Representative Paul Ryan personally; and Senator Mitch McConnell personally.