What more can I write about President Trump and his inept, corrupt administration? Ditto the Republican Party. And who needs negative predictions about the path ahead when there seems to be so little we can do about it? Yet, when I pause and focus on the future, I can’t help believing that Americans will turn away from the authoritarian abyss where Trump and the GOP are leading this nation.
I know, Trump is an incompetent, narcissistic idiot being protected by his toady attorney general, Bill Barr. Yes, Republican-controlled states with a minority of the population are dragging this country around by the nose. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell represents Kentucky, one of poorest states in the country. His right-hand man, the majority whip, is South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Next in line is Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso. These two states have such a tiny – mostly white – populations they have only ONE representative in the U.S. House.
We still have a free press, however, and elections. Not even the conservative-controlled Supreme Court would dare abolish these freedoms. The greatest threats to an independent media are wealthy right-wing investors who might purchase a majority of the outlets, like they did in Hungry. But Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, owns the Washington Post. And I don’t believe it’s possible that other major independent news sources could be taken over by conservative buyers.
Billionaire Libertarians like Charles Koch who fund conservative causes are offset by numerous, very wealthy moderates and liberals like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Many of the new billionaires are in the high-tech industries with younger, more diverse employees. The conservative dominated industries like oil and gas production are not nearly as politically powerful as they once were. The titans of technology will be driving policies in the future much more than coal and oil executives.
Americans have a 220+ year history of relative freedom and democracy. That’s not the case with Russians and Eastern Europeans who, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, had mostly lived under monarchies or dictators for hundreds of years. So, I simply don’t believe that liberty-minded Americans would ever accept Trump/Republican authoritarianism where Trump’s gut makes all the decisions and they suffer the consequences. Neither would powerful U.S. corporate leaders.
We have a Constitution, right? Even ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – who claim to strictly follow the Constitution’s text – can’t circumvent the Bill of Rights and its protections of individual freedoms.
The United States is a democratic republic. The Constitution can only be changed via a constitutional convention – which hasn’t occurred since 1787 – or by two-thirds of the members of both chambers of Congress passing amendments. Either way, changes must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. That’s not like Russia where a majority of its people may soon approve constitutional amendments that will allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to retain power, virtually for life. Trump envies Putin’s dictatorial authority but he will never achieve it via constitutional amendments in the United States.
Conservative columnist Ross Douthat theorized, however, that Trump doesn’t want power like other authoritarians, he just wants attention. As populous leaders like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban used the coronavirus crisis to consolidate power, Trump demurred, forcing state governors to take the lead. Douthat believes Trump was afraid of “claiming any power that might lead to responsibility and someday blame”. He concluded, “America needed a president capable of exercising power and found that it had only a television star, a shirker and a clown”. Amen to that!
I totally agree that Trump seems more interested in playing the showman than formulating policy. He is lazy, preferring to hold rallies where he relishes the adulation – Mussolini-like – before spending a weekend golfing with sycophantic friends. The pandemic chaos and its likely aftermath of high unemployment and economic stress are not situations he has the temperament to handle. His staff and cabinet are equally incapable doing the tough work of governing.
In fact, Trump’s presidency calls to mind the old proverb “one bad apple spoils the barrel”. Attorney General Bill Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will probably go down in history as two of the most unethical officials to ever hold those powerful positions. Trump’s other executive branch appointments – which are quickly confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate – are frequently inept and/or corrupt, including department heads like former EPA chief Scott Pruitt. At the same time, career federal employees with skill and integrity have been replaced by compliant Trump loyalists.
Yes, it’s such a helpless feeling to watch Trump ravage the stature and credibility of the United States on the world stage and hamstring the oversight powers of the Democratic-controlled House. Equally frustrating is seeing Republican committee chairs in the Senate operate like Trump’s reelection campaign staff.
The Founders would probably be incredulous – as most Americans are – at how easily Trump and congressional Republicans have been able to threaten the very foundation and continued viability of the great democratic republic they created. Yet, I believe the considerable damage they have done is reversible.
Fortunately, the architects of the Constitution provided freedom loving U.S. citizens with a mechanism to deal with Trump and his GOP supporters – the vote. And I firmly believe they will use it to change directions and put this nation and our democracy back on course.