What I Love About Trump: 2017 is a Yuge Learning Moment
There’s an adage in politics, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Donald Trump seems to spring from one crisis to another. I won’t pretend that this is all great for the Republic. But, surely there’s a teaching moment here somewhere.
I have referred to Donald Trump at times as a human wrecking ball and at other times as a living, breathing pox on both houses. Trumps brash disregard for political convention and basic civility exposes Washington DC sophistry and hypocrisy. Trump campaigned on draining the swamp. As the swamp resists being drained, we are getting a glimpse of a lot of shady dealings on all sides. On one hand, Special Prosecutor Mueller is investigating Trump associates regarding Russian interference with the 2016 election. On the other hand, there are a slew federal investigations and Congressional inquests involving several senior officials from both parties. The current Washington bloodsport is grueling to watch. But, ”sunlight is the best disinfectant” as grandma says.
Whataboutism. Defenders of the president harp on the hypocrisy of Obama and Clinton supporters at every turn. It was amusing for a while, but it’s become tiresome. The election is over. Obama won’t run again and septuagenarian Clinton should not. It’s time to judge Trump’s words and actions for their own merit rather than scoring social media sick burns.
There is an opportunity to articulate a standard for behavior regardless of the party in power. I don’t expect the folks in Washington to do that. But, maybe the citizens should have conversations about good government and acceptable behavior of our public servants.
The New Pen is Mightier than the Old Pen. Obama famously circumvented Congress regularly. He was praised for getting things done with his phone and pen. Trump is demonstrating that what can be done by executive order ban be undone the same way. The Constitution does not contemplate an executive ruling by fiat. Here’s hoping Congress will reclaim its rightful role as the first among equals in enacting democratically enacted laws. Otherwise we will continue to experience radical pendulum swings on policy. This creates uncertainty for business decision-makers, investors and everyday citizens.
What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Federalism? During the Obama years I saw a lot of “secede” bumper stickers on pick up trucks in Texas. But the stickers really taking notice when I spotted them on BMWs. Now, California has caught the secession bug. It’s a shame the Founders did not create a system to allow 50 different sovereign states to manage their affairs. Oh wait. They did!
Instead of sticking it to our political opponents in states that voted for the other party after each election, we could actually follow the Federal model and let most decisions be decided closer to home at the state and local levels. In Texas we say of our capital “Keep Austin Weird.” The same works nationally. Our Federal system lets California be California and Wyoming be Wyoming. After the discord of the Obama years’ followed by the Trump years, maybe we will call a truce: Federalism.
Skepticism. Trump makes a great bogeyman as he threatens “fire and fury” against Kim Jong Un, encourages cops to be rougher, and tries to unmask visitors to an anti-Trump website. I doubt he is really the strong man people fear him to be. But as Lord Acton said “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. I think a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted with Trump as well as all administrations. This may be paranoid. But as Joseph Heller wrote in Catch-22 “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”.
Nobody’s Above the Law. After we published this piece, President Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The pardon was panned by critics on the right and left. Arpaio had been charged with contempt of court by a federal judge for violating a court order to not racially profile Latinos in Maricopa County. Sheriff Joe deliberately disregarded the order. In other words, Arpaio is a law enforcement officer charged with willfully violating the Fourth Amendment. President Trump decided this behavior was worthy of a Presidential pardon. Some critics warn that there is now no check on Presidential abuses of power short of an impeachment. While I do not share this view, I do relish the Constitutional discussion it is sparking. I have already panned whataboutism in this piece and don’t plan to engage in it myself. Suffice it to say, both political parties would do well to learn that executive powers might be abused. When choosing a candidate to represent them, each party should consider whether their candidate has the temperament and respect for the law to be trusted with Presidential powers. No politician should be above the law. I predict this will be a theme of the 2020 election.
This administration offers so many opportunities to think about what good government, civic engagement and civilized discourse should be. If we don’t take that opportunity it would just be….
Photo Credit: Americanspirit – 123rf.com
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