Chaos, drama, scandal, conspiracies. I understand that to follow events as they unfold regarding this presidency can be exhausting. And if you look back at what has been a blur of cascading events, it becomes clear that there is a line that runs through it best characterized as sustained dysfunction and incompetence. It’s as if we’re living through a perpetual Trump campaign rally with millions of Americans cheering, as if the MAGA crowds relish the opportunity to play Jenga with our institutions.
In truth, I worry for our democracy. And with each passing week I am increasingly convinced that the approaching mid-term election will be of incomparable importance. The only hope for our country resides with the ballot box; and it is no longer just the House of Representatives that must be flipped but the Senate as well.
If we take but one incident, the separation of migrant children from their families, toddlers and infants from their mothers, just that alone should, in a normal world, so shock us that it would disqualify this administration. Full stop. Yet, among Republicans in Congress and the “Trump base” there is an absence of moral outrage or sustained concern, which stuns. This policy of Trump/Sessions is not only deplorable but, in truth, some of these children many may never find their way back to their parents. And the impact on these innocents is incalculable. The word “damage” perhaps best characterizes what this administration has done, perhaps not in my name or yours, but certainly in the name of that ever-present base and those Republicans in Congress.
What has evolved in a relatively short period is that Trump is governing for that base. He is not the president of all the people. In effect, what we have is a nation being governed for a minority, the 40 percent, while the will of the majority is essentially ignored. This is not a democracy. It is, however, a form of government that believes in a conspiratorial “deep state,” and at the helm is a populist who is, as we are learning, demagogic and resentful of the constraints of our laws or of due process. This appears to be exactly what his base has been waiting for.
In the days that followed Trump’s election I found myself saying, “We can get through this. I mean, how much damage can he do?” Clearly, I was naïve in the extreme. But I believed then that our system of coequal branches of government — this remarkable manner in which we govern ourselves — would prevail and therefore check this authoritarian president. Congress would, of course, push back. As would the courts. Or, however unlikely, the power of the presidency, apart from the individual who stood in the oval office, would transform this man and a humbled Trump would emerge, acknowledging that he didn’t know what he didn’t know, but now must learn.
What I did not anticipate was that the Republicans in Congress would cravenly enter into a Faustian bargain with Trump: power and party before country. In disbelief I observed these lawmakers abandon any pushback on his expansion of presidential power regarding his “Muslim Ban” (now upheld by the Supreme Court), to cancelling DACA, to alienating our allies (the G7 and NATO), and his deplorable immigration policy that includes his wall. And there, of course, is his disconcerting BFF attraction to dictators, especially Putin, with whom he’ll have his first sleepover in Helsinki.
It is the Republicans who have done all things possible to insulate and defend Trump from the Mueller investigation, while uttering not a whisper of outrage about the Russian attack on our democracy.
They received in return a corporate tax cut; a chance to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and environmental regulations; one Supreme Court justice confirmed and another, yet to be named, on deck; and countless lower court conservative judges confirmed.
The question I now ponder is will we, as a people committed to e pluribus unum, reach a point of zero tolerance for this administration and so demonstrate? Perhaps this fall.
Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.