It’s an Either-Or Question: Trump or Decency


Donald Trump, who would not be president but for a Republican Party that was more interested in power than core American values, has crossed a line no American who believes in our constitutional order should tolerate. He has sided with the people whose views are taken from two sources: the United States’ enemies in World War II, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and the disgraceful American system of black slavery and white domination. He has defended the right-wing fringe knowing full well that it was one of them who deliberately killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville this weekend. History will judge those around him—and the rest of us—depending on how we respond. Where do you stand?

Forget the phrase “alt-right”; this is no alternative movement. It’s the old right.

Trump: A Fatal Incapacity for Accountability

The Framers fully expected greedy, self-serving, and dangerous men would ascend to power in the United States. The Constitution itself is a testament to that belief. Every person and every institution that holds power is checked and limited in as many ways as they could conceive. Article V, which permits amendment, exists because the Framers were persuaded that the powerful would find ways to circumvent the limits that were built in. The Convention was based on distrust and informed by a dark view of human nature, which has served us quite well, as I discuss here. Until now.

The goal of the checks and balances in the Constitution is to turn the instinctively self-serving president, Congress, and courts into public servants accountable to the people and the common good. To put it another way, the presidency is supposed to be the opposite of a monarchy where one ascends to power for the very purpose of being unaccountable to anyone. Yet Trump appears to believe that he has been anointed monarch—of the Henry VIII variety, who attacked friend and foe alike, grasped power ruthlessly, repeatedly subjugated women, favored one faith over all, and had a voracious appetite. This Administration does not care about accountability or the common good.

Trump is openly mocking some of our greatest achievements—the defeat of Hitler, the end of slavery, the birth of civil rights, and the continuing will to make our system fair to all. Right before our eyes, he is contemptuous of accountability with his sinister refusal to be transparent about his actual finances (i.e., his taxes); his campaign’s apparent pursuit of powerful Russians, including Vladimir Putin, to help him beat Hillary Clinton at all costs; his saber-rattling at law and order itself by threatening those who are lawfully investigating him; and his repeated insistence that there is a moral equivalency between the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists with the counter protesters. These positions have one thing in common: monumental arrogance—there is no requirement to serve the people or to honor our history.

When judged in light of the Framers’ aspirations for the Constitution, this presidency is arguably the greatest failure in United States history.

To Those Who Remain Silent: The Clock Is Ticking

Many Democrats and to their credit, Republicans, have decried Trump’s twisted support for some of the worst our society has to offer, but not all, and some didn’t have the guts to name Trump. Then Trump, who is incapable of shame, tells the Republicans to unconditionally back his whitewashing of the Charlottesville events.

This is really your moment, Republicans. Can you do what the Framers imagined and hoped (against hope) United States’ leaders would do: serve the people and the higher good? Stand up for liberty and equality? Stand against Nazis and Russia? Turn on the President whose narcissism is branding your Party as bigoted, intolerant, and arrogant? Every member of Congress, every governor, and every public official should be loudly denouncing Trump for his essentially traitorous positions. Along with every business leader, university president, member of the clergy, and, well, all people of decency. It should be easy. Those who do not will likely be remembered, if remembered at all, on the wrong side of history. I’m sorry, General Kelly, but that includes you.

You want to know who Trump’s true allies are? Look to see who repeatedly praises him: Vladimir Putin, here, here, and here; and David Duke, here, here, and here. The first is the enemy to our democratic system and the second is the face of an organization—the KKK—known for its history of lynchings, rabid racism, and anti-Semitism. This is the organization whose members are thrilled an ally killed a young woman because she is not one of them. Both betray the fundamental decency at the heart of the American constitutional experience. Which of these pillars of piety are you aligning yourself with?

The correct answer is: Neither.