Trump: Democracy’s Kryptonite

The reappearance of Donald Trump as the darling of the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida is making a lot of people uneasy, and not just because they had enjoyed  whole month for the first time in five years not having to thole his erratic daily outbursts. To give Trump his due, he has carved a profile more outrageous than any sensible politician would have dared to. As America is rightly proud of being a free country, that is his right. As is the oblivion that should have followed.

The sad (and alarming) thing, however, is that a large number of political minnows in the Republican party have kept their wagon hitched to his star, even after his ungracious departure from office. It is not just Senator Ted Cruz (R TX), who is delusional: daft enough to see not just a second Trump presidency, but his destiny as Vice-President. Governors and legislatures of states across America’s ‘Red Center’ are falling over themselves to thwart Biden’s effort to clamp down on a virus whose threat Trump denied, even as deaths soared past half a million—more Americans than died in wars across the 20th century.

Anathema to Trump’s return is not about political differences. Any democracy worth its salt must be able to handle that. Despite high-profile posturing by Trump and his acolytes about ‘patriotism’, ‘freedom’, ‘founding fathers’, ‘foreign perfidy’, and so on, any study of Trump’s record shows him as concerned with democracy as Genghis Khan, being fixated with his status/power and enhancing his wealth. To secure those, no-one is secure from being thrown under the bus.

Example 1: US Department of Justice under Trump loyalist Attorney General William Barr declined to investigate, let alone prosecute, Trump’s Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, even after that department’s inspector-general asked for a review of  “a misuse of her office”. The inspector-general found repeated instances of Chao using her office to benefit Foremost Group, a shipping company run by Chao’s sister. Also, Chao is married to former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who led the Republican charge to avoid endorsing wither of Trump’s impeachments. (Source: heathercoxrichardson@substack.com

Example 2: Trump operated his administration alone the lines of a dictator, firing anyone who disagreed with or contradicted him in public. Brookings Senior Fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas refers to the group of most influential advisers outside the Cabinet as the president’s “A Team.” By the time he left office, Trump had fired 60 out of the 65 hires—a casualty rate of 92%. In fact, 27 of the 60 “A Team” departures (45%) have turned over twice or more. These are the people who actually run the country, but were stymied by Trump’s fickle and partisan whims.

Example 3: Senate hearings about the January 6, 2021, attack, heard of “serious lapses in the protection of the Capitol”. It appears those lapses originated with Trump appointees in the Pentagon. Washington’s National Guard is under the control of the Defense Department, overseen by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The Commander of the D.C. National Guard, Major General William Walker, told the Senate that, in response to a request from Mayor Muriel Bowser. Walker requested approval for the mission from McCarthy on January 1st. McCarthy’s approval did not come until January 5th, when events were already unfolding. In what Walker saw as an unusual move, McCarthy withheld approval to deploy the Quick Reaction Force to respond to civil disturbance, without the approval of the Secretary of Defense.

At 1:49 pm, then Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police called Walker to say the Capitol had been breached, indicating “a dire emergency on Capitol Hill”, and requesting immediate assistance of as many guardsmen as could be mustered. Walker immediately called the Pentagon for approval to move, but officials there withheld approval for over 3 hours. Once allowed in, the National Guard deployed in 20 minutes. But by then, plenty of damage had been done—not least to democratic process. Trump’s man at Pentagon placed unprecedented restrictions on National Guard deployment, preventing it from responding to the crisis at the Capitol and its threat to a smooth transition of power in a timely fashion. (Source: heathercoxrichardson@substack.com

That Trump should reach the White House was more a credit to America’s ability to break fresh ground with the unexpected. That he behaved like a bad-tempered bull in a douce political china shop was a lesson to all who thought the founding fathers created perfection in the Constitution. That Trump drove a coach ad horses through convention should be a clarion call to guard against repetition of egregious abuse.

By himself, Trump poses little danger any more. But, backed by Republican fellow travellers, drifted so far from their democratic roots that they will sup with the devil for a thimbleful of power, abuses of privilege, such as above for another term, will drag America down to a cod democracy, on a moral par with Venezuela or Russia.

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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