Shortly after the election in November, one GOP pundit criticized Democrats for lacking faith in the strength of the American system to survive a president like Donald Trump. He pointed to the institutions and balance of powers that protect our government and its citizens. What he neglected to realize is that those institutions are run by people and if they choose not to do their duties, then the protections don’t work. That’s what’s happening now.
With control of both Houses of Congress in a hyper-polarized environment, Republicans are choosing to look the other way as Trump runs over the norms that have defined the presidency and limited its power. It’s likely coming to a head soon. Trump is probably going to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and/or Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Will the GOP take action in defense of the Republic or just in defense of Trump?
Trump’s already talking to his lawyers about pardoning staff and family members. Clearly, he knows people in his inner circle violated laws. He’s more interested in protecting those around him than protecting the public good. As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote, “Trump has done no evident reflection on the obligations to the public that accompany the massive public authority that has been entrusted to him. He has no clear sense of why it is even desirable, as a matter of public trust, to demonstrate respect for the norms and procedures that are meant to safeguard against abuses of that authority.”
During his short tenure, Trump has spent almost as much time promoting is business interests as attending the duties of the presidency. Last weekend, while his fellow Republicans scrambled to save the Obamacare repeal effort, he was at one of his resorts that was hosting the U.S. Women’s Open. He’s already being sued by the district attorneys of Washington, DC and Maryland for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution that’s designed to keep presidents from profiting from their position. Republicans in Congress have remained silent.
Internationally, Trump repeatedly embarrasses the country. The party that’s known for advocating a tough foreign policy as Leader of the Free World said little when the president undermined the authority of NATO. They’ve sat silently while Trump weakens our relationships in western Europe while empowering dictators like Putin.
But we’ve seen this before. The conservative party has little respect for norms of government. It just wants to win or impede. The Senate will be a very different institution after Mitch McConnell’s tenure as Minority and now Majority leader. His fellow Republicans said little as he destroyed the filibuster, first by abusing it as Minority Leader and then scrapping it to get his sole accomplishment so far—the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. And McConnell disrespected the process, the body and his position when he denied Merrick Garland a hearing before the Senate. Republicans won’t control the body forever, but the changes they’ve made will outlast them.
Politically and functionally, we’ll be worse off as a country because of Republican rule. The Senate will be a less deliberative body where the minority party will have significantly less influence. The presidency will have less accountability because the GOP decided to turn a blind eye to Trump’s abuses. We might survive Donald Trump, but our government will not be the same and it will take years to repair the damage, if it can be repaired at all.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >