What reforms immunize us from another chaos chain reaction?
We’re closer to the end than the beginning of the splintering meteor called Trump, with only the finale in question. Will failure breed more failure? Will his approval ratings plummet to unelectability? Will he be the first ex-president stung with jail-time or heavy-duty criminal penalties? Beyond how current investigations will mortify Dismal Donald, simply “more of the same” nonsense accelerates Trump Fatigue.
This epitome of ineptitude will have few regime laurels on which to retire, though we know he’ll never shut up. Our dread should be Trumpism will outlast the deviant source — and that mandates hard stop-signs against the next blast of White House sound and fury — signifying so very little for so many.
I doubt whether political pros, or amateurs for that matter, ever imagined 1) how many established legal and Constitutional thresholds Trump would shred, and 2) thus put on full display the full magnitude of damage from the rampage. The very bad news: he’s getting away with record-breaking disgraces. The better news: thanks to his scandal glut, everyone (but those in denial) realizes how this president unilaterally degrades public discourse, gleefully divides the country, disrupts international trade, and de-stabilizes the western alliance. Whatever his psychic disorders, all can see the worst Trump outcomes — and that’s a good thing.
Who knew a criminal tycoon and TV clown, driven by gall and social media, would so expose stunning systemic flaws across the presidency, indeed our whole government model? We’ve had smarter, more strategic politicians who didn’t exploit every hole in the dike. What a painful irony to see our greatest buffoon, dancing as fast as he can to deflect blunders, leveraging the power of the presidency with nuclear political force.
Blessing in disguise
Someone, someday may thank Trump for unearthing gaping, systemic wounds — as when a leader scornful of legal or historic limits rides roughshod over a distinct majority. So much for the legacy of fostering “disruption for disruption’s sake.” What Trump most exposes are grossly inadequate checks and balances. This un-virtuous circle is complete when reactionary senators and federal judges fail to restrain cruel, idiotic, or illegal policies.
And all that comes after Trump made a mockery of the GOP primary, the election, then the Electoral College. Endlessly lying his head off, he wars against innocent (Muslim, African, Hispanic) foreigners, legal asylum seekers, and non-white citizens already under siege. Here’s nasty joker who lives on impunity — figuring he can say and do whatever infects his dotard brain. Where’s instant Congressional censure against outlandishly invoking “national security” to disrupt global trade? Or alienating nearly every treasured ally with threats and insults? Or dumping valuable international agreements as if confetti?
A desperate Trump now alienates centrists with unforced stupidities (well beyond gaffes) hard to imagine even months ago. And his party is mute. How about pushing to buy Greenland, then insulting the Danish leader who deemed it “absurd.” Or recklessly pushing Putin on implacably resistant G-7 countries? Trump called himself the “chosen one” (as in deity) after entitling himself new “King of the Jews”? And the most bizarrely unconstitutional, recent threat of all: threatening to end Birthright Citizenship by executive order, despite the absolute authority of the 14th Amendment, awarding citizenship to all American born.
To learn or not to learn
Now the big question: what threshold of endless Trump Carnage puts this great national civics lesson front and center? What whopper(s) can teach enough voters never to duplicate an appalling mistake — elevating a transparently malignant narcissist without experience, honesty or judgment. Our entire national future depends on enough people admitting, then learning from error.
Look at our learning curve so far. Who knew B.T. (before Trump) a president could arbitrarily invent tariffs, inviting a predictable trade war boomerang? Or that Congress would roll over? Who dreamt that Trump the Willful could start — against Congressional defiance— an unpopular, mockery of a border Wall, with illegally-diverted funding? Or promise pardons to law-breaking operatives to execute Trump’s Folly? Imagine the subsequent resumes: indicted for conscious criminality, found guilty, then pardoned by a jail-bird prospect.
Is not Trump, the master of crass impunity, amazed at what he’s gotten away with — formally unscarred? Who knew he alone could degrade public discourse, even eviscerate confidence in future White House pronouncements? His bigoted fans understood his racism but his perpetual caricature of moral leadership — dissing our unique melting pot identity — makes all those intolerant white bigots look worse that ever.
Denying failure — double whammy
Not to learn from calamity tragically wastes a once-a-generation opportunity. What president wouldn’t provide the ideal teaching moment — for indefensible stupidity — by mouthing off we should nuke hurricanes heading our way? That produces radioactive fallout outlasting a season of hurricanes. No law against being ignorant of science and technology — unless you’re charged with emergency responses.
The looming lesson from Trump’s mischief: our system is broken if formal impeachment is the only check on a president who holds the rule of law in contempt. Are we so bereft we can’t stop a fiend who deports sick children (who never lived abroad) then likely to die from primitive third-world treatment? How is this not punishing the innocent? Is the most modest gun reform impossible? Is worsening climate change not utterly irrational? Trump brandishes impunity as if a war medal — and that not only speaks volumes but should provide a potent lever for reform.
That a deplorable regime looks to be re-nominated, with a chance to return, testifies to persistent moral blindness, if not rejection of our best values. Does Trump not prove our system is so lacking in controls a belligerent buffoon in three years can corrupt centuries of presidential history? If the Trump tragedy does not become a national teaching moment, what could a more experienced, more strategic autocrat pull off? Either we find reforms or America lurches further into the Theatre of the Absurd.
My savvy father once quipped, after I screwed-up, “Success is not a great learning tool, as we repeat what works— until it doesn’t. Failure is a much better teacher — unless we deny it — because that makes us confront mistakes. Not to learn from failure doubles the failure.” If this country doesn’t learn from our greatest electoral calamity, we blow the chance to return to marginal equilibrium — and the grinding social progress of the last century. Not to learn from infamy invites far worse — signaling a stunted learning curve like Trump’s. To refuse to reform our political ways — if we escape this authoritarian intrusion — makes the American electorate a double loser — and that will worsen our nation and our lives. We cannot claim to our grandchildren ignorance of the facts — or options.