Let’s be honest: President Trump is a natural bully. He bullies his staff, rails against the press, accuses his critics of treason, defies Congress, demeans diplomats, discredits decorated military officers, and the list goes on. But the Commander-in-Chief is curiously and uncharacteristically obsequious in his dealings with ruthless dictators—North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are but two cases in point. Why? Is it admiration of envy?
This strange behavior is all the more alarming in the context of the existential threat an unstable chief executive poses to peace in a troubled world and a deeply divided nation. Indeed, if we are to credit the views of experts and policy analysts like Thomas Pepinsky (“Why the Impeachment Fight Is Even Scarier Than you Think”, Politico, October 31, 2019) and (Michael Tomasky, “The Three Keys to Trump’s Coming Coup,” The Daily Beast, October 13, 2019), the very survival of the republic is now open to question.
President Trump’s instability has been evident all along but has reached new levels now that he is facing impeachment; meanwhile, even if the firewall that is the Senate Republican majority protects him, his biggest fear is losing the 2020 election—if enough voters turn against him he could be the first president in history to face criminal charges upon leaving office.
In the meantime, according to Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast article mentioned above: “Trump says whatever will get him through the next 10 minutes.” There is growing trepidation among the Washington cognoscenti that backed into a constitutional corner this crisis-prone President will match his words with deeds. That he will do whatever will get him through the next crisis—perhaps even foment a civil war or stage a coup.
What does it say about the state of the union and the hollowing out of the political center that neither possibility sounds crazy enough not to be dismissed out of hand? The stone wall the founders sought to erect between democracy and dictatorship is not as sturdy as it was during the Cold War when a common enemy unified the country and a consensus on bipartisanship in foreign policy prevented politicians from crossing the line Joe McCarthy had crossed in 1954.
History proves that in politics a failure of the imagination can be fatal. We are wrong to think regime change can’t happen in America, but it can. Vigilance is the key to prevention. Which is why the time has come to say to Donald Trump, “STOP IT!”
Stop waging war on the press! Stop lying about stuff! Stop calling the truth fake news! Stop hiding your tax returns! Stop asking foreign governments to interfere in our elections! Stop using the White House to enrich yourself and your family members!
Stop persecuting immigrants! (We’re a nation of immigrants, remember?) Stop attacking your own staff! (These are people you handpicked—are you that bad a judge of character?) Stop talking about the deep state! (It does not exist and you know it.)
Stop debunking the State Department, FBI, and CIA! (We owe the dedicated professionals in the permanent government more than we owe you for our safety and security.) Stop praising dictators and insulting our allies!
Stop making excuses for racists, homophobes, and other bigots!
Stop denying climate science!
Stop tweeting like an unhinged adolescent! Stop calling people you don’t like stupid names! (It makes you look stupid.) And, in general, stop acting like a spoiled child in an old man’s body!
Remember this, Mr. President, come next November, voters in Iowa and across the land will have the opportunity to say to you what you delight in saying to others: “You’re fired!!!”