In the past couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about both American history and what portends for the next four years under a President Donald Trump. I have often said that I have not been able, in good conscience, to pull any levers in the voting booth for someone with “Republican” next to their name since I watched then-Senator Arlen Specter hew dangerously rightward to fend off a primary challenge from then-Representative Pat Toomey in 2004.
At the time, my other senator was Rick Santorum. When Toomey — whose worldview closely resembles that of Santorum — came in claiming the mantle of the future of the Republican Party, I lost the ability to vote for the GOP.
I was (and still am) quick to point out to pollsters, this statement is not, in and of itself, a giveaway to the Democratic Party.
Donald Trump ran on an openly racist, sexist, bigoted platform sprinkled with some economic populism that appealed to those who have felt left behind by a changing economy. The racism, sexism, bigotry, and general xenophobia he spouted aren’t anything new in either this country or humanity in general. It’s just disheartening how much he has emboldened them.
In looking at the posturings of the president elect, I wonder if I have been misjudging things. Thirteen years ago, I thought the downfall of the Republican Party would be the influence of the religious right, and that in order for the party to become remotely palatable to me, they’d have to rid themselves of the influence of the theocrats in their midst.
Say what you will about Donald Trump himself, but he is not a theocrat. He may have surrounded himself with the likes of Franklin Graham and other modern religious hypocrites but he himself has little use for the teachings and trappings of religion. I might tongue-in-cheek question why someone like Trump hasn’t founded his own church as he seems quite comfortable preaching similar bullshit to gullible supporters, but I’m sure that, as a con man he recognizes similar people.
I am not, by nature, a pessimistic person. And I do recognize that sometimes, in order to move forward we must occasionally step back. Looking at Trump’s nominees for important positions in his cabinet, there are only a handful of people who can competently execute the duties of the position without raising the specter of corruption, conflict of interest, or historical opposition to the goals and expectations of the agency they would lead. Add in Trump’s very public disregard for our intelligence agencies, and it’s easy to see how our enemies can be emboldened to find ways to attack us while the wolves guard the proverbial hen house.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has shown his true colors in wanting to rush the most controversial nominees through the confirmation process without thoroughly vetting them. (Note that there is nothing wrong with holding the hearings before the president elect assumes the office; it’s the lack of interest in compiling the necessary documentation on their backgrounds that is a problem.) Considering the sheer amount of wealth all of these nominees have, both individually and collectively, their backgrounds should be investigated more thoroughly, not less.
I have pointed out before that, depending on how you measure it, three historical presidencies vie for the title of “most corrupt.” The way Trump is starting out, it seems as though he wants to surpass Grant, Harding, and Reagan and earn the mantle of most corrupt on his own, eliminating any ambiguity from the various possible definitions.
And yes, that can and will damage the country in scores of ways, both direct (bankrupting the government) and indirect (leaving vulnerabilities in our defenses and infrastructure). And that, in turn, could be the motivation of an otherwise reluctant congress to grant more powers to a president who is already excessively power hungry.
During the campaign I was unable to answer the simple question of why Donald Trump wanted to be president. Most people who enter politics — liberal and conservative alike — do so because they feel compelled to serve the public and think that they can effect positive changes for the country. There is nothing in Donald Trump’s public statements or his past history that indicates that he wants to serve anyone other than himself.
But there is cause for hope. Whatever damage he does, can be easily undone by an electorate that watches in disgust, starting with a new congress designed to hold him accountable for his lies and actions in two years and then a new president in four.
What I’d like to see in this process is the Republican Party waking up and realizing how much of a mistake they made by having him as their standard bearer. The country will survive. Will the republicans?