Wissot: There are no rules in a street fight and sadly in our politics
When I was 16, Danny Credidio beat me up. We were both dating Joan Cerando and he decided that she was going out with one guy too many.
He called out my name on the street and when I turned around he landed a solid punch to my head. I was lying on my back completely dazed when he began raining punches on my unprotected face. By the time he had finished, I was lying in a pool of blood with a broken nose, a missing tooth, and enough facial bruises to cause people to think that I had been hacked up by a meat grinder.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: There are no rules in a street fight.
I applied that lesson the next time I found myself in a street brawl. I made sure I landed the first punch, and while my adversary was sprawled on the ground, I proceeded to kick him in the most sensitive part of the male anatomy. I followed that up with as many judicious hits to his head with my shoe in order to ensure that he would not retaliate against me. He didn’t.
I tell you this story because I think the important lesson I learned as a teenager is true for politics today. There are no rules directing the behavior of our president except perhaps, to quote late Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win, baby.”
Certainly, Donald Trump is the worst manifestation of the tawdry deterioration in our political morality, but even he couldn’t get away with his egregious violation of previously accepted ethical norms like respect for a free press, the courts, the intelligence services, without significant support from his party and base.
Members of his party refuse to challenge him because they fear he will retaliate. When it comes to his base, “He defies the normal metrics for success because his voters don’t so much support him for what he does as they adore him for what he’s against.” His constant Twitter rants are a means of reminding them that he hates what they hate.
Trump’s a nasty street fighter. The kid from Queens who grew up in a wealthy household behaves like he was from an impoverished part of the city fighting for his basic survival like a cornered rabid dog. He’s not going to change. It’s all he knows. It’s how he is. His amorality is baked into his DNA. We need to look not to him or the stars for a resolution to the looming constitutional crisis.
I worry about what might happen if Donald Trump loses in 2020. I fear he will then take Dylan Thomas’s advice when he wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and resort to attacking the “rigged system: that he will claim caused his defeat. Trump has already said that he wasn’t worried about being impeached because he thought “that the people would revolt if that happened.”
He didn’t specify who those people were, but it doesn’t require much imagination to conclude that whoever they might be, a “rigged” Trump election defeat would ignite a similar and perhaps more violent revolt from them.
Thomas Jefferson believed “that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” I think he saw that possibility as a means for ridding the country of a rogue government that had abused its constitutional authority. Having led a revolution in opposition to monarchic rule himself, he wasn’t likely to have been in favor of a despot’s followers inciting violence to keep him in power.
The question will not be then what Trump does, but what his base is willing to do on his behalf. We got rid of a monarch who ruled this country by decree, King George III, almost 243 years ago. How willing are we as a nation to fix our broken, divisive politics by resorting to violence in order to keep a ruthless autocrat on his anti-democratic throne?
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.