Wissot: All hail King Donald, our very own Orwellian nightmare (column)
In Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Steve Jobs, he quotes a colleague of Jobs as saying that he “would have made an excellent King of France.” I believe the same could be said of the current occupant of the White House.
President Donald Trump told Laura Ingraham on Fox News that filling the State Department isn’t a priority because, when it comes to foreign policy, “I’m the only one that matters” (Nov. 3, 2017.) Your president brags to his base that “I am your voice” and “I alone can solve it” (Fox News, July 22, 2016). My president asked his supporters to raise their right hands and pledge allegiance to him (The Times of Israel, March 7, 2016).
Duly elected presidents don’t brag that they “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody and still not lose any votes” (The Guardian, Jan. 24, 2016). Kings might. They can kill with impunity and never have to worry about voters or votes. We’ve had presidents use the bully pulpit to their advantage before. But not by being an actual bully.
America stopped believing in the divine right of kings when we kicked King George III out of the country at the time of our revolution. Are our politics so broken that we need a monarch to repair them?
What makes this so disturbing is that Trump was swept into office by an electoral majority of the American voting public. For a rock-solid, unwavering core of his supporters, the election of an American monarch was just what they voted for; none of this namby pamby politically correct adherence to the rules of democracy.
Rather than appreciating the checks and balances that divide power between the three branches of government, Trump loyalists revel in his attacks on the judiciary, his ridicule of the cumbersome legislative process and his sympathy for dictatorial autocrats. And that doesn’t take into account his tweets labeling the media as purveyors of “fake news” or the heads of the intelligence services in previous administrations as a bunch of “political hacks.”
In a remarkable indication of how Trump views the limits on presidential power, he recently tweeted “I’d love to order a full investigation of Hillary Clinton but I can’t because I’m not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department and I’m very frustrated” (Daily Mail, Nov. 2, 2017). Very frustrated? Does he not understand the fundamental principles of a democracy, or does he not care? And which is worse?
Trump’s ascension to power is one of the more remarkable stories in American political history. He didn’t become president by accident. He orchestrated a complete takeover of the Republican Party by using his Twitter account to galvanize a significant percentage of the electorate and eviscerate the establishment Republicans who challenged him.
He deserves credit for his brilliant use of the modern tools of political communication and for his uncanny ability to both manipulate the media into covering him during the early stages of his campaign and then discredit them to the delight of his followers when they began to fact check him once he gained the nomination.
The fact that Trump’s victory came as a shocking surprise to many should not cause us to ignore the real damage he has done to the fabric of democracy. His introduction of what can only be described as Trump Truth and his insistence on promoting a parallel universe that flies in the face of what the rest of us know to be true, knows no precedent in the annals of the presidency. Nixon’s campaign of disinformation during the Watergate era was child’s play compared to the Orwellian nightmare Trump has given us.
So how does this all end, short of impeachment? There are no signs that Trump’s base is going to leave him anytime soon. Short of a total economic collapse or his abandonment by the right-wing media, they are with him for the long haul. And why shouldn’t they be? Isn’t he exactly what they wanted? Isn’t he behaving in accordance with how they expected him to behave?
Trump’s presidency up until now has been performance proof. His most fanatical supporters are with him, not for what he accomplishes but for who he is. They didn’t elect candidate Trump for his aptitude. They elected him for his attitude. His greatest asset is that he serves as spokesperson for all that they hate about secular, cultural and intellectual liberalism, all the folks who, in their estimation, have rejected them. He can relate to that because those same liberal forces rejected him.
The only threat to Trump’s hold over his base is Donald Trump himself. To that end, the worst thing “crazy” Donald Trump can do is to stop acting crazy. For the sake of the rest of us, I am praying for a thunderbolt of sanity to strike Trump from the heavens above. That would be divine intervention fit for a king.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail.