Donald Trump is eroding America’s democratic soul, one ignored protocol and shattered tradition after another.
By presidential fiat and personal example, he has drastically coarsened our dialogue, lowered our legal and ethical standards, deepened cultural divisions and soured personal interest in public life.
The goal is to do what he wants the way he wants to do it while enriching himself, his family and his deep-pocketed enablers at the expense of the rest of American society, including the base supporters he so thoroughly conned.
He is succeeding step by step and will continue to do so unless he’s stopped by Congress.
Examples occur weekly, including these three from last week.
• ABC’s entertainment division cancelled a second season of last-year’s biggest TV hit, “Roseanne,” and apologized after star Roseanne Barr surprised absolutely no one by Tweeting a racist slur. Trump, who once called Barr “one of us,” reacted with shock and anger … at ABC for firing her and, in a narcissistic non sequitur, for not apologizing to him for what he considered unfair past coverage.
ABC was praised by many for bravely canning its highest-rated show and some future profits — and, of course was condemned by Trumpsters — but ABC’s bosses should have known two years ago that Barr eventually would blow up in their faces, given her oft-expressed cultural and political extremism. Yet they crassly put her into a show designed to appeal to Trump followers. They got away with it — and millions in revenue — for one season by deliberately widening the cultural divide that Trump so assiduously cultivates. For ABC, too little social conscience too late.
• Trump became leaker-in-chief on Thursday by touting in a Tweet the employment numbers that would be announced at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. Traditionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics briefs a few top officials, including the president, the day before the release.
A 1985 federal rule that no employee may talk about them in advance is, like insider-trading rules, based on fairness. But Trump, to whom only Trump-made rules apply, could not wait to share the glad tidings with Twitter followers, including many insiders who stood to make millions on lightning stock trades. During his campaign, Trump at least 19 times denigrated the Obama administration’s positive job reports, developed by the same bureau, as “fiction” and “fake numbers.”
• Dispensing pardons like an emperor, Trump is re-defining political corruption as no big deal. He pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, then topped even that by talking about commuting the 14-year sentence of Rod Blagojevich, former Illinois governor, whom a jury of his peers found guilty of 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes and conspiracy. The testimony convinced the jury that, among other things, Blagojevich tried to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat (a court-approved wiretap caught him saying “I’ve got this thing and it’s f…… golden. And I’m not giving it up for f…… nothing.”); tried to stop $8 million in funding to a children’s hospital because the CEO refused to make a $50,000 contribution to Blagojevich’s campaign; and refused to sign a bill benefitting racetracks until the owner contributed $100,000.
Blagojevich, removed from office by votes of 114-1 in the Illinois House of Representatives and 59-0 in the Senate, still claims “I’m in prison for practicing politics.” And the sitting U.S. president obviously shares Blagojevich’s values, saying the ex-governor “shouldn’t have been put in jail.”
Pay very close attention in November. Politics as usual won’t save us.
Davis Merritt, Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.