Two weeks into his chaotic presidency, Donald Trump is at least being consistent. He is everything the 73 million people who voted against him feared: reckless, managerially inept, immature, inarticulate, narcissistic, dangerously autocratic and a serial liar.
For the 62 million who voted for him, he’s still saying the things that attracted their votes and is trying to deliver on those few promises that he can act upon by fiat.
Not only has he made no attempt to heal the broad rift between those two groups, he has ensured that no healing will occur by empowering as his chief strategist and in-house Rasputin the godfather of the alt-right, Stephen Bannon. Though Bannon may not be as mad as Rasputin, he shares with him deep hatred for enemies, both real and imagined; that is, anyone who does not share his extreme views.
Nothing Trump has said or done shows even the tiniest hint of personal growth. So what should Americans fearful of and embarrassed by their president do?
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Certainly not, as some Trump supporters are fond of demanding, “get used to it.” Quite the contrary. Allowing the actions and demeanor of this deeply flawed man to be accepted as the new normal in American governance endangers its very foundations.
Unsettling as watching is, concerned Americans of all ideologies must not avert their eyes. Instead, they must closely follow Trump daily and register their dissatisfactions regularly with their congressional representatives, particularly Republicans.
With 2018 already at the front of every congressional mind, the only thing that could cause current members to detach their political souls from the Trumpist distortion of reality would be discovering that their self-interest no long resided there but lay in the hands and minds of constituents who, belatedly but rapidly, are rejecting Trumpism.
This does not mean trying to deny Republicans the normal rewards of the presidency: the appointments, the patronage, the power to legislate. Nor does it mean Democrats or Republicans modifying their political goals.
It means refusing to normalize, by neglect or silent sanction:
▪ The continuing, glaring conflict of interest between the worldwide businesses Trump owns and his duties as president, which casts a shadow over his – and America’s – every word and deed.
▪ The unelected Bannon’s bombast about “a new political order,” a scary prospect coming from someone of his fascistic background and inclinations.
▪ The adoption as national policy and style the entrepreneurial tactic of pretending to keep all options open and all principles negotiable in order to keep others off balance. It might work for closing a hotel deal, but is a reckless and hazardous way to run a nation in a complex nuclear world.
▪ Sarcastic, taunting, threatening daily comments to the world about whatever is on his mind delivered at the emotional and literary level of a spoiled, rich 13-year-old.
The only people with a chance to force Trump to change would be members of Congress whose courage becomes buttressed by strong, consistent words from home sent by ordinary citizens, business and professional leaders and even three or four ex-presidents.
Davis Merritt, a Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.