Setting aside the weird unconditional support for Donald Trump from some in the evangelical crowd, what are we to make of otherwise decent and reasonable people who not only support Trump’s policies but also turn a blind eye to injustice? Almost like an extension of Fox News, these great people compartmentalize Trump’s glaring weaknesses and only focus on what they like about his politics.
One dear colleague of mine, someone whose political opinions I respect, had this to say on the subject:
Sure he’s an uncouth womanizing egomaniac but there are some pretty strong positives this year: strong economy, tax reform, Supreme Court appointment, support for religious freedom, reasonable public lands policy, and several Americans brought home…I like most of what he does, if he’d just quit tweeting and talking.
And we can add to that list of accomplishments this week’s announcement that Trump signed a bill to give veterans more health care choices. This argument is a strong one for conservative Trump loyalists: Many of his policies tend to be good for America.
I am willing to accept the realistic narrative that Trump never intended to become president. This would explain his total unpreparedness for the office and his apparent blind spots about personal ethics, his business entanglements with Russia and conflicts of interest, his complete lack of leadership and managerial skills, his addiction to Twitter and his obsessive defense of his ego.
If running for president was a gimmick and business opportunity for him, there was no reason for him to care about honesty, ethics, patriotism, the nature of public service and any actual leadership abilities. Nor was there any reason to care about executive management and staffing or how to play nice in the constitutional sandbox of separation of powers.
That narrative seems to explain why so many otherwise decent people have been willing to give Trump a pass on what they now call his virtuous, even if gross, lack of experience. Trump gets a pass too on his insensitive provocations about race, disabilities, gender and celebrity. Everyone knows he really does not mean any of that, right? He is, and we accept, that Trump is simply a necessary provocateur. We speak of him euphemistically and non-threateningly – he is like no other elected politician we have ever seen.
So let us set aside all of that so-called refreshing inexperience and incompetence, his sophomoric but evidently deserved teasing of humane sensibilities and his outlandish hucksterism.
But, folks, the loyalist narrative is no longer relevant. Trump loyalists, like so many other activists driven to uncharacteristic behaviors, are burning down the house to fry a piece of bacon. The Republican Party is already lost. Conservatism is next on the endangered species list. But the true price for looking the other way is the whole idea of America.
Consider this scenario. What will we do if nobody really cares if Trump is found guilty of any number of crimes against this nation stemming from collusion, cover up or obstruction of justice? Using whatever excuse or justification, what happens when the majority of Americans simply do not care about standards of justice any more?
We see Trump’s ignorant disdain for the Constitution with nearly his every Tweet. Separation of powers. Checks and balances. Presidential powers. So far, none of these abuses seem to make a hill of beans for Republican loyalists. Surely Congress will save us. Surely Trump’s more knowledgeable staff will protect the rule of law for us. But no, nobody is stepping into this breach of trust.
The final line in the sand is justice herself. Amidst all of this pending and unavoidable constitutional chaos, what if justice is the last casualty? Nixon’s cover up of crimes led to his resignation. Clinton’s obstruction of justice led to his impeachment. What if Trump is indicted for any number of illegalities? Will the loyalists care? If they don’t, when that time for truth is laid in their lap, and it will come, these loyalists will owe Nixon and Clinton huge apologies.
The American idea extends beyond the rule of law and constitutional structure. It used to include ethical and moral standards that gave us prescient vision to see trouble way before it hit us. Today, it seems, we are blind and Lady Justice can see. Anyone still arguing that Trump is better than Hillary is anachronistic. The ghost of Hillary no longer justifies loyalist reluctance to accept Trump’s sins. Trump alone is now the only concern.