Dine and Dash?

It is really important that we all keep saying No to this administration.

Investigations are proceeding in Congress (sort of), and in the FBI (we believe). More and more townspeople — and even some henchmen — are calling this Emperor out on his nakedness. (Check out https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-presidents-credibility-1490138920?mod=trending_now.)  In fact, Republican strategist, Rick Wilson said on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on Friday night, “the Emperor has been bucked naked from the very beginning.” http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/watch/lawrence-trump-presidency-effectively-over-after-repeal-failure-906197571595

And all of that is good — exciting, confusing, frustrating, worrisome, but good.  More information is always good.  But what to do with that information is not at all clear.  It is safe to say that the situation our country finds itself in — largely, I think, of our own making —   is unprecedented.  What happens next is not at all clear.  And neither is when. We could be stuck with this Administration for the full 2, if not 4 years.  And lots can happen in that time, even while the investigations are unfolding and the heads are starting to roll.

Which is why it is more important than ever that we keep paying attention to what Trump and his entourage have actually accomplished, and what they continue to do.  Even if they all get booted out of office eventually, a lot of damage can be done in the meantime.  It’s our job to prevent them from dining and dashing.

What to pay attention to, in particular? Things they do that can’t be easily undone.   Repealing and Replacing the ACA would have been such an action.  Thanks to the tireless organizing and activism of all of us, that potential seems, for the moment, to be on hold.

Appointing Gorsuch to the Supreme Court would be another such action, which is why I support the Democrat’s filibuster of the nomination.  Even if he is eventually confirmed, it is essential that Democrats — and fair-minded Republicans if they dare — hold Senate leadership accountable for their cynical refusal to maintain the norms of civility and good faith when governing.

But there are other actions the White House has taken, actions that fly under the radar, require no action on the part of the Legislative or Judicial Branches, and can cause potentially devastating, long term damage.  I am referring to the staffing choices Trump has made and continues to make throughout the Executive Branch. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/03/09/want-to-know-what-deconstruction-of-the-administrative-state-looks-like-look-at-trumps-staffing/?utm_term=.5c0e209b0e3a

As described initially in in Pro Publica, and more recently, in the Washington Post, “While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior. Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-calledbeachhead teams” have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities.” https://www.propublica.org/article/meet-hundreds-of-officials-trump-has-quietly-installed-across-government (emphasis added by me); and https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/white-house-installs-political-aides-at-cabinet-agencies-to-be-trumps-eyes-and-ears/2017/03/19/68419f0e-08da-11e7-93dc-00f9bdd74ed1_story.html

Second, the State Department remains almost entirely empty — with major posts like Deputy Secretaries of State unfilled.  Trump’s budget proposal calls for a 24% cut in State Department funds.  Secretary of State Tillerson has said nothing about either condition, and seems perfectly content with his apparently diminished role, and the diminishing role of the Department generally. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/state-department-trump/517965/.

And these are two just off the top of my head.  All it takes is one look at Trump’s budget proposal to see just how the White House intends to reshape American government. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/16/what-does-trump-budget-eliminate/99223182/. Says the Washington Post, the budget proposal “bears a striking resemblance to the Heritage Foundation’s “Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017,” complete with a list of deep spending cuts designed to scale back the size and scope of the federal government.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/27/trumps-budget-owes-a-huge-debt-to-this-right-wing-washington-think-tank/?utm_term=.7ce16e41c302.  The proposal has led author Neal Gabler to suggest that “Trump’s budget clearly was intended to hurt the most vulnerable, including those vulnerable supporters of his.” http://billmoyers.com/story/has-the-trump-budget-blown-republicans-cover/

Remember our discussions about Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances?  The Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches have separate but co-equal power to govern; they each have their own “lanes” in which to operate.  As Peter Shane, a professor of constitutional law at Ohio State University, explained, “The idea is to give each branch enough authority to be effective in the discharge of its functions. But they are also given powers that make the other branches partially dependent on one another.” http://billmoyers.com/story/separation-powers-explained/

Bill Moyers reminds us that “This democratic design doesn’t work unless each branch employs its authority with respect for the equal authority of the other two branches. . . . The norms may change over history, but there is a set of informal understandings that shape the way that everyone interacts. . . . “Disregarding norms will take a toll over the long term,” agreed Anna Law, a political scientist at Brooklyn College, “particularly if the country becomes immunized and thinks this behavior is normal.” http://billmoyers.com/story/separation-powers-explained/

Drastically redesigning the Executive Branch in such a way that it affects how it functions in our Democracy undermines these norms, and threatens the healthy, long term functioning of our system of governance.  I am not talking about right v. left, conservative v. liberal.  Of course the Heritage Foundation would play a role in a Republican administration.  It is the combination of far right influence and lack of transparency that threatens our democracy.

It is essential that we not become immunized to the White House’s disregard of the roles and authority of the Legislative and Judicial Branches.  Keep asking questions, keep seeking answers, and keep paying attention!