Guardians of Democracy

100 days in, let’s see what the Trump Administration has accomplished.  I’m not talking about legislative or other victories.  I’m talking about progress toward achieving the long con’s goals.  We are not totally sure what the aim of the long con is, but we can guess: To gain personal wealth and power, to keep Putin happy, and to dismantle the government.  Despite not having accomplished much else during its first 100 days, the Administration has, actually, made great progress toward all three goals.

Personal Enrichment —  Where to begin? The free publicity Trump’s privately owned — by him — club in Florida gets as “the Southern White House”? The huge incentive foreign and domestic business men and political operatives have to book rooms in Trump hotels — particularly the one in Washington, D.C.?  Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his family’s holdings and his insistence that, as President, he can’t have conflicts of interest go a long way to achieving the goal of enriching himself and his family.  Congratulations, Mr. President.

Keeping Putin happy —  Whether Trump is a knowing or unknowing tool of Putin, it is not hard to see how a weakened America on the world stage benefits the Russian leader:  Russia can emerge as the only Superpower, and can make further inroads into a weakening and shaky Europe.  Trump’s failure to fill most State Department posts, his proposed budget, which cuts State Department funds and boosts military spending, his trash talking of NATO and the European Union, and his apparent embrace of emerging fascists and dictators in places like France and Turkey play run into Putin’s hands.  Well done, Mr. President.

Deconstruction of the Administrative State —  Bill Moyers said it best, I think:  “Donald Trump may be a racist, misogynist, sexual predator, liar and bully, but he is still president of the United States, and we underestimate him at the nation’s peril. Viewed in isolation, his policies seem idiosyncratic and incoherent. Viewed in context, they reveal a strategy to plunder the government of what is profitable to Trump’s family and minions and leave what remains smoldering in ruins.  At its best, government saves the environment from polluters, prevents companies from exploiting consumers, safeguards individuals against invidious discrimination and other forms of injustice, and lends a helping hand to those in need. None of those principles guides the Trump/Bannon government.”  You should be proud, Mr. President.

Of these three goals, the one I am least worried about is the first one.  Don’t get me wrong, the fact that Donald Trump and his family are getting even richer than they already are on the backs of the American people is disgusting.  I strongly support all efforts underway to hold Trump accountable for his massive conflicts of interest.

But rich Republican politicians getting richer by being in office is hardly new, nor is it surprising.  Take a look at our current Secretary of Health & Human Services, Tom Price as a recent example:  when he was in Congress, he bought stock in a company and then authored legislation that benefited that very company, thus enriching himself.

So yeah, Trump’s conflicts of interest are troubling, but that’s not what keeps me up at night.  What keeps me up at night are the White House’s other two achievements:  Trump’s foreign and domestic policy continues to undermine our credibility and authority around the world, thus rendering the world increasingly unstable.  And whether driven by Steve Bannon or Jeff Sessions or his own fragile ego, Trump is succeeding in undermining faith in our democratic institutions in ways that are terrifying.

In his recent column, David Brooks noted that while running for office, “Donald Trump violated every norm of statesmanship built up over these many centuries, and it turned out many people didn’t notice or didn’t care.” goes on to cite a study published in The Journal of Democracy, which found that “the share of young Americans who say it is absolutely important to live in a democratic country has dropped from 91 percent in the 1930s to 57 percent today.”

That is a terrifying statistic on its own, made even more terrifying by the actions of this Administration when it comes to safeguarding our own Democracy.  The Trump Administration’s casual — if not criminal — relationship with the truth and facts; its willingness to undermine the credibility of the media and the authority of the Judicial Branch; and its failure to maintain the most basic levels of transparency in governing pose real threats to our already shaky democratic institutions.  Trump and his cronies may not have had any legislative victories or foreign policy wins, but don’t imagine that damage has not been done.

The good news is, for every action there seems to be an equal and opposite reaction.  As the Washington Post noted in one of its pre-100 days analyses:  “The framers of the Constitution knew that local militias, rooted in their communities, were motivated to defend liberty not as an abstraction but as a face-to-face experience. We are seeing today the spontaneous emergence of networks that are like civic militias: locally rooted webs of citizen lawyers, citizen journalists, citizen scientists, citizen artists and citizen preachers, self-organizing to defend freedom on a moment’s notice.”

So yeah, these first 100 days have been damaging to our country, and the next 100 will no doubt be as well.  And the 100 after that.  But we all know what to do. Trump and his cronies — and his base — might not care about Democracy, but we sure do, and for now, we are its guardians.  On December 8, 1944, Winston Churchill said this about Democracy.  It seems particularly important today:

Democracy is no harlot to be picked up in the street by a man with a tommy gun. I trust the people, the mass of the people, in almost any country, but I like to make sure that it is the people and not a gang of bandits from the mountains or the countryside who think that by violence they can overturn constituted authority.

Keep paying attention, my friends.