Trump Part VI – Principled Republican Leadership

angry_trumpI haven’t slept well lately because I’m worried for the end of the Republic. I’m re-reading about the rise of elected authoritarians, and the uses they make of security crises. I’m concerned Trump could cause an economic or financial crisis, and then use that excuse to subvert the Constitution.

When I write all these things, I want to clarify these are not predictions, but rather my frightened projections forward of what I see Trump has indicated he will do. I will get no pleasure in being “right.” I sincerely hope Trump’s supporters and allies have the last laugh at me. As an American citizen, I hope he turns out to be just a call-it-like-he-sees-it competent businessman thumbing his nose at the elite establishment.[1]

What would allow me to sleep better? For starters, I wish there was real opposition in government right now. With the Democratic Party stripped from the top levers of federal power, that opposition has to come from within the Republican Party. That’s the real bottom line right now.

The two things I want most for Christmas this year are an assertive free press and aggressive enforcers of the separation of powers and the Bill of Rights. If I’m really laying out all my wants, somebody who can keep us from foreign wars and fiscal suicide would be nice as well.

My policy agenda

If you’ve read this far into my posts on the Trump administration, can I let you in on a little (sort of unintended) joke about my Trump fears and my policy advocacy?

I didn’t really intend this when I started writing about Trump, but the things I’m advocating here are all traditional conservative Republican values. That’s not usually where I land. I don’t know Bill Kristol’s inner dialogue deeply, but I’d like to think he and I would agree on all of this stuff.

first_orderI’m talking about enforcing strict constitutional values, like individual freedom, not collective rights. I’m talking about protections against encroaching government interventions like surveillance and registrations – the kinds of things conservative Republicans usually advocate. I’m talking about limiting our responses to foreign provocations. I’m talking about balancing our budget and paying our debts. I’m talking about maintaining national strength through an independent central bank and monetary policy. I’m talking about expanding free trade, not getting into a protectionist crouch to coddle certain favored industries. Shit, this would put me on the same page as a conservative icon like Ronald Reagan. That’s all I ask for right now.

The way I figure it, this is not the time to be pushing my more narrow progressive agenda, or any wish for the arc of history to bend my way. This is a time to keep the focus on surviving First Order threats to the Republic.

By “First Order” threats (Star Wars Episode Seven puns absolutely intended) I mean:

  1. Upholding a constitutional democracy with a real separation of powers;
  2. Maintaining a free press that hasn’t been intimidated or sued into bankruptcy;
  3. Avoiding a shooting war with another major military power;
  4. Respecting the judicial branch’s enforcement of the Bill of Rights, and;
  5. Trying to prevent a complete collapse of US government credit.

It’s a lot to ask, I know. These are the kind of existential threats we haven’t really worried about at the start of a Presidency since the four inaugurations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression and World War Two.

Because if you take President-elect Donald Trump at his literal word during the campaign, all of these threats are suddenly back on the table. This is why I’m not sleeping.

Help us, Ted Cruz!

Calling all patriotic leaders of the Republican Party: The time will come, probably very soon, for you to take brave, even historic, stands. This is your time to show America’s greatness.

help_us_ted_cruzI feel like Princess Leia here, stuffing a message into my laptop just before the Empire arrives, whispering earnestly into my MacBook Pro: “Help us, Ted Cruz, you’re our only hope.”

Here is my short-list of Republican patriots I am counting on.

Senator Ted Cruz – You believe deeply in the US Constitution and even taught Constitutional law at the University of Texas. Your senior thesis at Princeton was on the separation of powers. Before becoming my Senator from Texas you argued and won five cases in front of the Supreme Court. You have shown an eagerness to be a completely maniacal obstructionist in the Senate on principles you believe in. You nearly took down our government during The Fiscal Cliff near-default of 2013.

ted_cruzThis is a great start! You even deeply dislike Trump! We could all use a guy like you right now.

I figure you also understand the #Calexit impulse of Californians wanting to secede from the union, since that’s an old idea from the Right in Texas. You believe in protecting states from the encroachment of the federal government. You need to be a bulwark of support for these Californians who are newly frightened of the federal government! You’ve got this!

Senator John McCain – Nobody understands the grave damage torturing enemy combatants does to our security and reputation – in addition to what we might poetically call our nation’s soul – more than you. You suffered for years at the hands of torturers in Vietnam.

President-elect Trump has threatened he will torture enemies with “waterboarding and much worse.” Senator McCain, you have called waterboarding a War Crime. You have singular credibility and a duty to stand up on this issue. I’m guessing Trump – after he said of you he likes “people who weren’t captured,” is not a close ally of yours. You did make a good start when you declared that you would take the Trump administration to court if they attempt to torture people. Please continue to speak out.

john_robertsChief Justice John Roberts – Our individual, inalienable, rights may be trampled by the instincts of Donald Trump, with the appointment of people who seem to want to take these away. If they are appointed to cabinet positions, will the Supreme Court stand up to advocates for increased domestic spying, or terrible ideas like advocacy for special registration for American Muslims? Religious freedom and freedom from warrantless searches underpin our system. Justice Roberts, please guide the Supreme Court toward striking down laws or executive orders that contradict our First and Fourth Amendment rights to religious freedom and privacy.

Senator Rand Paul – Your whole career – and that of your father Congressman Ron Paul – is a fight for principles you believe in, particularly strongly on both First Amendment rights and on the idea we should not involve ourselves in foreign military adventures. We all need you to be a zealot on both of these issues right now. Our incoming Commander-in-Chief Trump exudes an appetite for vengeance and violence, with little impulse control.

rand_paul
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during an event at the University of Chicago’s Ida Noyes Hall in Chicago on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles) ORG XMIT: ILAN114

On First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press, Trump said he was “running against the crooked media,” calling them “dishonest” “disgusting,” and “scum.” He threatened newspapers like the Washington Post with “such problems” once he has been elected.

As for foreign wars, we will certainly be threatened by other countries and terrorists in the next few years, but that does not mean we should go to war because some tinpot dictator tweeted about Trump’s tiny fingers. Senator Paul, please continue to make the principled case for keeping us out of Trumped-up wars.

As Rand Paul said about Trump during the Republican debates in 2015:

“[I]s Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First Amendment, ok? It’s no small feat. If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?”

House Speaker Paul Ryan – You made your reputation within the Republican Party as an economic policy wonk and fiscal conservative. That means spending only what we can afford, and responsibly paying our bills. You know in your head, within your heart, and on your spreadsheets that our country – with a 100 percent debt to GDP ratio already right now – cannot afford a massive tax cut and a trillion dollar infrastructure spending plan, as called for by President-Elect Trump. And certainly, not both at the same time. I know you know this, because you understand budgets.

The US Constitution’s Article 1, Section 7 mandates:

“All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.”

paul_ryanThat’s you! C’mon Speaker Ryan, you got this. Stand up for what’s right. The US Bond markets turn their lonely eyes to you.

America – you need leadership in your corner, at least until 2018 mid-term elections. I present to you the principled leadership of Cruz, McCain, Roberts, Paul, and Ryan. Let’s hope they are enough.

I’m sorry, folks. I’ll probably never sleep again.

 

[1] With the self-control, empathy, honesty, and class of an 8 year-old spoiled man-child, but still.

 

Please see related posts:

Trump Part I – Fever Dreams

Trump Part II – Review of Recent Elected Authoritarians

Trump Part III – The Use of Security Crises

Trump Part IV – The Economic and Financial Crisis

Trump Part V – The Constitutional Crisis

 

And related posts:

Candidates Clinton and Trump: Economic Policies

Candidate Trump on US Sovereign Debt

 

 

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Trump Part V – The Constitutional Crisis

Trump_disgustingWe can and have survived security crises. We can and have survived economic crises. My worst fever dreams are about how much Trump has already threatened to spark a constitutional crisis. Authoritarians often start out acting within constitutional norms but work to subvert institutions that limit their power, over time.

Trump does not respect or seem to understand the constitutional point (Article 1, Bill of Rights) about freedom of speech, when he demands an apology from actors at the Broadway show Hamilton making a political statement. He does not seem to respect the freedom of the press when he threatens the Washington Post with “such problems” when he is elected, or when he threatens to change libel laws to allow him to sue newspapers and journalists, many of whom he professes to hate.

Trump does not respect the freedom of religion when he says Muslims resident in the country may need to sign up with a specific registry. He undermines both the rule of law and the separation of powers when he attacks the court investigating his Trump University fraud – because of a specific judge’s ancestry.

US_ConstitutionEven in this period before Trump assumes the presidency, he has threatened numerous unconstitutional actions. Are we far away from a regime in which we could see far more unlawful search and seizure? (Article 4, Bill of Rights) Torture? Violation of the emoluments clause? (Article 1, Section 9) Constitutional threats spring up around Trump like mushrooms after a particularly rainy season.

Even short of Constitutional threats, he’s already ripped up traditions and best practices that are often as important as codified law. The fact that he repeatedly lied about not releasing his tax returns because of an IRS audit – thus flouting modern tradition about financial disclosure from Presidential candidates – shows he will push the limits on unwritten norms, when it suits him.

His plan to not put his business into blind trust – but rather turn it over to his children – opens up his administration to being the most corrupt in history.

His attempt to make his son-in-law a White House advisor – despite clear anti-nepotism laws against it – is outrageous.

This limit-pushing instinct, combined with a disregard for Constitutional checks on power, make Trump a danger to the Republic. At every turn he attempts the immoral, illegal, or unconstitutional choice. It’s going to take alert and brave members of government and society at all levels to keep the US Constitutional issues front and center, and viable.

As Matt Levine pointedly reminded us the day after Trump’s election, the Constitution and other laws are only as good as the people who are willing to enforce them. Otherwise laws just become silly pieces of paper, worthy of little notice, or the kind of things to knowingly flout like speed limits that few heed on a highway. That’s why it’s a little extra frightening right now that the opposition party in Washington is so weak. Are there Republican leaders who can stand up to Trump? I really hope so.

1st_AmendmentIt should be obvious by now – even before he takes office – that, as President, Trump will attempt to violate many of our most important constitutional protections and best practices in his first few years in office. The question will be whether and how people respond. Chavez, Putin, and Hitler all managed to eliminate checks and balances to their power in their early years in office.

Do our leaders roll over and allow him to get away with it?

Will we all let Trump get away with it?

 

Please see related posts:

Trump Part I – Fever Dreams

Trump Part II – Review of Recent Elected Authoritarians

Trump Part III – The Use of Security Crises

Trump Part IV – The Economic and Financial Crisis

Trump Part VI – Principled Republican Leadership

And related posts:

Candidates Clinton and Trump: Economic Policies

Candidate Trump on US Sovereign Debt

 

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