Our country is living through a sickness. Trump has infected us with a toxic brew of tribal hatred, divisiveness, and, now, utter defiance of the rule of law.
Most people in our country are governed by rules, laws, protocol, and shared values. At the National Masters Golf Championship in Georgia there are many rules that everyone follows. You cannot bring a cell phone onto the golf course. You may not sit on the grass. The people in the stands shall be called “patrons” by the press. If you put a sign on a seat at the 17th hole to hold the seat, people will honor that and move when you show up to sit in the seat you reserved. Everyone follows these rules and norms because … well, because most people do. And there are consequences- like getting expelled. Most people also feel a sense of shame that guides their behavior.
Donald Trump is the exception. If Donald Trump does not like a rule or a law he will ignore it or defy it. Now that Trump has rid himself of the people who used to act as guardrails for him and would warn him about how not to break the law, Trump is breaking the law and the rules he doesn’t like and getting enablers to help him. He feels no shame about breaking rules to get what he wants.
There are international rules governing asylum seekers who are supposed to be processed and get to have a “credible fear” hearing. When Secretary Nielsen’s cruel family separation policies did not succeed in detering the surge of immigrants coming to the southern border, she was fired along with others who were not lawless enough. They will be replaced with people who are, presumably, more hardline and who will do a better job of circumventing the rule of law. Trump encouraged a border guard to break the law by telling a judge he would refuse to follow the recent court order about how to handle asylum seekers. Trump said he would grant the guard a pardon if he did violate the law and got into trouble with the judge for it. Trump is undermining the rule of law and telling people to substitute HIM for the rule of law.
The House Ways and Means Committee has the power to access the tax return of any American, even the president. That committee SHALL have this power under the law. No ifs ands or buts. The law is crystal clear. Secretary Mnuchin is, so far, refusing to allow the House Committee to have six years of Trump’s tax returns. His refusal could result in his own legal jeopardy including a fine and incarceration. But all indicators are that he is going to protect Trump from being subjected to a very clear law.
There are rules that do not allow a president to get emoluments, gifts, benefits from foreign governments. Trump has ignored all of that and continues to put himself and his enrichment front and center.
By now we all know when Trump doesn’t like rules, he ignores them, circumvents them and defies them. His administration is degrading the rule of law.
But this is a country of laws. Right? It’s supposed to be. Everyone but Trump has to follow rules and laws and pay the price if they do not. Trump is not only breaking the law and daring anyone and everyone to try and stop him, he is enlisting people in the cabinet and all across government to think of him as the substitute for the rule of law. Corruption in Washington DC has gotten much worse since Trump took office. Trump has put people in charge of agencies not to follow rules like the ones generated by the EPA, but to tear them down and defy them.
AG Bill Barr is supposed to be the lawyer representing the interests of all Americans. Barr put his thumb on the scale to assert Trump’s innocence on the obstruction of justice evidence in the Mueller Report. He is functioning as Trump’s enabler.
Trump has a long history of breaking the law.
Even on the golf course Trump breaks the law. In a new book, Commander in Cheat, by Rick Reilly, Trump is documented breaking the rules of golf in ways that shock the typical golfer. He lies about his handicap. He drives across the greens in his golf cart. He lies about the number of tournaments he has won. After a round of golf his score keeps getting better and better as he talks with people about how well he did. He has enablers on the golf course too. He gets his hand-picked caddies to move the ball for him if it goes in the water. He even gets his caddies to kick another player’s ball out of a good position to a bad one.
Trump thinks the rules do not apply to him. And so far, he seems to be right about that. Who is going to stop him?
Is he our president or is he our king?
Republicans should be grappling with this serious problem but they aren’t. They have the power to stop him but they don’t. The GOP has lost its moral core.
What about the Dems? The House Dems are doing their best to enforce oversight but without the Senate they are severely handicapped. If the Dems had won both the House and Senate in 2018, Trump would be well on the way to being impeached and expelled by now. Without enough Senators to expel Trump, impeachment is a pipe dream that will only rile Trump’s base and make it possible for him to win the presidency and keep the Senate in 2020.
Perhaps the courts will be able to force Trump to behave. But what if he simply defies their orders? Society is based on a tacit agreement to play within the rules. Trump will not.
The way out of the sickness we are in as a country is you and me. It is the election of 2020. We need to kick Trump and Trumpism out. I think a silent majority of Americans are sick and tired of all the Tweeting, the drama, the defiance and the rule breaking. They want a country that is well governed, more united, less divisive, reflects our shared values, is not corrupt, and does respect rules and norms.
It was refreshing to watch the Masters Tournament and see that people do abide by laws, rules and norms. It was great to see these top golfers stay calm and centered under pressure. It is good to know that people generally do follow the rules governing their behavior and share similar values about our need to play by the rules. And it was especially sweet that Tiger Woods made a come back after going off the rails in his life. Our country can do the same.