This piece is running this week in several newspapers in my very red congressional district, VA-06. March, 2018.
For several years, through my weekly op/eds, I’ve been sending messages with a conservative (Republican, and now Trump-supporting) readership in mind. Challenging these conservatives about their beliefs and attitudes has been a central purpose of these messages.
But with this present one, I begin a new phase of more blunt — more confrontational — challenges.
If enough voices are raised loudly enough, the shell around that right-wing bubble might start to crack.
Think of it as an “intervention.”
It is not OK for them to be where they are, because the entire nation is suffering on account of it. And every day shows more fully what a threat this President — whom they nominated, elected, and continue to support — poses to the nation.
There’s something that really must be said.
Some may find it impolite. Some will surely find it offensive. But it is so obviously true, so important for the future of America, and so neglected in our national discourse, that I see it as my patriotic duty to declare it emphatically:
This virtually undeniable truth is this: the fact that 37% of Americans “approve” of Trump shows that something has gone seriously and dangerously wrong.
Either they do not see what is patently obvious—that Trump is an extremely dangerous person to be entrusted with the power of the Presidency. In which case, there’s something wrong with their perception.
Or they do not evaluate what they see using anything like the most basic, consensual values of our civilization—e.g. the democratic values on which this nation was founded, and the moral values of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Part of what’s gone wrong with their “seeing,” of course, is the result of the lie-filled right-wing bubble into which they’ve been herded. Many know only the distorted picture presented by Fox News, by Trump himself, and by the majority of the congressional Republicans who will tell them anything to maintain their support.
But that can explain only so much, because it should suffice to see what is right before everyone’s eyes.
It is not even necessary here to delve into matters of “policy.” The basic truth can be seen at the level at which one would have thought that all decent Americans –liberals and conservatives – would agree.
One would be hard pressed to come up with anyone – in politics or out — who openly displays to such an exceptional degree — more clearly than Donald Trump has — so many characteristics so dangerous in a President — such as dishonesty, arrogance, hypocrisy, bullying, viciousness, bellicosity, unfairness, and narcissistic self-concern.
Is it even possible to imagine that any of those great Americans on Mount Rushmore would be anything but appalled by Donald Trump’s conduct as President?
Recently, 170 professional experts in American history were asked to rate the 45 presidents the nation has had. These professionals ranked Trump dead last. Worst ever. (Even those historians who identified themselves as Republicans rate this President among the worst five in American history.)
This is the President – so harshly condemned by those who have dedicated their lives to understanding the story of America – of whom the 37% approve.
Trump has compiled a long list of behaviors and actions never seen before from an American President—and every entry on that list has damaged American political culture and/or its democratic institutions.
But to disapprove of Trump it should suffice – at least for anyone who believes in basic American values — to look at just one part of that list: namely, the set of actions that this President, in order to protect himself, has taken to defeat the law.
Any Americans unaware of all the ways this President has assaulted the rule of law have failed in their responsibilities as citizens. And any Americans who do not recognize how serious a danger this represents do not understand the foundations of our liberties.
The idea that “no one is above the law” – not even the President – is not just some incidental notion. It is essential to America being the land of the free.
The most powerful person in the nation putting himself above the law, and subordinating the law to himself (as in Trump’s repeated demands for “loyalty”), is the essence of despotism.
That’s what a despot is: he answers to no one, and compels all to answer to him. That is precisely what our founders sought to prevent.
Trump’s assault on the Mueller investigation shows not only his despotic tendencies, but something else quite fundamental: Trump is entirely willing to damage America to serve himself.
Anyone who perceives this, but “approves” the President anyway, clearly has an un-American set of values.
It’s true that, historically, there have been other political values (e.g. monarchic, fascistic, communistic). Gangster rulers like Russia’s Putin stand for such values still. But from the perspective of longstanding American values, anyone approving of what Trump is doing to the American system must be judged profoundly wrong.
Now a second point must emphatically be made: If Trump is a menace to America – and there’s no point in pretending there’s any room for doubt about that, however many people don’t see it – then it is essential, even urgent, that whatever is wrong with the 37% be addressed. For they are key to his power, and taking that power away is key to the political health of the United States.
Those supporters not only made him the Republican nominee, and then President, but they remain the foundation of his power: it is the continued support from the great majority of the Republican base that has induced the Republicans in Congress to side with Trump rather than the Constitution they took an oath to protect. And even if Trump is held accountable for any crimes he may have committed, it can reasonably be predicted that he would weaponized those supporters to avenge himself on the American system.
Therefore, as Trump’s power as President is a threat to the nation, and as the support of the 37% is essential to Trump’s power, getting that 37% to withdraw their support must be a major goal in the ongoing struggle to protect America.
But Liberal America has shown almost no interest in this necessary task. For a quarter century, for the most part, liberals have continually failed to address their countrymen on the other side. Which leads to the question: what’s wrong with Liberal America that accounts for this failure.
[Postscript for this audience: Lest I be misunderstood, I do not propose this as taking precedence over taking power away from the Trump Party in the upcoming 2018 elections. That is the most urgent priority.]
Andy Schmookler was the 2012 Democratic candidate for Congress in VA-06, and is the author of the website “A Better Human Story” at https://abetterhumanstory.org/