What happens when what you say doesn’t matter? When outrageous assertions are overlooked or explained away as just “Trump being Trump”.
Trouble and as the Music Man noted, with a capital T! And especially if the candidate is running to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the United States of America, not President. Presidents after-all have to understand and comply with constitutional checks and balances. Most CEOs are, at most, checked by distracted Boards.
Apparently that is what the base of the Trump Party desires. And the strength and intractability of that base gives its CEO the right to challenge our historic alliances, cancel our promises, accelerate our declining tradition of civility, and politicize our perseverance over corruption.
As Donald Trump negates by word and conduct these traditions—asserting power over reason—rationality bends to power. Yet history is adamant. When power dominates we will later read of its irrationality. And immorality.
The strength of political Parties and their leaders is not immune to the vagaries of power held and dissipated through arrogance. America’s weakness is finding itself in the midst of that phenomenon in both Parties. But in the most immediate sense it is in the, well I don’t know what to call the Party, but as I watch knee after knee bend to Trump as a blustering CEO it is no longer the Republican Party as history defined it. Trump, in the historical context, is the RINO (Republican In Name Only).
But, the Party of Lincoln has been largely destroyed. While the Party of Roosevelt seems to misunderstand history. As to the latter, fiscal integrity abandoned is, for our nation, suicidal. And pair that with conscious class division, demolition is underway.
The Party of Lincoln and much later Ronald Reagan has reached the end. It is now the Party of Trump and whatever he believes. It varies. And perhaps most destructively the lines of morality have been erased. He, having said his supporters will forgive him shooting someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue, knows he is King. His supporters having reached this state of abject loyalty, have become co-conspirators. Making America Great Again is not on offer.
My experience tells me that when another can take you for granted your days of freedom are over. It might begin as a flirtation but when one-way love emerges dependence takes hold and we know the rest of the story.
Let me be particular. How can we have a healthy democracy when the loser as determined by multiple courts, exploiting emotion, refuses to accept an election loss?
How can we have a healthy democracy when the most rank assertions emerge on the campaign trail? Did Niki Haley begin her life in India; no, but her parents did. And all of us, with the exception of Native Americans, can look back and find our ancestral beginning was elsewhere.
How do we have a healthy democracy when debates turn into cage matches with harshness suppressing ideas? We all know that when power alone defines the struggle, nasty is soon descriptive. Free markets encourage competition; brutish politics suppress it. Who, that you admire, is likely to want a political life that might end in the Oval Office?
In the case of President Biden he directed his Party to change the Primary schedule to by-pass Iowa and New Hampshire. He wanted a coronation at the outset of the political process. Campaigns require physical and mental strength and he didn’t want to be tested.
And then lurking on the fringes of the action is an organization called No Labels whose avowed purpose is to give Centrists a home but whose temporizing has revealed its lack of leadership. To begin with political parties are supposed to be aspirational. Why not the Unity Party? Or if you want two words, Unity Now or variations? No Labels? Marketing 101 tells freshman that defining your identity is important.
Finally, what does it say about us that our forefathers spelled out a structure of democracy that dispersed power and provided a court system to resolve disputes and yet in at least one Party the consolidation of power is the only discernible mission.
As I write the New Hampshire primary is coming to an end. Maybe the prognosticators will be wrong. Maybe Haley will defy expectations. I hope so; having a 50 something still in the game might encourage the Democratic Party to join in a search for new leadership.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.