Most of us grew up with certain working assumptions about Presidents. Regardless of which Party they belonged to there were certain conventional wisdom perceptions that generally held. Once in a while a President would break with tradition, shatter conventional wisdom, or simple screw up pretty bad. But these were the exceptions, not the rule.
But things are different with Trump.
Trump’s consistent, daily barrage of words and actions affronting working assumptions and conventional wisdom about what a President is can be simply head twisting and jarring. And the vast majority of the times he does this it is to assert his power, divide the nation, and expand his control.
Who knew a President could just violate the standard practice of executing power within a legislatively mandated budget? Want money to build a wall even though it is not in the budget? No problema! Take it from the Military’s budget. Why should that matter anyway? Presidents should be able to do that! Except. Except that is a slap in the face of good government accepted practice. Except that gives the President yet one more tool to do as he pleases without consulting Congress.
Who knew a President could govern with many Departments and other critical positions in the bureaucracy with either no Directors or acting Directors? Want a Department to do something? No problema! Just tell them directly! i.e.: No research on global warming and such. What’s wrong with a shaking up the bureaucracy a little bit and instilling a sense of ‘just get it done (or don’t do it) because the President wants it’? What is wrong with this approach is that it makes a mockery of well established governance practices that have been effective for decades. What is wrong with this approach is that it is yet another example of Presidential power grab.
Who knew a President did not have to be what most people would say decent or empathetic? Who knew a President’s insults and brawl-like behavior would be if not welcomed, tolerated by ½ of Americans? Want to rile your base? No problema! Just insult the opposition with mockery and worse. What’s wrong with having a President that tells it like it is and doesn’t hold back? What is wrong with this is that it shatters centuries of decorum. What is wrong with this is that it makes it challenging if not impossible to share the President’s speeches with the youth of America because these no longer are aspirational, try to unite the Nation, or take the higher ground. Rather they are insulting, divisive, and gutter-talk.
Who knew a President did not need a Press Department, Press briefing, or Press conferences? Who knew that a President would just relate to the common citizenry by simply expressing his thoughts on a whim via social media? Want to tell the world what you think about that Fox News report? No problema! Just Tweet it. What’s wrong with a little candor? What’s wrong with directly connecting with your constituent? There is nothing wrong with this – except. Except if this ‘direct-connect’ is abused to the extent that his constituency relies exclusively on the President’s Tweets and his preferred news media outlets for their information. This is a Dictator’s dream. Trump has his base in the palm of his hands. And – even though they technically have the freedom to walk away and seek other news sources – they stay with him, adhering to his every word, and never ever criticizing him. It is governing through personality cult. It is governing by creating ‘fear of the other’. Oh, how the strong man of the past would applaud him!
And now what? What can we who see these trends towards totalitarianism and a Presidency that is closer to a Dictator than even before do? No problema! Get your friend to register to vote and to get his cousin to register to vote and then go vote vote vote November of 2020 to finally end this grueling nightmare. That is, assuming he will not create a crisis that somehow either de-legitimizes the election – or the election is not held at all.