Donald Trump has been president of the United States for five months and the effect of his new administration can only be seen as positive and encouraging. Democracy may have been saved.
If we put aside the mundane – things like domestic policy, foreign diplomacy and general inspiration of the population – there’s one recognizable consequence of his presidency that should put a smile on the face of civics nerds everywhere.
Voters are becoming more knowledgeable about how American government actually works. Being angry and shell-shocked tends to provoke some reaction and – in those voters still reeling from Trump’s victory – there has been a noticeable uptick in understanding how the interplay between the three branches of government serves as a check and balance on unfettered power.
Of course, the reason for that sudden revisiting of concepts probably last thought about in a junior high classroom – most likely while David was wondering if Emily loved him or loved him not – is the same motivation that happens when someone wants to get out of a contract he or she may have entered into unwisely.
People are looking for loopholes, examining the fine print and taking a magnifying glass to this clause or that in an effort to extricate themselves from a state of affairs they neither anticipated nor desired, but got anyway.
For some, there’s unquestionably an I-told-you-so factor at play. This would be the subset of voters who warned of calamity if Trump occupied the White House. For them, it must be a daily struggle between the noble desire to see the country flourish and their smug satisfaction at witnessing some fellow Americans having a significant dose of buyer’s remorse.
I, for one, like the fact that the people I talk to in my daily life – casual observers of politics at best – now routinely bring up judicial rulings of faraway federal courts, testimony before Senate committees and what the makeup of the House of Representatives might be after the mid-term elections of not so distant 2018.
As a lover of history – and the goings on in the heartland – I found it fascinating that an editorial writer with The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recently took his readers on a trip down memory lane to that publication’s Watergate coverage over 40 years ago. He wanted to establish context for the inquiries in Washington on Trump’s Russia connections and the very real possibility of the past being prologue again.
More Americans – the ones who don’t follow politics on a daily basis – are now aware of who occupies certain cabinet positions. They talk regularly about men like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and even the less high profile post of secretary of energy, occupied by Rick Perry.
Indeed, people are starting to scrutinize and speculate about the roles and actions of all the president’s men – people like fired national security adviser Michael Flynn or current presidential aide (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner.
Nearly all congressional Democrats have joined in the filing of a lawsuit saying Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Your reaction might be the same as mine – emolu-what?
In the language of the lawsuit, it means that Trump “has chosen to accept numerous benefits from foreign states without first seeking or obtaining congressional approval.”
I don’t know if that’s true but if even a small percentage of voters can be sent to their smartphones to google ‘emoluments,’ then I think it’s a sign that people are more engaged than ever.
There are likely millions of people now paying attention to the political process in a way they never have before. In the long and short term, that can only be seen as positive fallout from a Trump administration still in its earliest days.
In being less likely to simply go along for the ride, millions of voters might make sure that they can’t, in future, be so easily taken for a ride again.
Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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