Not even a year and a half since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, observers in the U.S. and abroad have begun to worry that the man could change America forever.
But to believe that one man could inflict permanent and lasting damage on a country that fought and won a revolution, suffered through a civil war and helped defeat the evil of Nazi Germany is to have a very low opinion of the resiliency of the republic.
Indeed, one of his first actions as president was to try to implement a sweeping “Muslin ban.” This action was swiftly curtailed and neutralized by the courts as unconstitutional. That should have reassured skittish citizens that one man does not define a country. Even a president is subject to the checks and balances of the constitution.
If there’s lasting danger to the republic, then it doesn’t come from Trump himself. His is but a transient and temporary presence on the political stage. He’s still required to work with Congress and have his actions scrutinized by federal courts. Despite what the man himself may think, he’s not a monarch nor does he wield absolute power.
No, the true danger to the republic doesn’t come from Trump but from the frenzied overreaction of his critics.
California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters is the self-proclaimed leader of the “anti-Trump resistance.” On Saturday, she told a crowd at a Los Angeles rally to “absolutely harass” Trump cabinet officials. “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them!”
For an elected official to openly advocate for civil unrest, public confrontation and, depending on your interpretation, actual violence does far more damage to the country and to democracy than anything Trump can do from the Oval Office.
Such an attitude abandons the notion that ideas presented to the electorate are to be weighed and evaluated and, most importantly, voted upon. It substitutes brute and blunt force of hostility, directed towards the other side, as a way of achieving one’s goals over the sober reflection and choice upon which a democracy depends.
Raised voices in opposition are an expected and acceptable part of any political fight – raised fists are not. In seeking to express their outrage, those who hold Trump in such disdain risk creating the very chaos and lack of civility that they fear from him and his administration.
Less than a year ago, Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat, posted “I hope Trump is Assassinated” on her Facebook page. She was censured but refused to resign.
While one might expect these types of irresponsible and dangerous comments from unhinged members of the public at large, it crosses a dangerous line when they emanate from those who occupy elected office and walk the corridors of power.
Writing in The Atlantic, Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith recognizes that the ripples sent out from the Trump presidency could have long-lasting impact: “… his successors likely won’t repeat his self-destructive antics. The prognosis for the rest of our democratic culture is grimmer, however. Trump’s bizarre behaviour has coarsened politics and induced harmful norm-breaking by the institutions he has attacked. These changes will be harder to undo.”
A country can only remain a community when transitions of power can take place in the belief – or at least hope – that there’s a collective body politic that treats opposing ideas with respect and not fractured and factional mobs destined to be at one another’s throats until the next election.
If Trump does represent a turning point in the life of the country, the fault lies less with him than with those who revel in a veritable orgasmic opposition to his presidency.
Their ‘resistance’ may just create a country that – like Humpty Dumpty – may be impossible to ever put back together.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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