By now we’re all familiar with Donald Trump’s remarks about how he doesn’t want immigrants entering America from “shithole countries” like Haiti and El Salvador, as well as various African nations. Yes, it’s horrendously racist and classist. Yes, it’s xenophobic. Yes, it disqualifies him from continuing to serve as president. And, yes, it’s totally not shocking.
But, you know, it ought to be shocking, and that’s the problem.
Trump’s “shithole” comments are just the latest in an endless bombardment of awfulness from this tiny excuse for a man. Since day one, when Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower to announce both that he’s running for president and that Mexicans are rapists, Trump hasn’t once taken a day off from doing and saying horribly unpresidential things, and in the process he’s perhaps irreparably damaged the institution of the presidency.
His unforgivable behavior as a candidate/president hasn’t quite been normalized — yet, but the shock-value seems to be wearing off. It’s wearing off, not because we’ve allowed it to, but simply because of its constant presence.
For nearly 250 years, we’ve been taught that national politicians shouldn’t be allowed to get away with certain kinds of public behavior, and certainly not crimes that include conspiring with foreign governments to tamper with elections. Presidents, we’ve been told, are to be held to a higher standard than the general citizenry in words and deeds because presidents are operating in a global community in which our national reputation and security are at stake. Our prosperity, our sovereignty and our longevity as a republic is at least partly balanced on the back of whomever occupies the White House.
We, as citizens, are at liberty to do and say whatever we choose partly because the president is burdened with reflecting, not our demons, but our better angels in the face of the world. The president, at the end of day, is intended to be an inspirational figure, someone whom we should aspire to be like — a symbol of poise, dignity, steadiness, leadership and intelligence.
Throughout the last few decades, however, too many Americans have been convinced that it’s okay and, in fact, desirable to vote for fakers and poseurs who are “just like us.” We’ve been mistakenly instructed that the president should be someone we’d like to have a beer with. This couldn’t be more dangerous to both the institution of the presidency and to the stability of the nation.
Consequently, along comes Trump, with his vulgar excesses, his strongman shouting, his racism, his disgusting misogyny and his utter absence of personal restraint. But he’s just like “the folks,” right? That’s what we’ve been told by too many excuse-making observers of his vomitous “shithole countries” nonsense. He’s speaking directly to his base, they’re saying. He’s talking just like the forgotten men and women of America, we’re told.
Sure, 35 percent of American voters might love what he said about Haiti and Africa. But what sort of terrible behavior from these supporters is acceptable? Should the president be openly pandering to shitty people? There are thousands of Americans who routinely use the “n-word” and who, I don’t know, think torturing animals is acceptable. Is it okay for the President of the United States to pander to those people as well — or to reflect some other darker level of awfulness just because those voters somehow deserve the attention? Certainly not, at least not before Trump came along to wreck everything.
The president isn’t supposed to talk like we do. But this president does it every damn day, be it into a microphone or on Twitter. Sometimes he doesn’t even appear to realize that he’s president, instead too often behaving like an old man yelling at his television, asking out loud about things he ought to already know through briefings and through his staff, seeming not to grasp that he has a multi-billion-dollar intelligence community and a bureaucracy of thousands at his disposal.
There are presidential rules for a reason, and Trump’s wanton abandonment of those rules is hurting America. The presidency is often guided by unwritten rules as well. Trump has so devalued the role that future presidents will be allowed to get away equal or worse behavior, simply because Trump made it okay.
The rules don’t seem to matter any more.
Let’s say our next president is Mike Pence. And let’s say Mike Pence is caught up in a stock fraud scam. It’s his Watergate. It’s his Iran-Contra or Lewinsky. It’s a serious scandal in which the president has swindled the public out of millions. After Trump’s daily roundelay of horrors, will such a scandal even matter? Unless we’re able to repair Trump’s damage, it definitely won’t matter. In other words, by incinerating the written and unwritten rules of the presidency, Trump is essentially manufacturing a consequence-free presidency, and perhaps future generations of consequence-free politicians at other levels. The longer Trump is permitted to get away with murder, the wider he’s opening the door for future presidents to get away with anything.
And, by the way, this goes for both parties. So the brainless goons who are applauding and excusing Trump’s flailing and profanities ought to take a better look at the long term impact of what’s happening. The door swings both ways and Democratic presidents will enjoy greater carte blanche as well as Republican presidents.
This is how badly Trump is exploding the presidency — “shithole” being the latest in a bottomless cup of political horrors. And the long term impact could be far worse. For these and countless other reasons, Trump needs to be removed from office by resignation or impeachment. His implosion of the presidency can’t be allowed to prosper.