Back to that later.
Donald Trump is a threat to the American way of life. Not all of the country feels that way, but most of it does. I don't say that lightly. I say it based on his approach to the presidency and the world around us.
He demonstrated that on his first foreign trip when he hugged and smiled with leaders of Arab countries that are not America’s best friends and then insulted and pushed aside America’s longest-standing allies in Europe. Allies who have fought and died with us. That was after he laughed it up with Russia's top leaders in the Oval Office, images captured only by Kremlin cameras because Trump didn't allow the American press into the office.
The German leader said after Trump left town that Germany needs to go it alone now, a direct shot at Trump. Sure, she is in an election race at the moment but her comments were not couched. They were direct. And the new leader of France had a hand-shaking contest with Trump to show he won’t be pushed around and then walked right at him only to veer off at the last minute to shake the German leader’s hand. Intended as a slight to Trump. Point taken.
This is the United States President being treat this way. The soon-to-be former leader of the free world. And, unfortunately, he’s earned the treatment. But it isn't Trump being diminished alone. It is the country.
At home, while Trump was on his Insult Our Allies World Tour, details of his budget were beginning to seep out along with other developments. Like rolling back civil rights protections for minorities, more evidence of cutbacks in return for tax cuts for the wealthy, more drips out of the Trump Campaign-Russia investigation, these directly tying Trump’s son-in-law not yet to any criminal acts, but certainly as a central player in the at-minimum inappropriate contacts with Russians during the transition. For example asking for back-channel meetings with the Russians without telling the sitting President’s team, who was at that moment responsible for foreign relations. And asking for those meetings to be in Russian facilities, apparently to give protection against information leaking out. Read that again – the son-in-law of the President-elect of the United States wanted meetings with the Russians to be held in Russian facilities to protect communications. From whom, Mr. Kushner – the American government?
At a minimum that raises questions about his judgment – that on top of his advice to his father-in-law that firing the FBI director would be met with bi-partisan support from Democrats. Tone deaf anyone?
So, what does it take to turn this ship around? The options are many, but reality of invoking many of those options is small. Impeachment? So far, we know of no provable cause for impeachment plus there’s that pesky Republican majority in the Congress that would need to find him guilty if there were. Invoke the 25th Amendment? Unlikely in that it takes a majority of Trump’s Cabinet and his vice president to agree to invoke it and push him from power.
A loss of support from elected Republicans might do it. And that doesn’t seem likely in the near future. Plus, the GOP keeps winning special elections – one place to demonstrate the incumbent president's strength or lack of it.
My guess is there is close to a majority of Republicans in Congress who, in the silence and protection of their secret hiding places, wish Donald Trump would just go away. But, they can do nothing about it because, politically, he still has clout with the exact base of voters that put him in office and also put Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Trump’s approval rating has been under water since he took office. Yet his support among is base has remained relatively stable.
Until that base accepts that he is not doing what they voted for – providing them with jobs, lowering their taxes, and providing them with better health care – they will remain supportive. And even if they realized he’s made no progress in any of those areas, they still will hold out hope because, among other things, they’ve given up on seeing Washington work, and they voted for Trump to make it work. To give up on him is to surrender to the powers that existed before, which weren’t working for them either.
After a year or two, they may see he isn’t the savior he alone said he was. “Only I can do it,” he promised. So far, he hasn’t delivered anything but some executive orders that don’t mean much and a budget that means a lot – of rollbacks of protections for the weakest among us, and of tax cuts for the most wealthy. And a Supreme Court justice who threatens other rights the American people have.
It will take the Republicans in Congress fleeing him to reduce his influence and that can only happen when those elected Republicans see their voters splitting away from Trump, and them.
There’s a special election coming up in Georgia, voting actually begins today. It is for the vacancy created when Tom Price joined Trump’s administration as secretary for health and human services.
The polls show it close, as all special elections have been thus far in the Trump year. But so far Republicans have held the seats. A Republican loss in Georgia would put some fears into incumbent congressmen, fears they could lose control of Congress and, worse for them, fears their personal defeat might be next. That’s what motivates elected officials – losing their seats.
The future of the country, as always, is in the hands of the voters – not the politicians. Call it trite, call it clichéd. But that’s what democracy does – puts power in the hands of the people. If they grab it. As we did in the 60s.
Washington doesn’t work only because we’ve become polarized and politicians, for the most part, have cemented themselves in their positions – because that’s what gets them re-elected. Washington doesn’t work because the majority of voters have not put on the pressure they must to change things.
Trump can’t gain ground in the approval ratings but he doesn’t have to as long as he loses no ground. When his support there begins to fall, and Republicans in elected office take notice of it, only then will we see his ability to make change cease. And his change so far isn’t what he promised. It’s the opposite.
The Georgia special is one chance and only the current chance. In a democracy, there are many chances. Make your views known – to your elected representatives, even if you didn’t elect them. Contribute to candidates whose support of Trump is non-existent or weak. Protest. Don't become complacent.
Let’s not let democracy fail because we failed democracy.