In November of 2016, Americans elected businessman, Donald Trump, president. The man who had never run for public office or held any political office hung his wagon with disaffected segment of the American populace. On Election Day, he secured an Electoral College win against Hilary Clinton who won the popular vote by over 3 million. By doing so, Donald Trump defied conventional wisdom and thrashed decades of American political logic. Or so it seemed.
Trump promised a reversal of decades of progressive policies and a return of America to conservative principles. He would ban Muslims from America and use extreme vetting to ensure that only those who embrace American ways of life are allowed in. He would build a fence on the border with Mexico to keep the undesirables and those taking away American jobs. He would reverse Obama era job killing environmental laws, withdraw or renegotiate trade deals, and remove government restrictions so that American companies would once again be free to hire American workers and grow the economy. He would repeal and replace Obamacare with a healthcare system that would be cheaper, without a mandate and still cover more Americans. He would ban abortions and eliminate government regulations in every facet of American life.
To achieve these lofty goals, most of which go against the reality of today’s world, Trump launched a systematic attack on opponents of his mission. The same tactic that he used against his political opponents, he also deployed against institutions standing between him and his desired result. He viciously attacked the media and the judiciary. He called the independent press fake media and questioned the integrity of the judiciary. With the other arm of the government, the legislature, under the control of his political party, the world was his. Or so he thinks.
The trouble with Trump is not about what he will do. It is about what he has done. And those are the kind of troubles that are difficult to handle. You can wish that the past would go away, but it is not going to happen. The past has this stubborn need to be present and woo the future.
In the course of his campaign to be president, Trump defied political norms of America. He refused to release his tax returns. He would not put his business in a blind trust to avoid conflict of interest. He had no problem maligning a large segment of the American population – be them Muslims or Latinos. He flirted with right wing extreme groups, including neo-Nazis. People in his campaign organization established contacts with the Putin government in Russia. The more norms that he defied without consequences, the easier it was for him and his people to disregard other norms. He was invincible. Or so it seems.
Then, 100 days in office as president came. The consequences of his actions began to show. Judges were throwing away his Executive Order on the strength of things he said during the campaign. His campaign’s connection with Russia becomes a recurring decimal. It led to the resignation of his first National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. It also boxed his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions in a corner, due to his contacts with the Russians during his campaign and the lies he told about it.
Trump used lies and threats to make the past go away. But he run into a unique problem – whatever action he takes, instead of wiping out the footsteps of the past, it points those looking for the past in the right direction.
Collusion with Russia, a foreign power that is an adversary, may be too sophisticated for regular folks in America to understand. But the elite of America understand what that means and how humiliating it is to a great nation like America.
Trump committed the most common error in politics – using the first part of his political life to destroy the last. Can he reinvent himself? Not with the ego that he has.
For a man who has been the CEO of his own company since his father gave him $7.5 million dollars in 1980, a company that operates in an industry where ego is everything, it would take a miracle to transfuse humility into him. And without humility, there is never a re-invention.
What makes America great is not her great presidents, but the great institutions that absorb the shock when America hits a bump. Trump is systematically killing those institutions by delegitimizing them, questioning their authenticity and their integrity. Trump is like a mad man who stumbled into a new neighborhood and is knocking down fences without knowing or caring why the fences were up in the first place.
By firing the FBI director, James Comey, who was investigating him, and suggesting on Twitter rants that he probably recorded their dinner conversations, Trump has raised the specter of that dreaded presidency of Richard Nixon. The American nightmare called the Nixon era ended in impeachment of the president and his subsequent resignation. Nixon did not resign for ordering a break in into Democratic Party headquarters at Watergate Hotel, but for obstructing justice during the investigation especially on the day he fired the special investigator looking into the matter. The investigator, just like Comey, was asking, what did the president know and when did the president know it.
What an American president has more than any other president anywhere else in the world is counsel. Trump has counsel. But having counsel means nothing if you do not listen.
The number one counsel of any American president is the media. For a president who branded the media fake news, he has deprived himself of their great counsel – a counsel that is also free and diverse.
Donald Trump is unique in some ways too. Unlike other American presidents, Trump ascended into power virtually on his own terms. He did not owe his ascension to some powers bigger than him – not his party, not the union, not a political block and definitely not a group of wealthy donors. It is a good thing if it happens to someone whose head is properly screwed on his shoulders. It is a dangerous thing if it happens to someone who already has an over-exaggerated sense of importance.
What doing it his own way has done to Trump is that it has denied him counsel from people who are not afraid to tell him the truth.
This cannot continue for a long time. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are no substitute for independent counsel soaked in years of patriotic flavor, neither are his families, friends and business associates that he surrounded himself with in the White House like an African dictator.
In the past, when Americans elected a rogue president who ignored counsel, the wife stepped in as the last resort to stop such a president from following the corpse into the grave. America, this time, does not have such a final safeguard in Melania Trump. She could hardly hold the hand of the president let alone hold a substantive conversation with him.
That is a very dangerous place for Trump to be. It is also a dangerous crossroad for a nation.
In the past, empires collapsed over a long period of time during which internal and external strife led to decades of over-stretching of resources and ultimate decline. But Trump is determined to show the world, in slow motion, how it is done in this age of instant gratification. He will lie about it along the way.
If these propensities to thump his nose at American norms continue, you can take it to the bank that Donald Trump will not remain the president of the United States for much longer.
It may take weeks, months or a year or two, but Trump will be a goner.
The Republicans can only take so much embarrassment until such a time when the stink will be too much for their fingers to secure their noses with a pinch. When the matter gets to the Supreme Court, not even his recent appointee, Neil Gorsuch, will stand by and watch Donald Trump put a knife in the thing that holds America together.
Until then, Trump is like an emperor who has no clothes on and everyone is scared of telling him. He is the quintessential Ezeonyeagwanam 1 of America.