“Not my president” is the theme of the protests that have been staged in dozens of cities across the country since Donald Trump was elected last week. I share the sentiment.
Trump will not be my president. But neither is Barack Obama, and neither were any of the eight other men who have occupied the White House since I was born.
The phrase “my president” smacks of subservience, as in “my liege,” “my lord,” or “mein führer.” In our constitutional republic, the person selected for the job that Trump will assume on January 20 presides over the executive branch of the U.S. government, not over you or me.
If there is an advantage to electing a preening, petty, thin-skinned, whiny, vindictive, vacuous, mendacious, boorish bully to that office, it may be that he prompts a reconsideration of the absurd hopes and cultish veneration that surround the presidency. Perhaps a ridiculous president will encourage Americans to take the presidency less seriously.
Then again, the deference that is reflexively given the office could rub off on Trump, who is no less buffoonish today than he was on the morning of November 8. Already we see signs of strange new respect, as harsh critics of the authoritarian huckster swallow their revulsion and wish him well.
Chicago Now blogger Brian C. Thomas confesses that “there is a large part of me that wants to drop my pants and flip the double bird to much of the national Republican Party and the people who voted for Donald Trump.” But he argues that “being an American demands we respect the office of the President.”
How so? “I don’t want this country to fail,” Thomas explains. “Rooting against Donald Trump—now that he’s president—would be like rooting against the country.”
But Trump is not the country, and depending on the policies he pursues he can do more damage by succeeding than by failing. When it comes to disrupting trade and immigration, for instance, I will unabashedly root against him. That does not make me less American.
Trump, an open admirer of foreign dictators, presented himself as a strongman riding to the nation’s rescue. “When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country,” he said at the Republican convention. “Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”
That promise is delusional not just because it requires impossibly quick and effective action but because crime control is not a federal function. It is not the president’s job to police neighborhoods or arrest criminals.
Nor is it the president’s job to “run the economy,” a task for which Trump declared Hillary Clinton unsuited. He has no such qualms about his own abilities. “I can tell you this, and I can say it with certainty,” he said in a campaign video. “I will be the greatest jobs-producing president that God ever created.”
While promises of crime control and job creation are staples of presidential campaigns, Trump’s persona highlights how ludicrous they are. The guy who brags about sexually assaulting women is going to restore safety? The guy who brought us Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump: The Game, Trump Mortgage, Trump University, Trump Airlines, and three bankrupt casinos is going to foster successful businesses?
When it comes to fiscal policy (an area where the president does have some influence), it is hard to put much faith in a guy who promises to cut a $78 billion expense by $300 billion and to eliminate the $19 trillion national debt in eight years while increasing spending. Even when it comes to foreign intervention, one area where Trump promised more restraint than Clinton, it is hard to trust a man who falsely insists he was always against the war in Iraq.
For those who see the president as a savior with the power to Make America Great Again, Trump’s presidency will deliver a salutary lesson: Lower your expectations.
© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.