Donald “L’Etat C’est Moi” Trump has now let us know just how frustrated he is by the separation of powers. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by unfaithfulness to any promise he has ever made, so why would the oath of office be any different? He would really like to be executioner as well as executive. That’s his idea of strong leadership. He has no feel at all for the checks and balances that have helped keep the United States of America a functioning republic. He has a sickeningly sensitive feeling for the best ways to rub salt in social and cultural and economic wounds, but no visible desire at all to promote social unity or healing.
Donald Trump is reported to have required non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements from his employees. At his inauguration as president, he uttered an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He promised to become a public servant, that is. Now he tells us, openly, that he chafes at the restrictions. Non-disparagement clauses are apparently only for the little people, not for Trump. Since he has admitted that he really, really, wants to seize illegitimate and unconstitutional powers, we are face-to-face with the reality that protecting and defending the separation of powers is everybody’s business in this era of Trump. Most of us used to be reasonably confident that on a given day, we didn’t need to worry about our country sliding into banana republic status. But here we are.
Republican cowardice and petty feuding by Democrats are part of the landscape, sadly. Arguments over the size and shape and priorities of government will and must continue. But defending our Constitution against Trump’s assaults has to be the nonnegotiable top priority for all citizens, the priority from which all distractions are a clear and present danger. If Trump manages to fire Mueller, some say there would be a constitutional crisis. I would say it’s only a crisis if Congress and the courts fail to check Trump by reinstating Mueller in a truly independent position. We can still rely on the Constitution to defend against Trump, but the Constitution is no longer, if it ever was, a machine that runs by itself–it’s going to take people acting firmly, fairly, and consistently to restrain evildoers like him. There’s no need for and no use in panic, instead we need firm, fair, and consistently principled pushback.