Donald Trump hasn’t managed to destroy American democracy yet, but he’s done an incredible job of fundamentally weakening it. The office of the presidency has been reduced from a respected seat of authority, moral leadership, and gravitas to a crude international joke.
No longer does the world expect the president to serve as the leader of the free world. All of which is to say nothing of the broader, more profound, institutional damage he’s done by attacking the free press, alienating our allies, and shredding up key trade deals.
The only things that have prevented him from totally destroying the Republic are the strong checks and balances of the American government. He’s testing their strength and elasticity to be sure, but so far they’ve held up.
Now, Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, has weighed in on the Trump presidency thus far, and his assessment is chilling.
Boot, a lifelong Republican and a #NeverTrumper, gave an interview with Susan S. Glasser of Politico in which he stated that President Trump has turned out just as terrible as he predicted before he assumed office. He conceded that some of the worst-case scenarios haven’t played out yet, but it’s still early in his term. Just because Trump has destroyed NAFTA, lifted sanctions for Putin, or bombed North Korea doesn’t mean he won’t do it at some point in his term.
Glasser asked Boot if perhaps he was being overly apocalyptic about the long-term consequences of Trump. In response, Boot stated that if the reality television star had been elected in a less stable country, Trump would probably already be a full-blown dictator.
“Look, the good news story of the first year of the Trump presidency is that there are checks and balances…. Trump as a personality type is probably no different from a Mussolini, a Peron, a Chavez. And if you were operating in Argentina or Italy, he would probably be a dictator by now. But luckily, he’s not operating in those countries,” Boot said.
He attributed the continued survival of the country to our long history of constitutional democracy, our robust judicial branch, and the continued resilience of the media in the face of the president’s unprecedented attacks.
Boot also went in depth about his feelings regarding the current rift in the GOP between the populists who support Trump, and the establishment Republicans who see him not only as a betrayal of core conservative values but an existential threat to the United States itself. Boot went so far as to say that he is hoping Democrats seize control of Congress because they’ll be willing and eager to stand up to Trump.
“I worked as an adviser on three Republican presidential campaigns, but now I’m actively rooting for Republicans to lose the congressional elections next year, because the Republicans have shown they are unwilling to uphold their oaths of office. They are unwilling to defend the Constitution against the nonstop threats emanating from Donald J. Trump. And that, to me, trumps, so to speak, anything else, including concerns about tax cuts, or any of these other issues that a lot of Republicans tell themselves are the most important thing in the world,” said Boot.
Boot wasn’t done there with his criticisms of his former party. He thinks the conservative wing of American politics needs to be reformed around their former ideals and is waiting for a new center-right figure to emerge because he sees a pronounced dearth of leadership within the GOP.
“Now that Trump has won, the party has fallen into line behind him. And you can—whether it’s the cult of personality, tribalism, expediency, cynicism, in some cases just fanaticism and prejudice, I mean, there’s multiple explanations. But what it adds up to is a party that, I think, is intellectually and morally bankrupt.”
The moral bankruptcy, in particular, seems to upset Boot, because it reveals that the party he’s loved and supported for so long doesn’t actually stand for what he thought it did. He’s come to realize how the GOP draws on deep wells of homophobia, bigotry, and fear to form its base and that many people support the Republican Party for immoral reasons.
“It’s been deeply disturbing as somebody who was a life-long Republican, because what I see happening is that a lot of the criticisms the Democrats have made about Republicans—and which I resisted for years—have actually been vindicated,” Boot said.
Glasser ended the interview by questioning Boot about his greatest concerns about the Trump administration going forward. He said the biggest things to worry about are short-term threats, including the looming shadows of possible war in both North Korea and Iran. At this point, Trump will either go to war or be forced to back down from his own bombastic rhetoric. He’s painted himself into a corner with all his saber-rattling.
Hopefully, our checks and balances hold, and Trump’s worst destructive tendencies are kept in check. The key to the survival of our democracy is electing Democrats en masse in 2018. Republicans have abdicated their patriotism, and it’s up to the left to save our Republic.
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