It’s now on America’s institutions – and Republicans – to check Donald Trump

November 22, 2019 0 By Kody Olson


Donald Trump has won the presidency. Those are not words I thought I would say tonight. I will be president for all Americans and this is so important to me. Now it is up to America’s institutions,
and the people within them, to check his worst instincts. There is danger in Trump. He’s a man with authoritarian impulses, “Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” He’s got a mind of a conspiracy theorist. Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? He has an alarming temperament, little impulse
control, and less decency. If you see someone trying to throw a tomato, beat the crap out of them would you? He has a demagogue’s instinct for finding enemies, and a bully’s instinct for finding
their weaknesses. He is uninterested in policy, unrestrained
by shame, and unbound by norms. He surrounds himself with sycophants and enablers,
and he believes both the facts and the falsehoods he finds congenial. But he is entering an office that is weaker
than many realize. For all the same reasons Barack Obama could
not bring about the change he had made people believe in, Trump cannot wrench America to
his vision of greatness. He is constrained by the House and the Senate,
by the Supreme Court, by the executive agencies, and — in ways less formal, but no less powerful
— by his own staff and party. There would be more comfort in this if there
was more opposition inside these institutions. But Republicans control everything — the
House, the Senate, and, after an appointment, the Supreme Court. If Trump is to be checked, it will be because
his own party checks him. So far, the GOP has not shown much interest
or ability in standing up to their standard-bearer. Top Republicans closed ranks around Trump
despite believing him fundamentally unfit for office. Their embrace did not, however, lead to Trump
surrounding himself with more professional staff, developing sounder policy, or moderating
his worst instincts. Already, the Trump campaign has leaked that
they will fill their administration with the most supportive staff they can find, not
the best. But the numbers of jobs they appear to have
candidates for is slim. They will need many more bodies to fill both
the White House and the executive agencies. This is a place where the Republican Party
could potentially play a role in surrounding Trump with calmer, wiser advisors who could
provide him better information, and curb his worst impulses. The Republican Congress will use Trump to
pass the agenda they have already crafted —
Paul Ryan’s bargain has always been that he will endorse a man he clearly believes
to be dangerous so long as that man will sign his budget. I ask, do I believe that these principles and these policies have a better chance of making the law with Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton? Absolutely! Trump is a dealmaker and he’ll presumably
hold up his end of the deal. The question is whether Congress will attempt
to check Trump elsewhere — on surveillance, on wartime powers, on trade. But our institutions are only as good as the
people running them. Parties have strong incentives to back their
president — that’s how Trump united the GOP after he became the nominee, and it’s
how he’ll hold it together after he takes the White House. There’s been little evidence that Republicans
— even the ones who clearly recognize Trump’s danger — are willing to risk electoral sanction
to protect the country they profess to love. House and Senate Republicans know that Trump’s
success is their success, that his strength is their strength. The same goes for his staff, and his appointees. The question is whether they can structure
a version of success for him that keeps the country safe, and whether they will be willing,
if the worst comes to pass, to cross their president for their country. If there is hope, it is here: the incentives
of governance are different than the incentives of opposition. The Republican majority will have to face
the voters in 2018, and then again in 2020. If they have taken health insurance from tens
of millions of people without replacement, if they have ripped open families and communities
with indiscriminate deportation, if they have embroiled us in disastrous wars or confrontations,
if they have sent the economy into tailspin, those elections will not be pleasant. Republicans have a majority, and it will be
one they hope to keep. To keep it, they will need to govern well,
or at least convince the electorate they have governed well. And to govern well, they will need to keep
Trump’s worst tendencies in check. Now we’ll see how strong the American system
really is.