I have to write this. It’s a compulsion. I’ve been thinking of drafts and writing snippets since George Floyd’s murder and I can’t avoid it any longer. When the President of the United States of America issued a tweet insinuating that a 75 year old protester in Buffalo, NY was attempting to steal some kind of code so he could jam the police department’s communications system, I laughed. But I knew I had to do something more. So do you.
That tweet was just the most recent example of the President’s mental and moral unfitness for the office. George Floyd died less than two weeks earlier at the hands of the police, cities were in flames, protests were being held in hundreds of cities and he felt compelled to tweet about a 75 year old attacking the police and intentionally cracking his own skull! The worst part is that when he propagated nonsense theories about one protestor, he completely ignored the causes that were being protested – police violence against black and brown people, systemic racism and George Floyd among others. I’m no longer surprised but still shocked by his daily behavior.
What does still surprise me is the Republican enablers pretending they are deaf or blind. Didn’t hear the story, didn’t see the tweet, too busy running away from electronic devices to ensure they won’t see it. They are afraid the president will make fun of them, criticize them, campaign against them. They run away from the racism implicit in Floyd’s death and ignore the vindictive mindlessness implicit in the tweet.
Most of the enablers apparently thought he would change or that they could control him if he was elected although they didn’t think he would be. Many of the same Republicans told reporters two or three years ago they just wanted to hide out until he was gone. “Please don’t make me say anything bad about him. He’ll get mad at me and he’s a bully. I’m afraid.” They have been hiding from him as well as from their constitutional responsibilities and oaths.
The Constitution is our governmental rule book. But it can’t cover all situations. For example, there are few limits described for presidential powers. That’s not because the framers did not want limits. It’s just that they couldn’t anticipate everything and write it down. For many years, the control of presidential power resided in the norms of behavior expected of the president. It was self imposed, Witness Richard Nixon turning over the tapes. Those norms were more or less guaranteed by the method of selecting the candidates. Only in the late 20th century did that process begin to fail as the primary election system took hold and grew. The party bosses lost control and could no longer guarantee a candidate who would behave. You can argue whether that method of democratizing the nominating process is good or bad. It undeniably enabled candidates who have few or none of the character traits that have always been selected for such as willingness to abide by the law and not to push beyond the boundaries on every issue. Witness the current, impeached occupant of the Oval Office.
If the selection of the candidate can no longer guarantee that a nominee will conform to the unwritten rules and expectations, then Congress in its oversight capacity has to insert itself more aggressively and the president must comply. If the president simply refuses to comply, then the presidency is well on its way to an autocracy.
Running the USA is not a win/lose proposition. It is a long term event that we want to continue. It requires tolerance and forbearance for the other team. So when your side loses, it’s best not to sink the ship but try to influence the navigation. When your side, wins, it’s best not to throw the other side overboard. You might need them to help fight pirates. So the president claims to drain the swamp but is in reality just jettisoning the ballast and the spare sails, throws the signaling equipment overboard and sells the lookout station. Congress watches, cowering, from the hold hoping the ship doesn’t flounder before his term expires.
So how does this event – remember I’m writing about the president’s tweet on a Buffalo protester – play into all of this and why did it finally motivate to write again? It isn’t the president. I expect nothing of him. It’s his enablers. Especially the ones who have been in government for ages (i.e., the Senate apologists) and refuse to address even a single episode of destructive behavior because they are more interested in staying in power than they are is doing their jobs. Most of them have not condemned Floyd’s murder, police brutality as a practice, systemic racism nor the insane tweet that set me off. They are the ones who have abandoned the constitution and the people of the United States. Enough.