King Donald I
Donald Trump has proven he knows how elections work; that’s how he got the most electoral votes. But he doesn’t seem to understand how governing works, and remember, I’m talking about governing, not ruling. In fact, it seems that he wants to do away with the governing norms that have been in place in this country for over 200 years, and replace them with something decidedly old-school: the divine right of kings.
I thought of this while reading the front page of the November 28 edition of the New York Times. It contained a cover story about Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud in the election (of course only Clinton votes were fraudulent; all of his votes were on the up-and-up), but it also mentioned a tussle within the Trump camp concerning the appointment of a Secretary of State. It appears that some are pushing Mitt Romney for that post, but apparently Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump advisor, is opposed to Romney because Mitt had “gone out of his way to hurt “ Mr. Trump during the Republican primary. Notice how there is nothing in Ms. Conway’s argument opposing Mr. Romney for this vitally important cabinet position that relates to Mr. Romney’s fitness for the office, of whether he would be an effective Secretary of State for this country. Apparently in Trump Land one is measured on one’s fealty to the great leader, and nothing else. This is how it works in cults of personality, as in current day Russia or North Korea. And it is also how it worked in the days of divine right kings; courtiers gathered at court to curry the king’s favor, usually by affirming the god-king’s belief in just how great he was. The more obsequious the flattery and the greater the loyalty to the person of the king (not country), the greater the influence at court, regardless of actual merit or worth. Which is why you don’t see rule by divine right kings in great countries anymore.
Trump’s understanding (misunderstanding is more apt) of how the levers of government work also plays into the supposed “criminality” of Hillary Clinton. During the campaign Trump insinuated on multiple occasions that if elected president, he would put Hillary Clinton in prison. His devoted fans loved the idea so much they would chant “lock her up” at his rallies. But he never got around to stating with any specificity what criminal statute she had supposedly violated. For example, “Benghazi” is the name of a small city in Libya. It is not the name of a crime, regardless of how loudly you scream it at a Trump rally. Likewise “email” and “Clinton Foundation” are also not delineated crimes. But of course, a divine right king doesn’t have to bother with something as pesky and inconsequential as due process; he just says “lock her up” and it’s done.
Or not. In the immediate aftermath of the election, Trump, who apparently was swayed by Clinton’s seemingly quick and gracious concession, stated that he had now decided that he would not put Clinton in jail. This may sound like a positive development at first glance, but let’s hold our collective horses for a moment here. This all begs an obvious question, to wit: did she commit a crime? This, of course, should be the sole criteria when deciding whether to prosecute. If there is significant evidence that Hillary Clinton committed a crime, she should be prosecuted, and I don’t care how nice she’s been to the Donald since the election. (Note that Trump may be changing his mind again on this issue now that the Clinton campaign has decided to join Jill Stein’s call for a recount in several states, which, again, has no bearing in whether a crime has been committed). Conversely, if Trump lacked significant evidence of a crime during the campaign, he was committing slander pure and simple. But he doesn’t understand this. He is unaware that well-thought-out legal guidelines that are applied equally to all without favor or animus should determine whether criminal action in a particular case is justified. Instead he thinks that his whims, based on how he feels about a person at any particular time should determine that person’s fate. Just like a divine right king. This should frighten us all. Our future as a country that applies the rule of law, and not the rule of men, is at stake.