The faux shocking coming from many corners of American media each day plays worse each day, as if people have not come to understand certain undisputable realities over the course of the past 5 years.
For starters, Donald Trump is going to “Donald Trump” (as both Sonnie Johnson and RedState’s Kira Davis noted on the last episode of Red + Black). There should be no shock value (or “faux shock”) coming from anything that this president or his administration does. As well, it should be clear to those paying attention that some of the “over-the-top” antics that give critics and supporters heartburn from time to time actually work – good, bad, or otherwise. Trump won the presidency with his unconventional playbook. The USMCA replaced NAFTA when it was said – repeatedly – that it might be too difficult to replace the 1990s-era trade deal. Many Republicans that vowed to never support Trump (even calling him various, biting insults publicly), only to become some of his staunchest supporters within short time.
Perhaps, most importantly, Americans across the nation – from those that support the president and his bid for re-election to the millions that recoil at the sound of his name – must admit this one stark reality:
Donald J. Trump has changed the presidency – forever.
And, whether folks want to admit this aloud or within their hearts, they should be thankful that this change has come.
For far too many decades, the Office of the President of the United States has become the dais that combines the cult of personality, the power of kings, the moral compass of a nation, and the voice that shakes mountains. Yet, it has also become the co-equal branch of our republic that has constantly and deliberately over-extended its authority to points of unapproachable leeway in times of crisis and calm. This is not a new development under President Trump. The altruistic Lincoln cast aside various Constitutional rights and other considerations during his short yet (obviously) meaningful presidency. The paternal FDR incarcerated American citizens just years after his New Deal and his plan to pack the Supreme Court. Bush stood on rumble in New York City to denounce the attack to take down our democracy, only to begin the creation of a surveillance state that Big Brother and Mother Russia would approve of. Obama famously gloated of having “…a pen…and a phone…” when direct representation of the people via Congress stopped breaking his way politically.
If the Trump presidency is to be rued for any number of reasons that critics highlighted, it must also be lauded for likely being the last straw before the American people demand that Congress reclaim its ability to have civil, balanced, and focused interactions within its chambers and with the executive branch for the sake of a better nation – especially during times of crisis such as 2020. For too long, Congress has kicked its responsibilities to the ultimate bully pulpit, using the presidency as both a convenient political villain when optically necessary (even when such a fight is intra-partisan) and as a policy bailout whenever polling suggests avoiding a sticky issue. For the past 4 presidencies – with tensions rising steadily throughout and now culminating in this 2020 election – we have seen the stature of the presidency in the eyes of the American people rise for its supporters, even as we have watched the vitriol associated with the office elevated through impeachment proceedings and vile conspiracies.
After this latest iteration of elevated voice and escalating animus, it should be clear: there is a need for a reset of the expectations, esteem, interactions, and limitations concerning the American presidency – good, bad, or otherwise, regardless of who wins in 2020 and beyond. No woman or man must be above the Constitution and the essence of what American equality and justice are deemed to be about. Just the same, no branch of government should be above another in the distribution of power or the weight of their words. If nothing else, the Trumpistic style of this White House, on the recent heels of a ground-breaking 2008 election and a shake-up 2010 mid-term, has rocked so many things that Americans have thought of themselves, their government, and their society that a honest reset may finally be welcomed by diverging corners of the nation.
Further, this could also be our moment to prompt a shift for better government that is more than just about the presidency. Recently, two partisan leaders in a background state called for congressional term limits, a sorely needed move to put another restraint on the republic-turning-into-fiefdoms politics that entrench mediocrity in lawmaking, making profitable full-time careers out of the call to civic service. Courts have been pushing back on the moves by state leaders during pandemic-driven policies in Pennsylvania and Michigan and education-related policies in Montana and throughout the country. Citizens are demanding accountability from mayors and city council-people alike. Perhaps, finally, Americans are realizing again that “We the People” is a formative direction that brings the unique positions that we all hold into a blended searching and security for constitutional equality, common accountability, and comforts within our shared patriotism.
No president nor protestor is above the law, regardless of the complaint or condition. This has never truly been a reality for all in America, but it has always been a tenet within America. With a norms-busting president and a historic era culminating in all that has been 2020, perhaps we can all in change that is reform, not just adjusting. Maybe a game-changing president short-term can prompt a long-term shift back to how America and our overall balance of power within government and with the government plays out.
Regardless of whether one’s motto this fall is “Vote Trump!” or “Tuck Frump!”, history will likely force us to look back at all of this and, one way or another, be thankful that this pivot point in American society came about due to the presidential election of one Donald J. Trump.