Human Rights & Democracy

February 1, 2020: What We Must Do to Further the Delegitimization of Donald Trump

Posted on February 01, 2020 at 12:00 AM

It is hard to think of a greater de-legitimization of President Trump than his impeachment by the House of Representatives, but we must do more to ensure that the broad American public accepts the Impeachment articles, delivered and taken up in the Senate under the provisions of the Constitution. It is essential that Trump not get reelected and that Russian tampering with the election not be repeated in 2020.

What has been missing is a concerted calling out of Trump on his immorality in the exercise of his position’s powers. We must take seriously the total unacceptability of the lies and despicable insults he uses to abuse and degrade his enemies. He has crossed innumerable red lines, even into the territory of incitement to violence, encouraging his rallies to “take action” against his enemies, all but waving a gun. All of his opponents are treated as “traitorous” “un-American” scumbags.”

The criticism of Trump that is not missing—and quite rightly accepted—is that Trump’s action leaves the US in a weaker security situation. The Administration’s initial explanation for killing Iranian General Qasum Suleimani was the existence of an “imminent” threat, a rationale that disappeared into the ever-expanding Trump fog. So we are left with an act that threatens American lives and American interests unnecessarily. Iran is stronger and the attack aided that: they have the ability to build a nuclear weapon and to get the US out of the region. Iraq, our ally in fighting ISIS, is far weaker, but also wants us gone. Trump is the cause. It was his action in pulling out of the successful Iran nuclear deal that started this chain reaction to a much more dangerous Middle East, open to Russian and Chinese—but not US—influence.

Another criticism that meets acceptability tests is that Trump’s actions are an attack on the US Constitution. Trump has declared himself above any law that Congress might pass. He has decided he does not have to respect powers given to Congress in failing to consult Congress on initiating a war. Trump’s attack on the Constitution has been evidenced by many other of his actions, including refusal to obey subpoenas from Congress to send documents and officials to testify at his impeachment hearings. Putting himself above the law means that he considers himself not a democratic leader, but an authoritarian dictator.

What We Must Do:

Fight Authoritarianism at Home

Trump also weakens the US when he dismisses the importance of moral leadership. His “Fist in the Face” identity reduces his capacity to strengthen relationships with others and to form communities to advance action that is good. His power means his attack on the common good distorts us in that mean-spirited direction. We must make a stand against our degradation into mean-spiritedness. Authoritarianism is a type of government that has no moral or ethical center. What the leader says goes. Trump is defining his presidency as an anti-presidency. We must resist America becoming an authoritarian country. We must guard our democracy. Authoritarian countries are not guided by any ethical considerations.

Strengthen Alliances

We must constantly use the word “diplomacy,” the word “allies.” Because we have been pulling out of alliances, we are increasingly isolating ourselves. We are always stronger in alliance with other democracies.

Respect International Norms

Trump’s actions are not only outside the law, but they are unethical and immoral from other perspectives. One notable example, since pulled back, was his intention to follow up on his killing of Suleimani by bombing Iranian cultural sites.  It is hard to think of anything more unethical and amoral. These sites belong to mankind, to humanity, not to one nation or individual. Destroying them is destroying part of human history and the human spirit.

In America, Trump Should Respect Americans Not Just His Supporters; Show Respect For His Predecessor as President

Democrats should take on directly Trump’s attacks on President Obama—every time he makes them. We must call out not only the indefensible lying, but the immorality of these attacks. In one egregious case Trump falsely accused President Obama of giving Iran the money that allows them to threaten us. Even worse was the video that his press secretary circulated putting Obama and Speaker Pelosi in Muslim garb and calling them supporters of terrorists.

Trump repeatedly identifies Republicans as the only true patriots and he identifies patriotism with morality and himself with God, or as Secretary Perry called him “the chosen one.” For Trump, Trumpism is morality. Hurting innocent people (putting children in cages on the border) is not immoral. You are passive in the face of who you accept as “the chosen one.” We have freedom of religion under our Constitution, which separates church and state. Therefore, if you want to hold these beliefs it is your private right. It is not your right to try and impose them on others and that is what we are seeing, and that is what we must combat.

— Elizabeth Spiro Clark, Chair, Human Rights and Democracy Task Force

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