You can sense the impending explosion. Hear the kindling crackle and feel the intensity of the heat as the embers glow ever brighter. You know this is no ordinary fire. Cognizant that the smart thing to do is take cover. Yet past experience anchors you in place. “You’ve never been burned before so why panic now,” you think to yourself. Besides, you are prepared for an emergency. The fire extinguisher is nearby and other traditional safeguards are in place to prevent catastrophe.
So you ignore your spidey senses and do nothing. You shelter in place and wait, prepared to react to whatever may come next. Oblivious to the fact you may never get that chance.
We’ve had 44 other presidents in this country. Some of whom were not good men. Many were corrupt and power hungry, driven more by greed and blind ambition than a public service ethos. Others had authoritarian tendencies and used the bully pulpit to foster divisions amongst the American citizenry. A few could probably be best described as immoral or maybe even criminal in behavior.
No matter who served in office, however, Americans were able to take comfort in the design of our system of governance. A belief that regardless of character of the man in office the checks and balances were architected to prevent catastrophe. The majority of Americans took for granted our democratic institutions and individual freedoms. Acted immune to permanent harm, like teenagers in our aloofness to known danger. Societal norms may get temporarily burned, but surely the house and those residing inside it will remain unscathed. Of course, we will live to see another day; cast another vote.
Unfortunately past experience does not apply to Donald Trump. The safeguards designed by our founders are ill equipped to protect against such an unconventional threat. Our founders were wise but the American Dream was founded on certain assumptions. Chief among them was that facts exist and “we, the people” would no longer live in a world where equal time had to be given to authoritarians who espouse “alternative facts” that serve their own agenda.
Moreover that delicate system of checks and balances was built on the premise of trust and the belief that collectively those in office will serve the interests of their constituents or be held to account. Anchored on the premise that our government will consist of three separate, but EQUAL, branches of government to mitigate corruption in the other. Dependent upon a free press and an informed electorate that will insist leaders act logically and represent the majority interests.
Those assumptions no longer hold true. The constitutional safeguards no longer exist. It turns out our system of checks were not meant to be passive tools. Like a fire extinguisher there success is dependent on somebody being there to operate them.
We know Donald Trump is petrified of his finances being examined. We know he bankrupted casinos and real estate conglomerates at the height of the economy yet somehow struck gold once the economy tanked. Guilty people who launder billions in Russian money generally know what they’ve done before being charged.
We know Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent who has never before acted with America’s best interest in mind, went to great lengths and invested precious Russian resources specifically to elect the man who promised to “make America great again!” We know of the public refusal to denounce Putin by name or hold Russia to account for its attempts at interference in our election.
We know the man who mocked his predecessor for doing so, telegraphed forthcoming military operations to our enemy in Syria apparently with ample time for them to prepare! Tweeted out classified surveillance photos and leaked other intelligence to traditional foes. That he is engaged in an unwinnable trade war with China, that he has legitimized the brutal North Korea regime on the world stage and done nothing to stem their nuclear program. That he has alienated and insulted traditional allies at every turn.
Yet, despite all evidence that an unprecedented threat looms, the vast majority of our elected officials continue to play traditional politics. Act content to rely on reactionary safeguards.
This is not about party politics. This has never been about red verse blue. This is about patriotism. This is about the evolution of the American dream. We can no longer stand by passively. Our representatives need to get off their asses and do their intended job. Grab the extinguisher before the flames erupt uncontrollably and the conflagration consumes us all.