It Is Getting Late

It Is Getting Late


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As has been noted frequently President Trump’s governing style is totally antithetical to democratic rule. Trump operates as an autocrat or authoritarian ruler. Such leaders generally operate in a manner which requires its followers to accept the leader’s modus operandi. Such leaders have a recognized system of order; their own.  They have their own rules by which they govern. Except for those autocracies which still function as strictly family operations, the advisers and confidants of the leader are the loyal followers and dedicated believers.

To a large extent, privately held corporations operate very much like autocratic political systems. CEO’s of such operations are answerable to no one and have no board to which they are beholden. They make decisions, they hire, they fire, and conduct business as they wish. Those employed by such business leaders have little of no input, except if and when desired. They answer to the leader but the leader answers to no one.

For Donald Trump, his greatest frustration as President has been that he is the CEO of a company of 335 million shareholders to whom he is directly or indirectly answerable. Presidents are accountable to the American voters, the Congress, the States, and to foreign leaders and international institutions. Trump refuses to be responsible to anyone.

Presidents cannot lie; but Donald Trump can. Presidents have people who have cabinet portfolios who are accountable to the Congress for their budgets and their actions. Trump believes that Cabinet members work for him, not for the America people and are responsible only to him.

Presidents make policy or coordinate the making of decisions and then are responsible to the other branches of Government. President Trump does not believe he needs to answer to anyone else; he can change his mind several times a day and is not accountable for any of his previous promulgations. His remarks and actions concerning dealing with immigrants and security matters along the Mexican border are the most obvious recent case in point.

The American system of Government is not composed of only one branch of Government but three co-equal branches. These branches are answerable to each other and are held accountable by each other. We have separation of powers, but we also have accountability—checks and balances.

One does not need to look far for recent examples of the form of rule that Trump favors. He does not comprehend how the budget process works. For the real estate mogul, there is no process. It is all about making money, this time for his government. The President governs by tweets, executive orders, and lies. For Trump, being President is presiding over a reality show.

The President enjoys the fact that he is increasing the number of Cabinet Members who have not yet been nominated to their positions let alone confirmed by the Senate. These Acting Secretaries can act with total abandon and not be held accountable to Congress yet can be dismissed at will.

To date Members of his Republican Party have not demonstrated any interest in actually challenging Trump’s behavior. The Courts are stacked now and will have even more Judges soon who are willing to tolerate the most sweeping interpretation of presidential power ever argued by the Courts. Laws are disobeyed or not enforced or ignored. The international community watches with amazement, pain and trepidation at the farce being conducted in the name of policy.

If this pattern of governing persists for another twenty months, it will be very difficult but probably manageable. If Donald Trump is re-elected for four additional years in 2020 it is chilling what America will look like in 2024.

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