After reviewing the tumultuous events of last week, Michael Goldfarb asks the question which is on a lot of minds: Is the American Republic built to withstand a malevolent president? There can be little doubt that Trump is a malevolent force:
Trump has ridden roughshod over not just the customs and norms of presidential behaviour but also basic standards of human decency.
In doing so, he has forced journalists and the institutions they write for to change their basic standards of acceptable language. We use the words crazy and stupid now in our reports because some of the behaviour and actions of Trump and his team are crazy and stupid. We debate whether to refer to the Trump administration or the Trump regime, with all the pejorative connotations that word carries. The New York Times is still the Grey Lady, but it has to print “sucking his own cock”, because that’s what the president’s top communications official said.
Trump is what happens when a political party becomes a faction:
The danger of factions was recognised at the foundation of the United States. In The Federalist Number 10, a highly influential essay on political theory published in 1787, James Madison defined faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Madison understood the most dangerous thing that can happen in a society is for a group and its political representatives to act as if their view alone represents the nation. This leads them to think that they alone are the nation and the views of those who disagree with them not worthy of consideration.
Republican factionalism has led their elected representatives in Congress to upend existing constitutional customs as thoroughly as Trump has destroyed the existing norms of presidential conduct. They have defamed the design of Madison and Thomas Jefferson by refusing to co-operate with the Democrats in any meaningful way. In fact, the idea of a pluralist society is anathema to them and they have been trying to crush it for decades.
They no longer have a program. The failure of their health care proposals proves that. Elizabeth Drew in The New York Review of Books writes that, "You can't legislate a slogan." In the end, that's all Republicans have left. They are devoid of ideas and conscience. They have become mini Trumps.