The Republican presidential nominee has used civil societys defenses the press, the courts, financial regulation to his own aims, causing untold damage
Donald Trumps detractors have struggled to define him as long as hes been on the political scene. But in 2015 it was the famously tongue-tied Rick Perry who landed upon what seemed like the most accurate descriptor to date: he called Trump a cancer.
He was speaking in reference to conservatism and, rather amazingly, would later go on to support Trump; he was also on to something. We know how cancer cells escape the bodys natural response by basically disarming the immune system turning it off or otherwise poisoning it.
But the route this election is shaping up, the better analogy might be an autoimmune disease. Such sickness result from our bodys natural defenses being marshalled against it with destructive outcomes. Trump is exploiting our political immune system to the detriment and potentially grave peril of the republic. Hes taken what actually builds America great, the systems of government designed to foster public good the courts, the press, our charity and financial systems and used them for personal gain at the body politics expense.
You dont have to look far to find examples of Trump use the protective the system of society to undermine it and perhaps the most conspicuous example of it is the courts.
They were designed as the legal instrument of justice: to prevent victimization; to accuse and punish evildoers; to protect wildlife and the environment from the tragedy of the commons. But Trump has perverted the organizations of the system, hiring seasoned lawyers to bully his route to desired verdicts.( His $10 m suit against a Miss USA hopeful who wrote a Facebook post he detested was just one of an estimated 3,500 lawsuits involving Trump, according to a USA Today tally .)
Recently he sought to impugn the authorities concerned of a judge ruling on the Trump University case, saying his Mexican heritage and involvement with a Latino lawyers association posed an absolute conflict.
The tribunals arent the only protective lever of government Trump may have attempted to exploit in order to shield himself Floridas attorney general, Pam Bondi, received $25,000 from a Trump charity before her office decided not to move forward with a review of his university.
Like so many aspects of American democracy, charities and specifically the tax-protected nature of donations from them are meant to encourage us to take care of the countrys vulnerable and protect people from the worst possible outcomes. And the Bondi donation is far from the only day Trump may have perverted his charities use. A Washington Post investigation revealed that monies from the Trump Foundation have been used to settle legal disputes.
Trump has also observed ways to subvert the financial system, and specifically its bankruptcy laws, for personal gain. The leniencies in bankruptcy statute are meant to save people on hard times from complete financial destruction allowing them to start over again. But for Trump theyre a modus operandi of sorts. After four corporate bankruptcy filings, he was still a multi-billionaire.
Then there are the ways hes used the press to his own aims. With its mission of truth-telling, journalism aims to protects society against illegal or otherwise destructive behavior by uncovering it. But Trump, who parlayed the notoriety from his television persona on The Apprentice into a national political platform, exploits its weaknesses.
His steady creek of lies is difficult to fact-check in real day, an advantage to him in debates and other events with live coverage. Moreover, hes worked to actively undermine peoples trust in the press, vowing to open up libel laws so reporters can be sued more easily.
What maintains a republic on course is believing its protective checks and balances its immune system built up over years of evolution will work to protect the whole. We need to believe the court systems strive for justice; that the government will represent the interests of the people and wont be bought; that the press can speak truth freely.
Even if he loses in November, Trump will still continue to undermine trust in republic inciting the rage of his sometimes violent advocates with asserts the election process is rigged. Its a specter he and his have long floated; confidante Roger Stone predicts the ensuing chaos will be a bloodbath.
Such a thing, should it result, would be a violation of what is perhaps the most basic tenet of republic: that we vote to find what society agrees on, and once its been determined, we uphold it whether or not we agree.
Trump seems to have little interest in any such civic-mindedness. And its no coincidence Vladimir Putin is the foreign leader he most admires. In systematically curtailing Russias democratic freedoms, Putin has already achieved what Trump seeks: authoritarianism, the worst perversion of democracy.
Especially troubling for anti-authoritarians is that even if we succeed in stopping Trump this autumn, through our imperfect system of checks and balances or whatever mysterious sorcery moves the public mind, one thing is certain: considerable damage has already been done.
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