Is Trump A Legitimate President?

(This article was reprinted in the online magazine of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, January 19, 2017.)

In his blog Erasmatazz, Chris Crawford recently published: “The Crisis of Legitimacy.” His main thesis is that the legitimacy of Trump’s forthcoming presidency is debatable. First of all, Clinton received almost 3 million more votes than Trump  so it is “reasonable to conclude that Trump won on a legal technicality …” In addition, the legitimacy of the election itself  is questionable, as it was affected by Trump’s mendacity, fake news stories, FBI intervention, Russian influence, voter suppression targeting minority voters, flawed vote counting, and more. As Crawford puts it, the election hardly looks“free and fair”.

Moreover, the legitimacy of this election is being further undermined by the Republicans rejection of compromise.

Their attitude is that they have the majority, so they can cram anything they want down the throats of the Democrats. Sure, they have the legal right to do so — but in so doing, they infuriate so many Americans that they only insure that, when the pendulum swings the other way, it will swing even further to the left. The American political pendulum used to swing a little to the left or a little to the right, but now it is swinging wildly to the right — which will only insure that, the next time the pendulum swings, it will swing wildly to the left. That pendulum will tear this country apart.

And there is more. The Trump cabinet is easily “the most radical Administration in American history.” They are mostly military or billionaires, most have huge conflicts of interest, and all are extraordinarily inexperienced. Add to this Trump’s failure “to divest himself of his assets,” and you have a situation in which he will try to use his newfound power to enrich himself, as we have seen by his urging “foreign diplomats to stay at his hotel .” Crawford concludes that such improprieties will slowly undermine his legitimacy and don’t bode well for the future of our republic.

The consequence of that will be that the loss of legitimacy will be transferred from the President to the US government. Why should the blue states submit to a President they opposed? Why should they tolerate the transfer of so much of their tax money to red states? Why should they submit to policies on abortion, gun rights, foreign policy, public spending, and the environment that they find outrageous?

The election of Mr. Trump is the first step in the unravelling of the American republic. The chasm between red and blue is unbridgeable. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

I must say that I completely agree with Mr. Crawford’s analysis. When the will of the people is thwarted in fundamental ways—gerrymandering congressional districts is a fundamental example—the people will slowly lose faith in their government, as has been happening for a number of years. This is not to say that lying, vote stealing, voter suppression, and more haven’t always been a part of America’s flawed democracy, but that corruption has been escalating in the last few decades.

I’d also say our current situation has a lot to do with the increase of the Gini coefficient, a measure of wealth distribution.  What that measures show is that income inequality has steadily increased in America over the last 40 years. But the most complete analysis I’ve seen of the multiple problems in American politics come from two books by the conservative constitutional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein:

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, and

 The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

In addition, Jonathan Rauch’s short piece in the Atlantic, “How American Politics Went Insane,” is the best short analysis of the fundamental problems with American politics today that I have found.

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