I recently had occasion to speak with a Trump supporting retired CEO who had a few dealings with Trump the businessman.  He said that those who call Trump stupid are way off base. For the record I have never called Trump stupid. Vain, narcissistic, corrupt, and a miserable excuse for a human being, sure, but never stupid. After all he was clever enough to take a fringe candidacy and turn it into a winning presidential campaign. That he did so through lies is just proof of his intelligence. He knew what lies to tell, how to tell them, and to whom. What Trump is though, is ignorant. Ignorant of the history of the founding of this country, the Constitution, the law, and the checks and balances in the government. He is treating the presidency as if he were CEO of the country when the founders explicitly set the system up to prevent a CEO, er, king, from ruling them. He argues that Article 2 of the Constitution allows him to do anything he wants when it actually does not. He finds that Constitution a burdensome thing which gets in his way more often than not. His lack of knowledge about the law is shown in how many of his policies are challenged or overturned in the courts until he can appoint enough judges or Supreme Court justices to support him. He is finding out now whether the check on his power called impeachment can overcome the support of the 62 million people who elected him in 2016 and those who will try to re-elect him in 2020.

His ignorance of the law was shown in his willingness to release the so called “transcript” of his telephone conversation with the Ukrainian leader in which he tries to get him to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son for the 2020 election and then give it to Attorney General Barr or his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. He sees nothing wrong with what he was trying to do and feels that the law can’t touch him for doing it. He is going after Biden who he sees as his most dangerous challenger among the Democratic presidential candidates. His aides understood that his actions may have been illegal and have had to work hard to cover it up as a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly exposes. It is not the first time that the legality of his actions as president have come under scrutiny e.g the Mueller report, which implies at least, that his obstructions of the Justice Department would have been prosecuted were it not Justice Department policy not to lodge cases against the President. To this point it has been the cowardice and ineptitude of Congress that has prevented the checks and balances established by the founders to do their job. Republicans fear that opposing Trump will cost them their seats because his supporters have taken over the party. The Democrats are a motley crew that so far haven’t been able to mount an effective challenge to Trump’s behavior. Those checks and balances exist regardless, just waiting for some true patriots, some real believers in preventing the tyranny of autocrats, some advocates of democracy, and some who put country over party, to use.

Trump is trusting that few of the electorate and few of his supporters will care that his actions are those of an autocrat. For all the independence and rebelliousness that Americans profess, long ago historians identified  an authoritarian strain in American society. Some love to be told what to do, that is, to have a leader who takes the burden of decision making off them. Some are more comfortable with things that are literally black or white where white is good and black is bad and that don’t mess with Mr. In-between. They relish simplicity rather than complexity, worship order and what they see as common sense, and believe in obedience to higher authority. It is still controversial whether there is an “authoritarian” personality within the electorate and whether Trump’s voters fall into that category. Here is a New York Times article that talks about that controversy. It remains to be seen whether Pelosi’s institution of an impeachment inquiry hurts or helps Trump’s approval rating.

I have never believed that impeachment is the way to get rid of Trump. Unless Trump’s enablers in Congress, especially in the Senate, grow some “cojones”, this impeachment process will come to nought. However, it may have an affect on the 2020 election, though it is risky. With over 13 months to go till the election and many chances for the Democrats to blow it, it remains to be seen if the electorate resists Trump’s authoritarianism or succumbs to it. It will be a very interesting 13 months.

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