I seldom look for solace in someone’s incompetence, but in the case of President Trump his many deficiencies—that span from prehistoric executive skills to fundamental character flaws to psychological and emotional instabilities—may prevent him from achieving his fascist aims. He is no Putin and the United States is no Russia. Further, his detachment from facts and truth has severely compromised his credibility both at home and—especially—abroad. He appears to have the focus and navigational skills of a gnat in a windstorm, but I acknowledge this may be unfair to gnats (that always seem to survive such storms).
The chaos that is the White House today coupled with the cowardly political rapacity that plagues Congress, a Supreme Court stuck in a 4-to-4 standoff, and a Federal bureaucracy frozen between the twin pulls of passive aggression and career security, virtually assures that little will be accomplished, at least for now. In the end, this may be the story historians tell of the Trump presidency: much smoke and little fire. Noise without leadership is still just noise. What is emerging now is less danger than a leadership vacuum; both are bad, but they also open opportunities for others to lead. So, who will lead? It won’t be the Supreme Court or the Federal bureaucrats; the first is not supposed to lead and the second is incapable (by design). Congress may try, but my bet is it will devolve into a battle between dumb and dumber. Leadership then, will come from beyond the Beltway in Washington, at the state, county and municipal levels.
We may end up owing Mr. Trump a debt of gratitude, if we use the peril he proffers as a call to organize and engage in a democracy we haven’t, as citizens, paid much attention to for the last forty-five years. Since Nixon was shown the door and our draft cards became coasters, it has been easy to ignore Washington D.C. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the dawn of the digital age contributed mightily to our collective withdrawal from national politics. Apathy and complacency became natural and comfortable. After all, who wants to spend time engaged with those who aspire to be politicians when we can turn the lens toward ourselves on the end of a selfie-stick? Yes, Trump happened because of us, not in spite of us.
We have a choice: continue to wring our hands over the horrors of Trumpisms, or take advantage of the leadership vacuum and forge our own future. We can wait and see, which gives Trump and Congress a chance to fill the void, or we can seize the moment. The best and brightest are not found in our nation’s capitol, they are in our universities, small businesses, non-profits, and coffee shops. They are old, young, born here and not. They are the quiet ones who do not seek the spotlight. Yet, they, you, are our future. Are we Americans, or are we Trump?