Cascading Consequences of Terminating Trust

Trust. Who do you know that you know you can always trust? How much does it matter to you? Do you trust your money to buy today’s value next year? Probably not. You know that several presidents have taken “executive action” to tweak the official calculation of inflation to make it look smaller than the increase in the prices you suffer at the grocery store. Now, with the current occupant of the White House caught in over 10,000 lies, how can you trust anyone anymore?

Some things are highly predictable. Others are not. As a general pattern, where I live the weather is quite hard to predict beyond the next few hours. Some days I can predict that it will not rain for the rest of the day. That happens when I have seen the voluminous data compiled into an electronic weather map that shows Santa Fe in the middle of a big high-pressure system. Easy, no rain today.

Predictability and Trust

Rain squallOn other days, I know with a high degree of certainty that it will rain in the area, but whether it happens at my house is a roll of the dice. I can look out west toward the Jemez Mountains and see scattered rain squalls. Whether they reach my garden is subject to a number of factors most of which change as the storm clouds approach or turn north. At that level, the weather at my house is unpredictable. It has nothing to do with trust.

Trust clearly involves predictability, but that is not all. We do not trust or mistrust the weather; we just know it is only partially predictable. When we trust a person, something more is involved – moral motivation. We can predict friends or enemies’ behavior without necessarily trusting them. We may predict an enemy’s behavior without trusting them at all.

Why? Because trust is an integral part of a relationship. The weather does not predict or trust us at all. We try to predict the weather with very limited success, not because of trust but only because of past patterns that we know are often consistent, in general, if not in any specific case. We have certain expectations of politicians, but generally, we do not trust them.

Presidential Prevarication

We can trust some politicians some of the time. That happens when we know that they hold certain values and stick to them when it comes time to vote on a bill put before the legislative body. Various politicians trust each other because they have long-standing relationships involving moral commitments some of which cross party lines. Despite the general untrustworthy character of national politics, it seems clear that politicians have to trust each other to some extent to get anything done. That, of course, is one of the reasons politicians get so little done in this era of political acrimony.

Then, throw into the mix a president who nobody trusts and who trusts nobody. Demanding total allegiance by subordinates but “throwing them under the bus” at the slightest impulse not only causes a great deal of staff turnover. It also eliminates trust as subordinates scramble to predict the next impulsive absurdity or policy blunder devoid of any expert consultation. The sycophants struggle to make sense of their own boot-licking.

Predictable Mistrust

Commentators have recently pointed out, in response to the latest act of trust violation by the pretend-autocrat, that back when impeachment threatened Nixon, he continued to sign legislation the parties considered important for the nation. The parties involved had retained a sufficient level of institutionalized trust to “work together in the nation’s interest.”

In the present instance, however, where prevarication prevails and the only value demonstrated by the president is the self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement of the modern icon of sociopathic narcissism, trust is simply out of the question.

Pelosi and Schumer

Pelosi and Schumer ~ Vox

I doubt that Pelosi and Schumer trusted Trump to negotiate an infrastructure bill in good faith. Yet, they were duty bound to make the attempt. I get the distinct feeling that Pelosi in particular is playing the self-described ultimate player. Cornered by continued failures and court decisions upholding the constitutional separation of powers against his blanket assertion of total executive power, the would-be dictator flails out with increasingly erratic impulse. Even his impulse to be unpredictable is predictable. However, that is no basis for trust.

Messy Democracy vs. Painful Plutocracy

Wake up call for federal employees: In the era of Trumpery, life is really lived on the edge of insolvency and pain. Forty percent of the American people cannot cover a single $1,000- emergency. Most federal employees, though slightly better paid than their counterparts in private industry, live maybe a couple of paychecks ahead. The cost of living is much higher than the bogus government calculation of low inflation. Like most Americans, they have little savings to tide them over during a government shutdown.

No Respect

FAA air traffic Controllers are some of the most competent and dedicated professionals I have ever met. They operate in a high-stress environment where the “clearances” they issue to pilots in the national airspace routinely carry life and death implications. Especially during high traffic periods and under rapidly changing weather conditions, their prowess in skillfully coordinating the flight paths and altitudes of multiple high-speed jet airliners and slower small planes is amazing.

near.miss.airliners

Near Miss. Photo: JetlineMarvel.net

As a long time pilot, I understand the “mission critical” character of the everyday work of these federal employees. I remember distinctly when Ronald Reagan busted their union resulting in the loss of some of the best most experienced controllers then operating. I noticed immediately thereafter, an unmistakable drop in the quality of air traffic control operations. I felt I had to be extra careful to maintain a reasonable level of safety in the air.

Many other federal employees live with far less daily stress on the job. I have envied the National Park Rangers for the serene environment of their work out there in the beautiful National Forests that the plutocrats would privatize for oil and mineral extraction. Most people take federal workers for granted or just dismiss them as “bureaucrats,” especially if things don’t go well when they interact with overworked IRS agents or Social Security workers processing their paperwork.

Yet, the work of these diverse employees of the nation is important to one or another element of the everyday operation of the society itself. That importance becomes ever clearer when an arbitrary demand by the president forces a government shutdown because the Congress will not roll over to the bully who’s pretensions to power cannot grasp the basic concept of the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

Moreover, these folks have been arbitrarily made victims of the “government shutdown” that Trump forced by demanding the Congress pay for his ill-conceived and poorly defined wall along the Mexican border. It is especially disconcerting when we find out that the “border wall” meme originated as a mnemonic device conjured by his campaign staff to help him remember to talk about immigration to better pander to his xenophobic base.

Illusions of Border Security

In various places along the border, walls already exist because federal agencies deemed them effective, particularly around urban ports of entry. The Congress voted to fund them as part of prior border security legislation. It is widely known that most trafficking of drugs, about which Trump feigns such concern, cross into the U.S. through the busiest border crossings in passenger vehicles or trucks. Is a wall going to have any effect on that? Of course not.

trumps border wall could waste billions_nyt

Trump’s Border Wall could waste Billions. Photo: New York Times

Never mind the fact that illegal crossings from Mexico have steadily decreased for decades. Never mind that Trump violates the federal laws that allow applications for asylum by the victims of ruthless gangs and bloodthirsty dictators that U.S. foreign policies have caused or supported. However, let us not ignore the vicious persecution of children and their families that the obsessive xenophobia and demagoguery of a rogue president and an unhinged federal agency called ICE have caused.

Some say Trumplandia is the natural progression of the growing plutocracy in the U.S. since Reagan. True enough. But plutocrats abhor the messiness of democracy and care little about the pain they inflict on the people. When narcissistic sociopathic politicians have pretensions of authoritarian rule, as does Trump, the pain inflicted upon the people within and at the border becomes intolerable.

The End of Authority

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”  ~  Anonymous

When does authority end? Well, authority ends when people believe that it no longer exists. That is because authority is not a thing one possesses; authority is a relationship in which the members of a system acknowledge the holder of power as legitimate. Power can be held without authority but is inherently weaker and unstable when illegitimate. Power without legitimacy can be exercised only by force.

For example, in a formally democratic constitutional political system, such as that in the U.S.A., the very election of a president is the agreed upon process for installing a president in office. It is the only legitimate means by which the man (or someday woman) can assume the office. The inauguration is the ritual that legitimizes the turning over of the executive authority of incumbency to the person who won the election.

Chaos Central

Of course, we have experienced growing concerns over the legitimacy of the electoral process itself, but most people view the process as legitimate even though flawed. Yet, the flaws seem to have grown significantly in recent years, with the more extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression. Still, most people accept the results, if grudgingly.

Once in office, a president has a wide range of options as to his behavior in executing the duties of the office. The three-branch system of government allows a lot of interpretation in the administration of laws. Administrative policies may even twist the meaning in how a president implements a law, with little consequence beyond complaints.

In the present instance, the president appointed the “principal officers of the executive departments” (Section 4, Amendment XXV, U.S. Constitution) that is, the members of his cabinet, with the sole purpose of having those officers dismantle the administration of existing laws that do not favor the corporations and the rich.

Naturally, many people have challenged the legitimacy of such actions. Many current lawsuits challenge the actions of Trump’s cabinet members on the basis that they have violated rather than administered the laws passed by Congress. That is because such actions are the equivalent of re-writing or nullifying such laws, which, of course, is the sole prerogative of the Congress.

When a president routinely takes such illegitimate actions, the government may experience a constitutional crisis. That is because presidential actions meant to avoid or roll back the implementation of laws passed by Congress violate the constitutional principle of separation of powers. As we all know, such practices have become extremely commonplace in the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.

Our current president evidently views the office he holds as equivalent to that of a CEO of a private family business, a patriarch, or a mob boss. But, of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, too many citizens also have little knowledge or respect for these constitutional principles.

Decay of Authority

This president has taken so many illegitimate actions that I will not list them here. Putting aside the perverse peculiarities of personality, a strong sense has grown that the man is incapable of exercising the powers of the office without putting the nation in great danger, especially in international relations, domestic security, and in denying climate science.

Bob WoodwardBob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House,” (already widely quoted before reaching the bookstores) has already caused great consternation by revealing numerous instances that indicate several grounds for considering the president to be unfit for office. Of course, Trump proclaimed it a work of fiction, despite Woodward’s long-standing solid reputation for basing his books on strong evidence and multiple reliable sources.

Far more damning, however, is the anonymously authored op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Written by one or more high-level members of the administration, the author(s) claim that “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.’ It describes a White House in full disarray as members of the administration try to cover, block, or undo many “dangerous impulses” and erratic actions of a man who is out of control in too many ways to enumerate. We can safely assume that The Times would not have taken such an unprecedented step without fully vetting the source.

Whatever one’s political viewpoint, the question of whether the man is unfit, recklessly dangerous, just too mentally unstable, or otherwise “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” (Amendment XXV, Section 4, U.S. Constitution) then some means of removing him from power is necessary. When the inner circle of the White House finds it necessary to remove papers from his desk, diffuse his attempts to lash out at the world in various ways, or when a top general just does not follow orders given on a dangerous whim, a genuine constitutional crisis is already in play.

So far, the Republican right in Congress has gotten its legislative way because the president consistently and with mean spirit unwinds many laws an regulations meant to protect citizens and environments while affording the super-rich and giant corporations obscene tax cuts. But at some point, the present trend of increasing chaos will force their hand.

The End of the Line

Whether before or after the mid-term elections, the outrage of ordinary Republicans, independents and Democrats alike will force the hand of self-absorbed politicians in Congress. They will by then see the end of their free ride on the horizon as voters protest their continued inaction. The talk of annulling Trump’s election is building as Mueller indicts more of Trump’s associates. “Anonymous” even mentions invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove him from office. Impeachment would be the weaker approach since it would replace him with Pence, the corrupt henchman elected along with him, and leave cabinet members and all the insane executive orders and dangerous actions in place.

Annulment of the election would be the more difficult path, but the best way to reverse much of the damage already done. The growing evidence of illegal tampering with the election, not only by the Russians but by Republican campaign officials, cries out for annulment. After all, the authority of this president has ended.

Now it is time to rise to the occasion of this unprecedented constitutional crisis and clean up the president’s mess. Many politicians will have to break out of their established habits and act like statesmen. Taking the right path will not be easy, but it may save the republic.