Trump’s Coup and What Lies Ahead
Coup d’états come in many forms — while a military overthrow of the government may be the most dramatic, a quiet erosion of institutions may be just as disruptive and with even more long-term consequences.
Over the last three to four years, we have witnessed a steady degradation of America’s enviable institutions. Many eminent economists and philosophers have highlighted the importance of institutions for democratic governance and socio-economic progress. While Adam Smith may be the best known among these giants of the past, a more recent contributor was Douglass North.
What are institutions and why do they matter? Institutions are constraints devised by society to reduce uncertainty and promote order. They are the collection of formal and informal rules or controls such as constitutions, the rule of law, truth, trust, codes of conduct, property rights, the internalization of social obligations and customs that are important social virtues for a society. While effective institutions may take years or even decades to develop and are path dependent, they can be rapidly obliterated. Effective institutions lead to positive social and economic interactions by reducing uncertainty, enhancing cooperation and confidence and lowering the costs associated with economic transactions.
In four short years Donald Trump has eroded the norms of conduct expected of a president — truthfulness, upholding the Constitution and the rule of law, abiding by rules of conduct, safeguarding Americans from foreign adversaries, upholding the health and wellbeing of all Americans, encouraging racial justice and protecting the environment and our national treasures for all generations to enjoy. I will not list Trump’s transgressions in all these areas. I will simply say that he has steadily hollowed all these institutions.
In conjunction with the hollowing of America’s institutions, our international alliances have descended into the abyss. Our traditional allies keep their distance as their citizenry shun the United States. America’s international reputation is at an all-time low in many countries around the world (see the Pew Research).
What Could be in Store?
Trump has done all that he can to have a subservient Supreme Court and Attorney General on his side. He is now sowing the seeds of disputed elections that would have to be adjudicated by “his” Court. If the ruling is favorable, then he will continue. A continuation of his destruction would obliterate America’s institutions and possibly result in domestic armed conflict. If the Court rules against him, he would refuse to leave the presidency and would encourage his “base” to take up arms. Either way, America is in for a rough ride with trust, confidence and cooperation all but obliterated.
But this may not be all. Trump will want to continue in power until he takes his last breath. His mentor, Vladimir Putin, has written the book for him on this. In the last year of his stolen second term, he would resign in favor of Michael Pence. Michael Pence would run as President with Trump, the real power, as his vice president, with America in the shadows of Russia. By then America could be wallowing on the trash heap of history.
Why is this happening. Selfishness and the grab for money and power. Trump has bullied all his adversaries and created a herd of sheep, whether in the Senate, in the courts, in other areas of public service, in the clergy, in business and in other walks of life. It would be good for all these servants to recall the moral imperative of “doing what is right and for the right reason.” Yes, they may be dead when the sky falls in but their offspring will curse them for generations to come. They cannot plead ignorance about what is going on all around them. They are complicit in all that we see before our eyes. Moral women and men must stand up and be counted now before it is too late.
Traitors Come in Many Forms
We think traitors come in two forms — deserters on the battlefield and spies. But there are many cloaks that dress a traitor — lying to dodge national service, cooperating with a foreign adversary who may have leverage, selling out the constitution of the United States for personal gain, endangering the health and lives of Americans and pitting American against American.